Later this week the ACC will announce that media attending the league's basketball tipoff Wednesday picked North Carolina to win the conference’s regular-season race.
And for our next keen insight, we’ll forecast Barack Obama to win the Democratic presidential nomination.
Yes, the top of the preseason ballot is rather obvious. The curious question to me is, how many Tar Heels to include on the five-player preseason all-conference team, which carries no meaning beyond water cooler chatter.
Two? Three? Four?
In a 12-team conference, the latter number seems preposterous at first blush. Surely the other 11 squads can combine for two or more all-league picks.
Then you consider Ol’ Roy’s roster.
Tyler Zeller and Harrison Barnes are the league’s top returning scorers; Kendall Marshall led the ACC in assists last season as a freshman, and his ascension to starting point guard reversed UNC’s fortunes; John Henson, the conference defensive player of the year, led the league in blocked shots and is its top returning rebounder.
Indeed, peruse the 50-player Wooden Award watch list. The only four from the ACC are the aforementioned Tar Heels.
So who else to consider? Based on last season, the prime candidates are Miami guard Malcolm Grant and Wake Forest forward Travis McKie. Grant averaged 14.7 points and led the ACC in 3-point shooting percentage (42.3) and free-throw accuracy (85.3 percent); McKie was the Deacons’ top scorer (13.0) and rebounder (7.7) as a freshman, a rare beacon in a grim 8-24, 1-15 season.
Then there are those returning from injury. Virginia Tech guard Dorenzo Hudson earned third-team All-ACC honors in 2010 by averaging 15.2 points but missed last year with a foot ailment. Ankle issues sidelined Virginia forward Mike Scott in early January, derailing an all-conference caliber season – he was averaging 15.9 points and 10.2 rebounds.
At least one Duke player has made first-team at season’s end 14 of the past 15 years – the exception was 2007 – but which Blue Devil belongs on the preseason squad? Seth Curry is their top returning scorer at 9.0 points per game, and heralded Austin Rivers has never played a college game.
The verdict: I’m sticking with the four Carolina players, with Scott as the fifth.
As for order of finish behind the Tar Heels, make it Duke, Florida State, Miami, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Clemson, North Carolina State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Boston College and Wake Forest.
Here’s a more detailed explanation of that order from an earlier post.
Oh, and on the off chance you’re curious: If future ACC members Syracuse and Pittsburgh were competing in the conference this season, I’d pick them second and fourth.
Headlined by forward Kris Joseph and guard Scoop Jardine, Jim Boeheim’s Orange return four starters from a 27-8 team. Guard Ashton Gibbs and forward Nasir Robinson lead the nucleus for a Panthers program that’s been to eight consecutive NCAA tournaments under coach Jamie Dixon and lost by one point in last season’s round of 32 to eventual runner-up Butler.
Virginia and Virginia Tech recently lost high-profile recruiting battles to Pitt and Syracuse, respectively, for prospects at DeMatha High in surburban D.C. Point guard James Robinson committed to the Panthers after considering the Cavaliers, while forward Jerami Grant pledged to the Orange after visiting Blacksburg.
Both made their choices before Syracuse and Pitt announced their exits from the Big East.
It’s frustrating enough for coaches to lose a priority prospect, worse yet when the player lands on the roster of a conference rival.
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