ACC ShootAround: Duke, Miami to try to threaten a loaded UNC squad

Updated: August 11, 2008

Joel Auerbach/US Presswire

Miami celebrated a win over Duke last season. Can the Canes do more this season?

Miami who?

Go ahead, try picking Miami guard Jack McClinton out of a lineup.

Don't worry, most ACC coaches couldn't identify the league's top free throw and perimeter shooter, either -- at least not when it was time to recruit him.

They sure know who he is now.

McClinton, who didn't get a look as a senior at Calvert Hall in Baltimore and wound up transferring from Siena to Miami, is a microcosm of the Miami basketball team -- overshadowed, out of place and brimming with potential.

"I think I've gotten my name out there," he said, "but it's not about me, it's about my team and this program winning games."

A lack of tradition and location outside the storied but beaten path of Tobacco Road has been used against Miami coach Frank Haith in recruiting since he was hired in April 2004, but he and his staff have still lured less-heralded but equally competitive players to Coral Gables, Fla. (See redshirt freshman Julian Gamble, who came straight from Durham, N.C.). While much of the attention this summer was on North Carolina and its talented trio that decided to forgo the NBA draft, Miami was relieved to have McClinton return for his senior season, too, further boosting its hopes to build on last season's NCAA tournament success.

Darian Townes

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Miami found a gem in Jack McClinton, who didn't get recruited by ACC schools out of high school.

Haith led the Hurricanes to 23 wins last season, his winningest season in four years. They beat Duke along the way and won their first NCAA tournament game under Haith before falling to Texas 75-72 in the second round. It was a remarkable accomplishment, considering Haith inherited a program that had back-to-back losing seasons in the Big East, and his first season was also Miami's inauguration into the ACC.

"This was definitely a tall task," said Haith. "We took over a program that didn't make the Big East tournament and we're joining the best basketball league in America. Everything was new and fresh. I have to give credit to our players and coaches that have worked extremely hard, and we've recruited well. We've gotten good players. They may not be the marquee names or the guys everyone is talking about, but we do a good job of evaluating.

"We put ourselves in the position to be in the upper half. I said this last year -- this team was good enough to be in the upper half of the league. Having grown up in North Carolina and coached in the ACC before, I really believe that, and that's the statement I will say about his year's team: I think this team is good enough to be in the top half of the league."

The Hurricanes have four starters returning, including McClinton, their leading scorer (17.7 ppg), and senior point guard Lance Hurdle. Miami returns 83 percent of its scoring (including its top five scorers), and 63 percent of its rebounding.

"He's really built this team into what it is today," Hurdle said of Haith.

Haith's success -- which also includes graduating all 10 of his seniors since he's been there -- put him in the mix for recent openings at LSU and Stanford. In a Carolina-dominated league, though, the Hurricanes are still flying under the radar, and they prefer to keep it that way.

"That's how we're going to think in order to stay humble and get where we need to be," Hurdle said. "That's how we started off so well last year. We had a chip on our shoulder and we have to play that same way this year."

Heather Dinich covers college sports for Send your questions and comments to Heather at

Five Things To Watch in '08-09

Maryland's partnership with the NIT
Get used to it. With an unfavorable schedule that includes playing Miami, Duke and North Carolina two times each, the chances are good the Terps will be back at the NIT for the fourth time in five seasons.

Duke's status quo
The Blue Devils might be better, but the end result should be about the same. Duke will still have the same problem it faced a year ago -- no legitimate post presence. They've got four starters back and not one of them averaged more than 6.0 rebounds per game.

Georgia Tech feels sting of one-and-dones
After Ra'Sean Dickey decided to forgo his senior season to play overseas, coach Paul Hewitt was left with just four scholarship players in the frontcourt. In the past two seasons, Hewitt has had 10 players graduate, transfer or leave early for the NBA while only four scholarship players have been added to the roster during that time.

Wake Forest studs
Al-Farouq Aminu, Ty Walker and Tony Woods -- the players recruited by the late Skip Prosser -- kept their loyalty to the program. Because of that, the Demon Deacons have a legitimate chance at an NCAA tournament berth.

Virginia Tech's maturation
The Hokies will be better now that guards Malcolm Delaney and Hank Thorns are no longer freshmen, although both had more than 100 assists apiece. In every significant moment the Hokies had last season, there was a freshman at point guard. That experience is bound to pay off.

If I Were Commish …

Find one home for the ACC tournament. Follow the model set by the Big East by having one home, and in the case of the Big East, it has been Madison Square Garden in New York since 1983. The ACC has moved its tournament around quite a bit lately. Decide on one site, whether that's in Charlotte, Greensboro or Washington, D.C.

Also, the ACC should promote the league more beyond Duke and North Carolina. The Big East embraced expansion. The ACC didn't push the addition of Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech as much as the Big East has done with Louisville, Marquette, Cincinnati, DePaul and South Florida. The ACC office needs to go on the offensive as much as possible.

