Surprise: Elite teams
start at ACC

Feb 7, 2006 3:44 AM

Since 1997, college basketball’s national champion has come from several different conferences: the Pac 10 (Arizona), SEC (Kentucky), Big 10 (Michigan State), the ACC (Duke, Maryland, North Carolina), and the Big East (UConn, Syracuse). Over the next few weeks, we will examine some of the top teams in each conference.

This week, the ACC.

Duke: Always tough at home, but began the season 6-1 SU/4-2 ATS on the road averaging 85 points per game! Unlike past teams, this is primarily a two-headed attack. The remarkable 6-foot-4 J.J. Redick (27 ppg) leads the ACC in scoring and is a 92.1 percent free throw shooter. Up front, 6-9, 255-lb Shelden Williams (18 ppg, 9 rpg) leads in rebounding and is second in scoring. The Devils allow 58 ppg, at Cameron, where they started 11-0 SU, 6-3 ATS at home.

UNC: Third-year coach Roy Williams had to deal with a mass exodus to the NBA after last season’s national title. While growing pains have been evident, this young team is already making waves. Led by 6-9 freshman Tyler Hansbrough (18 ppg, 7.6 rpg), 6-8 junior Reyshawn Terry (12.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg) and 6-6 David Noel III (11.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg), the Heels are blending together nicely. They started just 3-2 SU/ATS on the road and have packed some bite, going 2-0 SU/ATS as a dog. This week Duke comes to Chapel Hill and the Heels visit Miami.

NC State: The Wolfpack were expected to struggle after losing star Julius Hodge, who did everything for this team the last few years. However, they have been very good behind the 1-2 punch of 6-9 sophomore Cedric Simmons and senior guard Cameron Bennerman. NC State still likes the uptempo attack, averaging 77 ppg and seeing 10 of 16 games go "over" the total. They were tantalizingly close to an upset at Duke last month, before the Blue Devils pulled away very late. State needs to play better on the road, with chances coming this week at Miami and Georgia Tech.

BC: Seems like the frontcourt duo of Craig Smith (17.5 ppg, 8.6 rpg) and Jared Dudley (16.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg) have been playing for 10 years. Smith is third in the ACC in rebounds. The strong front line helps BC lead the ACC in assists and is second in FG accuracy (48 percent). BC averages 76 ppg and started 11-5 "over" the total. The Eagles appeared too eager to prove themselves in the ACC, starting 0-3, but strung four wins together before the narrow home loss to Duke as a +4½ home dog. The Eagles are a perfect 3-0 ATS as an underdog.

Maryland: Owns a tall front court and rebounding depth with 6-9 Nik Caner-Medley (15 ppg, 6 rpg), 6-9 junior Ekene Ibekwe (11 ppg, 6 rpg) and 6-8 Travis Garrison (9 ppg, 6 rpg). Maryland is first in scoring (83 ppg) and second in rebounding. At 6-5, junior D.J. Strawberry (4.4 apg) runs the backcourt. The Terps lost senior guard and second leading scorer Chris McCray (15.2 ppg) for the season (academic suspension). Saturday, Maryland hosts Duke in a revenge spot for the Terps after a 76-52 loss last month.