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Do the Florida State Seminoles Have the Best Front Court in the Atlantic Coast Conference?

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As the Seminoles look to build on their success of the 2008-2009 season, much attention has been focused on the front court of Leonard Hamilton's young team. In a year that many consider to be a rebuilding year for the ACC as a whole, the Seminoles have been identified as having the best group of big men in the conference. Solomon Alabi, a potential lottery pick in the NBA Draft, demonstrated the potential to be one of the best big men in the country. Chris Singleton looks to  build on an outstanding ACC Tournament and Xavier Gibson should see more minutes while Ryan Reid takes on the senior leadership role. In this piece, Tomahawk Nation takes a look at how the Seminoles' big men compare to the rest of the ACC.

http://cache1.asset-cache.net/xc/85437774.jpg?v=1&c=IWSAsset&k=2&d=17A4AD9FDB9CF193B946C5A518E7D4C1EF8A8D94DB7A1136B01E70F2B3269972

Photo from here.

Last year the ACC was known for it's outstanding guard play, with the likes of Toney Douglas (FSU), Ty Lawson (UNC), Jeff Teague (Wake Forest), Gerald Henderson (Duke), Wayne Ellington (UNC) and Jack McClinton (Miami) all getting drafted. This year, the front courts of the ACC will cause heads to turn. The depth and quality of players at the 3-4-5 spots from top to bottom of the league are outstanding. Plus, the average heights of the front courts, with few exceptions, is impressive, with multiple teams having multiple seven footers ready to take the court. As we move through the preview, experience is defined as the following: Freshman = 0, Sophomore = 1 and so on. The closer to three you are, the more experience you have. We hope that you will use this as a reference for the rest of the season.

 

Boston College Eagles

Likely Starters:

C Josh Southern 6'10 252lbs Junior

F Joe Trapani 6'8 228lbs Junior

F Corey Raji 6'6 218lbs Junior

F/G Rakim Sanders 6'5 230lbs Junior

Key Reserves:

F Tyler Roche 6'7 218lbs Senior

F/C Evan Ravenel 6'8 255lbs Sophomore

F Cortney Dunn 6'8 242lbs Junior

Average Experience: 2

Average Height: 6' 9"

 

Returning all but one starter from last year, the Eagles will look to their big men to lead the way, particularly wit the departure of Tyrese Rice, arguably the Eagles' best player last year. This year, Joe Trapani is the center piece of the Eagles' front court, coming off a sophomore season in which he scored 13.4 ppg and grabbing 6.6 rpg. Rakim Sanders is an excellent swing man and will serve the Eagles well on defense. Last year, the Eagles relied on Rice to take over a game and little attention was paid to the front court. Without a legitimate scoring threat, the Eagles success will depend on the success of their big men. However, despite what appears to be a solid group of experienced big men, the Eagles have their work cut out for them this year as the rest of the conference boasts bigger, better talent.

Tomahawk Nation Grade: B

Clemson University Tigers

Likely Starters:

F/C Jerai Grant 6'8 220lbs Junior

F Trevor Booker 6'7 240lbs Senior

F Milton Jennings 6'9 225lbs Freshman

Key Reserves:

C Catalin Baclu 7'2 245lbs Sophomore

F/C Devon Booker 6'8 235lbs Freshman

F David Potter 6'6 215lbs Senior

Average Experience: 1.5

Average Height: 6' 8.6"

 

Last year, the ACC learned that Trevor Booker comes to play night in and night out and is ready to battle underneath with anyone. He averaged 15.3 points and 9.7 rebounds per game, an ORtg of 121 and an eFG% of 58.5. These are outstanding numbers and Booker is motivated to lift the Tigers from their collapse at the end of the 2008-2009 season. Milton Jennings, the #9 power forward in the 2009 recruiting class is a great addition to the Tigers' front court. Jennings is an athletic freak and could make an immediate impact in the ACC. Many feel that there are a lot of questions about this front court and with only one known star (Trevor Booker) the Tigers might not match up with the rest of the conference. I respectfully disagree with those expert opinions and suspect that the Tigers could present a challenge for anyone. Their size might be the limiting factor, but Dejuan Blair proved to the country that you don't necessarily need a seven footer to succeed in the paint.

