Originally Published: September 1, 2010

Five things to know this offseason

Andy Katz

1. Three coaches shockingly depart: No one saw the departures at Boston College, Clemson and Wake Forest coming in the weeks or months earlier. The decision to force out Al Skinner, the winningest coach in BC history, left the staff stunned and contributed to an Eagles dispersal draft as players like Brady Heslip (Baylor), Evan Ravenel (Ohio State), Kevin Noreen (West Virginia) and Rakim Sanders (Fairfield) found new homes. Wake Forest athletic director Ron Wellman clearly wasn't happy with the direction of the Demon Deacons, even though Dino Gaudio was a heck of a recruiter and won an NCAA tournament game in March. Clemson fully intended for Oliver Purnell to be the head coach for the foreseeable future and was just as miffed by his decision on the night of the national title game to head to bottom-dwelling DePaul of the Big East. The potential good news for all three schools is that they replaced the trio with well-respected head coaches: Steve Donahue (Cornell to BC), Jeff Bzdelik (Colorado to Wake) and Brad Brownell (Wright State to Clemson).

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Bob Donnan/US PresswireDuke's title defense was greatly aided by the return of these two.

2. Duke's Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith return for senior seasons: Singler and Smith weren't locks for anything, but when a team wins the national title, the usual decision by the top players is to bolt if they're NBA-worthy (the exception being Florida a few years ago). Singler and Smith were savvy enough to realize that they have a legitimate chance to win the national title again and, in the case of Singler, to move up significantly in the draft. Even though his team beat Gordon Hayward and Butler, Singler wasn't going to be selected ahead of him. Both players had solid summers as members of the USA Select team, gaining even more momentum for the season and June's draft. They return to Duke with legit chances to be ACC player of the year as well as first-team all-Americans. Singler will be featured more, as Smith has to share the backcourt with Kyrie Irving and Liberty transfer Seth Curry. Singler and Smith could have taken the easy road, but chose a more traditional path to finish their Duke careers with the potential for even more of a legacy.

3. Wear twins transfer out of North Carolina: UNC coach Roy Williams didn't spin this move one bit. He was stunned. David and Travis Wear apparently didn't let it be known until May that they wanted out of North Carolina to head back to their native California. The twins ultimately chose UCLA. The Wear twins were role players, but still would have had major rotation spots this season. Ed Davis went early to the NBA draft and Deon Thompson finished his eligibility. That left John Henson, Tyler Zeller and newcomer Harrison Barnes as the primary frontcourt talents. All three would start on most teams, but the depth took a serious hit when the Wears decided to leave. Taking off from UNC is rare, considering the success level in Chapel Hill. The Wear twins will now sit out in Westwood and presumably be more productive as they develop a mature skill set in 2012.

4. NC State signs C.J. Leslie: Sidney Lowe had always been able to recruit during his tenure with the Wolfpack. But never had he put together a class that could shift the balance in the ACC behind Duke and North Carolina. NC State added the highly coveted Leslie to an already touted class of guards Ryan Harrow and Lorenzo Brown. The 6-foot-9 Leslie should be a major impact player for the Wolfpack and will allow them to be on a more equitable talent level with the teams at the top of the league. Now the key is for the Pack to put the talent to work with Ws in the ACC. They won 20 games last season but only five in the ACC. Knocking off Clemson and Florida State in the ACC tournament made us take them a little more seriously, and the recruiting certainly got everyone's attention in the spring.

5. Paul Hewitt stays at Georgia Tech: It was no secret that St. John's coveted Hewitt and with the Yellow Jackets hitting some inconsistent streaks, mostly due to early entries, academics and injuries the past four seasons, there was speculation that the coach would bolt. But Hewitt had no reason to flee to New York. He had a solid contract and was not in danger of it being bought out. He also has all of his perimeter returning to offset the departure of forwards Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors. This summer, Hewitt sounded as energized about his team as he has in years. He loves living in Atlanta and clearly is on a mission to keep the Yellow Jackets at a high level -- seemingly boosted by this season's underdog role.

