ACC Preview
Although 2011-12 was not the typical year for the normal power conference based on NCAA bids and performances, 2012-13 should be better by all accounts and the future is bright with the looming additions of Syracuse and Pittsburgh coming next summer.

The ACC's top team, North Carolina, was hit hard by the Draft. Virginia Tech was doomed by transfers. But other than that, Duke, Florida State, NC State, Virginia and Miami (FL)- five of the top six teams in the conference, should be even better than last, making this year a potential six-bid year for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

3 Burning Questions

Is this the year a non-Duke, non-UNC team wins the regular-season outright?

It's been nine years since Wake Forest won the regular-season title outright, making them the last non-Duke, non-UNC team to land the title. With the Tar Heels departing three underclassmen and one more senior starter to the Draft, UNC's share of five titles in six years may come to an end. Similarly, Duke, led by freshman Austin Rivers, was not as dominant as their 27-7 overall record suggests. Mason Plumlee and Rivers are gone, leaving the door open for pre-season favorite NC State to step through. Let's not sleep on Florida State or Miami (FL) though.

Will the Tar Heels reload?

Four starters gone. While it's nothing new in Chapel Hill, that's 55.2 points and 27.3 rebounds per game that Roy Williams must replace. That's the bad news. The good news is that Coach Williams has several promising tools at his disposal if returnees can step up. Veteran wings Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald will take over the reins in the backcourt, while sharp-shooting wings Reggie Bullock and PJ Hairston still have some to prove in terms of long-range accuracy, but the skills are there. Everyone's favorite to provide the interior dominance this team needs is future NBA Lottery pick, James Michael McAdoo, who averaged 12 points and 4 rebounds in just 19 minutes of action during the NCAA Tournament.

Will the Florida teams continued to get the respect they deserve?

Florida State and Miami (FL) should be two of the best teams in the top-tiers of the conference this year thanks in large part to the veteran upperclassmen returning. While the Seminoles lost three key pieces to their starting unit, their frontcourt is again loaded and their backcourt is severely underrated. Guards Michael Snaer and Ian Miller will handle a bulk of the scoring, while Okaro White becomes a national name out of the power forward spot. Miami (FL) could be a Top 25 team before we know it depending on the consistently they get from frontline bigs, Reggie Johnson and Kenny Kadji. Wing Durand Scott is a prime-time two-way performer, one of the ACC's best.

Conference Rankings
1. North Carolina State

Months after barely making their way into the field of 68 in 2012, N.C. State is now the favorite of a crowded and competitive conference. Sophomore combo-guard, Lorenzo Brown, may be the most well-rounded player in the ACC thanks to great size and dynamic playmaking abilities; he averaged 12.7 points, 6.3 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.8 steals a year ago and should be even better as 41-percent 3-point marksman, Scott Wood, is back for his senior season and Rodney Purvis, a super-athletic freshman, joins the team. Even though big man DeShawn Painter transferred (Old Dominion), this frontcourt is very good. Springy 4-man C.J. Leslie should take the next step in his game, benefitting from more minutes from the low-post playing Richard Howell. The duo combined for 25.5 points and 13.5 rebounds last year.

Player to watch: Lorenzo Brown, Guard
  2. Duke

Even with Duke's two losses of Miles Plumlee and Austin Rivers, the Blue Devils are primed for a better season. The offense was too stagnant all-season long with Rivers' handling the point, picking up the scoring load and seemingly trying to do-it-all. What the team needs is better play from point guards Quinn Cook and Tyler Thornton. If so, watch out for Seth Curry, who certainly isn't the playmaker his brother is/was, but his stroke is just as pretty from the perimeter. Freshman wing Rasheed Sulaimon is one of the best athletes in the incoming class on both ends of the floor and can really "wow" scouts with his explosiveness and scoring, but at the same time, so can his bone-headedness with the ball. Look for forwards Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly to have big seasons for Duke, and perhaps, if impressive enough, they will take home the ACC crown.

Player to watch: Seth Curry, Guard
  3. North Carolina

Are we sleeping on the Tar Heels? Probably. Losing four starters that were All-ACC performers is killer, but we believe in the up-and-coming lineup to don the Tar Heels' uniforms. James Michael McAdoo is phenomenal and showed glimpses of his potential down the stretch, enough to garner NBA Draft attention despite 15 minutes a game. He should have an All-American-type season and lock up a top-five selection to next year's Draft. On the wing, Reggie Bullock should replace the hot-shooting of Harrison Barnes, and hopefully P.J. Hairston can improve upon a weak (27.3 percent) 3-point shooting season. While no one can replace point guard Kendall Marshall's dynamic playmaking and up-tempo leadership, a trio of performers, should be more than adequate: Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald return from injuries and highly-touted guard Marcus Paige will assist.

