GREENSBORO — Its been a long time since the ACC started a womens basketball season without Sylvia Hatchell.
But that will be the case for the first time in 27 seasons as UNCs Hall of Fame coach gets treatment for recently diagnosed leukemia.
Still, with the No. 1 recruiting class in the country, the Tar Heels who will be guided by Hatchells long-time assistant Andrew Calder were picked to finish fourth in the conference at the ACCs annual womens basketball media day on Wednesday at Grandover Resort.
Duke was picked first by both the conferences Blue Ribbon Panel and the coaches, followed by newcomer Notre Dame and Maryland. N.C. State, in its first season under Wes Moore, was picked 10th in the 15-team conference.
The top four spots are important, because those teams will not have to play in the first two days of the ACC tournament March 5-9 at the Greensboro Coliseum.
Were still going to play Carolina basketball, said Calder, whose team went 29-7 last season and will host the first and second rounds in the NCAA Tournament this time. Were going to play hard, were going to play smart and were going to play together, rebound and execute.
Well have an aggressive, attacking mentality Coach Sylvia Hatchell basketball right there. Were going to attack on offense and defense, play with high energy and have a lot of fun.
Duke (33-3 last season), generally considered to have the second-best freshman class in the country, has five seniors who have played and lost in regional finals each of the past three years. The Blue Devils lost that regional final to Notre Dame last season, falling 87-76 in Norfolk.
Were just going to do what we do, Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. All in all, I think this is a great group. Were having a lot of fun getting better and challenging ourselves.
We have to say goodbye to last season, but were very motivated by what we missed out on, and we missed out on a lot. We have a highly motivated team for a lot of reasons. I think well be versatile and a lot of fun to watch.
N.C. States outlook
The Wolfpack is in its first season under long-time Chattanooga coach Moore (558-169 in 24 years including the last 15 seasons with the Mocs).
The things I hope we can do to tilt close games our way start with a lot of fundamentals, said Moore, who replaced Kellie Harper after the Wolfpack went 17-17 last season. Weve got to take care of the basketball offensively.
I think rebounding is the most important aspect of the game. Were going to have to do a great job on the boards, limit our opponents to one shot and then try to get that second and third opportunity ourselves. We want to be more aggressive defensively still man-to-man, halfcourt but really try to get after people a little bit more and maybe create some offense off our defense.
Marylands Alyssa Thomas was named preseason player of the year on both the Blue Ribbon Panel and coaches teams.
Duke placed three players on both panel and coaches teams in Chelsea Gray, Tricia Liston and Elizabeth Williams. UNCs Xylina McDaniel made both teams, while freshman Diamond DeShields made the coaches team. Wake Forests Chelsea Douglas made the panels team.
DeShields and Dukes Oderah Chidom were each selected to both the panels and coaches newcomer watch lists, while Dukes Kendall McCravey/Cooper was named to the panels watch list.
Nine players from Wake or Durham counties will play for ACC teams this season. Senior guard Chloe Wells (Apex) and walk-on junior guard Jenna Frush (Northern Durham) are at Duke. Senior center Markeisha Gatling (Athens Drive), junior guard Breezy Williams (Northern Durham) and freshman guard Ashley Williams (Green Hope) will play for N.C. State.
Freshman guard Mykia Jones (Millbrook) is at Wake Forest, junior guard Chelsea Lindsay (Durham Hillside) at Clemson, and freshmen forwards Bria and Briana Day (Millbrook) at conference newcomer Syracuse.