Duke still head of class, even with 12 ACC schools

Devils picked 1st in preseason basketball poll

new member BC is 2nd

College Basketball


GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The trash-talking has shifted from Turkey to Tobacco Road.

The U.S. rolled through the World University Games last summer, thanks to an inside game that featured Duke's Shelden Williams and Boston College's Craig Smith. Their practice matchup added intrigue to an American romp through the tournament, and it provides part of the back story for the 53rd season of Atlantic Coast Conference basketball.

For the fifth time in six years, the ACC media made Duke the preseason favorite to finish atop the conference. Boston College, the 12th and presumably last school to join the conference, was picked second, ahead of Wake Forest, North Carolina State, Maryland and defending NCAA champion North Carolina, but the Eagles' top returning player insists they're being undersold.

"I really believe we can take this," Smith said. "We're going to show them why we were the Big East champs."

Smith and fellow forward Jared Dudley have enjoyed wins at Connecticut and Syracuse. No team won more Big East road games the past five years than Boston College, which enjoyed a 20-0 start in its final season in that conference. The Eagles' ACC debut comes Dec. 11 against Maryland at Comcast Center, and their only game with Duke is Feb. 1, at home.

With four votes, Smith was a distant third in preseason Player of the Year balloting. Duke's senior tandem of J.J. Redick (45) and Williams (33) dominated that voting.

The Blue Devils were picked to finish first on all 87 ballots at the ACC's "Operation Basketball." Duke has held the top spot in the Associated Press poll in 14 of the past 20 seasons, and the Blue Devils figure to be No. 1 when the preseason poll is released next month.

Redick, Williams and three other veterans must mix with the nation's top-rated freshman class, which includes point guard Greg Paulus, wing Jamal Boykin and big men Josh McRoberts and Eric Boateng.

"We have to get the freshmen to play at our level," Redick said. "We can't play down to theirs."

Redick, Williams and Smith were joined on the preseason All-ACC team by two guards, Miami's Guillermo Diaz and Wake Forest's Justin Gray.

No team returns more experience than Maryland, which is trying to erase the disappointment of a National Invitation Tournament appearance after 11 straight years in the NCAAs. North Carolina's Roy Williams has a gaudy NCAA championship ring but must replace his top seven scorers. It will be the biggest rebuilding job in Tar Heels history.

Coming after Duke in 2001 and Maryland in 2002, North Carolina's title in St. Louis made history, as it was the first time a single conference had produced three different NCAA champions in a five-year span.

Notes -- North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough was voted preseason Rookie of the Year. ... Palming and illegal screens will be a point of emphasis for officials this season. ... Jack McClinton, a 2003 graduate of Calvert Hall, transferred from Siena to Miami, where he'll sit out this season, then have three years of eligibility left for coach Frank Haith. ... Virginia is the only ACC team with a new coach, and Dave Leitao's Cavaliers are picked to finish last.


Media poll

ACC preseason

Men's basketball

No. School (First-place votes) Points

1. Duke (87) 1,044

2. Boston College 918

3. Wake Forest 791

4. N.C. State 744

5. Maryland 707

6. North Carolina 573

7. Miami 540

8. Virginia Tech 451

9. Georgia Tech 380

10. Clemson 230

11. Florida State 216

12. Virginia 192

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