Top 25 Poll

Like every good College Basketball Fan, I  am obligated to have an opinon on the ranking of the top 25 teams in the country.  First, check out the Bleacher Report 25 Poll.  A handful of us writers send our picks into Jameson Fleming and he compiled all the info.  Second, here is my current rankings.  I have made a few changes since then.

1. North Carolina

2. Louisville

3. Connecticut

4. UCLA

5. Michigan State

6. Duke

7. Pittsburgh

8. Texas

9. Gonzaga

10. Purdue

11. Notre Dame

12. Tennessee

13. Oklahoma

14. Memphis

15. Miami

16. Arizona State

17. Marquette

18. Florida

19. USC

20. Davidson

21. Georgetown

22. Kansas

23. Wake Forest

24. Wisconsin

25. Villanova

ACC Men’s Basketball 2008-09 Preview, Part Four: UNC, Duke, ‘Canes and All-ACC Awards

Player of the Year: Tyler Hansbrough, UNC

Freshmen of the Year: Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest

All-ACC First Team
G Ty Lawson, UNC
G Jack McClinton, Miami
G James Johnson, Wake Forest
F Gerald Hernderson, Duke
C Tyler Hansbrough, UNC

All-ACC Second Team
G Tyrese Rice, Boston College
G K.C. Rivers, Clemson
G Wayne Ellingson, UNC
F Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest
F Kyle Singler, Duke

Honorable Mention

G Jon Scheyer, Duke, F Danny Green, UNC, G James Dews, Miami, G Greivis Vasquez, Maryland, F Rakim Sanders, BC, G Lewis Clinch, GT, F Trevor Booker and G Terrance Oglesby, Clemson, G A.D. Vassallo and F Jeff Allen, VT

1. UNC #1 on Bleacher Report top 25
2. Duke #8
3. Miami #17
4. Clemson
5. Wake Forest #22
6. Virginia Tech
7. Georgia Tech
8. Boston College
9. Maryland
10. North Carolina Sate
11. Florida State
12. Virginia
Conference Rank: 1
North Carolina Tarheels

Head Coach: Roy Williams
2007-08 Recap: 36-3 (14-2 ACC)

2008-09 Roster
Key Losses: C 6’9” Alex Stepheson, G 6’3” Quentin Thomas
Key Additions: G 6’1” Larry Drew, F 6’10” Ed Davis, C 7’0” Tyler Zeller

Starting Line-up
G Ty Lawson 5‘11” Jr. 12.7 ppg, 5.2 apg
G Wayne Wllingson 6’4” Jr. 16.6 ppg, 4.5 apg
F Marcus Ginyard 6‘4” Sr. 6.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg
F Deon Thompson 6’8” So. 8.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg
F Tyler Hansbourgh 6’9” Sr. 22.6 ppg, 10.2 rpg

Tyler Hansbourgh came back to complete the mission. After winning every award and it being announced that his jersey will be retired at UNC, Hansbourgh could cement himself as one of the greatest college players ever.

Even at only 5’11”, there is no more important player on this team then Ty Lawson. While Hansbourgh gets the accolades, it is Lawson that drives this team. When he was out a handful of games last season, UNC looked slow and uncomfortable in their offense.

Smooth shooter Wayne Ellingson is the Tarheel’s first option on the perimeter. While shooting over 40 percent from behind the arc, Ellington will have to focus on defensive.

Marcus Ginyard is the defensive stopper and has guard most players from point to power forward.

The Tarheels are expecting improvement from Deon Thompson. After Alex Stepheson transferred, Thompson’s play must become more consistent.

Sixth man extraordinaire, Danny Green even though he is the only player off the bench that provides double digit scoring, it is his hustle and defense are what make him a Carolina favorite.

In the backcourt the Tarheels have experience at back-up in Bobby Frasier and we should see Larry Drew III as the “point guard in training” to replace Lawson when he leaves.