Jay Bilas' ACC predictions

Jay Bilas

1. Duke: It could be argued that the Blue Devils won a championship last season without a truly "great" team (but it won't say that on the banner or the trophy). This time, even after losing three senior starters from a 35-5 team, Duke will be more talented and could be an even stronger and better team. But the experience, the embraced roles and the chemistry of last season's squad will be almost impossible to duplicate. Duke returns two All-American vets in Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith, and adds a point guard that will make a huge difference in Kyrie Irving. Mike Krzyzewski has managed without a true point for a while now, but he will hand Irving the ball from the first day and he should deliver. Duke has personnel on top of personnel at every spot. The only questions are whether Krzyzewski gets high-level leadership and whether Miles and Mason Plumlee develop into star-caliber players. If they do, this team is athletic, deep, explosive and prepared for a run to a repeat. The drama in the ACC will be for second place.

2. North Carolina: Enough about last season. It was inexplicable, and nobody really knows exactly how the Tar Heels were on the tracks when the train hit their season. They were sixth in the ACC in offensive production and dead last in the ACC in defensive stinginess. This group will be totally different. With Harrison Barnes, Roy Williams has a true star who will increase UNC's competitiveness right away. The Heels will be thin up front, but John Henson and Tyler Zeller should mature into outstanding players, and Williams will have good backcourt depth. Larry Drew II has taken a lot of heat, but was third in the ACC in assists last season. If he can cut down on turnovers and continue to improve his shot, Drew can have a really good year. Trust me -- there will be no NIT this season. If they don't fight their opponents harder this year, they will have to fight Williams.

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Paul Abell/US PresswireIf the Hokies are as good as we think, Greenberg won't have to mount another March PR campaign.

3. Virginia Tech: The 2011 Hokies will get into the NCAA tournament, and will do so in a walk. Fortunately, we will not have to listen to the semiannual whining about the Committee or psychiatric examinations or the talking heads or the other lame excuses trotted out by Seth Greenberg. Last season's NIT trip was simple to figure out. Virginia Tech won 23 regular-season games, but 20 of those wins were against non-NCAA tournament teams. The Hokies played a pathetic schedule by anyone's standards, and had wins against only Georgia Tech, Clemson and Wake Forest to show for it. If you thought the Hokies were among the 34 best teams, fine. But the schedule kept Tech out of the Dance. This season, Greenberg returns his entire starting unit and 99 percent of his scoring. One thing Virginia Tech did really well was get to the foul line. The Hokies got to the free throw line more than any other ACC team (428 FTA in ACC play, 63 more than Duke), but they cannot afford to finish last in the ACC in assists again this season. Malcolm Delaney attacked the basket as effectively as anyone in the country, and should be right there for ACC Player of the Year. He is a big-time college player. Figure in the talent and experience of Jeff Allen and Dorenzo Hudson, and you have a surefire NCAA team -- one capable of finishing second in the league.

4. NC State: This is the season Sidney Lowe has been building toward. The Wolfpack has some horses, and the league is not as strong as it has been. If there is a move to be made by NC State, this is the year to do it. Three starters are back and Tracy Smith is the key guy. Last season, he averaged 16.5 points, 7.3 rebounds and led the ACC in field goal percentage at 52 percent. Javier Gonzalez returns to run the point, shooter Scott Wood will stretch the floor and hotshot newcomers C.J. Leslie and Ryan Harrow will be immediate impact players. NC State couldn't shoot last season, hitting only 40 percent from the floor in ACC games. Scoring should be an easier task this go-round.

