Over the last few seasons, the ACC has been pretty predictable: it's
been Duke, primarily, followed by Maryland, UNC, Wake Forest, and to a lesser
extent, Georgia Tech and N.C. State. Other teams have bobbed up and
down. This year, UNC and Duke are still
looking formidable, but the rest of the conference is up for grabs. Which
leads us to Atlanta.
Last year was a huge disappointment for Paul Hewitt and his team, as
they fell to 11-17, only escaping the cellar when Wake had an even more
spectacular collapse. This season, though, promises to be different.
Last year, Tech had to replace all their starters. The core of the team
played for the national title before having a less-spectacular final campaign.
But it beat 11-17, with many of those losses coming at the ends of games, as
Tech seemingly found new ways to lose on a regular basis.
However, that team was not bereft of talent, and this season's group will
have a good bit more.
Tech returns 6-6 Anthony Morrow, a sharpshooting guard, 6-6 Jeremis Smith, a
guy who is a bear on the boards, and 6-10 Ra'Sean Dickey, who had a fairly
successful sophomore year, at least statistically. All three are
juniors. Morrow, however, has a stress fracture which will keep him
out for about eight weeks, which will hurt Tech.
They also return 6-3 Lewis Clinch, who was a late Duke target before picking
Tech and who like Morrow can fill it up. Paco Diaw, 6-6, came in
with a bit of hype, but didn't do much his freshman year. However, talent
certainly runs in the family, as his half-brother, Boris, plays for the Suns,
his mother is regarded as one of the finest French basketball players in
history, and his father was a gifted high jumper. Six-foot-nine Alade
Aminu, like Diaw, came in with a bit of mystery, but his athleticism needs to be
refined for him to become a serious player.
Mouhammed Faye, 6-8, didn't play last season but could be a serious
contributor defensively, and defensive specialist Mario West is the lone senior.
It's an impressive group and certainly one you'd expect to develop
rapidly. But the freshman class adds a lot, too.
Thaddeus Young, a 6-7 forward out of Memphis, could be spectacular. And
his grades were spectacular too, making him a highly desired target. Yet for
various reasons, some schools soured on him. Reportedly, he was set to
commit to UNC when something went wrong. And Duke reportedly took a pass
on him as well, perhaps because of a entourage which troubled some.
And while he may only be at Tech for a year - he's really, really promising -
he could make Tech a real hard team to beat.
And having Javaris Crittenton could be a boon as well. Tech could have
certainly used a better point guard last year. And at 6-4, Crittenton
really fits Hewitt's mold for a point guard.
So unless both the rookies are terribly overrated, we'd expect them to start,
and fellow freshmen Zach Peacock, 6-7, and 6-10 Brad will probably get seasoned
this season and like some of their teammates, be ready to take on new positions
of authority when their more advanced teammates move on to the NBA.
This team is deep, young, and talented. Moreover, it has the kind of
players Hewitt likes and who can play his style of basketball: they're tall,
athletic, and are capable of immense pressure defense. Everyone is high on
Young, and we've heard great things about Crittenton as well. He's
supposed to be an outstanding point.
Faye has a 7-3 wingspan, and that could make him a particularly dangerous
But just as importantly, attitudes are likely to change. Last year's
team was mentally soft down the stretch all too often. This year, those
guys will be more mature and not as prone to fade down the stretch. But
just as importantly, Young, Crittenton, and to an extent Peacock and perhaps
Faye, will contribute a new toughness to the team. These guys have
reputations as being highly competitive, and hard-nosed, and that will help
Hewitt's bunch immensely. They may bring some reluctant talent, like
Dickey, up to a higher level.
And Tech may even have to deal with UNC's problem - having a lot of guys who
are good enough for serious minutes - albeit on a smaller level. Clinch,
Diaw, Faye, and Aminu will get minutes, but maybe not as many as they
expect. Or, depending on who improves, it could be someone else. But
no matter how you cut it, there are 200 minutes and that's it. You can't
cut it but so many ways.
They're still going to be young - eight of the players are either freshmen or
sophomores - but the talent is hard to overlook, and Hewitt, with his love of
pressure basketball, goes pretty deep into his bench. .
If they're able to play
defense and score in bunches on turnovers, they'll be able to keep up with just
Even in the last five minutes.