The freshmen forwards each have their specialty; Ed Davis is the rebounder and Tyler Zeller is the shooter. They bring in added height and depth to a rather short frontcourt.

FORECAST
Roy Williams has to be pacing in anticipation of the 2008-09 season. The Tarheels roster is stuffed full of talent and the expectations are higher that they have been since Williams has been on the UNC bench.

If there is a weakness one this team, it is that they are not a very tall team. There two tallest players are incoming freshmen Davis and Zeller, neither are going to be expected to add much more than five fouls and garbage time. Drew could see some time if Lawson gets hurt.

The only thing that could keep the Tarheels from bring the championship back to Raleigh would be injury – and a couple good teams!

Conference Rank: 2
Duke Blue Devils

Head Coach: Mike Krzyzewski
2007-08 Recap: 28-6 (13-3 ACC)

2008-09 Roster
Key Losses: G 6’4” DeMarcus Nelson, F 6’6” Taylor King
Key Additions: G 6’4” Elliot Williams, F 6’1” Miles Plumlee, F 6’8” Olek Cryz

Starting Line-up
G Nolen Smith 6‘2” So. 5.9 ppg, 1.3 apg
G Jon Scheyer 6’5” Jr. 11.7 ppg, 2.4 apg
G Gerald Henderson 6‘4” So. 12.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg
F Kyle singler 6’8” So. 13.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg
F Lance Thomas 6’8” Jr. 4.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg

At 6’4” he is the Duke player the takes the jump ball at tip-off. Gerald Henderson is a phenomenal athlete, and his basketball game is finally catching-up. At times he is flash of the best player in the ACC and then other moments he is completely invisible. Henderson must find a personal comprise and also find ways, in the offense, to get his shots.

Sophomore guard Nolen Smith was declared the started my Coach K just a couple weeks ago. Smith is a budding offensive threat and a much better defender than people give him credit.

After living in the sixth man role for two years, Jon Scheyer gets the chance in the starting line-up. When he first came to Durham he was known as a distance shooter, but his game has evolved and is really a threat from anywhere on the floor.

Kyle Singler added twenty pounds of muscle to his wiry frame, which should help in the post. Teams must be track of him everywhere he goes on the court. He is a solid post scorer, good outside shooter, and is the main weapon in the screen and pop. His defense will be an issue as he will be match-up with bigger post players, depending on how is in the line-up for Duke.

The second forward or center spot is a tossup right now. Lance Thomas started last season, but he very well could be plucked from the line-up for 6’10” Miles Plumlee or 7’1” Brian Zoubek. No matter the decision, the three of them will be need for added muscle along with David McClure. Olek Cryz can get off the floor and thinks every shot should be a dunk.

Greg Paulus is going to play his begin his senior off the bench after starting since his freshmen year. Don’t let this fool you, he will split minutes with Smith and whoever is having the better game, will be in at the end. He is deadly from distance and is the most experienced player on the roster.

McDonald’s All-American Elliot Williams is explosive. He has the handle off a point guard and is not afraid to get to the basket. Finding him minutes is a must, but where. This season he will back-up Scheyer and Henderson – and then next season start in place of Henderson.

FORECAST
Since Josh McRoberts left a few seasons ago, Duke has been thin on the front line. But this season, Coach K actually has options. While all the offense will flow through Singler, there are many bodies to help with defense and rebounding.

Even though Duke lives by the three, the new distance will not hurt them. Most of their guys stood five feet behind the old line.

Caoch K will have this team play is signature pressure defense and but will look to find different ways to get all the players to their full potential on offense.

