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With the Super Bowl in the rearview mirror, the next big event on the sports stage is college basketball’s season-ending tournaments. Since 1997, college basketball’s national champion has come from several different conferences: the Pac 10 (Arizona), SEC (Kentucky and Florida), Big 10 (Michigan State), the ACC (Duke, Maryland, North Carolina), and the Big East (UConn, Syracuse). Over the next few weeks, let’s examine some of the top hoop teams in each conference, starting this week with the ACC.
North Carolina: What an explosive team fourth-year coach Roy Williams has! The Tar Heels average 91 points with a 12-deep rotation that runs right at opponents. 6-9 junior Tyler Hansbrough (22 ppg, 10 rpg) leads in scoring and rebounding, while two sophomore guards have been outstanding in Wayne Ellington (16 ppg) and Ty Lawson (14 ppg). The Tar Heels are tops in the nation in rebounding and second in points.
There is strong depth up front with 6-5 junior Danny Green (12 ppg, 5.2 rpg), 6-8 sophomore Deon Thompson and 6-9 sophomore Alex Stepheson (6.4 ppg). Talk about youth and talent! All that offense is why they started 12-5 over the total. They have two big meetings with Duke on tap, one this week and one in the regular season finale.
Duke: Coach Mike Krzyzewski has another talented team that is flexing its ACC muscles again. A year ago there were no senior starters and they got upset by VCU in March, so it was a bit of a disappointing 22-11 campaign. This season Duke senior guard DeMarcus Nelson leads the team with 14.8 points and 6 rebounds per contest.
This is not a great rebounding team, as Coach K is back to a more guard-oriented attack with 6-5 sophomore Jon Scheyer, 6-4 sophomore Gerald Henderson, Jr (13 ppg) and freshman Kyle Singler. They were a dog to Illinois and won 79-66 on a neutral court, before losing to Pitt in OT, 65-64. In the loss to Pitt they got outrebounded 49-31, something to keep an eye on when they face strong low post teams.
Boston College: The Eagles have been about balance and rugged frontcourt play under Al Skinner. They’ve lost a lot of talent the last two years, but they still have a power frontcourt with rotund 6-6 sophomore Shamari Spears (11 ppg, 7.5 rpg) and 6-11 senior center Tyrelle Blair. BC is tops in the ACC in blocks per game, over 7.
The backcourt has a terrific scorer and playmaker in junior guard Tyrese Rice (20 ppg, 5 apg), plus 6-5 freshman Rakim Sanders (12 ppg), the second leading scorer. They started 9-3 over the total with a strong offense. Sports bettors take note: BC is just 4-11 straight up and 6-9 against the spread as an underdog the last two years.
Virginia Tech: Despite starting 12-6 over the total, Seth Greenberg’s Hokies are a strong defensive team, allowing 40% shooting. They have a frontcourt that is more hard working than tall, led by 6-7 senior Deron Washington, who is second in scoring (12 ppg) and rebounding (6.6 rpg). A key has been 6-7 freshman Jeff Allen, a transfer who has stepped in as the top rebounder (12.5 ppg, 7.9 rpg).
In a big win over BC last week in OT, 81-73, the Hokies outrebounded the best rebounding team in the ACC, 51-42, and held BC to 39 percent shooting from the field. 6-6 junior G/F A.D. Vassallo (16 ppg) leads in scoring and chips in 5 boards per contest. Two weaknesses are that they are not a strong road team, nor very good as a dog.
Clemson: The Tigers are about offense, 13-6 over the total with a strong one-two backcourt punch of 6-5 junior K.C. Rivers (15 ppg) and freshman Terrence Oglesby (11 ppg). They are one of the top teams in the ACC in shooting, rebounds and NO. 1 in steals, getting over 10 thefts per game.
The frontcourt is deep behind 6-9 junior James Mays (11 ppg, 7 rpg) and 6-7, 240-pound sophomore center Trevor Booker (12 ppg, 8 rpg). Clemson was criticized for a weak schedule a year ago during their 17-0 start. This season they started 10-0 as a dog only once, beating Mississippi State 84-82. Still, rebounding was a problem last season, but not so this year for the Tigers.
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