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There will be a changing of the guard in the ACC, in which conference games should be determined more on the perimeter than in the paint. Gone are the dominant big men of recent years—Duke's Danny Ferry, North Carolina's J.R. Reid, North Carolina State's Chucky Brown and Georgia Tech's Tom Hammonds. Now, if you don't have guards, you're out of luck, not to mention out of contention.
As to who has the league's best backcourt tandem, North Carolina isn't even in the running. The leading contenders are Georgia Tech's Brian Oliver and ballyhooed freshman Kenny Anderson; Duke's Phil Henderson and, well, take your pick from a trio of freshman whizzes, Bobby Hurley, Thomas Hill, Bill McCaffrey; and Chris Corchiani and Rodney Monroe of NORTH CAROLINA STATE.
Whether N.C. State keeps pace with the conference's elite will depend largely on what happens to coach Jim Valvano, who's fighting to keep his job because of an in-house investigation of his program that was inspired by Peter Golenbock's book Personal Fouls, which charges Valvano with a litany of rules violations. Coach V has seemingly been numbed by these events, so it will be interesting to see if the Wolfpack can play with its former enthusiasm. Without Brown in the middle, N.C. State will need more production from defensive ace Brian Howard, poor-shooting center Avie Lester and sophomore forward Tom Gugliotta.
The return of last season's top five scorers, plus a soft non-conference schedule, could translate into a 20-win season for CLEMSON. Coach Cliff Ellis's main task will be selecting the guards he'll use to get the ball inside to Elden Campbell and 6'11" Dale Davis, who combined to average more than 30 points and 16 rebounds in 1988-89. The probable backcourt starters are volatile Marion Cash at point guard and erratic Jerry Pryor on the wing.
VIRGINIA has a fine point guard in John Crotty and a splendid small forward in Bryant Stith. Otherwise, the Cavaliers are so strapped for talent that coach Terry Holland—who will become the athletic director at Davidson after this season—may have to depend heavily on Terry Kirby, the football team's tailback, and Chris Havlicek, who so far has elicited no favorable comparisons with his father, John.
The league's new coaches, Dave Odom at WAKE FOREST and Gary Williams at MARYLAND, will need some time and patience. The immediate prospects are brighter for Odom, whose Demon Deacons have moved into a new 14,404-seat arena. Four of last season's starters are back, including elusive point guard Derrick McQueen, and the inside game should be bolstered by 6'9" Anthony Tucker, a transfer from Georgetown.
Williams, a former Terrapin player who produced winners at Boston College and Ohio State, has inherited more trouble than talent at Maryland. The NCAA is investigating allegations of wrongdoing under the watch of his predecessor, Bob Wade, which means that the Terrapins' climb back will be made at, well, a turtle's pace.