Early 2010 ACC Preview: Team Snapshots

Duke:   The Blue Devils should be picked to win the ACC again.  Coach K brings in the top point guard in the class and will get a boost from transfer Seth Curry.  A key for Duke will be whether the its plethora of big men can provide strength, poise and rebounding the way that Zoubek did down the stretch in 2010.

        Returning Starters:  Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith
        Key Returning Players:  Mason Plumlee, Miles Plumlee, Ryan Kelly, Andre Dawkins
        Top Newcomers:  Seth Curry, Kyrie Irving, Josh Hairston
        Best Case:  1st
        Worst Case:  3rd
        Expectation: 1st

Virginia Tech: The Hokies return all 5 starters from a pretty good squad, so a mediocre recruiting class is no problem. Most importantly, Macolm Delaney is returning for his senior season. Coach Greenberg should not have to sweat on Selection Sunday.

        Returning Starters: Malcolm Delaney, Dorenzo Hudson, Jeff Allen, Terrell Bell, Victor Davilla
        Key Returning Players: JT Thompson
        Top Newcomer: Jarell Eddie
        Best Case: 1st
        Worst Case: 6th
        Expectation: 2nd

Maybe Conference Contraction Will Become the New Fad

The Big 12 has decided to move forward with 10 teams- a decision that will allow a round robin schedule in basketball and eliminates the conference championship game in football.  Texas and Oklahoma now have an easier road to the National Championship, revenues will be divided by less teams, and most importantly, the Big 12 may have established the best basketball conference.  Mike DeCourcy reports:
Already, statistician Ken Pomeroy has declared the 10-team Big 12, had it been in place this past season, would have been the strongest league under his rating system since 2004.
Before the next wave of expansion begins, conferences around the nation should keep their eye on the Big 12.  If the league's basketball proves to be the best, the schools are making money and their television contracts are competitive, then perhaps the super-conference concept will go away. 

Looking Ahead to the 2010 ACC Season

Since the 2010 recruiting classes have been finalized, barring any last minute academic issues or other surprises, it's a good time to take an early look at the upcoming basketball season.

The ACC has struggled in recent years, but will next season be different?  Who are the best newcomers?  Which school made the best coaching hire?  Will NC State return to prominence?  Can anyone beat Duke?  How will Carolina respond to Roy Williams' worst season ever?  There are plenty of storylines to keep an eye on, and November can't get here fast enough.

Each year, college teams face big changes as players graduate, transfer and leave to pursue their professional careers.  Coaches get fired and take better jobs.  New faces show up around the league, ready to make their mark.  Let's take a look at how the ACC schools have fared this offseason.

A Breather from this Weeks' College Sports Mayhem- Ranking the Mascots

There is undoubtedly a ton going on in college sports this week (conference expansion, USC violations, Izzo).  It's definitely been one of the crazier weeks in recent memory.  So, I am going to take a breather and have a little fun.  So today, Triangle Hoops Journal ranks the ACC mascots.  The mascots are ranked on the following criteria: originality, appearance and ferociousness.

1.  Yellow Jacket: One of my favorites and bee stings hurt. So Buzz wins.
2.  Seminole: Excellent portrayal, but there are tons of teams that have or used to have Native American mascots.  But appearance and ferociousness give FSU second place.
3.  Wolfpack: No really bad points, very ferocious.
4.  Tarheel:  They should have gone with a big foot. The ram isn’t bad though.
5.  Blue Devil: Original because it is based on a group WWI French soldiers, not just a devil they colored blue. Overall pretty good appearance, but loses points for ferociousness. Who is scared of the French?

College Football Could Ruin College Basketball

Gary Parrish at CBSSports.com penned an insightful article this morning on expansion and how basketball is not a consideration.  He addressed how Kansas could be the a big loser in all of this.  To me, the biggest loser is college basketball as a whole.

It's no secret that college football has been the driving force behind expansion, at least initially.  Conferences needed to go to twelve teams to establish a conference championship game.  Now, expansion is simply a matter of survival, and of course to increase conference revenue.  The question I have is why is college football such a big draw?