5. Maryland: Gary Williams did a remarkable coaching job last season, leading Maryland to 24 wins and the ACC's regular-season co-title. But the Terrapins lost as much as any team in the league. Gone are ACC Player of the Year Greivis Vasquez, Landon Milbourne and Eric Hayes, which will leave a huge void. Jordan Williams, who averaged 10 points and 8.6 rebounds as a freshman, is poised to have a great season. Sean Mosley, Cliff Tucker and Adrian Bowie will have to raise their production, and newcomers Ashton Pankey, Mychal Parker, Terrell Stoglin and Icelandic swingman Haukur Palsson will have to contribute early. I know this team will play hard and defend, but someone will have to score, which was not a problem last season.

6. Florida State: The Seminoles were a very good defensive team last season, leading the ACC in scoring defense, leading the nation in field goal percentage defense, and sporting some very long and aggressive shot-blockers that allowed the perimeter to get out and pressure and gamble. The two key returnees are Chris Singleton and Michael Snaer. Singleton has a pro-level game and will be an All-ACC first-team selection this season. Snaer had a very good freshman year and has the ability to lead this team in scoring. Derwin Kitchen should run the point and Deividas Dulkys will be the top 3-point threat. A difference-maker could be developing big man Xavier Gibson, who was coming on last season and has the potential to be very good. For Florida State to be good, the Seminoles need to take much better care of the ball. FSU cannot afford to again lead the league in turnovers in ACC play.

7. Miami: The Hurricanes fooled us with their gaudy record and weak nonconference wins last year, but got beat up in ACC play. Miami had a hard time rebounding and guarding the perimeter, and couldn't force turnovers. There is some talent returning in Durand Scott (one of the best freshmen in the country last season), and Frank Haith will have some decent size across the front line. Julian Gamble played well down the stretch and DeQuan Jones put together three really good games in the ACC tournament to show flashes of the potential he brought out of high school. Freshman guard Rion Brown should play right away. In a "down year" in the ACC, Miami could surprise.

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AP Photo/Michael DwyerThe versatile Reggie Jackson will play a key part in Steve Donahue's first season on Chestnut Hill.

8. Boston College: Former Cornell coach Steve Donahue inherits a team that underperformed last season after years of performing far beyond expectations. Boston College will not be a great team, but it will certainly be a good and competitive one. With six of its top nine scorers back, there is talent to work with. And with Joe Trapani, Reggie Jackson, and Corey Raji, the Eagles will have scoring capability. There is a new system and a new coach, but BC should be competitive.

9. Wake Forest: New coach Jeff Bzdelik inherits an NCAA team, but the Demon Deacons did lose star performer Al-Farouq Aminu, speedy Ish Smith, bruising big man Chas McFarland and defender L.D. Williams. Sophomores C.J. Harris and Ari Stewart and junior Tony Woods will have to play at a much higher level and gain much more consistency and greater efficiency. The Deacons have an uphill climb this season. Bzdelik will enjoy a highly rated recruiting haul from Dino Gaudio, but everything will be new for Wake Forest this season, and it will be an adjustment.

10. Virginia: Tony Bennett brings back Mike Scott, Sammy Zeglinski and Mustapha Farrakhan, but the Cavaliers may not yet have the horses to rise up in the ACC standings. Virginia was a tougher out last season, but not tough enough to rack up more than five ACC wins. The Cavs simply could not score, and if not for their free throw efficiency, averaging 60 points would have been an issue -- and that was before leading scorer Sylven Landesberg left school. Add in the fact that Virginia was not a good defensive team or rebounding team, and you have a lot to overcome. Bennett will have six freshmen to add to the fold, but this is another building year.

11. Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets went from really strong to suspect in the frontcourt. They will be small and guard-oriented, with the only big man of significance being incoming freshman Nate Hicks. After a 7-9 ACC record put Georgia Tech on the bubble, the Jackets fought to the ACC tournament championship game before losing to Duke. Gone are top scorers and rebounders Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors, but back are some capable guards in Iman Shumpert, Mfon Udofia, Glen Rice, Jr., and Brian Oliver. As good as those guards have the potential to be, the Jackets certainly were loose with the ball last season. Only Florida State turned the ball over more in ACC games, and Tech cannot afford to be as inefficient this season and hope to win games.

