Mark Armstrong at ACC Hoops Media Day

ACC Operation Basketball is underway in the Queen City.
October 17, 2013 4:15:30 AM PDT
Hello from Charlotte! ACC Operation Basketball is underway - and good news - I already got a free hat, shirt and coffee mug. There's a bowl of Halloween candy in the lobby that isn't making me twitch yet, but the day is young.

First up in the tv/radio room - the Hokies. Needless to say not much is expected from the fellas in Blacksburg this year, in fact I'd bet they'll be picked 15th, so credit to Joey Van Zegeren for exclaiming with a straight face that their goal is to win the ACC championship. The highlight for me was Bobby Cremins' audible 'wow' when Hokies fresh Ben Emelogu was introduced as one of the team captains.

I'm super intrigued by BC this year. In Olivier Hanlan and Ryan Anderson, they have 2 of the league's best individual talents. They've looked like a team on the rise the last couple seasons and have a rock solid coach in Steve Donahue. I'm in the bag for my fellow Canuck Hanlan (easy to do after his 41 at the ACCT last year), so I may be a bit more bullish on BC than others. I think they finish top 6-7, and make the NCAA.

There's no way around it, Syracuse is the most highly anticipated arrival amongst the noobs. Fresh off a Final Four, folks up there are buzzing about the impending visit of Duke/UNC to the Carrier Dome. Jim Boeheim has already cast himself as a good villain with his whining about the death of the Big East and the relative lack of big city 'culture' in he ACC. CJ Fair should be one of the best players in the league, but lots will depend on the play of fresh PG Tyler Ennis (another Canadian - woohoo). Fair and Baye Moussa Keita wouldn't admit to missing any rivalries from the Big East. In fact they wouldn't even admit to anticipating any games in their new league. There were a couple generic references to 'Tobacco Road'. They may be stone faced now - but we'll see how they are once the games arrive. IMO, Cuse finishes top 3, and challenges for the league title.

Georgia Tech. Nothing to see here. Daniel Miller and Kammeon Holsey repped the Jackets. When I see Miller, I can only think of that time he got crowned by PJ Hairston last year at the Smith Center. Couple good players, but not nearly enough of them. Bottom 4. Still, like VT's Van Zegeren, Daniel Miller said the goal is to win the league. Because we're professional, there were no snickers.

Wake's Travis McKie gets the blunt trophy. He says the 7 frosh from last year's Deacs team 'didn't know anything' and made he and Coach Bz 'grumpy'. Both he and Codi Miller-McIntyre said that the key for WF is to mature enough to win on the road. After presumed bottom feeders VT and GT said their goal was to win the league, Wake's guys passed on that proclamation, going generic with 'just show what we're really made of'. Smart. McKie was also asked about the fan tumult around Bzdelik. He took the high road, asking for those disgruntled fans to just come support the team.

I was legit surprised when Pitt's guys said bluntly that they'll need to change their grind house style to a more uptempo vibe to adapt to the ACC. When I pressed Lamar Patterson on that, he clarified, saying they'll need to 'tweak' their style, not change it and that ACC teams will definitely 'have to adjust to us'. They'll be rugged as always. Top 6-7.

Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson were here for UNC shattering the previous record for lightest tandem at Media Day. Both discussed the valuable experience they gained in the postseason last year and once again, Joel James was tabbed as the guy to break out. Not much new to discuss, certainly nothing new on the PJ front, yet. We'll speak to Roy this afternoon. I'm of the belief Marcus Paige really excels this year. Carolina won't win the league, but they should at least be in the upper echelon.

Good to see former Middle Creeker Garrius Adams on the podium for Miami. That's all I got for the Canes. They were awesome last year, won't be so awesome this year.

MaryBOOOOOland's Evan Smotrycz says he doesn't exBOOOOOOpect any additional hostility on the road because of their BOOOOOO departure from the ACC. I think they'll be better offensively without lottery pick Alex Len. Word of the day: Nick Faust describes Dez Wells game as 'furious'. I like it. They'll be in the doughy midsection of the ACC.

Notre Dame's guards - Jerian Grant especially - should have no problem adjusting to the guard play of the ACC. They're real good. Grant and Eric Atkins spoke about looking forward to the college gyms and more rabid fan bases of the ACC vs the pro buildings in the Big East. Grant said the goal is to 're-establish' themselves as a force to be reckoned with in their new league. Losing Jack Cooley is a hit, but the Irish should be gamers. Another 'somewhere in the upper half' team.

Clemson. KJ McDaniels is occasionally fun to watch. His team is not. Big game this Saturday.