Several years ago, I was a huge college football fan.  My favorite show was ESPN's College GameDay.  Over the past few seasons, however, the games seem less compelling and less meaningful.  Except for the fabulous Texas-USC National Championship game in 2006, the post-season in the BCS era has always been anti-climactic.  There is one meaningful post-season game, and it is played a month after the regular season ends. 

Consider college basketball on the other hand.  College basketball determines its champion by playing a tournament open to every Division I school.  The NCAA Tournament is the most exciting event in all of college sports.  It draws in viewers who otherwise have no interest in the sport.  It is the NCAA's biggest source of revenue.  College basketball is fast-paced, exciting and fits nicely into a two-hour time slot.  It is tailor-made for passionate rivalries and gut-wrenching endings.

The problem expansion causes for college basketball is that it diminishes the rivalries that make the game great and creates an unbalanced conference schedule. 

Does Wake Forest get chills about an upcoming game against Boston College?  Would Syracuse be buzzing about a conference game against Clemson?  Of course not.

How does a team with a 10-6 conference record get left out of the NCAA Tournament, while a 7-9 team from the same league gets in?  Simple- the unbalanced scheduling has made conference records meaningless.

I blogged a couple weeks ago about a projected conference re-alignment (by Brendan Prunty of The Star-Ledger) that would create a tremendous basketball conference.  Such an alliance between the Big East and ACC is intriguing from a basketball perspective.

If expansion can be done in a manner that enhances college basketball, keeps conferences in a somewhat regional alignment, and in a way that strikes a balance between tradition and modern realities, then fine.

But it is a mistake for conferences to expand to the degree proposed in recent weeks, thereby ruining the greatest sport the NCAA has to offer.

Izzo to the NBA? Let's Hope Not; Expansion and Kansas Basketball

Reports surfaced this morning that Michigan State coach Tom Izzo has been offered the Cleveland Cavaliers' job.  Here is the story from ESPN.  This would be a huge loss, not only for the Spartans, but for college basketball as a whole.  Izzo has been one of the top three or four coaches in all of college hoops during his tenure in East Lansing.  He has led the Spartans to 13 straight NCAA Tournaments and six Final Fours, and has done so with class.  Considering the amount of ugliness in college basketball these days (see KU/OU and UConn for example), losing a guy like Izzo would be disappointing. 

If the Big 12 is dissolved, which is a distinct possibility in light of today's big expansion news, what will happen to Kansas basketball?  Can the Jayhawks, one of the truly elite programs, continue to thrive as a national power in the Mountain West Conference?  First the ticket scalping news breaks.  Now we find out that Kansas could end up in a mid-major conference.  What a month for the Jayhawks.

The News & Observer reports that NC State rising sophomore Josh Davis will transfer to Tulane, hoping to earn more playing time for the Green Wave than he projected to get at NC State.  Expect Josh to succeed there, as he is an athletic, hard-working player.  Best of luck to Josh in his basketball career.

New Web Address

Triangle Hoops Journal is now a part of the Yardbarker network and the new address is www.trianglehoopsjournal.com.

Shocker in Durham- K Not Going Anywhere; Calhoun's Legacy

The Associated Press reports what everyone already knew: Coach K is not leaving Duke.  Unless Duke drops their basketball program, K will be there until he retires.  He is close to becoming number one all-time in wins by a Division I coach, gets to coach the US national team, and is a living legend at  Duke.  If he can achieve anything comparable to what he's done so far over the last seven or eight years of his career, and he would have a legitimate claim to be considered the best college basketball coach in history.

At UConn, Jim Calhoun's program is facing allegations of major violations that Mike DeCourcy says are coming at a tough time.  In this article, I take a look at what the alleged violations and potential sanctions mean to Coach Calhoun's legacy at UConn.  Here is an excerpt:

On May 28, 2010, UConn announced that it received a notice of allegations from the NCAA, in which eight violations were asserted...
UConn's basketball program has not been previously investigated, at least publicly, under Coach Calhoun's 24-year tenure. The events in question appear to be isolated to a small time period and few individuals.

But coaches in the past have suffered under similar circumstances.

In 1989, NC State's head basketball coach, Jim Valvano, was crucified in the media for allegations asserted in a book written by an individual with few, if any, credible sources. The author claimed that NC State was guilty of grade changing and providing players with cash and cars...