12. Clemson: The Tigers return three starters and some talented younger players in Milton Jennings, Andre Young and Noel Johnson. With Demontez Stitt, new coach Brad Brownell inherits a good penetrator that averaged over 12 points per game in ACC play. Jerai Grant is bouncy and talented and Tanner Smith started every game, but Clemson's identity is an unknown, especially since Trevor Booker was such a force for the Tigers. There are no truly bad teams in the ACC this season -- but someone had to be picked last.

10 key players around the league

Andy Katz

Kyle Singler, Sr., F, Duke: Singler has become one of the tougher matchups in college basketball, especially when he plays the 4 over the 3. He has figured out how to score at a high level and stay on the court consistently. His toughness has improved and he's become a leader, if not a vocal one. Singler starts the season as the ACC preseason Player of the Year and is a candidate for the national honor. If he has a monster season, the Blue Devils have a real shot at repeating.

Nolan Smith, Sr., G, Duke: Not sure there is a better late-shot-clock shooter than Smith. He has a real understanding of time and score and has worked wonders for Duke the past two seasons. His leadership has shined over the past year and he'll take on even more of a central role without Jon Scheyer. He'll need to mentor Seth Curry and Kyrie Irving in the loaded Blue Devils backcourt, but that shouldn't be an issue.

Kyrie Irving, Fr., G, Duke: Irving enters the season as a candidate for national player of the year and a possible top pick in the June NBA draft in 2011. Irving gives the Blue Devils a legit starting point guard who can take pressure off Smith bringing up the ball to jump-start the offense. Duke hasn't had a hyped point guard like this since Jay Williams. Irving helped lead the USA to a gold medal in the U-18 championships in San Antonio earlier this summer.

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Reid Compton/Icon SMIChris Singleton looks ready for a breakout season in Tallahassee.

Chris Singleton, Jr., F, Florida State: He had a breakout summer without playing on a national stage, creating a buzz for himself on the USA select team that competed against the national team and was seen by NBA and college scouts. Singleton has proved to be an effective scorer and seems to be relishing his new role as FSU's leader in the absence of the departed Solomon Alabi. He is the team's top defender and should end up being Florida State's top scorer as he has proved he can score facing or driving to the basket.

Jordan Williams, So., F, Maryland: Williams put up 21 points and 17 boards in an NCAA tournament first-round win over Houston. That should have signaled to the rest of the ACC what is to come this season. He nearly averaged a double-double last season and has a shot at being one of the best big men in the ACC. If he delivers, the Terps will be in position to compete for another NCAA tournament berth.

Durand Scott, So., G, Miami: Scott was a first-team all-rookie performer and scored in double figures in eight of the Hurricanes' last nine games. He should be the team's leading scorer and one of the top guards in the ACC. Scott will get tested plenty when Miami plays Memphis early and then Ole Miss with its highly touted guard Chris Warren. West Virginia also makes an appearance in Miami, which gives the Canes a chance to make an early-season statement.

Harrison Barnes, Fr., F, North Carolina: Barnes comes to Chapel Hill at the perfect time. He's a mature young man who seems to handle himself quite well in the spotlight. He'll need to be the featured player for the Tar Heels, as well as the team's spokesperson. UNC was desperate for a presence like Barnes. His talent also matches his persona. If he can be a big-time scorer for the Heels, the star power that is the norm in Chapel Hill will have returned after a one-year hiatus.

John Henson, So., F, North Carolina: Henson was just too thin to be a major factor last season. It took him time to fully develop into a major contributor in college basketball. Unfortunately, because he could make things look so easy in high school, it appeared there would be a smooth transition. He's never going to be a brute, but Henson has learned how to control his body on the court and work the angles to be effective. If he continues to be productive, he should form quite a tandem with Barnes.

