CHARLOTTE -- Some observations from ACC Media Day ...
1. North Carolina sophomore forward and potential national-player-of-the-year Harrison Barnes continues to be as stoic and focused as he was a year ago. A season ago, Barnes came off a bit aloof. But he has come out of his shell without losing that aura. He simply carries himself like a professional.
2. UNC coach Roy Williams is locked in on managing his star-laden team, making sure that Kendall Marshall is as hungry as he was a season ago when he had to earn the starting point guard position over Larry Drew II.
3. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski continues to be one of the more adaptable coaches in the game. He’s not a few victories shy of being the all-time wins leader by having everything go his way. He changes with his personnel. Krzyzewski is not stubborn. This season, the Blue Devils will be taller than they’ve ever been, and they will look to get the post players involved much more on every possession.
4. Duke’s Seth Curry wasn’t ready for primetime a year ago after transferring from Liberty. But now Krzyzewski fully embraces Curry and his ability to be the star on the Blue Devils. Coach K talked more about Curry than highly touted freshman guard Austin Rivers.
5. Boston College coach Steve Donahue is starting over. He doesn’t have one player left from the Al Skinner era, and that was two seasons ago. Yet, Donahue showed no fear with a team that might struggle to win one ACC game due in large part to its youth, inexperience and lack of star talent. Freshman Ryan Anderson has a shot to become the next hidden gem for the Eagles, but he’s not close to breaking through yet.
6. The question of whether or not Clemson could make the transition from Oliver Purnell’s up-tempo style to a more defensive-halfcourt set under Brad Brownell is completely moot. The Tigers get Brownell and have quickly transformed themselves into a much more defensive-oriented team. I’m not sure a team has taken on its new coach’s personality as quickly as Clemson did last season.
7. Florida State learned how to play without Chris Singleton last season, reaching the Sweet 16. You could tell how much that has carried over to this season. Michael Snaer exudes confidence. FSU coach Leonard Hamilton is extremely high on Luke Loucks, Deividas Dulkys, Ian Miller, Jeff Peterson and of course Bernard James, so much so that the Seminoles are convinced they will be a top-three ACC team.
8. Georgia Tech will split games in Philips Arena and suburban Duluth, Ga., this season while its home court gets renovated. The Yellow Jackets will have floor-level locker rooms instead of heading up an elevator. Once again, this is a classic example of the new coach being the beneficiary of something previous staffs longed for -- better digs.
9. Maryland coach Mark Turgeon is embracing replacing Gary Williams. Turgeon said he is more like Williams than maybe people imagined when he got the job. The two are intense, love defense and can’t wait for a challenge. Turgeon has one on his hands. And Sean Mosley said Turgeon has already been irked at practice and doesn’t hide his displeasure. Williams will have the Comcast Center court named after him against Duke on Jan. 25.
10. The Miami guards, Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant, truly believe the Hurricanes will challenge for an NCAA berth even without Reggie Johnson (knee) for half the season. Grant said he’s convinced Johnson will be back in time to make a difference. He added that the transition to Jim Larranaga from Frank Haith has been smooth and the players are on board without hesitation, especially defensively.
11. NC State coach Mark Gottfried is giving C.J. Leslie a clean slate. The highly touted forward hasn’t been a consistent player. He must be for the Wolfpack to be a player this season. Gottfried also said Belgium freshman forward Thomas de Thaey will be a hidden gem by season’s end because of his face-up shooting.
12. Virginia coach Tony Bennett loves “Modern Family.” If you didn’t like Bennett and his ability to maximize talent, then you have to get on board for his choice in appointment television. There isn’t a better comedic show on mainstream broadcast television than the ABC hit, although I’m much more “Phil" (according to my wife) than Bennett would be in his household. Bennett is finding more balance than his dad, Dick, who burned out at Wisconsin but is now playing golf to avoid the stress of coaching.
13. Virginia Tech’s Dorenzo Hudson said he felt coach Seth Greenberg’s pain of being unable to get the Hokies to the NCAA tournament last season. There is a connection with the Hokies, a shared feeling that this program has to find a way to get to the NCAAs.
14. Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik doesn’t seem bothered by the fact that the Demon Deacons continue to get beaten down by off-court issues. But he doesn’t seem to mind that J.T. Terrell is gone, the same with Melvin Tabb, Ari Stewart and for the first nine games Ty Walker. Why? Bzdelik has an NBA mentality in terms of high maintenance. Of course he wants the talent on the roster, but he doesn’t seem like a typical coach who wants to cut corners to keep troubled players on the court. He seems like he’d rather take his lumps with less than deal with a mess.