Giglio: In 2013-14 basketball, it's Duke, then everybody else

jgiglio@newsobserver.comMay 18, 2013 

  • Joe says ...

    ACC writer Joe Giglio predicts the 2013-14 ACC basketball race:

    1. Duke (30-6, 14-4 ACC in 2012-13): Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood, Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon give the Blue Devils the league’s best, most athletic lineup.

    2. Notre Dame (25-10, 11-7 Big East): The Fighting Irish return four starters from a 25-win team and add two strong recruits.

    3. UNC (25-11, 12-6): A full season with junior guard P.J. Hairston in the lineup will make the Tar Heels national contenders.

    4. Syracuse (30-10, 11-7 Big East): The Orange, a Final Four team a year ago, need to improve on offense but it will continue to win with its defense.

    5. Virginia (23-12, 11-7): All-ACC guard Joe Harris is one of six regulars back from a 23-win team, which should be Tony Bennett’s best in Charlottesville.

    6. Maryland (25-13, 8-10): The Terrapins’ last hurrah in the ACC promises to be entertaining and behind junior Dez Wells and should include a return to the NCAA tournament.

    7. Pittsburgh (24-9, 12-6 Big East): The Panthers had some personnel turnover (two transfers and mammoth forward Steven Adams left early for the NBA) but Jamie Dixon’s program exudes toughness.

    8. Boston College (16-17, 7-11): Fourth-year coach Steve Donahue has hitched his wagon to sophomore guard Olivier Hanlan, who has the program on the cusp of a breakthrough.

    9. N.C. State (24-11, 11-7): The Wolfpack starts over without five of its top six scorers from last reason, but a chance to reset is not necessarily a bad thing.

    10. Georgia Tech (16-15, 6-12): Brian Gregory’s rebuilding project won’t take off until a few more guards are added to the Robert Carter Jr./Marcus Georges-Hunt foundation.

    11. Wake Forest (13-18, 6-12): Jeff Bzdelik unearthed a keeper in sophomore forward Devin Thomas. Will he be around long enough to develop him after a 11-39 three-year ACC record?

    12. Florida State (18-16, 9-9): Disappointing NIT season followed by the disappointing recruiting loss of Andrew Wiggins, and do-everything Michael Snaer needs to be replaced.

    13. Miami (29-7, 15-3): The ’Canes will always have 2013 and the ACC title to prove it, but they are in a complete rebuilding mode after losing 90.2 percent of their offense.

    14. Clemson (13-18, 5-13): There’s more talent leaving the program than coming in; that’s a problem for Brad Brownell’s fourth season.

    15. Virginia Tech (13-19, 4-14): Picture last year’s last-place team without Erick Green, the nation’s leading scorer. It’s that grim.

If Duke’s history is the precedent, the rest of the newly expanded ACC is in trouble.

The Blue Devils have a chance to be historically good in 2013-14. Mike Krzyzewski has taken Duke to the NCAA tournament 29 times in his 33 seasons. He has lost in the round of eight only twice: last season to Louisville (the eventual champion) and in 1998 to Kentucky (the eventual champion).

The season following their only other Final Eight loss, the Blue Devils rolled through the ACC to the tune of 19-0, including the conference tournament.

With the addition of Syracuse, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh – three Big East teams who made the NCAA tournament last season – the ACC will be considerably tougher than it was 15 years ago, especially with both North Carolina and Virginia with strong teams for next season.

Perfection, while unlikely for this Duke group, is not out of the question. With the return of five regular contributors and the addition of freshman Jabari Parker and Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood, Duke is poised to make kindling of the 15-team ACC in 2014.

Guards Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon will have to elevate their games from last season’s growth, and Parker and Hood will have to be as good as advertised, but there’s no doubt the Blue Devils, (14-4 in the ACC last season) are the conference’s team to beat.

UNC, led by P.J. Hairston, and Virginia, which could go 11-deep, will be the best of the returning ACC schools. The Big East combination of Syracuse, a Final Four team in ’13, and Notre Dame will be Duke’s main competition for the regular-season title.

Maryland, in its 61st and final ACC season, has the potential to return to the NCAA tournament after a three-year hiatus. Jamie Dixon has led Pittsburgh to the NCAA tournament nine times in 10 seasons. Despite some personnel turnover, the Panthers should give the ACC seven entrants in the 68-team field.

Miami, which won both the regular season and tournament titles in ’13, and N.C. State are in rebuilding mode as both Jim Larranaga and Mark Gottfried enter their third seasons.

The hopes for Florida State’s season turned when super recruit Andrew Wiggins chose Kansas over the Seminoles. Wake Forest, Boston College and Georgia Tech are hoping recent rebuilding efforts pay off.

And then there’s Virginia Tech and Clemson, both in for very long seasons. About the only good news for either is neither has to play Duke, UNC, Syracuse or Notre Dame twice in their 18-game schedules.

Staying out of Duke’s way will be a key for the rest of the ACC. Going back to ’99, Duke lost a first-team All-ACC player (Roshown McLeod) and 37 percent of its offense from ’98, a team that went 15-1 in the ACC.

The Blue Devils got exponentially better in ’99 with the health of forward Elton Brand and the emergence of Shane Battier and Corey Maggette, two athletic forwards who excelled on the perimeter.

This Duke group loses a first-team All-ACC player (Mason Plumlee) and 62 percent of its offense. There’s no commensurate post component on this team like Brand but with the addition of Parker and Hood the Blue Devils will be more dynamic and athletic, especially on defense.

Before Duke’s 85-63 loss to Louisville in the NCAA tournament, Krzyzewski talked about the potential of the new ACC with its new configuration.

“I want ACC basketball to be the best,” Krzyzewski said then. “And we have a chance to do that again.”

Krzyzewski’s team has the same opportunity to be the best this season.

Giglio: 919-829-8938; Twitter: jwgiglio

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