By Jon Rothstein
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FIVE QUESTIONS ENTERING THE ACC
1. HOW MANY BIDS WILL THE ACC GET IN THE 2014 NCAA TOURNAMENT?
Probably eight or nine. With the additions of Pitt, Syracuse and Notre Dame, the ACC will officially become the old Big East when it comes to the NCAA selection process in 2014. This league is going to become even stronger next year when Louisville joins the fold, but even now it’s hard not to say that this is the best conference in all of college basketball. Rebuilding situations for programs in the ACC are tougher than they ever were before. Lots of really good teams are going to finish in eighth or ninth place in this league on an annual basis. It’s that tough.
2. WHO WILL BE VIRGINIA’S STARTING POINT GUARD?
Our money is on true freshman London Perrantes. The 6-2 Perrantes doesn’t have game-changing speed, but possesses a terrific IQ and overall feel. If this California native can just get Tony Bennett’s team into their offense and make open shots, Virginia should have a terrific chance to be a top-five ACC team and earn a high seed in the NCAA Tournament. Red shirt sophomore Malcolm Brogdon is another possibility at point guard. The Cavaliers are set at the other four positions on the floor with Joe Harris, Justin Anderson, Akil Mitchell, and Mike Tobey. Look for sharpshooting stretch forward Evan Nolte and South Carolina transfer Anthony Gill to thrive as reserves.
3. JUST HOW EXPLOSIVE CAN DUKE BE OFFENSIVELY?
Really explosive. NC State coach Mark Gottfried said recently that the Blue Devils could have the second and third picks in next June’s NBA Draft in wings Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood. He’s right. This team is beyond skilled and should have incredible spacing on offense. Duke returns a veteran point guard in Quinn Cook and a lethal outside threat in Rasheed Suliamon, who shot 37.6 percent from three-point range as a freshman. Those two should pair with Parker and Hood to form a lethal scoring quartet — but who will get a rebound? Look for lanky sophomore Amile Jefferson to have a break through season for the Blue Devils on the backboards. Jefferson logged productive minutes last year for Duke when Ryan Kelly was out with a foot injury, and should be able to make an impact with an expanded role.
4. WILL MARYLAND FINALLY GET OVER THE HUMP?
It all comes down to point guard play. The Terps have all the pieces to reach the field of 68 in 2014, but they have to produce at a higher level at the most important position on the floor. Sophomore Seth Allen will likely get first crack to be Maryland’s starting floor general, and he’ll be backed up by 6-4 freshman Roddy Peters. Allen had moments as a freshman, but will need to be more consistent if the Terps are to advance to the NCAA Tournament. A big game changer for this team next season will be Michigan transfer Evan Smotrycz — the Maryland staff loves him, and the former Wolverine should add major spacing offensively as a stretch power forward. With Smotrycz and sophomore Jake Layman, the Terps should be a significantly better outside shooting team than they were last season. Mark Turgeon’s squad may have lost a top-five pick in Alex Len, but there’s enough returning talent for this group to make the field of 68 before leaving for the Big Ten in 2014-15.
5. WHO IS THE SLEEPER?
Boston College. The Eagles return their top six scorers from last year’s team that finished 16-17 and lost to both Duke and NC State by a single point at home. Steve Donahue has two potential All-ACC players in Olivier Hanlan and Ryan Anderson, while Notre Dame transfer Alex Dragicevich should give Boston College a capable outside threat on the wing. The Eagles have all the requisites to make a jump, but their biggest hurdle may be surviving their non-conference schedule. Before they play a game in the ACC, Boston College will travel to Providence, USC, Purdue, and Harvard, play UMass at the TD Garden, face VCU at the Barclays Center, and then square off with UConn at Madison Square Garden while having to play Indiana or Washington the next night. If the Eagles can survive that slate, a .500 record in league play and 17 or 18 wins should be enough to get them into the NCAA Tournament.
