College Basketball Conference Preview: Atlantic Coast Conference
Look, Atlantic 10, with all due respect, but with Xavier leaving I really couldn’t give half a shit about your conference. I know you had 5 NCAA Tournament bids last season, but two of those teams fled to bigger and better things (Butler and Temple) and arguably your most consistent tourney team of the last decade also walked away for the brand new Big East (Xavier). So, we march on past the behemoths of Saint Louis, VCU, and LaSalle (sersly?) and find ourselves in the midst of one of America’s favorite (and my least favorite) conferences. Duke and North Carolina both play in this conference, and my reasons for disdain need go no further. Still, the ACC proved itself incredibly overmatched last season by the (RIP) former Big East. Duke was he only Elite Eight team and they (thankfully) lost by 22 to Louisville in Dick Vitale’s saddest moment since the epic and fantastic loss to Lehigh the year before. Meanwhile, upstart Miami lost to Marquette who should’ve lost to Davidson (it really puts the ACC into better perspective, huh?). This season, Duke appears ready to be once again favorited by the pollsters for some ungodly reason, North Carolina is ready to be a Top 15 team again, and Miami is going to be a helluva lot worse…in other news, the Big East actually supplies some value in basketball as we’ve watched Syracuse and Pitt get slaughtered in football. The Orange are one of the premiere favorites and Pitt is always a grueling team to play. Someday in the future, I won’t hate the ACC because it will barely be the ACC anymore. This beginning of the end of my hatred starts this year, along with the Big East continuing to prove it was the better conference all along.
The Favorite: Syracuse
Duke is the favorite in many people’s minds; after all, they did get the next LeBron the fifth best recruit in the last recruiting class, Jabari Parker. The Cuse, however, has proven the AP wrong time and time again while launching itself to the top of the far more grueling Big East. Mike Shachefski not doubt has an answer for the 2-3 Zone, right? I’m probably top five biggest zone haters, but Syracuse does it awfully well. I don’t see Duke having the down-low game to beat the zone, but if there is one thing we know it’s that Shachefski’s team will be able to shoot the trey ball. Boeheim, in all his senile and anti-Semite glory, has ushered in another long-armed and active recruiting class perfect to play in his zone scheme. Syracuse is going to cause all sorts of confusion and C.J. Fair is going to be Boeheim’s archetypal leader he always manages to keep around for four years.
The Dark Horse: North Carolina State
Remember last season when the Wolfpack was supposed to be the best thing since sliced bread? Their preseason Top 5 ranking earned them a first round exit at the hands of Temple last season in what could only be described as the most disappointing team of the season (yes, even more so than Kentucky). Now, the Wolfpack are raw and led be a lot of players who have barely seen a college basketball floor, but Kentucky has proven you don’t need to be playing juniors and seniors to win in this era of college basketball. NC State has racked up back-to-back good (not great) recruiting classes and many of those players are still hanging around. We all know about the intensity of coach Mark Gottfried’s red blazer, but that’s really just copy-facing Bruce Pearl from way back before he had sex with college aged girls (or whatever), and this blazer will lead the Wolfpack to the opportunity to the conference championship (maybe).
Player of the Year: Quinn Cook, Duke
Is Malcom Delaney still at Virginia Tech? No? Damn, I thought they’d definitely have given him a twelfth year of eligibility. Cook is the most bearable of all Duke players, because he is fun to watch. It’s like how Kyrie Irving is one of my favorite NBA players; although, it’s tough for me to even consider Kyrie a Dukie having only played like 10 career games. It was eleven games. Now I hate Duke even more and kind of you too a little bit, readers…no, I’d never hate you guys. Where would I be without you? I love you guys more than anyone in the world. I’d do anything for you guys:). Anyway, Quinn Cook is like a pocket-Kyrie. A few inches shorter and a little less talented (at this point), Cook still led Duke in assists last season and shot nearly 40% from beyond the arc. He is in a system which will lend him to be both a scorer and passer as Duke loves both 3 bombs and transition scores. Watch out for Cook.
Coach of the Year: Mark Turgeon, Maryland
Last year’s coach of the year was a man who seemingly brought his team from nowhere to win the ACC (Jim Lari…I forget how to spell it.) This year, expect one of the conference’s younger and more energetic coaches to have an opportunity to repeat Jimmy’s great run. Dez Wells returns to be the Terps best and the ACC’s most underrated player. Roddy Peters is a freshman guard who will supply the energy and drive we saw from Miami’s standout Shane Larkin last year. Alex Len might be gone, but the front court is crowded with big boys with size and strength and experience…much like last year’s Miami squad. DOn’t expect Maryland to win the conference, but to be near the top and earn Turgeon honors in their last year in the ACC.
Coach on the Hot Seat: None
Cop out? You might think so, but I honestly cannot find a coach. Va-Tech and Ga-Tech have brought in new guys in the last two years. Jamie Dixon and Leo Hamilton would seem to have under-performed as of late, but Hamilton is slowly becoming a Florida State stalwart and Jamie Dixon deserves a few years in the ACC before he begins to feel any heat.
How They’ll Finish:
3) North Carolina
5) North Carolina State
7) Notre Dame
8) Florida State
11) Boston College
12) Georgia Tech
14) Wake Forest
15) Virginia Tech