Seeing Virginia Tech voted second behind Duke in most ACC preseason polls doesn't bother Dorenzo Hudson. The senior guard just doesn't think its right if anyone projects his Hokies any lower than that.
"I'd have the Hokies at No. 2 right now," he matter-of-factly told radio host David Glenn recently. "I can respect Duke being at No. 1 because they're just coming off a national championship, but I can't respect North Carolina being above us right now."
Most preseason projections are split on whether the Tar Heels or the Hokies will be the top challenger to Duke, though the ACC's preseason poll did give Virginia Tech a slight nod last week. In comparing the two teams head-to-head below, I think it might be the Hokies' favorable ACC schedule that helps separate the two otherwise evenly matched teams.
BACKCOURT: The arrival of Reggie Bullock will cure some of North Carolina's outside shooting woes and Kendall Marshall gives the Tar Heels another option in case Larry Drew continues to struggle at point guard, but this is a category that clearly belongs to Virginia Tech. Star Malcolm Delaney led the ACC in scoring last season at 20.2 points per game and Hudson also cracked the league's top 10, averaging 15.2 points and playing solid defense. Depth is a question for Virginia Tech, with only sophomore Erick Green likely to contribute much off the bench.
Edge: Virginia Tech
FRONTCOURT: The Hokies already would have been at a disadvantage in this category even before losing J.T. Thompson to a season-ending knee injury and learning they may be without Florida transfer Allen Chaney as well. North Carolina has potential standouts at all three positions, with highly touted freshman Harrison Barnes at small forward, an improved John Henson at power forward and a healthy Tyler Zeller at center. Depth down low may be an issue after the Wear twins transferred and Will Graves was kicked off the team, but Alabama transfer Justin Knox is a capable backup and Barnes can slide to power forward when necessary.
Edge: North Carolina
INTANGIBLES: Both teams have ample motivation coming off seasons that ended disappointingly last year. North Carolina wants to restore its pride after following up a national championship in 2009 by finishing in the lower third of the ACC and missing the NCAA tournament last year. Virginia Tech wants to shed the label of perennial bubble team by contending in the ACC this year after failing to make the NCAA tournament again last season despite winning 25 games.
SCHEDULE: Although the lone meeting between Virginia Tech and North Carolina is in Chapel Hill this season, it's the Hokies who got most of the breaks from the ACC schedule-makers. They play preseason favorite Duke in Blacksburg but not in Durham. They face projected upper-division teams North Carolina, NC State and Florida State only once apiece. And the teams they'll see twice next season are Georgia Tech, Maryland, Wake Forest, Virginia and Boston College, the first two of which sustained heavy losses this spring and the last three of which may be the worst teams in the league.
Edge: Virginia Tech