Hear ye, hear ye! Court is back in session after all of the ACC teams have been eliminated from the NCAA and NIT Tournaments. The Sweet 16 was hardly that for Duke and Boston College. Assured of no presence in the Final Four, ACC fans will have more time to ponder the future. Iâm here to help by addressing some important questions that coaches, players, and especially fans will be asking before we start this all over again in October.
Which underclassmen will jump to the NBA? The players drawing the most speculation are Tyler Hansbrough of North Carolina, Guillermo Diaz of Miami, and Josh McRoberts of Duke. Diaz is a junior who got off to a slow start this season while he recovered from a knee injury. Hanbrough and McRoberts are both freshman. All three are legitimate NBA prospects.
I think Diaz is the most likely to leave early, but he may very well return hoping to improve his draft stock with a completely healthy season. I suspect both Hansbrough and McRoberts will return. I hope they do; Hansbrough still needs to bulk up and McRoberts needs to grow up.
Will the ACC have a national championship contender? Yes, but it wonât be Duke. I think North Carolina will dominate the ACC next season like Duke has for most of the last several years. The Tar Heels stand to lose only David Noel from this seasonâs rotation and bring in recruits rated as the top prospects at three different positions. Their youth could still be an issue in the post-season, but it doesnât seem to be hurting LSU too much this year, does it?
How many teams will be in the NCAA tournament next season? SixâNorth Carolina, Duke, Boston College, NC State, Maryland, and Georgia Tech. I would be surprised to see any of these teams besides North Carolina advance beyond the Sweet 16 though.
Will there be any coaching changes? Noâsorry NC State fans. I think athletic director Lee Fowler has too much sense to make that move. There were rumors most of the season pointing toward Skip Prosser leaving Wake Forest to take the Cincinnati job, but with that spot now filled it appears Prosser will stay put. Iâm not hearing anything about other coaches leaving on their own, and I donât feel any deserve to be fired.
What teams will be better next year? North Carolina will be a lot better, losing only Noel but adding what could be one of the all-time great recruiting classes. Maryland could be if their incoming freshmen give them better point guard play and, more importantly, lights a fire in the team. Virginia will have a full season under Coach Dave Leitao, everyone will be back, and they will be playing in their new arena. Georgia Tech loses only Theodis Tarver, brings in an excellent group of freshmen, and all of those freshmen and sophomores will have a full season under their belts.
What teams will be worse next year? Duke will slip significantly, losing not only J. J. Redick and Shelden Williams (two of the three best players in the nation this year) but also Sean Dockery and Lee Melchionni. Of course, Coach K has a good recruiting class arriving, but I canât imagine that even that additional talent and the maturation of McRoberts and Greg Paulus will be nearly enough to offset their losses. Boston College loses Craig Smith and Louis Hinnant, their two best players this postseason. They donât have studs lined up to enter school in September, so they will slip back into the pack.
Which players will breakout next year? Dukeâs McRoberts and Paulus will be the best players on the Blue Devils, which means they will get plenty of attention. Neither one has to improve drastically to become a star. Boston Collegeâs Jared Dudley will be THE man for the Eagles next year, and heâs already an excellent all-around player. Virginiaâs J. R. Reynolds flew under the radar for much of this season, but I suspect that wonât be the case next year. The same applies to Florida Stateâs Al Thornton and perhaps his teammate Alexander Johnson. Georgia Techâs Jeremis Smith and Anthony Morrow will make a lot of noise down it Atlanta.
Which coaches will be on the hot seat? Is Herb Sendek ever OFF the hot seat at NC State? Certainly not next year. If Wake Forest turns out to be as bad as I expect, there will be a lot of pressure on Skip Prosser. Frank Haith at Miami and Leonard Hamilton at Florida State need to make the NCAA tournament or else face some discontent from their fan base.
What will J. J. Redickâs legacy be? I know this doesnât exactly tie in with the theme, but it is currently a popular topic of discussion. If youâve been reading my column regularly (and if not, just why havenât you?), you know Iâve written a LOT of good things about Redick this year. He is the best offensive player Iâve seen in the ACC since David Thompson, who is the ultimate gauge I measure great players by.
I think there will ultimately be two parts to J. J.âs legacy. The first part will be all about numbers. Redick is the ACCâs all-time leading scorer and finished his career as the best free-throw shooter in college history. During the regular season, he played some of his best games against the toughest competition, particularly this year. There were plenty of times in his career where he simply overwhelmed the opposition. He developed into one of the greatest offensive players in the history of the game between November thru early March.
Part two of J. J.âs legacy, however, in much different. Once Duke began play in the NCAA tournament, Redick became quite mortal. Here is where his career comes up short of Blue Devil greats like Christian Laettner and Shane Battier. Those two players not only were part of Duke national championship teams, Laettner and Battier usually elevated their play during March Madness. The Devils donât win the 1991 title without Laettnerâs efforts against UNLV in the Final Four, and of course there was his game-winner in the 1992 Elite Eight vs. Kentucky that weâve all seen about 1,000 times.
Redick does not have that type of moment. If fact, his performance was a key contributor to Dukeâs Sweet 16 losses to Kansas in 2003, Michigan State in 2005, and LSU this season. With anything approaching normal output from J. J., it is hard to imagine the Blue Devils not winning at least two of those games.
In fairness, it is a given that both Laettner and Battier had much better talent around them on their championship teams than Redick did, especially this season. I think it would be very harsh to downgrade J. J.âs career simply because Duke failed to win a championship the last four years. It is fair, though, to say that he did not step up in games when the season was on the line. He could not or did not put the team on his back and carry them like other great players have over the years.
When we look back on Redickâs outstanding college career, there will always be a âbutâ included if youâre reviewing his entire body of work.
Thatâs what I think. Let me know what you think by e-mail at email@example.com. You can also keep up with my commentary on college hoops and football on my blog at www.thecourtmaster.net.
Iâll be back next week after the championship game with my final CourtMaster column of the season.
Until then, court is adjourned!