Tomahawk Nation Grade: B/B+

Duke University Blue Devils

Likely Starters:

C Mason Plumlee 6'11 230lbs Freshman

PF Lance Thomas 6'8 225lbs Senior

SF Kyle Singler 6'8 230lbs Junior

Key Reserves:

C Brian Zoubek 7'1 260lbs Senior

C/F Miles Plumlee 6'10 240lbs Sophomore

F Ryan Kelly 6'10 230lbs Freshman

F Olek Czyz 6'7 240lbs Sophomore

Average Experience: 1.43

Average Height: 6' 9.6"

 

Duke's success will depend on their front court. Period. The Blue Devils have three guards on their team: Andre Dawkins (a true freshman), Nolan Smith and Jon Scheyer. The Blue Devils are loaded in the front court and the ability of the Plumlee brothers to contribute early will significantly impact Duke's success. Brian Zoubek will contribute more minutes this year, but it's unlikely that he will ever average a double double. However, he adds depth and experience at the center position, which will be required to succeed in the ACC this year. Lance Thomas will be their shut down defender on the wing and questions still remain about Czyz will live up to his potential. Due to the new additions, Singler will move to his more natural position on the wing rather than hanging around the paint. The Blue Devils will have one of the best front courts in the ACC. Not only are they big but there is plenty of them. However, how will Duke manage with limited available minutes at the guard spots?

Tomahawk Nation Grade: A

Florida State University Seminoles

Likely Starters:

C Solomon Alabi 7'1 251lbs Sophomore

PF Ryan Reid 6'8 238lbs Senior

SF Chris Singleton 6'9 227lbs Sophomore

Key Reserves:

F/C Xavier Gibson 6'11 240lbs Sophomore

F Jordan DeMercy 6'7 215lbs Junior

F Terrance Shannon 6'8 220lbs Freshman

Average Experience: 1.33

Average Height: 6' 9.3"

 

See our Full Team Preview for the complete details on each player. This is a deceptively talented group, except for Alabi of course-- he's a known commodity with big expectations. Reid needs to bring his energy to the glass on both ends of the court. Singleton is a match up nightmare due to his athleticism. Gibson can play the 4 or 5 and moves extremely well. DeMercy needs to take the lead on the defensive end of the court. Terrance Shannon is a relative unknown to the ACC as he did not play his senior year of basketball due to a knee injury. Many consider this group to be the cream of the crop in the ACC due to the talent, experience and size of the group. Many predict this group to be outstanding due to the fact that they had such a successful season last year despite being so young, there is no reason they shouldn't be leaders of the pack this year. While trying to remain impartial, this is an outstanding group who presents a very difficult match-up for the rest of the conference.

Tomahawk Nation Grade: A-/A

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Likely Starters:

C Derrick Favors 6'10 246lbs Freshman

PF Gani Lawal 6'9 234lbs Junior

SF Zach Peacock 6'8 235lbs Senior

Key Reserves:

F Brian Oliver 6'6 220lbs Freshman

C Brad Sheehan 7'0 235lbs Junior

C Daniel Miller 6'11 252 lbs Freshman

Average Experience: 1.16

Average Height: 6' 9.3"

 

Derrick Favors is the talk of the town. Apparently, the addition of Favors has rocketed the Yellow Jackets from a 2-14 ACC season to a top 25 team, as high as 13 in some polls. Favors is an absolute monster in the paint and is already predicted to win a number of post-season accolades. Here is a nice clip that demonstrates his talents during a 42 point, 12 block and 20 rebound performance. Favors is likely a one and done. But, the Yellow Jackets are more than Favors. Gani Lawal had an excellent sophomore campaign, cleaning up on the offensive and defensive glass and blocking a ridiculous 5.1% of shot attempts against him. Lawal will add much needed experience to this group. For the Yellow Jackets to live up to the pre-season hype, Favors and company will need to produce. However, given the talent present in Atlanta, it shouldn't be difficult.

Tomahawk Nation Grade: A

Maryland Terrapins

Likely Starters:

C Jordan Williams 6'9 240lbs Freshman

PF Landon Milbourne 6'7 207lbs Senior

SF Sean Mosley 6'4 210lbs Sophomore

Key Reserves:

F Dino Gregory 6'7 227lbs Junior

F Jin Soo Kim Choi 6'8 195lbs Sophomore

F/C James Padgett 6'8 225lbs Freshman

F/C Jerome Burney 6'9 222lbs Junior

C Steve Gonis 6'10 260lbs Sophomore

Average Experience: 1.25

Average Height: 6' 6.5"

 

Could this be the year that the Terps return to the top of the ACC? It looks like Gary Williams is lining his squad up for a good run through the ACC. With 8 front court players, many of whom are hybrid forward/guards, it looks as if Williams predicted that going big would mean success in the ACC. Well, the return of Greivis Vasquez will also be a key component of the Terrapins success. The addition of Jordan Williams brings much needed talent at the center position. Milbourne went relatively unnoticed in the ACC last year as he Vasquez took much of the spotlight and Milbourne was forced to play the center, which is not his natural position. However, the skills and toughness he developed last year will serve him well as he moves back to his 4 spot. James Padgett will compete with Williams for minutes and will provide the Terps with two excellent options in the middle. These additions may be what Willams need to return his team back to level of success he expects and demands from his program. Despite the potential, many experts feel that this group doesn't have the skills to run with the rest of the big boys in the conference. Time will tell, particularly as this a relatively young, small group.

