College Sports

ACC faces big changes

Unless a few non-seniors in the NBA Draft pool develop cases of wet feet, the ACC will be almost historically short on established stars next season.

It looms as a radical change from this season, when veterans dotted so many rosters that the ACC rated among the nation's most experienced basketball leagues.

Certain to return are justthree players -- second-team picks Trevor Booker (Clemson) and Kyle Singler (Duke) and third-team member Malcolm Delaney (Virginia Tech) -- from last season's first, second and third all-league teams. All six vote-getters for conference player of the year are either out of eligibility or have entered the NBA Draft.

While some of the underclassmen could withdraw from the draft and retain their eligibility, those decisions don't have to be made until mid-June.

Either way, one position that's certain to take a heavy hit is point guard, where Ty Lawson (UNC), Tyrese Rice (Boston College) and Toney Douglas (Florida State) are gone and could be joined out the door by junior Greivis Vasquez (Maryland) and sophomore Jeff Teague (Wake Forest). Among those five teams, only Wake (with Ishmael Smith) and Maryland (Eric Hayes) have ready replacements on hand.

Big extremes are likely in overall experience. While Duke and Virginia Tech should retain four starters, North Carolina, N.C. State, Maryland, Miami and Wake could be experimenting with lineup combinations into mid-JanuaryAnd unless current Duke junior Gerald Henderson opts out of the draft, the ACC will begin a season without a returning first-team all-conference member for only the third time since the league started in 1953-54.

It first happened in 1986-87, when five seniors made the 1985-86 first team -- Johnny Dawkins and Mark Alarie (Duke), Brad Daugherty (UNC), Len Bias (Maryland) and Mark Price (Georgia Tech). It happened a second time in 2002-03, when Duke juniors Jason Williams, Carlos Boozer and Mike Dunleavy went pro after having been joined on the first team by seniors Anthony Grundy (NCSU) and Juan Dixon (Maryland) in 2001-02.

The league suffered from the talent drain both times. In that 2002-03 season, four of the league's nine teams landed NCAA berths, but all were ousted during the opening three rounds. In 1986-87, six of the eight ACC teams reached the NCAA Tournament. Four lost in the opening round, none got to the Final Four and the overall postseason league record was 5-6. That's something to keep in mind between now and November.