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The Courtmaster Predicts The ACC

2005-06 ACC

By Jim Johnson, the

Hear ye, hear ye!
Court is now in session, and it’s time to conclude my
exhaustive yet exhilarating 2005-06 ACC basketball preview with my
predictions for the upcoming season. Here is how I see the order of
finish, from bottom to top.

This is a tough year to be a Cavalier fan. Beyond point guard Sean
Singletary, there’s very little proven talent on this team. J.
R. Reynolds contributed some points off the bench last season, but
beyond new coach Dave Leitao will have to chose between freshmen and
returning players that made a minimal impact on a team that was good
enough to get Pete Gillen fired. This will be a year for reminiscing
anyway since Virginia will be leaving University Hall for their new
arena next season. The Cavaliers will be fortunate to win more than
two conference games.

11-Georgia Tech:
The Yellow Jackets could resemble a rudderless ship this season.
Without a true point guard on the roster and a group of inexperienced
group of players, it’s hard to see how even a good coach like
Paul Hewitt can mould them into a winning team…this season.
There will be a lot of lessons learned, some of them painful, that
will benefit Georgia Tech next year. This is not a program on the
decline, just one that will have a down season. They’ll
probably win one or two games they shouldn’t, but not more than
four or five conference games overall.

10-Florida State:
If this team does not succeed, it won’t be due to a lack of
raw talent. The same could have been said about the Seminoles last
season, and that team staggered to a 12-19 finish. They will fare
better this season, but probably not a lot. Coach Leonard Hamilton
has to get his players to figure out what type of team they are, then
assimilate freshman blue-chipper Uche Echefu and a healthy Diego
Romero into the flow. FSU could be a year away from being a good
team, but expect them to post another ten-loss ACC record.

Coach Oliver Purnell has the Tigers clawing their way toward being
competitive in the ACC, and they will inch closer this season. Most
Clemson teams are known for their strength inside, but the 2005-06
squad will live and die with their perimeter game. Vernon Hamilton
and Shawan Robinson give the Tigers a strong 1-2 punch, and point
guard Troy Mathis (after sitting out last year due to disciplinary
action) could also contribute to a deep backcourt. If Clemson gets
any production from their inside game, they could win six or seven
conference games.

8-Virginia Tech:
The Hokies’ surprised the ACC last season just by being
competitive, especially since they had not been so in the Big East.
It will be a challenge for Coach Seth Greenberg’s team to
repeat last year’s finish, much less exceed it. Guard Zabian
Dowdell will again be the go-to guy, but how many other options will
Tech have? Sophomore forward could be one of them, as could guard
Jamon Gordon. Without an inside game, though, the Hokies will again
find themselves scrapping to stay in the middle of the pack and
trying to eke out an NCAA bid.

7-Miami: Coach
Stan Heath’s team has plenty of firepower, led by guards
Guillermo Diaz and Robert Hite. They are also strong defending the
low post and rebounding. They won’t sneak up on anybody this
year, but if their freshmen contribute and point guard Anthony Harris
gets healthy, the Hurricanes will again be a factor in the ACC race
and have a vested interest in the bracket announcements on NCAA
Selection Sunday.

6-North Carolina:
I know ‘ol Roy Williams would probably scoff at this notion,
but I see the Tar Heels returning to the NCAA tournament this season.
His roster is devoid of experience, but not talent. Freshmen Tyler
Hansborough and Bobby Frasor will have the first opportunities to
show what they can do, complementing (or leading) veterans like David
Noel and Reyshawn Terry. I’m sure Carolina will take some
lumps in December and January, but come February no team will want to
play them.

5-NC State: Coach
Herb Sendek has put together a string of solid recruiting classes
that will help the Wolfpack transition into the post-Julius Hodge era
and sustain the program’s continued success. Engin Atsur,
Cameron Brennerman, and Andrew Brackman are hardly household names,
but they are good, fundamentally sound players that fit will into NC
State’s system. The Wolfpack has a very young bench, but they
do have a veteran leader in Ilian Evtimov who should guide them back
to the NCAA tournament.

4-Wake Forest:
Despite some key personnel losses after last season, the Deacons
still have one of the better inside-outside combinations in the
nation with forward Eric Williams and guard Justin Gray. Wake needs
Gray to distribute the ball to his teammates and not turn it over to
their opponents, and the team needs to get serious about playing
defense. Returning players like Trent Strickland and Kyle Visser
need to accept and thrive in expanded roles this season. This is
still a very talented team that should again post double-digit
victories in the ACC.

3-Boston College:
Like their football team, the Eagles will enjoy a strong debut
season in the ACC. They feature one of the best players in the
conference in forward Craig Smith, Senior point guard Louis Hinnant
will be one of the ACC’s best at that position, which has been
depleted by early defections to the NBA. I think Boston College will
have trouble with some of the teams that play at a faster tempo, and
I don’t think they are a top-15 team, but they have enough
talent and experience to be an upper-echelon team in the conference
this season/

2-Maryland: The
Terps’ rotation is loaded with juniors and seniors and one
sophomore, forward James Gist who is ready to break out. Look for
Maryland to resemble the Gary Williams teams of the late 1990’s
with full-court pressure defense looking for easy hoops in
transition. Despite no well-developed low-post game, another
Williams staple, the Terps will score plenty of points this season.
Look for Chris McCray to develop into one of the better all-around
players in the ACC and Maryland to win 11 conference games.

1-Duke: I can’t
remember any time in recent years where there was such a big gap
between the top team in the ACC and the rest of the conference. Duke
has the two best players in the league, and in fact the nation, in J.
J. Redick and Shelden Williams. Even the Blue Devils have potential
flaws, with freshmen providing much of the team’s depth. At
least a couple of those youngsters, probably Greg Paulus and Josh
McRoberts, will need to make major contributions for Duke to reach
its potential. Even with that question mark, I believe Duke is not
only the best team in the ACC but in the nation.

There you have it, my
picks for the upcoming ACC season. I’ll be back next week to
take a look at the plethora or early-season tournaments conference
schools are involved in, especially the Maui Invitational and the

Let me know what you
think on the message board or by e-mail at
I gave you the wrong web address for my blog last week. It is at
Talk about not having a sense of where you are.

Until next time, court
is adjourned.