ACC can ill afford a guard drain
Posted March 31
The last thing ACC basketball needs right now is a drain on guards and, of course, that’s exactly what has started.
The Final Four hasn’t been played yet but already point guards Tyler Ennis of Syracuse and Tyler Lewis of N.C. State are heading for the exits.
Ennis is leaving the Orange after one season to enter the NBA draft. Lewis, a sophomore, announced over the weekend that he plans to transfer.
The primary thing that separates the 15 ACC teams from the Final Four qualifiers - Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky and Wisconsin - is backcourt production.
There’s some room for debate on this but essentially, the ACC had three standout guards in ’13-’14, and one of those was Ennis.
The other two were UNC sophomore Marcus Paige, who hasn’t officially said yet whether he will return for ’14-’15 or enter the draft, and Boston College soph Olivier Hanlan, whose status also is uncertain as the school looks for a new coach.
In the next group are Clemson’s Rod Hall (junior), Duke’s Rasheed Sulaimon (sophomore), Florida State’s Aaron Thomas (junior), Pitt’s James Robinson (sophomore), Syracuse’s Trevor Conney (sophomore), Virginia’s London Perrantes (freshman) and Codi Miller-McIntyre (Wake Forest).
Then there’s something of an X-factor group that includes Cat Barber (State freshman), Nate Britt (UNC freshman), Quinn Cook (Duke junior) and Josh Newkirk (Pitt freshman) among others. Louisville’s Terry Rozier (freshman) and Chris Jones (junior) will expand this group going forward.
And finally, there’s a group of swing wings who split time between being technically in the backcourt and forward - Malcolm Brogdon (Virginia sophomore), Pat Connaughton (Notre Dame junior) and Desmond Lee (State junior) to cite three examples.
Much pressure will fall on newcomers
But by almost any measure, overall guard play in the league is well below the ACC norm.
Much of that is due to early pro entries during the past two or three seasons - Shane Larkin (Miami), Austin Rivers (Duke), Kendall Marshall (UNC) and Lorenzo Brown (State).
The conference hasn’t produced a Final Four team since UNC and Duke won back to back in ’09 and ’10 and to be completely fair, Carolina may well have returned in ’12 had it not been for Marshall’s injury in a second-round win over Creighton.
But until the guard lot improves and gains some depth, there’s not a team in the league that actually has the traditional personnel foundation for a Final Four run.
In that regard, the incoming freshmen will have an instant impact - one way or the other - on the league’s hopes to recover some of its lost national status.
Duke’s Tyus Jones, UNC’s Joel Berry, Louisville’s Quentin Snider and Ja’Quan Newton (Miami) are rated among the best pure guards in the country and State should get help from transfer Trevor Lacey, who averaged almost 10 points per game during two seasons at Alabama.
But there’s no doubt that the Wolfpack would have been in a lot of trouble without Lewis. By the same token, Ennis would have been a solid player of the year candidate next season for Syracuse.
Attrition is a part of the game, of course. But we’re still more than a month away from the usual onset of what the coaches have come to refer to as “transfer season” and the traffic pattern isn’t promising.