TJ Warren is my front runner for this year's Erick Green Memorial Amazing Player On A Bad Team Award. He could put up 24 ppg and State could still flounder. It's no secret he'll need help putting it in the bucket - when I asked today - TJW mentioned Ralston Turner and Dez Lee as the guys he expects to produce most on that front. Tyler Lewis said Gottfried has been incessantly drilling into him the importance of being a leader. There will be hardship - how the Pack handles it, if they handle it, will be interesting to observe. I'll need to see to believe - I have them pegged around 10-12th.

PS. I chuckled when Tyler and TJW were asked if State can 'under promise and over deliver this year'. They responded. With baffled stares and silence. Florida State is Florida State - the Noles don't figure to be pretty, but they always find a way to be somewhat successful. Ian Miller, he of dubious shot selection, said he and Leonard Hamilton like to exchange 'death stares' as a result. Credit to Okaro White for saying he enjoyed the food on FSU's summer trip to Greece. I appreciate a sense of adventure.

If you're asking me - Duke is the team to beat this year. The intriguing dynamic with them is the fact that their two best players (K's words, not mine) are two guys who haven't played a minute for the Devils. Rodney Cook being named a captain is a pretty big deal inside the Duke culture and while everyone says Jabari Parker will have some growing pains, he's the 2nd in command. As Tyler Thornton said today 'we've got 12 guys who can play, but Hood/Parker are by far the best.' He added that Duke's ceiling is however high Cook and Parker can take them. The Devils are deep, athletic and have the best coach in the game. That's a championship recipe.

Akil Mitchell and Joe Harris should both contend for All-ACC honors for UVa. They are perfectly representative of Hoos hoops. Not necessarily exciting to watch, but very effective. Harris says he thinks they have a chance to be a 'special' team. We'll see. I like the Cavaliers to be in the top 6-8. Hopefully by now, I've said that about 6-8 teams.

We're into the coach portion of the day - I won't bog this thing down with stuff from every coach - just the best stuff from the (anticipated) best teams.

Jim Boeheim: Syracuse fans haven't been this excited in years. The Duke game at the Carrier dome sold out today. (As a comparison - tix to the annual Georgetown game would still be available week of). He doesn't anticipate a great stylistic change in their move to ACC basketball. Boeheim says he's got his best frontline in years, and while his guard line is young, he said he has every confidence in Tyler Ennis. Compared his comfort level with how he felt about Sherman Douglas and Michael Carter-Williams as sophs.

Roy Williams was his classic self - he started out by noting how cold it was in the tv interview room: 'You could hang beef in here!' No update on PJ. I asked about replacing such a multifaceted player as Bullock. Roy's response: 'Leslie needs to shoot better, PJ needs to help out more on the boards and Tokoto needs to take better care of the ball'. He said he's excited for the new teams to join, noting with glee that Boeheim is his senior. Best quote from Ole Roy came when asked about the crazy strength of the new ACC. 'Oh man, oh man, every night you better strap it on.'

Mike Brey of Notre Dame thinks his experiences at Duke as an assistant will help as he's familiar with 'the rhythms of the ACC'. That said - he joked that former boss Mike Krzyzewski is well known for his policy of 'eating his young'. Brey was exceedingly grateful he's entering a new league with senior guards at his disposal. On those hideous lime uniforms from last year: 'I'm still hearing from alums'.

Was quite proud of my question to Mark Gottfried - Do you think this will be an easier or tougher coaching job than last year? He reinforced my pride by saying 'Huh - good question'. Oh - you'd like his answer? Gott spoke about the luxury of knowing he'd get points from Scott Wood, rebounds from Howell and assists from Zo Brown last year, but then talked of the fresh nature of practicing every day with his new, young team. 'It's a different feel every day.' He said the learning curve will be large, but they want to play and beat the best. He was effusive about Cat Barber's on ball D - calling him the best he's ever had. Told me afterwards, 'I'd never dribble against him - just pass the ball.' I get the sense this year might be frustrating, but more fun for him.

The preseason balloting came in just as we were talking to Mike Krzyzewski. On his team being the overwhelming pick to win (plus Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker being picked 1st team All-ACC, Parker Rookie of the Year): 'it speaks to the level of expectation'. K reiterated that Hood and Parker are the backbone of this year's team and singled out Amile Jefferson as the guy who's done the best job thus far melding with them. He also noted how the team accepts two guys who've yet to play a minute as their lead dogs not just because of Hood and Parker's talent but also because of their being good guys. When I asked K about Mike Brey saying that he (K) likes to eat his young - K said 'only if they're well cooked'. He was open about never wanting to coach against Brey and Jim Boeheim, but now that it's a necessity - look out. Reiterated the notion of 'instant rivalries.'

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