*Florida State had a good year last season before an upset loss to Wisconsin in the NCAAs brought it to a premature end. They are getting some love as a preseason darkhorse, but I’m missing the reason. 20-point scorer Tony Douglas is gone and only two starters return.
*Boston College will be the ultimate test of whether basketball is about stars or the team concept. The Eagles bring back four starters, but lose Tyrese Rice, one of this league’s best—and most unsung players—the last couple years. Rice was great, but the betting here is that Al Skinner produces an NCAA-caliber team again.
**Clemson has become a consistent contender, but it will be tough this season. Three starters, taking 35 points a game with them are gone.
*Georgia Tech is the most interesting team in the ACC. The Yellow Jackets have missed the tournament two straight years. They only won two league games a year ago. But this is still a program—and coach in Paul Hewitt—only six years removed from making it to Monday night (2004 vs. UConn). Inman Shumpert and Gani Lawal are going to give them a good inside-out combo. Zachary Peacock can score from anywhere on the floor. Georgia Tech is back this season.
*Miami just missed the NCAA Tournament last year and with the loss of Jack McClinton, one of the most prolific scorers in the ACC, they will miss by a wider margin this time around.
*Virginia is another interesting case. Tony Bennett has arrived from Washington State and the cupboard is full, with four returning starters. But there’s a long way to go, after a 10-18 year.
*N.C. State & Virginia Tech aren’t bad, but neither has the horses to threaten for a tournament bid.
In November, the tournaments to watch here are North Carolina in the Coaches vs. Cancer next Thursday. Duke will be in the preseason NIT, where they’ll get two home games to grease the skids for their path to New York on the Wednesday and Friday sandwiching Thanksgiving. Maryland will be in Maui on Mon-Wed of Thanksgiving week, Clemson will be in the 76 Classic (Anaheim over the holiday weekend) and Florida State in the Old Spice Classic (Orlando, same dates).