ACC PRESEASON POWER RANKINGS
THE SKINNY: Rodney Hood on one wing, Jabari Parker on the other. Watch out America.
THE SKINNY: The Orange continue to reload under Jim Boeheim.
3. NORTH CAROLINA
THE SKINNY: Roy Williams will return to a traditional, dual post lineup.
4. NOTRE DAME
THE SKINNY: Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant give the Irish one of the ACC’s best back courts.
THE SKINNY: Freshman London Perrantes could be this team’s answer at point guard.
THE SKINNY: Michigan transfer Evan Smotrycz should make a major impact as a stretch power forward.
7. BOSTON COLLEGE
THE SKINNY: Steve Donahue has two potential All-ACC players in Olivier Hanlan and Ryan Anderson.
THE SKINNY: Sophomore James Robinson will emerge as one of the better point guards in all of college basketball.
9. GEORGIA TECH
THE SKINNY: The Yellow Jackets could be a bubble team if their point guard play improves.
10. FLORIDA STATE
THE SKINNY: The Seminoles have a bevy of wings who can score, but will they get back to guarding?
11. NC STATE
THE SKINNY: This team is loaded with talent, but most of it is unproven.
THE SKINNY: After a historic year in Coral Gables, the Hurricanes are in transition mode under Jim Larranaga.
13. WAKE FOREST
THE SKINNY: Sophomore Devin Thomas is one of the ACC’s most underrated post players.
THE SKINNY: Red shirt freshman Jaron Blossomgame should have a major impact.
15. VIRGINIA TECH
THE SKINNY: The post Erick Green era officially begins in Blacksburg.
ACC PRESEASON FIRST TEAM
Joe Harris, Virginia
P.J. Hairston, North Carolina
Rodney Hood, Duke
C.J. Fair, Syracuse
James Michael-McAdoo, North Carolina
ACC PRESEASON PLAYER OF THE YEAR
C.J. Fair, Syracuse
15 WHO HAVE WAITED AND WILL MAKE AN INSTANT IMPACT
Rodney Hood, Duke (transfer)
Michael Gbinije, Syracuse (transfer)
Anthony Gill, Virginia (transfer)
Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia (red shirt)
Evan Smotrycz, Maryland (transfer)
Damonte Dodd, Maryland (post grad)
Alex Dragicevich, Boston College (transfer)
Ralston Turner, NC State (transfer)
Desmond Lee, NC State (JUCO)
James Kelly, Miami (JUCO)
Garrius Adams, Miami (red shirt)
Deandre Burnett, Miami (post grad)
Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson (red shirt)
Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia (red shirt)
Joseph Uchebo, Pitt (JUCO)
15 IMPACT FRESHMEN
Jabari Parker, Duke
Matt Jones, Duke
Semi Ojeleye, Duke
Isaiah Hicks, North Carolina
Nate Britt, North Carolina
Kennedy Meeks, North Carolina
Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
Demetrius Jackson, Notre Dame
Anthony “Cat” Barber, NC State
BeeJay Anya, NC State
Mike Young, Pitt
Detrick Mostella, Pitt
London Perrantes, Virginia
Roddy Peters, Maryland
Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Florida State
10 UNDER-THE-RADAR FRESHMEN
Travis Jorgenson, Georgia Tech
Jarquez Smith, Florida State
Tyler Roberson, Syracuse
V.J. Beachem, Notre Dame
Steve Vasturia, Notre Dame
Josh Newkirk, Pitt
Devin Wilson, Virginia Tech
Davon Reed, Miami
Kyle Washington, NC State
Lennard Freeman, NC State
10 BREAKOUT PLAYERS
Rion Brown, Miami
Mike Tobey, Virginia
Jerami Grant, Syracuse
Tyler Lewis, NC State
Seth Allen, Maryland
Joel James, North Carolina
Amile Jefferson, Duke
James Robinson, Pitt
Marquis Rankin, Virginia Tech
Devon Bookert, Florida State
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