Conference Rank: 3
Miami Hurricanes

Head Coach: Frank Haith
2007-08 Recap: 23-11 (13-3 ACC)

2008-09 Roster
Key Losses: C 6’9” Anthony King, F 6’7” Raymond Hicks
Key Additions: F 6‘6” Fr. DeQuan Jones, F 6‘9” Fr. Cyrus McGowan

Starting Line-up
G Lance Hudle 6‘2” Sr. 8.0 ppg, 2.4 apg
G Jack McClinton 6’2” Sr. 17.7 ppg, 2.6 apg
G James Dews 6‘3” So. 10.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg
F Brian Asbury 6’7” Sr. 8.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg
F/C Dwayne Collins 6’9” Jr. 8.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg

Who was the biggest impact player in the ACC not playing for a team in the Carolinas? That would be Jack McClinton. 6’1” he is a major threat from deep, is very capable of getting to the foul line and then shooting over 91 percent when he gets there, and is confident in the clutch. After considering jumping the NBA, McClinton came back to Miami and his stock should rise, along with the amount of wins for this team.

Super quick point guard Lance Hurdle is one of four key seniors on this team. Along with McClinton the offense starts with Hurdle. Hurdle must improve on his ability to deliver passes to the open shooter. Averaging only 2.4 apg with scorers like McClinton and James Dews, is ridiculous. Hurdle needs to connect to the rest of the offense in the natural flow of the offense to get easy and open shots.

James Dews is the last guard in this three-headed monster. He also shots over 90 percent from the foul line and 40 percent from the field. While he might have the stats of McClinton, he must elevate his game if this team wants to succeed.

Brain Asbury, another experienced senior for the Canes, should start at the beginning of the season. But Asbury has sixth man written all over him for the long of the season.

At 6’9”, Dwayne Collins is one of three players at that height. The Canes are not tall, but they take up space. He is a tough defender, great leaper, solid rebounder – especially on the offensive end – and can score on the block.

Arkansas transfer Cyrus McGowan is the most likely new face to compete for a starting spot.

Sophomore guard Eddie Rios is a starter in training and is a stellar ball-handler to take over next season

McQuan Jones will see plenty of playing time at the 3 spot. He is a very talented recruit and is the cornerstone for the future.

FORECAST
When would you have thought that the University of Miami would have a basketball team that has higher expectations that is football team?

Coach Haith knows that he is about to turn Miami from a cellar dweller to a top five ACC program.

Miami has talented pieces on offense, but it was their defense that was second in the ACC. If they can keep that a focus while getting a lift from the newcomers to the roster, this team should be ranked all season and make some of those Carolina teams very upset.

ACC Men’s Basketball 2008-09 Preview, Part Three: Tigers, Demon Deacons, and Hokies

1. UNC
2. Duke
3. Miami
4. Clemson
5. Wake Forrest
6. Virginia Tech

7. Georgia Tech
8. Boston College
9. Maryland
10. North Carolina Sate
11. Florida State
12. Virginia

Conference Rank: 4
Clemson Tigers
Head Coach: Oliver Purnell
2007-08 Recap: 24-10 (4-12 ACC)
2008-09 Roster
Key Losses: G 6‘3” Cliff Hammonds, F 6’8” James Mays, F 6’5” Sam Perry
Key Additions: G 5‘9” Fr. Andre Young, C 7‘1” Fr. Catalin Baciu, G/F 6’5” Fr. Tanner Smith, F 6’6” Bryan Narcisse
Starting Line-up
G Demontez Stitt 6‘2” So. 8.8ppg, 3.0 apg
G Terrance Oglesby 6’2” So. 10.5 ppg, 1.8 rpg
F K.C. Rivers 6‘5” Sr. 14.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg
F Trevor Booker 6’7” Jr. 11 ppg, 7.3 rpg
C Raymond Sykes 6’9” Sr. 4.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg
K.C. Rivers showed his capable of doing everything. While leading the team in scoring, he was second on the team in rebounding and assists per game. He will take over leadership for the Tigers and should compete for All-ACC accolades.
Super quick sophomore Demontez Stitt, showed he can handle ACC competition in his freshmen year. Not only can he find open looks for others, he will get to the basket with ease when needed.
Long distance bomber Terrance Oglesby, showed he can make the big shots. After scoring 24.4 ppg with the Under 20 Norwegian National team this summer, he has dual citizenship, in his second year he will to bring that scoring average aboard and evolve his game to be dangerous from anywhere on the court, not just behind the three point line.
Trevor Booker will not have James Mays to keep teams from double teaming in the post, but Booker will still be the primary post presence. His scoring average should go up and Booker should up with quite a few double doubles.
Senior Raymond Sykes will not be a scoring threat like Booker. He will be needed to block shots, crash the boards and throw down the occasional lob pass. Sykes has exceptional jumping ability.
Incoming freshmen will be slotted into back-up roles. Andre Young is an outstanding shooter from distance and was a Top-100 recruit out of high school.
Offense can wait for Catalin Baciu, but his shot blocking will be felt immediately and Jerai Grant will continue to develop and see more minutes.
FORECAST
What a year for the Clemson Tigers. They finished the regular season in third place in the ACC, beat Duke in the ACC tournament and lost to UNC by only five points in the championship game.
So what does Clemson do to continue the success? Shoot better from the free throw line. As a team they shot only 62 percent from the charity stripe-only three players shot over 70 percent from the line-while shooting 37 percent from three. Improving in both would likely lock-up at least two more wins. This team has quality options on offense, they have good post play and great perimeter shooters.
The major question is on defense. Last season the Tigers outscored their opponents’ 79-69 and out rebounded them by only two rebounds per game. Look for Clemson to try to outscore they other team, not shut them down.
The Tigers will again compete to play in the ACC tournament championship game while making a push to the top on the regular season.

