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Skinner, Smith lead way for BC into ACC

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

Sept. 22, 2005

When looking ahead at the ACC this season, Duke is clearly the favorite. You can understand coach Mike Krzyzewski's optimism with J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams providing an incredible 1-2 punch.

While several teams have lost key players to the pros, the Blue Devils were happy that Redick and Williams returned to college. Duke also gets instant-impact freshmen in Greg Paulus and Josh McRoberts.

But let me tell you, keep an eye on the new arrival in the ACC, the Eagles of Boston College.

Remember what happened last year when Virginia Tech (under Seth Greenberg) and Miami (under Frank Haith) came into the league and stunned a lot of people. The Hokies (8-8 in ACC play) and Hurricanes (7-9) created some interesting matchups and showed they could play.

Boston College, 25-5 last season and 16-1 at home, comes into the conference with much more ammunition than Virginia Tech and Miami did. Last season, Al Skinner's Eagles impressed America with a 20-0 record to start the season before slipping down the stretch.

When you start out with the likes of Craig Smith and Jared Dudley, two of the premier frontcourt players in America, you can expect big-time success. Skinner is a master at getting the maximum out of his people, doing it in a low-key manner. He has always done the job in an unselfish way.

At Massachusetts and when he performed in the NBA, Skinner always scrapped and clawed, fighting to be on the big-time level, playing exceptional defense. His club plays the same way, and they flat-out get it done.

They have a way of getting into the winner's circle. I feel they will finish in the upper half of the ACC and could make a run at the top 5 in the rankings this season.

Smith is a preseason first-team All-Solid Gold choice, in my book. He is such a force inside and was underrated coming out of high school. He has developed into one of the premier post players in the nation. Just ask Villanova coach Jay Wright about the fantastic job Smith did on the U.S. team that won the gold medal at the World University Games this summer.

I expect Smith will average a double-double this season.

There are a host of newcomers coming in, plus a fine nucleus of returning talent. This team has a legitimate chance to make some serious noise.

I can't wait to see Duke and BC do battle this season.

Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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