Tomahawk Nation Grade: B-

Miami Hurricanes

Likely Starters:

PF Dwayne Collins 6'8 243lbs Senior

F Cyrus McGowan 6'9 236lbs Senior

F/G DeQuan Jones 6'7 216lbs Sophomore

Key Reserves:

F/C Reggie Johnson 6'9 296lbs RS Freshman

C Julian Gamble 6'9 245lbs Sophomore

F Donnavan Kirk 6'9 217lbs Freshman

F Adrian Thomas 6'7 226lbs Senior

Average Experience: 1.71

Average Height: 6' 8"

 

With the departure of Jack McClinton, Dwayne Collins will need to take on the challenge of leading the 'Canes back to the NCAA tournament. The Hurricanes are only one of 4 teams in the ACC that don't have a seven footer on their squad. However, they have plenty of players to provide depth and relative size at all of the front court positions. Cyrus McGowan had a relatively unremarkable junior season in terms of stats, but brought plenty of energy to the paint on both ends of the court. There are a lot of questions to be answered for the Hurricanes this year. The biggest challenge to the 'Canes opponents will be the potential slew of players who can rotate off the bench providing fresh minutes throughout the game. Though, if Frank Haith starts to see limited production, the bench will shorten drastically.

Tomahawk Nation Grade:  B-

University of North Carolina Tarheels

Likely Starters:

C Ed Davis 6'10 215lbs  Sophomore

PF Deon Thompson 6'8 245lbs  Senior

SF John Henson 6'10 185lbs  Freshman

Key Reserves:

C Tyler Zeller 7'0 220lbs  Sophomore

F David Wear 6'10 220lbs  Freshman

F Travis Wear 6'10 220lbs  Freshman

Average Experience: 0.83

Average Height: 6' 10"

 

One would think with the departure of Tyler Hansbrough and Danny Green, the UNC front court would see a significant drop off in the 2009 season. However, with Ed Davis deciding to return, Deon Thompson coming of a career year and the addition of John Henson, the Tarheels will have one of the best front courts in the ACC. John Henson is a highly gifted athlete who has a ton of potential. He needs to put on some serious weight before he will be a threat in the low post, but he has the athleticism to play on the wing and attack the basket. Ed Davis and Deon Thompson are and will continue to be outstanding defenders. Ed Davis considered heading to the NBA last year. However, Davis needs to significantly improve his offensive game significantly before he is a consistent  threat on both ends of the court. The Wear twins are also highly gifted wing players who will give the Tarheels a lot of flexibility in their lineup. This year UNC has decided to go big but has question marks in the back court. In a league that is already huge, can the Tarheels get away without an identified/experienced point man?

Tomahawk Nation Grade: A

North Carolina State University Wolfpack

Likely Starters:

F Tracy Smith 6'8 240lbs Junior

F Dennis Horner 6'9 218 Senior

F Richard Howell 6'7 215 Freshman

Key Reserves:

F DeShawn Painter 6'9 220lbs Freshman 

C Jordan Vandenberg 7'0 230 Freshman

F C.J Williams 6'5 203lbs Sophomore

F Josh Davis 6'6 205lbs Freshman

Average Experience: 0.85

Average Height: 6' 8"

 

The Wolfpack added three very nice players to their front court (Howell, Painter and Vandenberg). However, the three of them are still very raw and will need some time to develop. Painter originally committed to Florida but backed out. Painter is able to apply his athleticism to the defensive end of the court, but still needs to work on his offensive game. Vandenberg is a seven footer from Australia, who like many international players, is comfortable playing away from the low post facing the basket. Dennis Horner will be the leader of the front court who is comfortable hitting shots from beyond the three point line or working the low post. This is definitely a group to watch for the future. Unlike other teams in the ACC who are just as young, the talent here isn't quite like that of UNC.

Tomahawk Nation Grade: C

Virginia Cavaliers

Likely Starters:

C Assane Sene 7'0 234lbs Sophomore

F Mike Scott 6'8 233lbs Junior

Key Reserves

F Jamil Tucker 6'9 241lbs Senior

F Tristan Spurlock 6'7 220lbs Freshman

F/C Jerome Meyinsse 6'9 245lbs Senior

Average Experience: 1.8

Average Height: 6' 9"

 

It looks like the success of Virginia will once again rest squarely on the shoulders of Sylven Landesberg. Sene played limited minutes last year and was an effective shot blocker. Mike Scott led the team in rebounding last year and will give them good minutes at the power forward position. Tristan Spurlock is a great addition to this team but no one knows what direction he will take, meaning he has talent and athleticism but he needs to work on the fundamentals. One could equate him to a Tyrus Thomas of the Bulls: highly gifted athlete but highly unpredictable production who plays too fast for himself. Unfortunately, the Cavaliers will likely have the least competitive front court in the league.