2007-08 ACC Standings

Overall record ACC record
North Carolina* 36-3 14-2
Duke* 28-6 13-3
Clemson* 24-10 10-6
Virginia Tech^ 21-14 9-7
Miami (Fla.)* 23-11 8-8
Maryland^ 19-15 8-8
Georgia Tech 15-17 7-9
Wake Forest 17-13 7-9
Florida State^ 19-14 7-9
Virginia 15-15 5-11
Boston College 14-17 4-12
NC State 15-16 4-12
*NCAA tournament
^NIT berth

For all the ACC news and notes, check out the conference page.

Top Returning Scorers

Player PPG
Tyler Hansbrough, UNC, Sr. 22.6
Tyrese Rice, Boston College, Sr. 21.0
Jack McClinton, Miami, Sr. 17.7
Greivis Vasquez, Maryland, Jr. 17.0
A.D. Vassallo, Virginia Tech, Sr. 16.9

Top Returning Rebounders

Player RPG
Tyler Hansbrough, UNC, Sr. 10.2
James Johnson, Wake Forest, Soph. 8.1
Jeff Allen, Virginia Tech, Soph. 7.6
Trevor Booker, Clemson, Jr. 7.3
Uche Echefu, Florida State, Sr. 7.3

Top Returning Assist Leaders

Player APG
Greivis Vasquez, Maryland, Jr. 6.8
Ty Lawson, UNC, Jr. 5.2
Tyrese Rice, Boston College, Sr. 5.0
Ishmael Smith, Wake Forest, Jr. 4.7
Eric Hayes, Maryland, Jr. 4.5


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2008-09 Team Capsules

BCBoston College
Coach Al Skinner has three starters returning but lost leading rebounder Shamari Spears, who along with Daye Kaba decided to transfer in April. Spears is headed to Charlotte; Kaba is going to Marist. The Eagles still have senior guard Tyrese Rice, who was second in the ACC in scoring with 21 points per game and fourth with 4.97 assists per game. Former Vermont forward Joe Trapani (11.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg in 2006-07) is now eligible to play after sitting out last season per NCAA transfer rules.

Coach Oliver Purnell will miss the defense and leadership of last year's seniors Cliff Hammonds, James Mays and Sam Perry, as they tied the school record for victories in a four-year span with 84. Still, the Tigers will be helped by leading scorer K.C. Rivers's (14.7 points per game) return for his senior season instead of entering the NBA draft. Starting point guard Demontez Stitt and starting center Trevor Booker also return. The question is whether Purnell will press as much without the three seniors in the lineup.

DeMarcus Nelson is the only starter gone from last season's 28-win campaign, so the potential is there for the Blue Devils to be even better. Sophomore Kyle Singler, the 2008 ACC Rookie of the Year, is also the team's leading returning rebounder at 5.8 per game. The Blue Devils still need a dominant post presence, but might find one in this year's freshman class. Olek Czyz is listed at 6-foot-8, 235 pounds and averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds per game in high school in Reno, Nev., while Miles Plumlee is a 6-10, 210-pound forward who averaged 15.8 points and 6.9 rebounds at the Christ School in North Carolina.

FSUFlorida State
Coach Leonard Hamilton continues to be lauded for NIT appearances because it's been more than a decade since the program has had three straight 19-win seasons, but with the talent on the roster, the Seminoles should be capable of even more, and this season is no exception. Senior guard Toney Douglas, the ACC's career leader in steals with 90 (conference games only) and a 2.65 steals per game average, will lead a team mixed with veterans and six freshmen. Freshmen forwards Chris Singleton, a McDonald's All-American, and Xavier Gibson will give the 'Noles an athletic presence inside.

GTGeorgia Tech
Even with Ra'Sean Dickey's decision to play overseas, the Yellow Jackets still have four solid post players in starters Gani Lawal and Zack Peacock and subs Alade Aminu and Brad Sheehan . The problem is a lack of depth if they have injuries or foul trouble. Georgia Tech wasn't a good rebounding team last season even with Jeremis Smith (7.1 rpg), and now he's gone. On the perimeter, Maurice Miller and D'Andre Bell are back along with Lewis Clinch. Miller made strides running the team last season, and Bell improved defensively as the season progressed. Clinch needs to get back to his early sophomore form with which he scored from anywhere on the court. Iman Shumpert, the lone freshman, was a McDonald's All-American and will play both point and 2-guard. The coaches like his IQ and shooting ability.

After center Gus Gilchrist, who was expected to have a major impact this season, decided to transfer along with Shane Walker, and recruit Tyree Evans was also released from his scholarship, the program finally got some good news when talented shooting guard Sean Mosley's eligibility was approved by the NCAA clearinghouse. It would also help if Jin Soo Kim, a 6-7, 180-pound forward, is reclassified for eligibility this season instead of waiting until next. The Terps have only 10 scholarship players right now.

