The ACC will be branded as fast and furious this season. The theme is offense and scoring. The irony of the speed factor is that usually it’s about the guards. Not in the ACC this year! Check out the big girls!! The ACC is dominated by veteran post play. And, just about each skilled post player has transformed their bodies to play at a pace coaches and the athleticism in the league dictates. In other words, big girls better run or they may never touch the ball because the guards are pushing in transition. Here a few things I learned at ACC media day in Greensboro, NC on October 18, 2011
1. Miami is the team to beat. The best perimeter tandem in the ACC, potentially in the history of the league, needs no intro. All American Shenice Johnson, reigning ACC player of the year (Moe Moe) along with reigning ACC scoring champ Riquana Williams (Bay Bay) will receive the attention but you better not sleep on Morgan Strohman, Stephanie Yderstrom or newcomer Pepper Wilson inside. 6’6 Wilson dropped 30 in her transfer year and could drop a double double each night to compliment the defending ACC champs chance to repeat. This is a team that will be defined by how the pieces fit around Moe Moe and Bay Bay!
2. Duke has same ole attention to a defense that dictates, determines and denys a team their offensive rhythm. The tempo will be deceptively offensive though with the balance of a post presence after graduating 3 wnba picks. The posts will be young. Back2back #1 recruiting classes give new author, Coach McCallie something to write about!
3. Maryland has a question mark about them I just can’t figure out what it is? Experience, big game exposure, talent, coaching, Lynetta Kizer are all winning traits. It might be one of those things we can’t see . . . like toughness, togetherness, trust? Those are words I use in describing UCONN’s consistent success. Does Maryland bring “it” every night? Gonna have to with that schedule!
4. FSU will have the deepest front line. Cierra Bravard is skilled and anchors a toughness inside the lane with a trimmer body and tighter focus. Frontcourt includes Natasha Howard, Chelsea Davis and Chastity Clayton . . . all three can carry interior scoring . . . but it’s their added versatility that will be tough to match up with this year. Who will get them the ball? 4-yr starter at point Courtney Ward graduated. Pay attention because these big girls will need an “offense-starter” as much as they will need a point guard.
5. Georgia Tech is prepared for 6th consecutive 20 win season and NCAA tournament appearance. Last year 24 wins was most in school history but top rebounder and scorer, Alex Montgomery is off to wnba. Sasha Goodlet is retooled and reconditioned to repost. Back2Back seasons as a member of the “All Screen Team” is campaigning to be the captain this year! New home court while renovations taking place at the “Thrillerdome”.
6. UNC will have an 80 lbs swing inside. Waltia Rolle will need to drop about 50 after pregnancy and Tierra Ruffin-Pratt has already shed 30 since last season. Not sure when and if these two players will be available this season to assist Senior Center Shay Shegog. Til then, UNC will play small in a year where playing big might be necessary. There’s one thing you can count on, “there’s fast, then there’s North Carolina fast”. Didn’t get to say it much last season, but will say it a lot this year for them to be competitive.
7. With the theme of the ACC being about post play and speed, NC State will be different in the lane because of their size and versatility. Strong sense of “Kellie Harper” mental toughness integrated into every game and practice situation. Their frontline versatility with Bonae Holston and Kody Burke will make them smaller. My former boss at Ohio State, Archie Griffin used to say to me all the time, it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog. I think of Archie when I think of this year’s NC State team.
8. UVA’s new boss is former Duke player and assistant coach Joanne Boyle. Virginia is implementing a motion offense which requires a read-and- react offensive mind set. According to Chelsea Shine, Senior post player, setting good screens will be a defining detail of their new offense.
9. BC is the only school who doesn’t have a returning post presence after 4 years of Swords and Murphy. BC will be more athletic with an open lane for cutting and diving.
10. 3 of the last 5 years have been the best years at Wake Forest yet this program hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament in 21 years. Mike Peterson has built Wake piece by piece. Don’t sleep on the athleticism or the defense. Sandra Garcia, in the middle, is capable of carrying this team. They are athletic on the wings and hungry for respect. Former NY Knicks strength coach has helped build mental toughness.