New season, same story. Once again find the North Carolina Tar Heels and Duke Blue Devils at the very top of the ACC in what could be a down campaign for the vaunted hoops conference.
Atlantic Coast Conference? Schmatlantic Coast Conference.
There’s another month to go before school starts. Players are at home or practicing their craft at skills academies. Preseason tournament schedules have just been released. But it’s never too early for a handicapper to get cracking. The first batch of betting odds is on the board for the 2009-10 NCAA men’s basketball championship. And for once, the ACC isn’t dominating the market.
Cast your eyes to the Big 12, and you’ll find the Kansas Jayhawks (4-1) sitting as the top March Madness favorites and one of four teams with shorter odds than the defending national champions, the North Carolina Tar Heels (10-1). It looks like the reloading Tar Heels will be in another tight battle for ACC supremacy with the Duke Blue Devils (18-1); otherwise, college basketball’s alpha conference is looking decidedly beta.
The last time we saw North Carolina (34-4 SU, 17-19 ATS last year) reload was after winning the national championship in 2005. Tyler Hansbrough led the team as a freshman to a 33-4 record at a healthy 20-15-1 ATS, eventually losing to upstart George Mason at the big dance. Hansbrough was one of four Tar Heels drafted by the NBA this year; it’s up to 6-foot-10 Josh Henson to replace Hansbrough at power forward and Dexter Strickland to give the Heels a viable perimeter threat now that Ty Lawson (47.2 percent from behind the arc), Wayne Ellington (41.7 percent) and Danny Green (41.8 percent) have all turned pro.
The Blue Devils (30-7 SU, 17-18-1 ATS) have some patchwork to do themselves. Gerald Henderson (draft) and Elliot Williams (transfer to Memphis) are gone, but coach Mike Krzyzewski is a recruiting machine. In come 6-foot-10 center Mason Plumtree and 6-foot-10 power forward Ryan Kelly to make this a bigger Duke team than we’re used to. It also appears super prep guard Andre Dawkins will be able to join the team this year instead of 2010. Assuming the paperwork goes through, Dawkins gives Duke the balance it needs to reclaim the ACC title.
It’s potluck for the other nine hopefuls. Here’s a quick look at their key losses and additions for 2009-10. Teams are listed in order of March Madness odds; records from last year are included.
Clemson Tigers (23-9 SU, 12-14-1 ATS, 35-1)
In: F Milton Jennings, F Devin Booker, G Donte Hill
Out: G/F K.C. Rivers (14.2 points, 6.0 rebounds per game), G Terrence Oglesby (13.2 points), F Raymond Sykes (7.9 points, 5.1 rebounds)
Maryland Terrapins (21-14 SU, 16-11-2 ATS, 40-1)
In: C Jordan Williams, C James Padgett
Out: F Dave Neal (8.5 points, 4.3 rebounds)
Wake Forest Demon Deacons (24-7 SU, 15-12 ATS, 75-1)
Out: G Jeff Teague (18.8 points, 3.5 assists), F James Johnson (15.0 points, 8.5 rebounds)
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (12-19 SU, 11-16 ATS, 75-1)
In: F Derrick Favors, G Mfon Udofia
Out: G Lewis Clinch (15.5 points, 3.0 assists), F Alade Aminu (11.8 points, 8.0 rebounds)
Boston College Eagles (22-12 SU, 15-14 ATS, 75-1)
Out: G Tyrese Rice (16.9 points, 5.3 assists)
Virginia Tech Hokies (19-15 SU, 13-16 ATS, 150-1)
In: G Erick Green, G Ben Boggs
Out: G/F A.D. Vassallo (19.1 points, 6.2 rebounds)
Florida State Seminoles (25-10 SU, 18-10-1 ATS, 250-1)
In: G Michael Snaer, F Terrence Shannon
Out: G Toney Douglas (21.5 points, 2.9 assists)
Miami Hurricanes (19-13 SU, 13-13-1 ATS, 250-1)
In: G Malcolm Grant, G Durand Scott, G Garrius Adams, G Antoine Allen, F Donnavan Kirk
Out: G Jack McClinton (19.3 points, 2.8 assists), G/F Brian Asbury (8.0 points, 5.0 rebounds), G Lance Hurdle (7.3 points, 2.9 assists)
North Carolina State Wolfpack (16-14 SU, 15-9-1 ATS, Field 25-1)
In: F Josh Davis, F DeShawn Painter, C Jordan Vandenberg, F Richard Howell
Out: F Brandon Costner (13.3 points, 6.0 rebounds), F/C Ben McCauley (12.4 points, 7.8 rebounds), G/F Courtney Fells (11.3 points, 3.6 rebounds)
Virginia Cavaliers (10-18 SU, 10-13 ATS, Field 25-1)
In: F Tristan Spurlock, G Jontel Evans