The Hurricanes have four starters back from a 23-11 team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament last season. Jack McClinton (17.7 ppg) is one of the best shooters in the league. As Lance Hurdle progressed last season, the team started to turn the corner and coach Frank Haith moved McClinton off the ball. With more scoring options this season, teams won't key in on McClinton as much. The biggest difference this season, though, might be that Miami is no longer taking teams by surprise.

UNCNorth Carolina
In a word, loaded. Danny Green, Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington flirted with the NBA draft but chose to return with national Player of the Year Tyler Hansbrough for another shot at the national title. The Tar Heels return all five starters from the 2008 Final Four team that won a school-record 36 games and the ACC title. Not only are the top six scorers back, but Roy Williams also added three McDonald's All-Americans to his roster.

NC StateNC State
Last season was a disaster. The Wolfpack finished with a 15-16 record that included a season-ending nine-game losing streak and the loss of starting point guard Farnold Degand to a season-ending knee injury in late December. In order to improve, coach Sidney Lowe needs to figure out how to replace leading scorer and rebounder J.J. Hickson, who decided to enter the NBA, and second-leading scorer Gavin Grant. Lowe has been busy this summer luring some top recruits to Raleigh.

The Cavaliers will sorely miss leading scorer Sean Singletary, who was taken in the second round of the NBA draft by the Sacramento Kings. But Virginia has reason to be excited about the progress of sophomore Jeff Jones, who started 25 games last season. Forward/center Laurynas Mikalauskas had surgery to stabilize his left shoulder in early April and was given five months before being allowed to play at full contact again. Mamadi Diane and Adrian Joseph, the team's leading returning rebounder, will have to take on increased roles if Virginia is going to make it to the NIT, let alone the NCAA tournament.

VTVirginia Tech
There is much less uncertainty here than there was a year ago. The Hokies were dependent upon two freshmen point guards last season, and both Hank Thorns and Malcolm Delaney had more than 100 assists apiece as a result, with Thorns setting the school record for assists in a season (135 assists in 35 games). Four-year starter Deron Washington was the only senior who played a significant amount last season, and J.T. Thompson and Terrell Bell will see a lot of his minutes this season.

Wake ForestWake Forest
With all five starters returning and the addition of the No. 6 recruiting class in the country, the Demon Deacons have the size and experience they lacked last season to be a legitimate contender in the ACC. The addition of incoming freshmen Al-Farouq Aminu, Tony Woods and Ty Walker will give the team a presence in the frontcourt it desperately needs.

ACC's best

By Jay Bilas

Jay Bilas counts down the best teams in the ACC for the upcoming season:

1. North Carolina: Roy Williams' best recruiting class was the one that just stayed another year. And, the North Carolina record book will belong to Tyler Hansbrough.

2. Duke: The young Blue Devils will be older and much better. This team will be in a better position to finish strong.

3. Wake Forest: Youth gets punished in the ACC, but Wake Forest has some experience now to join the incoming great talent.

4. Miami: Jack McClinton is one of the best guards in college basketball, and the Hurricanes have learned how to win. Now is the time to take the next step.

5. Clemson: The Tigers earned their way into the ACC title game last season, and with K.C. Rivers, Trevor Booker and Terrence Oglesby, Clemson should be NCAA-good again.

6. Virginia Tech: The Hokies were a big surprise last season, and behind Jeff Allen, no one should be surprised that Virginia Tech will be competitive again this season.

7. Boston College: The Eagles have an unheralded roster of underappreciated talents, but Al Skinner's crew plays hard and together and never gives up. Tyrese Rice gives BC a chance in any game.

8. Maryland: The Terps have really good guards. If the big guys step forward, Maryland will be more than the eighth-best team.

9. Georgia Tech: Paul Hewitt's crew has struggled lately to reach the upper division of the ACC, but this young team will be more talented and more together in 2008-09.

10. NC State: The Wolfpack are going back to the future, with J.J. Hickson out and some of the old chemistry in. Better guard play is a must for the Pack.

11. Florida State: It is time for the Seminoles to break through. The NCAA tournament is not the measure. Consistency is.

12. Virginia: Without Sean Singletary, Virginia's only returning double-figure scorer is Mamadi Diane, who had foot surgery in June. The Cavaliers will have a steep learning curve.

Final Shots

• The best of the ACC found itself at the top of's Prestige Rankings. Duke (1) and North Carolina (3) made the Top 10. Maryland (28), Georgia Tech (33) and Wake Forest (38) made the Top 50. And NC State, BC and Virginia were just outside the Top 50. Prestige Rankings

• North Carolina is the overwhelming No. 1 entering the 2008-09 season. Andy Katz's Top 25

• UNC and Duke look like No. 1 seeds, but what other ACC teams can sneak into the field of 65? Bracketology

• Missed the other conference breakdowns? Click here to check out the ShootAround archive.