Daily Word: Who will make a jump in the ACC?
Every weekday, Andy Katz leads a panel of our college hoops experts in a discussion of the biggest issues, trends and themes happening in and around college basketball.
1. Which ACC team has a chance to jump up and surprise this season?
Andy Katz: It should be either Boston College or Georgia Tech. The Eagles have more experience and won one more game than the Yellow Jackets last season. If Steve Donahue's plan falls into place, then this should be the season the Eagles mature enough for a possible surge toward an NCAA berth, especially with even more opportunities to get quality wins with games against Duke, Notre Dame, Pitt, Syracuse, Florida State and Maryland. And all those are at home.
Myron Medcalf: I think Tony Bennett might have his best team at Virginia this season. Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell are a capable duo that will be supported by multiple contributors in 2013-14. This could be a surprising season for a Cavs squad that has been lost in the ACC buzz because of the additions of Syracuse, Pitt and Notre Dame.
Eamonn Brennan: What about NC State? In one fell swoop this spring, the Wolfpack lost Lorenzo Brown, C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell, Scott Wood and Rodney Purvis to graduations and defections. But Mark Gottfried has a talented recruiting class in Raleigh and an absolute stud in the making in forward T.J. Warren, who could post mid-20s scoring numbers this season and efficiently to boot. They're better than you think.
2. What concerns you the most about Florida?
Andy Katz: The Gators' depth. Florida is battling injuries with forward Will Yeguete and guard Eli Carter out. Patric Young and Dorian Finney-Smith will have to carry the workload up front, and the hope is that newcomer Kasey Hill can eat up a lot of minutes in the backcourt.
Myron Medcalf: By all accounts, Kasey Hill is an elite point guard capable of handling the duties for the Gators as a freshman. But he's still a freshman. And he's a freshman with a veteran Scottie Wilbekin who continues to run into trouble. There's a lot of weight on Hill's shoulders and he hasn't even played his first game.
Eamonn Brennan: Perimeter shooting. Collectively, Florida fired up 771 3-point field goals last season, or 39.5 percent of their overall field goal attempts. Of course, that was just fine, because Florida shot 37.8 percent from 3 as a team and derived 34.1 percent of its overall scoring from 3-point shots. In other words, last season's Gators thrived on spacing the floor and knocking down 3s, and if that area of the game suffers from the backcourt turnover, it could tighten up the entire offense, Patric Young included.
3. How many NCAA tournament bids can you see coming out of the American Athletic Conference and the new Big East?
Andy Katz: This is going to be one of the more intriguing numbers to watch in March. The two leagues, now likely rivals, will be close in bids. I'll project four for the AAC (Louisville, Memphis, UConn, Cincinnati) and four for the Big East (Creighton, Marquette, Georgetown, Villanova), with dark horses like Temple and SMU in the American and St. John's, Providence and Xavier in the Big East.
Myron Medcalf: Four for the AAC (Louisville, Memphis, Cincy and UConn). And four for the new Big East (Georgetown, Marquette, Creighton, Villanova).
Eamonn Brennan: I'll go with 11 -- Cincinnati, UConn, Houston, Louisville and Memphis in the American and Creighton, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Villanova and Xavier in the Big East. That seems like a lot of bids, but considering we've seen that many teams come out of the proto-Big East in previous seasons, it seems reasonable to me.
You Gotta See This
The first time Long Beach State made real national noise under Dan Monson, it was in the lead-up to the 2011-12 season. The prospectus on LBSU was bullish, and for good reason: The 49ers returned four seniors, all of them starters, two of them (Casper Ware and Larry Anderson) out-and-out stars. But back in the fall of 2011, what really caught the eye about Dan Monson's team was its schedule. … And, of course, (this year's) schedule is still crazy: at Arizona, at Kansas State, vs. Michigan (in the first round of Puerto Rico Tip-Off, which also includes potential games against VCU and Georgetown), at Washington, vs. Creighton, at NC State, vs. USC, at Nevada, at Missouri.
The end result is a (Harvard) team that is deep, young, talented and now, strangely enough, experienced -- a team that has every reason to be just as good as the Crimson were in 2012, when they broke that 60-year-old Ivy League streak for the first time. Frankly, they should be better. Now Harvard has a different sort of streak going. Not bad for a couple years work, eh?
They Said It
ESPNU Basketball Podcast
Andy Katz and Seth Greenberg check in with newsmakers from around college basketball.