Conference Rank: 5
Wake Forrest Demon Deacons

Head Coach: Dino Gaudio
2007-08 Recap: 17-13 (7-9 ACC)
2008-09 Roster
Key Losses: None
Key Additions: F 6‘8” Fr. Al-Farouq Aminu, C 7‘0” Fr. Ty Walker, F 6’10” Fr. Tony Woods
Starting Line-up
G Ishmael Smith 6‘0” Jr. 8.6 ppg, 4.7 apg
G Jeff Teague 6’2” So. 13.9 ppg, 2.5 rpg
F Al-Farouq Aminu 6‘9” Fr. 23.1 ppg, 11.2 rpg *High School Stats
F James Johnson 6’8” So. 14.6 ppg, 8.1 rpg
C Chas McFarland 7’0” Jr. 8.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg
While the Demon Deacons have a top five recruiting class, this team is still James Johnson’s. Johnson is an elite athlete who is extremely versatile, but this team extremely talented and his averages could dip as the shots will be more spread through out the team. But in the clutch, the ball will be in his hands.
Point guard Ishmael Smith’s free throw shooting is a well documented liability. Shooting 29 percent from the charity stripe and 43 from the field is unbelievable as a back court player. He is a pass first point guard who has a ton of talent that needs their shots.
Jeff Teague is a scorer and got better in conference play. He was the only double figure scorer from last season and he Smith compliment each other very well.
Stud freshmen Al-Farouq Aminu will have high expectations, but he will be giving sometime to grow. He is a skill player who is very quick off the floor.
There is not shortage of centers on this team. But Chas McFarland saw his numbers and minutes jump under Gaudio. But he will be challenged for the starting spot by freshmen Tony Woods and Ty Walker.
Both are top-notch defenders with shot blocking ability, but their offense games need improvement. But they will see plenty of time off the bench.
6’4” guard L.D. Williams is the best perimeter defender and will get many chances to shut down players.
Harvey Hale played 23 minutes a game last season. His minutes might depend on who steady Smith is able to play.
FORECAST
This team is very tough to feel out. The Demon Deacons are obviously talented, but how are they as a team?
The team has depth and height in the frontcourt, but finding a rotation would a problem most coaches would like to have. Yet it is a problem. With three impact freshmen and a player in Johnson who will complete for Player of the Year honors, minutes could be hard to find.
The Demon Deacons are on their way to the top of the ACC and I really think they could end up any where from second to 7 in the conference. Ultimately, they are too talented to finish in the bottom half and will bring tough games to every team.

