Tudor: Wiggins a symbol of ACC weakness
Posted May 17, 2013
If most of the 2014 NBA draft projections are on target, the ACC’s group of incoming basketball recruits will not have a big "wow" factor.
With Tuesday’s decision by forward Andrew Wiggins to pick Kansas over North Carolina and Florida State, the only ACC newcomer touted for a one-and-done college career is Duke forward Jabari Parker.
Almost all of the early NBA 2014 mock drafts list Wiggins as the No. 1 pick, followed closely by Parker and several other current high schools seniors – none of them destined for the ACC: Kentucky’s Julius Randle, James Young, Aaron Harrison and Andrew Harrison, Indiana’s Noah Vonleh, Kansas’ Wayne Selden, Florida’s Chris Walker and Arizona’s Aaron Gordon.
Since long-range draft predictions in all sports routinely require revisions and can be wildly inaccurate, there’s no reason to think the new-look ACC will be intimidated by the SEC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 or any other league.
It was only a year ago that many thought N.C. State’s Rodney Purvis and Duke’s Rasheed Sulaimon would be headed to the pros this spring. Purvis, after a so-so rookie season, is transferring to Connecticut and will be fortunate to be a draft pick in 2016, if then. Sulaimon started 33 games and averaged 11.2 points but shows up on only two or three 2014 first-round projections.
Lack of high-profile recruits keeps ACC out of championship contention
That said, there’s evidence to indicate the ACC’s recruiting clout has slipped to the extent that Tobacco Road cornerstones Duke and North Carolina are finding it more difficult to reach Final Fours.
Although injuries to point guards hampered Duke (Kyrie Irving in 2011) and Carolina (Kendall Marshall in 2012) in recent postseason runs, injuries are a part of the sport. Louisville, the 2013 national champ (and an ACC team beginning in 2014-15), had to deal with injuries to key players most of the season.
There’s a popular perception nationally and regionally that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and UNC coach Roy Williams don’t care to recruit likely one-year players, but the Blue Devils signed Luol Deng and Austin Rivers in addition to Irving.
Williams signed Marvin Williams and Brandan Wright, who were projected as one-and-doners and followed that pattern. Harrison Barnes was the Wiggins of 2010 and signed with the Heels but stayed two seasons before going pro.
In reality, the early exits of mid-range NBA prospects have done as much to hinder ACC progress of late as the failure to bring in Kentucky-like recruiting classes.
Among current ACC sophomores or juniors leaving for the draft are Shane Larkin (Miami sophomore point guard, the 2013 league player of the year), N.C. State’s Lorenzo Brown (junior point guard) and C.J. Leslie (junior forward), UNC’s Reggie Bullock (junior guard) and Maryland’s Alex Len (sophomore center).
All of those players would be preseason first- or second-team all-ACC picks if they has stayed. But it’s unlikely that any of newcomers – even Duke’s Parker – will land on the preseason 2013-14 first team.
Only six freshmen have ever made the postseason first team: Rivers (2012), UNC’s Tyler Hansbrough (2006), Georgia Tech’s Stephon Marbury (1996) and Kenny Anderson (1990), Maryland’s Joe Smith (1994) and Clemson’s Skip Wise (1975).
An ACC team hasn’t reached a Final Four since Duke won the title in 2010. And other than the Devils and newcomer Syracuse, the league probably will not have a preseason top 5 team in 2013-14.
The conference is already riding a championship drought. The last time the ACC was shut out of the Final Four for three years in a row happened in the mid-1950s.
There’s no doubt that recruiting misses have played a major role in the retreat. So have injuries, early exits, coaching and to some extent, bad luck. But coaches are fond of saying that talent is the most important part of the mix. If the ACC can't or won't recruit that talent, the other factors loom even larger.