Like the great Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson once said, “It’s preview season!” (alright, maybe they didn’t say exactly that). With the college basketball season greatly approaching, CHD is bringing you the most important, up-to-date information on your favorite NCAA basketball conferences. We’ll even throw in a little dash of nonsense and a heaping plate full of hype to go along with it (all for free!). Hunker down and strap it in folks, it’s almost time to Rise and Fire once again. Next up, the ACC.
Down in the rural state of Kentucky lies a little town off the Ohio River named Louisville. Founded in 1778 and named after King Louis XVI of France, this blue collar city is nationally known for their baseball bats, fried chicken and horse races. But there is one such local treasure that will soon be more popular than the Colonel himself. So beloved that King Louis XVI’s living kin will surely request a name change of this Kentucky town all together. So delicious, you can’t help but scream YUM!
That man…That myth…That legend…Montrezl Harrell.
The Cardinal junior forward breaths in confidence and exudes fear. His eyes haunt Michael Myers and his stature made of granite. And those aren’t even close to the scariest things about him.
This offseason, after spurning the NBA for one more season with Coach Rick Pitino , ‘Trez has added a more consistent 16-footer, even more ball handling to his game and has become the all around leader of the eighth-ranked Cardinals. He’s the energetic bench guy but with All-American talent. He’s Joakim Noah, Patrick Young and Blake Griffin all in one body. His wing span stretches to 7’4″ and he can leap out of the gym. He will face slower bigs up and take them to the rack with ease and once he smells the rim, GET UP OR GET OUT OF THE WAY!
If you flip to the word “aggressive” in the dictionary you won’t get a boring definition. Instead, you get a pop-up picture of ‘Trez that shoots straight for your dome.
Look, I know that this sounds ridiculous, but ‘Trez is one of the most entertaining guys to watch in college basketball right now. Just trust me on this, you’ll thank me later.
Obligatory Duke Hype Machine
Usually I save this for the best mixtapes of freshman joining the conference, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to highlight the new Big 3 that are playing for Kentuck…wait, what? Are you sure? Are there pigs flying outside my window? Duke really landed three Top-15 recruits and they’re all going to be one-and-done? And Coach K knows about this? He does? Are we sure it wasn’t Jon Scheyer in a Coach K mask? It wasn’t? Welp…I guess this ain’t your grand daddy’s ACC anymore.
Tyus Jones-Duke, G
What is there to say here other than this doesn’t look like a Duke point guard as we currently know it (Right, Greg Paulus?)? Jones was the fourth ranked player in 2014 according to ESPN and the number one point guard in the class. He can penetrate at will with a mixture of speeds and a plethora of crossover moves. Plus, if an opposing defense decides to sag off, he has the ability to knock down the jumper from just about anywhere on the court.
Now take all of that and throw in our next player as his pick and roll partner… What is unguardable, Alex?
Jahlil Okafor-Duke, C
…And with the first pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers select…Jahlil Okafor, Duke.
Oh the grace, the foot work, the post moves, the touch, the power, the vision, the handles, the rim protection. I mean how is this even fair? Kids that are 6’10” and 265 pounds aren’t supposed to be able to move like this. While I’m in love with players like ‘Trez for their animalistic approach to the game of basketball, watching Okafor is like watching a ballet. It’s absolutely mesmerizing and beautiful. Just watch his kicks and ignore the ball and his head. His feet are light and his hips turn on a dime. He can rock left and go right and then on the very next possession he’ll catch a guy leaning right and he’ll rip it left. He can handle the rock while keeping his head up (something a lot of college big’s have trouble doing). His banging in the post is somehow non violent but extremely effective.
Maybe I’m just a basketball nerd for the art of good post players, in which case, Jahlil Okafor is my Mona Lisa.
SMILE AWAY JAHLIL, SMILE AWAY!
Justise Winslow-Duke, F
I honestly can’t wait for Dick Vitale to yell, “OOOOOOHHHHH, JUSTICE IS SERVED IN CAMERON INDOOR. JUSTICE IS SERVED!” after Winslow, a walking left handed highlight tape, dunks on North Carolina forward, Brice Johnson. It’s as much of a guarantee as death and taxes.
Everyone on our Heels?
Not to be out shined by their most hated rival, North Carolina and Roy Williams have also added themselves a tremendous class to an already talent heavy roster. The Tar Heels landed three players in the Top 20 of ESPN’s rankings including Justin Jackson (8) and Theo Pinson (10). But that’s only half the story. The Tar Heels aspirations of winning the ACC and being title contenders starts with Marcus Paige.
The junior guard is Williams go-to on offense, especially in crunch time (Paige is already at it again, taking a last second three pointer in the Late Night with Roy scrimmage game and lip syncing to Beyonce). He led the team as a sophomore with 17.5 points per contest, many of which came from beyond the arc. Paige is a sure fire All-Conference player and a candidate for player of the year, but he can’t do it all alone. This is where Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks come in. If Johnson and Meeks can continue to grab offensive rebounds (12.6% for Johnson and 15.6% for Meeks of the teams total offensive boards) and become more efficient from the field, North Carolina will surely find themselves a top the ACC.
If the team wants to be in contention for the number-one overall tournament seed, the Heels need to shoot better from long distance. North Carolina shot 33.5% (seventh in the conference and 201st in the country) last year from three. When you have the talent like UNC does, 33.5% is almost inexcusable. But whats some how worse was the efforts from the charity stripe. UNC shot an abysmal 62.4% from the line last year (14th in the conference). Hopefully they spend more than 15 minutes after practice on them this year.
A Buncha Wahoos
The 2014 ACC Tournament champions are back and returning three of its top four scorers from last season (and seven of its top nine players). While they most certainly will miss Joe Harris for his offensive capabilities (and frat boy looks), Malcolm Brogdon should fill Harris’ shoes nicely after taking the offseason to become more efficient from the field. Mike Tobey will continue to protect the rim for Tony Bennett’s stingy defense that gave up only 55.7 points per game last season. And look for juniors Justin Anderson and Anthony Gill to improve upon fantastic sophomore campaigns. This team is absolutely loaded athletically and if they can stay focused on the defensive end while adding a little more offensively, they very well could repeat as ACC Champions.
And here’s to hoping they do so we get Ultimate Rebound 2: Revenge of the Hoos
And with all of that said, don’t sleep on Syracuse. Jim Boeheim always, ALWAYS pieces together a contender and who honestly would be stunned if he did it again even after losing Tyler Ennis, Jerami Grant and C.J. Fair? They added two Top-50 recruits in power forward Chris McCullough and point guard Kaleb Joseph that will both see immediate playing time around Trevor Cooney and Rakeem Christmas. Plus Boeheim’s 2-3 zone gives teams fits no matter who is playing in it. The out of conference schedule could be a little tough to start (Iowa/Texas at the Garden for the 2K Classic, at Michigan for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, St. Johns and at Villanova) but if Cuse can eek out at least two wins against those teams, the Orange should be feeling good rolling into the conference schedule.
Save the Date
On March 7, 2015 the Duke Blue Devils travel down the ol’ Tobacco Road to play North Carolina in the regular season finale for both teams. Get ready to put on your Dick Vitale Beer Goggles on because this one is going to “AWESOME BABY WITH A CAPITAL A BABY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”