ACC: Four can bring down Duke

Feb 8, 2005 12:29 PM

With the Super Bowl in the rear view 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 the Pac 10 (Arizona), SEC (Kentucky), Big 10 (Michigan State), ACC (Duke, Maryland), and Big East (UConn, Syracuse).

Over the next several weeks, we’ll examine some of the top hoop teams in each conference, starting this with the ACC.

DUKE: HC Mike Krzyzewski has another deep, talented roster that is flexing its ACC muscles again. They’re always tough at home, but notice the Blue Devils began the season 4-1 SU/3-1 ATS on the road averaging 90 points per game! This team has tons of depth led by 6-foot-4 shooting guard J.J. Redick, whose 22-point average leads the ACC in scoring. The deep backcourt is led by 6-3 senior Daniel Ewing and Sean Dockery.

Up front, 6-9, 255-lb Shelden Williams (16 ppg, 11 rpg) leads the Blue Devils in rebounding and teams with 6-10 junior Shavlik Randolph. Most impressive is the team defense at home, where Duke allows 59 ppg (7-4 "under" the total. No one wants to get these guys mad, either: After their first defeat, a 75-66 upset loss at home to rival Maryland, Duke flattened poor Virginia Tech 100-65 as a 20-point favorite! This is an interesting week for the Blue Devils, hosting North Carolina (Wednesday) then traveling to Maryland (Saturday.)

UNC: And speaking of run and gun teams”¦These are good times for the Tar Heels and second-year coach Roy Williams. Up front 6-9 junior Sean May (15 ppg, 9 rpg) and 6-8 senior Jawad Williams pound the glass. Junior guards Ray Felton and Rashad McCants (16 ppg) run one of top fast breaks in the nation. Felton dishes out over seven assists per game. North Carolina leads the ACC, shooting 51 percent from the field.

Many young teams are strong at home and weak on the road. UNC still has some work to do away from home. North Carolina started 4-2 SU, 3-3 ATS on the road, including a loss at Wake Forest where the Tar Heels allowed 95 points. Still, UNC averages 93 per game and nearly 100 at home. The Heels went "over" the total in six of their first nine home games.

W. FOREST: The Demon Deacons is another ACC team that can push the ball up the court, averaging 86 ppg. The backcourt is deep behind 6-2 junior Justin Gray (17 ppg), senior Taron Downey and sophomore Chris Paul (6.6 assists). They had a rough three game road trip two weeks ago, losing overtime games at Florida State and Georgia Tech and upsetting Cincinnati as a +7 dog.

Wake is led in rebounding by 6-8 senior Jamaal Levy and 6-9 Eric Williams, while the guards push the ball up the floor. The Demon Deacons started the season 12-7 "over" the total, including 7-2 at home. They have a chest-thumping 95-82 win at home over North Carolina under its belt and last week’s big home victory over Duke.

GA TECH: The Yellow Jackets slumped in January as sparkplug guard B.J. Elder missed several games with an injury. They were rolling at Kansas on New Year’s Day when Elder went down, and the Jayhawks came back to win, 70-68. The backcourt has great depth with Jarrett Jack and senior Will Bynum, though Elder clearly makes the offense go. Georgia Tech also has a fine frontcourt with 7-1 senior Luke Schenscher and 6-6 Isma’il Muhammad, who lead the team in rebounding.

Georgia Tech leads the ACC in defense allowing opponents to shoot just 37 percent from the field. A problem this team had last year was defense on the road, and that is still a concern. The Jackets allows 59 ppg at home but 75 on the road. Tech started 1-4 SU/ATS on the road. If Elder is healthy come March, Tech has a chance to make another deep run through the tourney.

NC STATE: The Wolfpack has a nice one-two punch in 6-6 senior Julius Hodge (18 ppg) and 6-10 freshman Andrew Brackman. Hodge leads the team in scoring, assists, and rebounds and can put on a show many nights, though shooting just 63 percent from the free throw line. NC State leads the ACC in fewest turnovers (12 per game).

This is not a deep team, however, and they struggled through a four-game skid in early January. NC State had an 85-69 win at Maryland as a +7 dog, but also lost at home (86-74) to Duke. This is a big week for State, with tough road games at Wake Forest (Feb. 10) and Georgia Tech (Feb. 13). If the Pack want to make a run at the regular season title, they’ll need to improve a .500 road record.