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The ACC Season Ahead Part 2 : Who's Returning

So 25 of the 60 starting players in the ACC have departed along with the 2009-2010 season.This leaves a bunch of opportunities for players who have been coming off the bench to step up and contribute in a more prominent role. For those starters that remain, it opens up opportunities to step into stronger leadership roles. In this intallment I’ll look at who has the strongest returning cores.

1.Duke - Not much argument here. Duke brings back a pair of preseason ACC POY candidates in Smith and Singler, two solid and athletic bigs in the brothers Plumlee, a sharpshooter in Andre Dawkins, and a very technically sound 3 in Ryan Kelly. Returning two seniors of the caliber of Smith and Singler is a mighty rare thing these days and the Devils should cherish it.

2. Va. Tech - The Hokies return every single starter from a team that finished a surprising 10-6 in conference. Included in that group will be ACC scoring leader and POY contender Malcolm Delaney (who wisely pulled his name out of the draft),  3rd team All - ACC player Dorenzo Hudson ( 15 ppg) and talented big man Jeff Allen ( 12 ppg 7.5 rpg). The athletic J.T. Thompson and Terrell Bell were both strong contributors defensively and on the boards. All five returning starters are seniors, a VERY rare thing indeed.

3.North Carolina - Tyler Zeller and John Henson return to comprise one of the better starting frontcourts in the ACC, though Zeller’s durablility is a question. Will Graves is very capable at the 3, averaging 10 and 4 last year and will be the lone senior on the team. If Larry Drew 2 returns an improved decision maker, the Tar Heels will have quite a solid returning group. It’s rounded out by Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald.

4.Florida State -  While the names Luke Loucks, Deividas Dulkys, Jordan DeMercy and Derwin Kitchen don’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of opposing ACC fans, they combine to form a very experienced core group for the Seminoles, augmenting the talents of All-ACC Defender Chris Singleton and All- ACC Freshman Michael Snaer. Xavier Gibson also returns to bolster the frontcourt. With the exception of Snaer, all of the aforementioned players will be either Seniors or Juniors.

5. NC State - Senior Tracy Smith will be in the running for ACC POY, so the Wolfpack are doubtless ecstatic that he did not remain in the draft. Improved and experienced senior Javier Gonazalez returns to run the point. Scott Wood returns after a freshman year bombing away effectively from behind the arc, and rising sophomore Richard Howell provides a bruising presence in the post.

6. Boston College - Honestly, I wanted to put them higher on this list since they return everyone of note including 4 starters all of whom averaged over 11 points per game. But if you have 4 starters that return from a team that stunk, how much love can you expect? Joe Trapani, Corey Raji and Rakim Sanders are all extremely capable players who can score, rebound and defend and will be seniors. Reggie Jackson is poised for a break out year after being the only ACC player last year to average at least 12 ppg 5 rpg and 4 apg. New coach Steve Donahue certainly doesn’t find the cupboard bare. No wonder Skinner got canned ( that and playing the most boring brand of basketball outside of the Big East).

7. Maryland - The Terps return ACC Rookie of the Year runner up in the Sean May-esque Jordan Williams and Junior Sean Mosely who averaged 10ppg 5 rpg and 3 apg. Seniors Cliff Tucker, Adrian Bowie and Dino Gregory round out the returnees and were all contributors off the bench last year.

8. Clemson -  When he was healthy, Demontez Stitt was a highly effective player for the Tigers and was Clemson’s second leading scorer. He and third leading scorer Andre Young will comprise one of the better backcourts in the ACC next year. Senior Jerai Grant and Sophomore Devin Booker return to the frontcourt.

9. Miami -  In his final 8 games freshman Durand Scott averaged 16 points per game and is poised along with Malcolm Grant ( 9.6 ppg 3.5 apg) to be one of the top 3 or 4 backcourts in the league. The imposing ( and surprisingly nimble) big man Reggie Johnson and wingman Dequan Jones also return.

10. UVa - The Cavs return talented Senior Mike Scott at forward ( 12 ppg 7rpg) and fan favorite Sammy Zeglinski ( 9ppg 4rpg 2.5apg) at the point. Jerome Meyinsse and Mustapha Farakhan round out the contributing returnees.

11. Gtech - Junior Iman Shumpert ( 10 ppg 3.6 rpg 4 apg) returns at SG along with experienced senior PG Maurice Miller. Sophomore sharpshooter Brian Oliver and and the athletic Glen Rice, Jr. will also contribute.

12. Wake -  C.J. Harris and Ari Stewart are really the only returning players of note. Harris was an All-ACC freshman and Stewart is a legit threat from the perimeter. Other than that…