The more we've thought about it, the harder it gets to really get a feel for
the upcoming ACC season. Take UVa.
A reliable patsy last season, certainly for Duke, and for several other
schools, this team is
set to improve dramatically and to start paying some people back in a big
way. They're not going to finish in first, but they're good enough to move
up a lot. Trouble is, Duke, UNC, and Maryland will be tough, and State and Wake
should be highly competitive. Tech will be if things break right, and then
there's FSU, always well coached under Steve Robinson. Clemson we're not sure
about yet, we'll have to think that one over. But these Hoos are intriguing.
First off, the guys who are returning are battle hardened. Donald Hand proved
to be explosive, hitting for 41 in one magical game. Chezley Watson was
certainly competent. Chris Williams was solid and Adam Hall has talent.
Willie Dersch is still up and down, and tentative, but Colin Ducharme, from all
accounts, is a new man.
Add to this mix a legitimate shotblocker in Jason Rogers, a significant power
forward the size and rough dimensions of Rod Griffin or Rodney Rogers in
Travis Watson, and an extremely promising young point guard in Majestic Mapp,
and suddenly you are talking about a dramatically more talented team. Then
add to that Stephane Dondon, a late JUCO pickup, and you have 11 guys who
can play, and add to that Mad Bomber N.D. transfer Keith Friel, and you are 12
deep. Last year they did miracles with six walkons. This year
chemistry may be a concern - but what a refreshing change.
This team will be very quick on the perimeter, and surprisingly powerful for
a quick team. Guys like Dondon and Watson are big enough to bang and
hammer inside, and Rogers has the potential to back up an extremely quick press.
Though this isn't the biggest team in the ACC, Hand, Friehl, and possibly
Mapp can keep defenses from collapsing, and Ducharme and Watson are significant
All in all, this is perhaps the most impressive turnaround from one year to
the next in our memory, at least talent and depth wise. The question now
is what do with it and how do the returning players adjust, because every
returning player - every single one - will see less minutes. Ducharme will
return after sitting out the entire year.Watson and Hand will have to give way
at point, eventually, to Mapp. Travis Watson is almost certain to start,
pushing someone to the bench. Chemistry is easy to understand when it goes
well or goes sour, but the impact of one or two unhappy guys can really affect a
team's balance and headiness. Will it happen? Who knows. Will UVa be
dramatically improved? They already are. Will the record show it? Depends.
If the conference is as much a dogfight as we expect it to be, perhaps not.
Regardless, this is a team reborn, and Pete Gillen deserves a world of credit.
Not many could pull this transition off so quickly.