Player to watch: James Michael McAdoo, Forward
  4. Florida State

Leonard Hamilton has transformed some quality defensive players into an outstanding lockdown team over the past few years. He has combined tough guards with length, bulk, athleticism and a deep rotation in the frontcourt and that blueprint won't change this season. Clutch Michael Snaer keys the wing-scoring attack, playing alongside a hopefully more mature Ian Miller at the point; Miller didn't take over until midway through the year, but his quickness will allow the Seminoles to get some easy buckets in transition to spark an otherwise halfcourt attack. Forward Okaro White, a part-time starter in 2011-12, will take over full-time with Bernard James and Xavier Gibson graduated; he has the size, skills and talent to key production, but he suffered with foul troubles too often last year. If he does again this season, Terrance Shannon will provide valuable minutes.

Player to watch: Michael Snaer, Florida State
  5. Miami

Based on the Hurricanes' returning frontcourt alone, Jim Larranga should take his team to the NCAA Tournament. Reggie Johnson is an immovable object in the low-blocks due to his sheer size and has a soft touch to finish plays below the rim. When he sat out with an injury, former-Florida Gator, Kenny Kadji, displayed his talents, averaged 16.5 points over a 15-game stretch, but then he largely disappeared when Johnson returned to the lineup. Larranaga must find a way for these two to play together. Durand Scott is one of the best scorers in the ACC from the wing, but is a prime-time defender as well. He'll handle point guard duties along with Shane Larkin.

Player to watch: Reggie Johnson, Center
  6. Maryland

If only Terrell Stoglin (21.6 points per game) had stayed out of trouble and in school. Rumor has it that the scoring point guard would have been suspended indefinitely for troubles related to drugs and thus, sparked his early-entry to the Draft. But this year, Maryland has plenty of talent, just young and inexperienced. The Terps could finish as high as third or fourth or as low as seventh or eighth depending on players like center Alex Len, power forward Shaquille Cleare and combo-guards Seth Allen and Sam Cassell Jr. Even as a returning starter, Len, missed a handful of games due to eligibility concerns, so a full-season will do him wonders. Other key returnees and likely the leaders of this team are wing Nick Faust and point guard Pe'Shon Howard; both need to take a step forward to justify a Tournament berth.

Player to watch: Alex Len, Center
  7. Virginia

What to make of the Cavs? They really slowed things down offensively last season and dug in defensively, making opponents fight on every possession. But Mike Scott, Assane Sene (injured, but a difference-maker), and Sammy Zeglinski are all gone, leading way for Joe Harris, Jontel Evans and Akil Mitchell to take over as returning contributors. Freshmen Wings Justin Anderson and Evan Nolte should get immediate playing time, especially Anderson, the 6'5" who has scoring potential, but more importantly, is a strong defender.

Player to watch: Joe Harris, Guard
  8. Georgia Tech

This should be the year the Yellow Jackets start their climb out of the ACC's cellar. Big man Daniel Miller should be one of the conference's best, but desperately needs to take one gigantic, aggressive step forward this season. At 6'11, 260 pounds, he should be better than 8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, especially in the area of field-goal percentage (49.8). Mfon Udofia, a senior point guard, needs to step up his game, using his size and quickness to penetrate the heart of the defense and get the ball to Miller, sophomore Julian Royal and Kammeon Holsey inside.

Player to watch: Glenn Rice Jr, Guard
  9. Clemson

After a mediocre 8-8 finish in conference play, the Tigers have graduated their top two scorers, but have frontcourt starters Devin Booker and Milton Jennings back. Both are talented, but have underperformed for a variety of reasons, including lack of true point-guard play. But now that the top two scorers and playmakers are gone, will Booker and Jennings get the space to create or will this be another down year for Clemson.

Player to watch: Milton Jennings, Forward
  10. Wake Forest

Jeff Bzdelik took over a difficult spot in Wake Forest and is in the process of rebuilding the program. Gone from last season's 13-win season are point guard Tony Chennault and centers Ty Walker and Carson Desrosiers. Left behind, Travis McKie, a versatile and powerful forward is as good as they come, but if he has NBA aspirations, his perimeter-game needs improvement. Undersized two-guard C.J. Harris will need to improve his playmaking to get others involved with the loss of Chennault, but overall, this team will be taking a step-back in 2012-13.

Player to watch: Travis McKie, Forward
  11. Virginia Tech

Gone is head coach Seth Greenberg, a fixture in Blacksburg, but also rising star forward Dorian Finney-Smith, who transferred to Florida. Top recruit Montrezl Harrell was released from his letter of intent and ended up with Louisville. Shooting guard Dorenzo Hudson and Victor Davila have graduated- starting to get the picture? The cupboard is bare here. But the lone bright spot is Erick Green, a solid overall contributor at the point.

Player to watch: Erick Green, Guard
  12. Boston College

If the cupboard is bare in Hokie-town, what is it in Chesnut Hill? Forward Ryan Anderson was a unanimous All-ACC rookie performer last year with his 11.2 points and 7.4 rebounds, but the roster as a whole is just so young, it's going to be difficult for them to be competitive. Steve Donahue's team is made up almost entirely of sophomores (nine) compared to just one senior.

Player to watch: Ryan Anderson, Forward