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November 4, 2008
Rivals.com Atlantic Coast Conference preview
This season, the ACC is viewed as North Carolina and everyone else and rightfully so.
With the return of five starters including big man Tyler Hansbrough, the first AP national player of the year to stay in college since Shaquille O'Neal in 1991-92 from a team that won 36 games and reached the Final Four, UNC enters the 2008-09 season as one of the biggest national title favorites since the dominating UCLA teams of the 1960s and 1970s. The Tar Heels are the first unanimous No. 1 in the history of the coaches' preseason top 25.
But that doesn't mean UNC's chief competition hasn't improved either. A year after sending four teams a relatively low number by ACC standards to the NCAA tournament, the 12-team league has a chance to send at least six to the field of 65.
Thanks largely to the return of a wealth of experience, five other ACC teams were ranked among the top 40 in the Rivals.com Top 65 Countdown: Duke (No. 6), Wake Forest (No. 18), Miami (No. 27), Clemson (No. 35) and Virginia Tech (No. 38). Maryland (No. 61) also was ranked.
Wake Forest, which finished in a tie for seventh last season, returns every scholarship player. Duke has four starters back, including 2007-08 ACC Rookie of the Year Kyle Singler. The same goes for Miami, which reached the second round of the NCAA tournament, and Virginia Tech - which was one of the last teams left out of the field of 65. Clemson returns three starters from a team that was a No. 5 seed in the 2008 NCAA tournament.
The ACC also is adding an extraordinary amount of talent. Four of the five selections to Rivals.com's preseason All-ACC freshman team are five-star prospects. Wake Forest signed three five-star prospects and two did not make the freshman team.
Rivals.com Preseason All-ACC Teams
North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough is our preseason ACC Player of the Year.
No team in the league has a bigger collection of young talent. Wake welcomes three five-star prospects: 6-9 forward Al-Farouq Aminu (older brother Alade Aminu plays for Georgia Tech), 6-11 center Tony Woods and 7-foot center Ty Walker. Every starter and 11 lettermen return from a team that finished in a tie for seventh last season. That includes sophomores Jeff Teague and James Johnson, both All-ACC-caliber players. The rotation will be at least 10 deep. If the newcomers develop quickly, the Deacons could finish as high as second.
Team on the decline: Virginia
Coach(es) on the rise: Miami's Frank Haith and Clemson's Oliver Purnell
Coach on the hot seat: Sidney Lowe, NC State
Best offensive player: North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough
Best 3-point shooter: Miami's Jack McClinton
Best defensive player: Florida State's Toney Douglas
Best player you don't know yet: Clemson's Trevor Booker
Deepest bench: Wake Forest
Impact newcomer: Wake Forest's Al-Farouq Aminu
Freshman sleeper: Virginia Tech's Victor Davila
Andrew Skwara is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.