ACC loses some stars, not its shine Led by Duke, league still set to march on NCAAs

November 13, 1998|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

Thanks to the lure of the NBA draft, transfers and a sickening injury, the Atlantic Coast Conference lost a group of players who could have made up a decent all-league team.

Antawn Jamison, the National Player of the Year, and Vince Carter left North Carolina early for Lockout Land. Florida State forward Randell Jackson overestimated his stock and filed for early entry, but he wasn't drafted and headed to Europe.

Seven-footer Loren Woods ended his troubled stay at Wake Forest and transferred to Arizona. Georgia Tech point guard Travis Spivey moved to Iowa State, and the Yellow Jackets took an even bigger hit on the first day of practice, when Dion Glover, the leading vote-getter on last season's all-freshman team, tore ligaments in his left knee.

The conference will not be without its stars. Five of the nine teams figure to make the NCAA tournament, even though the ACC has been overshadowed at the Final Four by the Southeastern and Pac-10 conferences since 1993, when North Carolina won the NCAA title.

Minus Maryland, here's The Sun's predicted order of finish in the ACC, with last season's records in parentheses.

1. Duke (32-4, 15-1): Elton Brand might be the best big man in the nation. The Killer B's -- Brand, Shane Battier and Chris Burgess -- are on a roster brimming with high school All-Americans. Mike Krzyzewski is dealing with the departure of Steve Wojciechowski by suggesting the Blue Devils won't designate a point guard. Trajan Langdon can bring it up just as well as William Avery, anyway.

3. North Carolina (34-4, 13-3): The next wave of talent includes a trio of McDonald's All-Americans: center Kris Lang, forward Jason Capel and guard Ronald Curry, a coveted athlete from Hampton, Va., who's quarterbacking the football team. There's no doubt who's calling the signals in Bill Guthridge's second season as coach, as junior Ed Cota had a school-record 274 assists last season.

4. Wake Forest (16-14, 7-9): Coach Dave Odom started five freshmen in one game last season. He has five more on his roster, but the Demon Deacons aren't too young to make the NCAA tournament. ACC Rookie of the Year Robert O'Kelley was force-fed the point guard position, and Josh Shoemaker, Rafael Vidaurreta and Niki Arinze are also returning starters.

5. Clemson (18-14, 7-9): New coach Larry Shyatt had worked with eight of the nine returning lettermen as a Tigers assistant in 1997. Shyatt, who was at Wyoming for one season, talked forward Tony Christie out of transferring, but the most important veteran is Terrell McIntyre, who has 1,212 career points and 388 assists.

6. N.C. State (17-15, 5-11): Seven players missed a total of 69 games last season, but sophomore forward Kenny Inge was a constant, as he averaged 11.0 points and 7.4 rebounds. The undersized backcourt of Justin Gainey and Andre Miller has to improve, and both had off-season surgery.

7. Florida State (18-14, 6-10): Guard Terrell Baker is the only returning starter, and forward Ron Hale and 7-2 center Karim Shabazz are the only other players who figured in the Seminoles' surprise appearance in the second round of the NCAAs. Second-year coach Steve Robinson will mix in transfer Adrian Crawford (Tulsa) and point guard Delvon Arrington.

8. Georgia Tech (19-14, 6-10): The Yellow Jackets have no Glover, no Matt Harpring and no hope of getting to the NCAA tournament, which they've made just once in the past five seasons. Bobby Cremins will need big seasons from shot-blocker Alvin Jones and Jason Collier, a transfer from Indiana who'll become eligible in December.

9. Virginia (11-19, 3-13): Jeff Jones left under a cloud, and Pete Gillen was brought in from Providence. Gillen signed a fine recruiting class, but there is a serious talent deficit in Charlottesville this winter. Willie Dersch, a career .380 shooter, is considered a go-to guy.

Pub Date: 11/13/98

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