ACC Primer (cont.)
The Tigers are my sleeper pick to finish in the ACC's top five. Their star for the past three seasons, Trevor Booker, may be gone, but they still have a solid, senior point guard in Demontez Stitt; an underrated power forward in Jerai Grant; and a trio of sophomores -- Devin Booker, Noel Johnson and Milton Jennings -- who could have breakout seasons. New coach Brad Brownell is a proven tactician (from his work at Wright State and UNC-Wilmington) who'll keep Clemson from slipping to the NIT.
6. Florida State
Forward Chris Singleton is college basketball's best defender -- or at least he is on my list -- but can the 'Noles lead the nation in defensive efficiency for a second straight season? Their incredible two-point defense (opponents shot just 40.3 percent, the second-lowest rate in the country) wasn't due to Singleton alone; 7-1 center Solomon Alabi and 6-8 forward Ryan Reid, both of whom were selected in the second round of June's NBA Draft, were high-impact defenders as well.
Sophomore power forward Jordan Williams is being hyped as a breakout candidate, but he already had a big freshman year, averaging 9.6 points and 8.6 rebounds, and putting up four double-doubles in ACC play. His offensive numbers should surge as the Terps search for scorers in Year 1 of the Post-Greivis Era.
Sophomore guard Durant Scott is hoping to build off the huge closing month he had in '09-10. He scored 29 (on 11-of-15 shooting) against North Carolina, 17 against Virginia Tech and 21 against Duke, and appears more than ready to become the Canes' new points-per-game leader.
9. Wake Forest
The Demon Deacons are well-positioned for the future, with two sophomore standouts (combo guard C.J. Harris and swingman Ari Stewart) and a top-15 recruiting class debuting this season -- along with new coach Jeff Bzdelik, who was previously orchestrating a turnaround at Colorado. But a lack of experience, especially at the point-guard position, where Harris is being converted to run the show, will probably keep Wake from reaching the NCAAs.
10. Boston College
The Eagles have a talented top three in senior swingman Joe Trapani, senior power forward Corey Raji and junior combo guard Reggie Jackson. But they were awful at defending inside the arc last season (ranking 224th nationally, at 48.9 percent) and they remain undersized, with just one player taller than 6-8 (reserve center Josh Southern, who's 6-10).
11. Georgia Tech
Iman Shumpert, one of the game's best lockdown defenders (see his work against Greivis Vasquez, Jon Scheyer and James Anderson last season), is back for his junior year in the backcourt, but the Jackets lost their killer interior duo of Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal to the NBA. Tech was already mediocre on offense with those guys; without them, it'll really struggle to score.
Four-star shooting guard K.T. Harrell is the headliner of a six-man recruiting class that should grow into an excellent team in 3-4 seasons. The present, for coach Tony Bennett, isn't as great, as the Cavs lost 10 of their final 11 ACC games and don't have a clear offensive star to replace Sylven Landesberg, the talented two-guard who was suspended last March and later left the program.
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