Monday, April 9, 2007

CALL US THE CUBS: WAIT ‘TIL NEXT YEAR

Let’s review. There was just one ACC team in the Sweet 16, no teams in the Final Four. Duke lost in the first round, and UNC flamed out in the Elite 8. There was Maryland buckling under some bad calls, some off court issues at NC State and the worst: UNC's mascot dying after being hit by a car.

So what about next year? Sure, the ACC will have it's usual departures to the NBA and just plain ol' graduation, but there is so much left at the table. If anything, the ACC this past season was a bunch of promising teams just waiting to emerge, but didn't. Not yet. According to AOL Fanhouse ACC, these teams should be the frontrunners in '08:

North Carolina: Right now, the belief is only Brandan Wright will leave [and that isn't a done deal yet], Reyshawn Terry graduates and they have nothing new coming in. What they will have is virtually everyone back from the past two outstanding recruiting classes. For the first time since 2005, Roy Williams can just fine tune his team without trying to teach them all on the fly. They'll be a national title contender from the opening tip.

Duke: Hope everyone got their licks in on Duke last year, because the Blue Devils will be back. Yeah, Josh McRoberts is leaving ... but that should be a good thing. Freshman Kyle Singler will fit in nicely ... along with newbies Nolan Smith and Taylor King. Oh, and they could reel in big man Patrick Patterson, too.

Georgia Tech: Provided everyone stays, Tech will emerge back to 2004 form. They lose only Mario West and could return their top eight scorers from last year. That will depend on Lewis Clinch, who played in the Jackets' first 14 games of the season before getting suspended from the team for conduct.

NC State: It usually takes a coach three seasons to get their program the way they want it. You could see Sidney Lowe's team develop as the season went along. They also bring in an impressive recruiting class. Brandon Costner can be a star in this league.

Of course, some programs will be hit very hard due to graduation. Boston College loses ACC Player of the Year Jared Dudley and Sean Marshall; Florida State loses All-ACC performer Al Thornton; Virginia loses J.R. Reynolds; Maryland loses DJ Strawberry, Mike Jones and Ekene Ibekwe ... three guys who were the reason that the Terps went on that tear at the end of '07; surprising Virginia Tech loses their magical backcourt of Zabian Dowdell and Jamon Gordon.

Of course, these schools do bring back studs like Tyrese Rice, Toney Douglas, Sean Singletary, Greivis Vasquez and Deron Washington, respectively. Also, teams like Clemson and Miami will bring back most of their guys back. There will be no coaching change in the conference, and five schools are bringing in recruiting classes rated in Scout.com's Top 25 [and UNC isn't one of them].

More on this later.

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