Let the Triangle hoops race begin!
Posted November 8, 2012
Updated November 9, 2012
1988 was a pretty good year with "The Cosby Show" blowing up the TV. "Rain Man" was a box office smash ... yeah, yeah, excellent movie. The Redskins won the Super Bowl and a sneaker company rode the line "Just do it" to millions of dollars.
1988 is also the last year that North Carolina, North Carolina State and Duke finished in the top 3 in the final ACC standings. (It was in that order too.)
This year could repeat the feat of '88. For those who haven't experienced when the Triangle is that good in basketball, it is absolutely insane. Our trio of teams are good enough to finish 1-2-3 in the race but a few things have to align for that to happen.
The Wolfpack is the preseason pick to win the ACC and is the highest ranked ACC team in the national preseason poll at number 6. They have the key mixture of talent and experience. Toss in a highly ranked recruiting class and you can see why the Wolfpack was the preseason pick. Plus they have the best point guard in the ACC in Lorenzo Brown. Talented teams with proven point guards tend to go far in March.
One concern about NC State is where will their focus be. Is it on this season or what they will be doing next season? Are they content with what happened last year or are they famished to hang a banner in PNC arena? Coach Mark Gottfried and his staff have done a great job preaching to the troops how they haven't don't anything yet. Lorenzo Brown and CJ Leslie summed it up best, "We gotta beat Duke and North Carolina."
I had the Blue Devils in the 2nd slot in the ACC and that was before the mystery injury to senior Seth Curry. He has been limited with an injured lower leg. An ineffective Curry coupled with the absence of Andre Dawkins, who is sitting out this year, leaves Ryan Kelly as their most proven three-point shooter. Behind the golden arch is a bread and butter area for the Blue Devils.
Quinn Cook will start at the point and freshman Rasheed Sulaimon will start his first game against Georgia State. He knows his minutes will be enhanced by how he defends. Two other newcomers could find important roles for Duke. Amile Jefferson brings athleticism and energy and there is a ruggedness to Alex Murphy who redshirted last year. Mason Plumlee is a double-double threat every night and has developed some other post moves.
One day before the Tar Heels opener against Gardner-Webb, Roy Williams still hadn't completed his line-up card. Reggie Bullock, James Michael McAdoo, Dexter Strickland and Marcus Paige will start the opener but who's in the post? One of the reasons I have North Carolina at number 3 is the fact they will start a freshman at point guard. That's not a knock on Marcus Paige but he's playing the most difficult position for a first-year player to play. Especially the system that North Carolina runs.
Defense may be the staple of the Tar Heels with the ability to pressure the perimeter with Dexter Strickland, Leslie McDonald, Reggie Bullock and Marcus Paige. McDonald had a wide grin on his face when I asked him about their ability to defend the perimeter. "Applying pressure and getting steals starts our offense," he said.
There is a factor to keep in mind. Williams got the scare of his life when a tumor was found on his kidney. He said he really wanted to come back and coach this team. He will, and the players don't want to disappoint their coach.