Duke picked to win ACC
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) -- Despite the graduation of player-of-the-year Georgia Schweitzer, two-time defending champion Duke is the overwhelming choice to win the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season title.
Duke received 36 of 42 first-place votes from reporters at the ACC Women's Basketball Media Day on Sunday.
The Blue Devils received 372 out of a possible 378 points, 81 more than North Carolina and 105 ahead of North Carolina State, which received six first-place votes.
Maryland was picked fourth, with 246 points, followed by Clemson (213), Florida State (198), Georgia Tech (120), Virginia (117) and Wake Forest (54).
Virginia had never been picked lower than fourth in the ACC, but took a plunge in the 2001-02 preseason poll because of the unexpected departure of all-conference post player Schuye LaRue for professional ball in Italy.
LaRue was the leading scorer in ACC games last year with a 19.5 point average and the top rebounder with 11.8 a game.
With LaRue gone, Alana Beard of Duke, the ACC's 2000 Rookie of the Year, led the balloting for the preseason all-ACC team and was named the preseason player of the year.
"Alana Beard is the best defensive player in the country," Duke coach Gail Goestenkors said. "She plays with so much focus and intensity, she's truly remarkable."
Beard was joined on the all-conference team by Corretta Brown and Nikki Teasley of North Carolina, Clemson's Chrissy Floyd and Carisse Moody of North Carolina State.
"I depended on Georgia for leadership last year. Now it's my turn to step up," Beard said.
Beard is the conference's top returning scorer with an average of 17.0 points a game. She also led the ACC in steals with 3.53 a game.
Beard will being trying to help the Blue Devils to their third regular-season conference title in the past four years, adding to the titles they won in 1998 and 2000.
Duke finished 30-4 with a 13-3 record in the ACC last year.
They won the ACC Tournament title and earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament before losing a surprising 81-71 decision to Southwest Missouri State in the third round.
"We have potential this year, with a very young team," Goestenkors said. "We only have one senior and two juniors. But I feel sure we'll get better and better as the season progresses."