Tomahawk Nation Grade: C-

Virginia Tech Hokies

Likely Starters:

F Jeff Allen 6'7 230lbs Junior

F Lewis Witcher 6'9 218lbs Senior

Key Reserves:

F Manny Atkins 6'7 200lbs Freshman

F J.T Thompson 6'6 210lbs Junior

F Victor Davila 6'8 245lbs Sophomore

F Cadarian Raines 6'9 230lbs Freshman

F Allan Chaney 6'9 235lbs Sophomore

Average Experience: 1.29

Average Height:  6' 7.9"

 

Jeff Allen had a very effective Sophomore season: 100 Ortg, 10.9OR%, 20.4% DR%, 4.5 Blk% and a FTRate of 59.6. Some say that Davila will be starting along side Allen, instead of Witcher. Witcher is a gifted rebounder who, like many others, hasn't showed the consistency on the offensive end of the court to be a complete threat. Many Atkins is a great addition to the team, but he is more of a hybrid 2-3 player who shoots the three pointer extremely well. The Hokies success will depend on the tandem of Allen and Junior Guard Malcom Delaney. Lacking a true Center will hurt the Hokies in a conference that is loaded with talent at that position. Allen will have a good year, but the unit as a whole will have trouble, but not as bad as their in state colleagues-- the Cavaliers.

Tomahawk Nation Grade: C+/B-

Wake Forest University Demon Deacons

Likely Starters:

C Chas McFarland 7'0 235lbs Sophomore

F Al-Farouq Aminu 6'9 215lbs Sophomore

F/C David Weaver 6'11 240lbs Senior

Key Reserves:

C Tony Woods 6'11 245lbs Sophmore

C Ty Walker 7'0 215lbs Sophomore

F Ari Stewart 6'7 190lbs Freshman

Average Experience: 1.17

Average Height: 6' 10.3"

 

The Demon Deacons are delighted that Aminu chose to return to school rather than heading to the NBA. Many felt that Aminu was more talented than James Johnson and Jeff Teague, both of whom were first round draft picks in the 2009 NBA Draft. Aminu cleaned up on the glass and had an ORtg of 103.9 and contributed regularly to a high powered offense. Chas McFarland is a reliable big man who puts in good minutes at both ends of the court. He's not going to blow anyone away, but he will contribute night and night out when he isn't in foul trouble. Weaver and Woods will likely battle for the power forward position. Both are true big men that can move, comparable to a Xavier Gibson on Florida State. Wake Forest's front court is huge. Aminu will continue to be outstanding and McFarland will play well, but the big question is the four spot. Ari Stewart was the #10 small forward in the country as ranked by Rivals.com who is an excellent shooter. Coach Gaudio hopes that he will help improve the terrible shooting the Deacs experienced from beyond the three point line. This team poses significant match up problems, but with role players stepping into starting roles, there are many questions to be answered outside of Aminu.

Tomahawk Nation Grade: B+/A-

Summary

  • Most Experienced: Boston College
  • Least Experienced: University of North Carolina
  • Tallest: Wake Forest (barely over UNC)
  • Shortest: Maryland (But to be fair, they have a lot of hybrid players listed that bring down the average)

Unlike last year, when guards dominated the league, the ACC will likely be identified as a conference of talented big men. It's going to be exciting to watch how many of these teams develop their young players and develop their offenses without proven guard play. These aren't your typical big men who sit on the low block and work to get a jump hook or lay up. They can run the court, face up the basket and have the athletic ability to jump out of the gym.

Florida State has a proven player in Solomon Alabi and great potential in Chris Singleton. Ryan Reid, who will likely start over Gibson, looks to be in better shape this year and should do a lot of the dirty work under the basket. Many have made the argument that Xavier Gibson could, or should, start at the power forward spot. There is no doubt that the Seminoles have one of the best front courts in the conference. Do they have the best? The Seminoles are going into the season with an experienced group that certainly has room to improve and has the potential to be outstanding. Last year's NCAA appearance and the trip to Spain this summer, provided this group much needed experience. The combination of their talent and those experiences will make the Seminoles one of the top front courts in the conference. This will be a great year of basketball in the ACC, but it is going to be quite different from last year. The fact that the focus has shifted to the front courts may be why many believe the ACC is down this year. I beg to differ; it's just a different flavor of basketball.

What are your thoughts on the front courts of the ACC? Will Alabi average a double double? Is Derrick Favors going to be the star of the conference? Who is your favorite front court player in the ACC?

As always, I appreciate your input and feedback.

Go NOLES!!!

Cheers,

TC