Here are five things I can’t wait to see in the ACC this season:
What's to look forward to here? Well, the No. 1 and No. 3 freshmen according to ESPN Recruiting -- freshmen with engaging personalities and bright futures -- enter into the fiercest rivalry in college basketball. How could one not look forward to that? In the latest mock draft at DraftExpress.com, Barnes is projected as the top pick in the 2011 draft, with Irving coming in at third. In other words, enjoy it now, college basketball fans.
2. A happy Seth Greenberg on Selection Sunday
The Virginia Tech coach has become the voice of the discontented and the slighted on Selection Sunday. His bubble-hugging Hokies always seem to make a decent case for a spot in the field, and the Selection Committee always seems to make a better case for keeping them out. But this season Greenberg has a loaded lineup (led by conference leading-scorer Malcolm Delaney) and a big-boy schedule that should alleviate any questions about Virginia Tech’s worth. The Hokies host national title contender Purdue in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, play at Big 12 favorite Kansas State and participate in a decent 76 Classic field in Anaheim. If Virginia Tech plays up to its talent, Greenberg might actually grin on Selection Sunday.
3. Steve Donahue's adjustment to the ACC
Six years ago, John Thompson III jumped from Princeton to Georgetown, amid grunts and groans that the Ivy League coach would be in over his head in the Big East. With one Final Four, two Big East titles and three NCAA tournament berths to his credit, no one says that about JT3 any more. Now it’s Donahue’s turn. He built Cornell from nothing into a Goliath-slaying Ancient Eight power, topping off his Big Red run with a spot in the Sweet 16. But Donahue’s road is a little tougher than Thompson’s. Boston College is still a relative ACC newbie and a geographic misfit. The Eagles have a decent tradition, but it is not of the same ilk of its league peers. Of course, they said that about Cornell, too.
4. Can Sidney Lowe get off the hot seat and into the NCAA tournament?
The cushion under Lowe’s backside has been more scorching than those fire-engine red blazers the NC State coach is so fond of. He is, as Wolfpack fans will tell you, 0-for-4 in his quest to make the NCAA tournament since coming to town. But with Javier Gonzalez, Tracy Smith and Scott Wood back, plus a lights-out recruiting class anchored by C.J. Leslie, this season should finally be the breakthrough. Lowe better hope so.
5. Duke at North Carolina, March 5
When last they met, the Blue Devils were putting an 82-50 beatdown on the Tar Heels at Cameron Indoor. While Carolina hit the showers with the cold comfort that it was one made 3-pointer better than the worst drubbing in the rivalry’s history, a program-worst 10th seed in the ACC tournament and its worst loss since 2003, Duke celebrated its share of the league’s regular-season crown. I’m going to guess the Heels remember that when Devils visit the Dean Dome in the regular-season finale.