C.J. Leslie, Fr., F, NC State: Leslie's decision to attend NC State was a major recruiting coup for Sidney Lowe. It helped lend credibility to the direction in which he was taking the program, and a belief that the rebuilding is nearly complete. Leslie has to deliver on his talent, though. Expectations are high for him as an individual, but even more so for him as the missing piece to help push the Wolfpack toward an NCAA bid.

Malcolm Delaney, Sr., G, Virginia Tech: Tech coach Seth Greenberg tends to have a high-volume scorer and Delaney is the latest for him in Blacksburg. Delaney, who has a shot at being the ACC Player of the Year, averaged 20 points a game last season and was usually taking 10-plus shots a game. Expect those numbers to be very similar this season as the Hokies look for him to be a major player in every outing.

10 freshmen we can't wait to see

Paul Biancardi
ESPN Recruiting

Kyrie Irving, PG, Duke: He will be handed the ball from Day 1 as the Blue Devils' floor leader. Irving is a facilitator and distributor that makes the most challenging play look easy, his teammates look good and the most tenacious defender look meek. He will bring the Cameron Crazies, and the nation, out of their seats. Duke needed a superstar point guard, and it landed the best one in the class.

Harrison Barnes, SF, UNC: The No. 1-ranked player in the 2010 class will be a stud for the Tar Heels. He is everything you want as a coach because he is an exceptional player with a high skill level and high basketball IQ. Versatility is what makes him stand out: He can lead or finish the break, break pressure, make shots from everywhere and defend.

Ian Miller, SG, Florida State: He is a winner that sets the tone for his team by bringing a high level of intensity each time he takes the floor. Miller is a fantastic defender and is able to control the ball handler and dictate tempo. Offensively, his strength lies in beating defenders off the bounce, and he thrives in the transition game, scoring or distributing the assist. Miller plays an energized brand of basketball that will excite the fans in Tallahassee.

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Randy Litzinger/Icon SMIMychal Parker leads Maryland's talented six-man recruiting class.

Jason Morris, SF, Georgia Tech: He is an absolutely incredible athlete that plays above the rim as few others are capable of doing. The Yellow Jackets faithful will love the way he finishes the fast break, and when Georgia Tech puts on its pressure defense, you can be sure Morris will be making things happen.

Mychal Parker, SG, Maryland: Parker is always thinking about scoring and he does it well in a variety of ways. He likes to attack the rim and will dunk over defenders if need be. He can rebound and start the break, hit pull-up mid-range jumpers and even knock down spot-up 3-pointers. Parker competes and has the skills to be a scoring threat from anywhere on the floor.

Rion Brown, SG, Miami: Brown has incredible athleticism and leaping ability, which makes him very tough to guard or block out as he races in on the shot for second-chance points. He has a knack for creating his own offense off the dribble and using his leaping ability, as well as his quick first step to get to the rim. As his 3-point jumper becomes more consistent, he will become more a perimeter threat for the Hurricanes.

C.J. Leslie, PF, NC State: There may not be a more electrifying freshman this year in the ACC. Leslie attacks off the bounce and puts bigger power forwards back on their heels. Defensively, he will go after and alter or block shots. He has great upside and when his skill catches up to his athletic ability, he could be a special player.

K.T. Harrell, SG, Virginia: He is a high-energy, athletic guard that is a tough defender. Harrell attacks the rim in transition as well as in the half court with great speed and quickness. He also finishes through contact with acrobatic plays and can knock down open 3s. Harrell will emerge as a go-to guy for the Cavaliers.

Jarell Eddie, SF, Virginia Tech: He is a hungry, aggressive scorer that plays in attack mode at all times. Eddie is a strong, physical player who can get to the rim or knock down open 3s. On the glass, he puts forth great effort to rebound in and out of his area.

J.T. Terrell, SG, Wake Forest: He can put points on the board as well as anybody in the country. His frame is terrific, with extraordinarily long arms and high-level athleticism. Terrell has outstanding range on his jump shot and he gets great lift on it. He is also dangerous in pick-and-roll action because he is always a threat behind the screen.


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