Conference Rank: 6
Virginia Tech Hokies

Head Coach: Seth Greenberg
2007-08 Recap: 21-14 (9-7 ACC)
2008-09 Roster
Key Losses: F 6’7” Deron Washington
Key Additions: F 6‘9” Fr. Victor Davila, C 6‘11” Fr. Gene Swindle
Starting Line-up
G Malcolm Delaney 6‘3” So. 9.6 ppg, 3.1 apg
G A.D. Vassallo 6’6” Sr. 16.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg
F J.T. Thompson 6‘6” So. 5.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg
F Jeff Allen 6’7” So. 11.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg
C Cheick Diakite 6’9” Sr. 1.9 ppg, 2.7 rpg
It is now of never for A.D. Vassallo. This team will need him to take the leadership role and continue to expend his scoring role. At 6’6” Vassallo is a match-up problem for most guards in the ACC. He is a volume scorer and how is dangerous behind the arc.
Malcolm Delaney is the third option in this offense, but he might be the most important. He was the Hokies best shooter from distance shooting 40 percent last season.
The second wing spot could go to a number of players, but J.T. Thompson adds hustle and takes up space. He will never get shots in the offense, but should get some buckets cleaning-up.
Jeff Allen had a freshmen season filled up moments of good and bad. The good was his offensive production. The bad was his weight and a suspension after make contact with an official. Coach Greenberg has been hard on him regarding his conditioning but that should improve and so will Allen’s numbers.
Multiply players could step in at center, and while he lacks an offensive game, the defense of Cheick Diakite is what is needed.
Freshmen Victor Davila figures to battle for the starting center spot. Having played for the Puerto Rican national team, he game is more sophisticated than most incoming freshmen.
Hank Thorns and Derenzo Hudson will make-up the backcourt support for the Hokies.
FORECAST
Jeff Greenberg will not have the most athletic team in the ACC, but has some very good “basketball” pieces. He just has to complete the puzzle, by finding the right mix if players.
Where this team finishes in the ACC will depend heavily on how consistent Vassallo and Allen can play. There are not a lot of offense options on this team, but there are plenty of bodies to help out defensively.
Virginia Tech lost one of the best pure athletes in Deron Washington, but did not do much to replace him.
The concern will not only be finding another double figure scorer, but replacing all the other aspects of the game where Washington contributed, especially on defense.
Last season Virginia Tech had the best scoring defense in the ACC and if they want to win and play in March, they must repeat the feat.

Players to Watch in 2008-09: Big 12

Two years – two players of the year – two number two NBA draft picks.

There is no question the Big 12 has some of the best talent in the country and the last two years has driven the point home even more. While Michael Beasley and Kevin Durant took over college basketball for just a little while, other players have quietly made clutch plays, made All Big 12 teams, and won national championships.

With no freshmen drawing the attention as the two fore mentioned, the emphasis this season, will be on team and experience. Here is a look at some of those players that have been around while and are this season players to watch.

Damion James, Jr. Forward Texas
There is just something I like about the way he plays. James is athletic and willing to do what his teams asks of him. Having played power forward when Durant stopped by, James is now living and loving at the small forward spot. But James is not your typical three. Not only did he averaged a double-double, 13.2 ppg and 10.3 rpg and but he gives the Longhorns easy buckets on lob passes and put backs and has a reliable jumper out to 15 feet. Look for him to increase his productions as the inside option to A.J. Abrams outside.

A.J. Abrams, Sr. Guard Texas
Welcome back Mr. Abrams, the Longhorn fans are rejoicing! I don’t think there is a player who will benefit more from staying in college, more than Abrams. While he is an outstanding scorer, Abrams can use this year to solidify his ball handling skills. Shooting guard is his natural – and best position – but if he is truly looking to play in the league, he must show he can handle the ball in pressure and find open players. Abrams showed he is more than just a three point shooter, shooting 42 percent from the field and averaging 16.5 ppg. The Longhorns are going to expect even more from him this season, and so will the NBA scouts.

