Old, new powers battle for ACC crown - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Old, new powers battle for ACC crown

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North Carolina State's Lorenzo Brown (2) cuts between defenders in the Wolfpack's victory against Cleveland State on Dec. 8. (Source: ACC Digital Network) North Carolina State's Lorenzo Brown (2) cuts between defenders in the Wolfpack's victory against Cleveland State on Dec. 8. (Source: ACC Digital Network)

This is the first of a two-part preview of ACC basketball in-conference play. The conference does not split into two divisions for basketball, but Part One looks at teams making up the "Atlantic" side in other sports.

Check back for Part Two, the "Coastal" squads, Wednesday.

(RNN) – The Atlantic Coast Conference was supposed to be headed in a new direction for the 2012-2013 season, but entering conference play it appears little has changed.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

In a preseason poll, eight of the conference's 12 coaches picked NC State to finish first. Also, two members of the Wolfpack were selected to the five-man All-ACC team: C.J. Leslie and Lorenzo Brown.

The team's assumed ascendance came as no shock; it retained four of its five starters from last season's Sweet 16 squad. Coach Mark Gottfried supplemented the cast with a trio of top-50 national recruits in T.J. Warren, Rodney Purvis and Tyler Lewis.

Yet while NC State has gotten off to a 12-2 start, it has failed to consistently showcase the windfall of talent on the roster. An early blowout at the hands of Oklahoma State and an underwhelming win against Boston College on Saturday showed the Pack still needs work to live up to expectations.

Florida State and Miami became trendy picks to contend with the traditional powers as well. However, the Hurricanes will have to do it without center Reggie Johnson, who is expected out until at least mid-February with a broken thumb.

The Seminoles will need improved efforts in rebounding (178th in the nation) and ball movement (191st in assists) before they move into the upper tier of teams.

With the No. 1-ranked Duke Blue Devils doing what they always do – maybe better than they've done it in a while – someone will need a new gear to knock the ACC's old guard off duty in 2013.

Maryland Terrapins (13-1, 1-0)

Coach Mark Turgeon

Last game: W 94-71 vs. Virginia Tech. Next game: 8 p.m. ET Wednesday vs. Florida State.

The Terps came into conference play with a near-perfect record. How they will fare against a more leveled playing field remains to be seen, though.

Going into Wednesday, Maryland is ranked 278th in strength of schedule out of 347 teams. Still, the team used the momentum it gained from a soft schedule to steamroll through the Hokies on Saturday.

Alex Len, a 7'1" center from Ukraine, leads the team in points (13.5 per game) and rebounds (8.1 per game). If he continues to play well, the Terrapins could be the surprise team of the year.

North Carolina State Wolfpack (12-2, 1-0)

Coach Mark Gottfried

Last game: W 78-73 at Boston College. Next game: 7 p.m. Wednesday vs. Georgia Tech.

Many expected Purvis to be the Wolfpack's best rookie. Instead, T.J. Warren has emerged as one of the top scoring threats in Raleigh.

The 6'8" freshman possesses a first step to the basket much quicker than his size would indicate. He also has not taken too many shots away from his teammates, shooting a stunning 68 percent on 8.5 attempts per game.

Richard Howell and Leslie have covered the glass well, with more than 17 rebounds per game on average. If Warren and other bigs can contribute in that department, they can be one of the country's most complete teams.

Florida State Seminoles (9-5, 1-0)

Coach Leonard Hamilton

Last game: W 71-66 at Clemson. Next game: 8 p.m. Wednesday at Maryland.

Michael Snaer and Okaro White both logged significant minutes on last year's 25-win team and have taken the leadership roles in 2013. However, both will need to improve their overall play for the ‘Noles to reach the postseason.

The 6'8" White is second on the team in points, with nearly 13 per game, but needs to become a better rebounder. Snaer leads the team in scoring (15.6), but he will have to make more than 39 percent of his shots.

Look for freshman Montay Brandon to see an expanded role as the season goes on to help ease the offensive burden on the two upperclassmen.

Clemson Tigers (8-5, 0-1)

Coach Brad Brownell

Last game: L 66-71 vs. Florida State. Next game: 7 p.m. Tuesday at Duke.

The hopes of the Tiger fan base got deflated in November, when Clemson staff announced top-100 freshman Jaron Blossomgame would sit out all season after breaking his leg.

Seniors Devin Booker and Milton Jennings will have no shortage of playing time in conference action. The two big men, 6'8" and 6'9" respectively, logged at least 37 minutes apiece in the Tigers' matchup against FSU on Saturday.

Booker leads the team in points (11.9) and rebounds (7.5) per game, and he will be the focus of the team's game plan many evenings. Clemson's defense has been successful keeping scores low, currently ranked 14th in the nation in points allowed per game.

Boston College Eagles (8-6, 0-1)

Coach Steve Donahue

Last game: L 73-78 vs. NC State. Next game: 7 p.m. Wednesday at Virginia Tech.

After a depressing 9-22 season in 2011-2012, it appears BC fans could have a reason to hope: his name is Ryan Anderson.

The super sophomore has averaged 16.4 points and almost 10 rebounds per game through 14 contests, and he nearly led his squad to an upset of the Wolfpack on Saturday. Anderson has good speed for his size and can make up the space between him and the shooter quickly on defense.

Freshman Olivier Hanlan has emerged as a secondary scorer for the Eagles (12.9 ppg), giving them a duo that could be around for several years.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons (7-6, 0-1)

Coach Jeff Bzdelik

Last game: L 62-80 at Duke. Next game: 9 p.m. Wednesday vs. Virginia.

The Demon Deacons got back their two leading scorers from a season ago, C.J. Harris and Travis McKie. The two veterans guide a group of fresh faces into ACC play in 2013.

Codi Miller-McIntyre, the 80th-ranked incoming freshman according to ESPN, has averaged more than 28 minutes, nearly nine points and three assists per contest. Fellow first-year players Tyler Cavanaugh, Madison Jones and Devin Thomas have all gotten a lot of time on the court, too.

The allotment of minutes could pay dividends as soon as this season, with the youngsters picking up valuable lessons against the rest of the conference's top players.

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