August 31, 2011
Each Wednesday until the season starts, a former player will help The Dagger preview his former conference. Ex-Wake Forest star and current Memphis Grizzlies guard Ish Smith joined me this week to provide a scouting report on the ACC
1. Who's your pick to win the ACC next season?
There's going to be some surprises because that's what makes college basketball great, but I would have to take Carolina with everyone they have coming back. ... I played against some of those big men my senior year and they have great length, but now they've got that and a great backcourt. The difference last year for them was Kendall Marshall. I was a Carolina fan growing up and I've seen a lot of their great point guards, but it's been a while since I've seen someone run the Carolina break and the Carolina offense as well as he did last year. There's no perfect team, but they have talent at a lot of spots. I think that's what makes them the favorites.
2. Is there a team you like as a dark horse in the league race?
It seems like this year it's just going to be Carolina and Duke and then everyone else beating up on each other. Duke lost some players in Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith, but they have a great recruiting class. It should be fun to watch those two go against each other.
3. What team do you expect to struggle more than usual?
Whenever you have a coaching change, it's huge, but it's colossal for Maryland with Coach (Gary) Williams leaving. What he's done there has been remarkable, so it's tough to replace a coach of that magnitude. I could see those guys struggling. I'm sure the new coach will have them motivated and ready, but they'll miss Jordan Williams and they have some holes in the frontcourt.
4. I'm sure it was tough to watch your alma mater suffer through a 1-15 ACC season last year. Do you think the maturation of some of Wake Forest's young players will help them at least be competitive next season?
Yes, I think so. It took a year for Coach Bzdelik to implement his system. When Coach Prosser passed away and Coach Gaudio took over, it wasn't a big change for us, but when you go from Coach Gaudio to Coach Bzdelik, they're two different coaches. There's an adjustment period. Coach Bzdelik inherited a top 10 recruiting class from Coach Gaudio, and those guys know what Coach Bzdelik wants and what he expects now, so I expect those guys to band together and really make some noise.
5. Who's your preseason pick for ACC 10 player of the year?
Harrison Barnes would be my pick. I commend him on what he did last year because there was a lot of pressure on him with everyone saying he was going to be a first-team all-American. People have to understand that freshman need time to grow. But the thing I like about him is he took all the negative things people were saying and by the end of the year he was playing like one of the best players in the country, right there with Kemba (Walker) and Jimmer (Fredette). I think with those guys leaving and him coming back, I can easily see him being player of the year in the ACC and competing for player of the year in the whole NCAA.
6. Which ACC player do you think is underrated?
You know who I think is very underrated? Dorenzo Hudson from Virginia Tech. And I'm not just being biased because he's from Charlotte. He's a kid who played really well my senior year. Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen were their two guys, but Dorenzo was that third guy who really solidified them. I thought last year was going to be his breakout year, but he went through some injuries. The competitor that he is, I expect him this year to come out strong with something to prove.
7. Which ACC building is the most difficult on opposing teams?
I know people will automatically say Cameron and we never won in Cameron, but Cameron was fun to play in. So I'd have to say Maryland. Their fans are great, but they have no filter. That's what makes it special and that's why players hate playing there. Duke fans come up with different things and they're really, really clever. But at Maryland, they do whatever it takes to get you off your game.