Sherron Collins, Jr. Guard Kansas
Can you say – “Now is your time to shine?” After taking the last two seasons to perfect his roles as “instant offense” and “sparkplug off the bench”, Collins will be the Jayhawks team leader this season. He has the ability to play at a pace many cannot, but I believe his weight could play an issue. Having played 24 minutes a game last season, Collins will need to be on the court more for Kansas to win and losing the extra pounds would help.

Byron Eaton, Sr. Guard Oklahoma State
There are many similarities between Collins and Eaton. Like Collins, he is quicker than quick, his team’s success now depends on how he plays, and his weight has been an issue. But this season, with Travis Ford’s new up-tempo offense, you should Eaton at his lightest and best. Last season Eaton 11.5 ppg and 3.5 apg, but in a five game stretch he averaged 20.6 ppg, and they won all five games. And he made one the most incredible shots in the history of basketball in one of the greatest college games I have ever seen. Go to Youtube and type in Byron Eaton, crazy.

Josh Carter, Sr. Guard Texas A&M
After testing the draft waters and deciding they were a little too cold, Carter comes back to the heat of Texas to improve his stock. After leading the nation in three point percentage as a sophomore, Carter’s percentage slipped last season. Going into his last season, he will be more of a focus on offense and he might not again return to the percent he shot two seasons ago. At 6’7”, if he can show he is capable of consistently scoring in a verity of ways and improve his passing skills, Carter will be drafted in June.

Curtis Jerrells, Sr. Guard Baylor
Talented Guards are aplenty in the Big 12 and Jerrells is arguably the best. He finished last season second in the conference in scoring at 15.3 ppg and first in assists with 3.8 apg. He is most dangerous behind the arc but if he could improve his percentage by even two points, he would easily average over twenty points per game. Jerrells is quick, handles the ball very well, and is an improving passer. Even though he is a shot first guard, the Bears would like his assists numbers should go up because there are other options on this team.

Blake Griffin, So. Forward Oklahoma
So there is a guy named Griffin in Oklahoma that is really good and is going to be the first overall drafts pick next June. Nope not Taylor – he is pretty good too – but I am talking about Blake. Everyone knows what Blake can do, but this year he will be better, stronger, and healthier than last season. There is not a more dominate force in all of college basketball and at 6’10” and with a 37 inch vertical, Girffin is a monster at both ends of the court.

Craig Brackins, So. Forward Iowa State
Brackins came to Iowa State last season as Top-20 freshmen. While the majority of the players ranked ahead of him are now in the NBA, Brackins is about ready to explode on the national scene. But unfortunately, he plays for Iowa State. Rarely are they showed on television, so he will continue to be the “best kept secret” in the Big 12. Scoring only 11 ppg does not tell the whole story; he scored 20 point in five games and was second on the team in blocks. He is quick off the ground, runs the floor very well, and got stronger as the season went on. He posted a school freshmen record when he dropped 33 points on Baylor.

DeMare Carroll, Sr. Forward Missouri
The former Vanderbilt transfer was the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year last season. While averaging 13 ppg and a team high 6.7 rpg, he scored double figures 26 times. At 6’7” his is undersized in the post but makes it up with quickness, hustle and hardnosed play. He could very well creep towards a double-double his season of eligibility.

Alan Voskuil, Sr. Guard Texas Tech
If you expect Voskuil to sit behind the three-point line and wait for an open shot, your team will lose. His game has developed to include a solid mid-range jumper and he will run the break. But he still is a great outside shooter – he shot 50 percent last season. During his sophomore year, Voskuil played about 11 minutes a game, then 34 minutes last season. The Red Raiders rely on his production and leadership and I would not be surprised to see his all in the mix for All Big 12.

Others to keep an eye on:
Mario Little, Kansas
Willie Warren, Oklahoma
Leo Lyons, Missouri
James Anderson, Oklahoma State
Connor Atchley, Texas
Josh Carter, Texas A&M