Countdown to Hurricanes Hoops, ACC Point Guard Edition

Streeter Lecka

Today we begin the countdown to basketball season with an analysis of the point guard position in the ACC for 2013-14.

Last season I broke down the ACC 1-12 in Point Guards,  Shooting GuardsBigs, and Wings.

And while the results were mixed, and the ACC has now expanded to 15 teams, like 80's band "RATT" and/or the contemporary Metal Group "Five Finger Death Punch",  I am Back for More.

Vague references aside, today I break down the floor generals, the play-makers,  the QB's of hoops if you will.

In no particular order, here is what to watch for from every team in the ACC at the PG spot and a team rating for each squad (1-10):

Duke

AnalysisQuinn Cook leads all returning Blue Devil players in points, (11.7) rebounds, (3.8) and assists (5.3).  After an uneven freshman campaign, Cook blossomed into perhaps the best PG in the ACC not named Shane Larkin, in his sophomore season. With an abundance of talented scorers around him (see Rodney Hood, Jabari Parker, and Rasheed Sulaiman) it would be almost shocking if he did not lead the league in assists this year.  That being said Cook is no slouch creating his own shot  or knocking down open threes (39% from deep).  However, if there was a weakness to Duke's team last year it was perimeter D, and while that was more Seth Curry then Cook, it is still an area he can improve especially given the Devils' high pressure style. Senior Tyler Thornton was the anti-Cook last year, providing solid defense but very limited scoring.  Thornton will get plenty of minutes if Cook doesn't play the the type of in your hip defense Coach K demands. Make no mistake about it though, this is Cook's team to run. If he makes a similar leap to the one he made between his 1st and 2nd years, Duke might be in for a special season.

Rating: 8 -  Cook's potential and Thornton's experience give Duke an advantage over almost any team in the country at the point. The only thing keeping them from ranking higher is the need to consistently keep the better PG's they face, out of the paint.

North Carolina

Analysis: Talented sophomore Marcus Paige struggled with the physicality of the ACC early on, but came on strong late in averaging 8.2 ppg and 4.6 apg last year. He's a much better shooter than the 35% clip he shot from the floor. Additionally his 2.5 TO's per game were far too many for a player of his capability.  Like Larkin and Cook, Paige should make a nice leap between his first and second years. He has plenty of scorers around him, and Roy Williams will surely encourage him to push the pace. In the unlikely occurrence that Paige falters, enter Nate Britt, a 4 star freshman from Oak Hill Academy who loves to penetrate. Luke Davis is a transfer from Gardner Webb who hopes to earn minutes behind Paige and Britt.  Davis put up decent numbers at GW, albeit against less then ACC quality competition.

Rating: 7 - Paige will put up very nice numbers and shoot the ball with much more efficiency this year.  But he looked over-matched at times defending more experienced physical guards as a freshman. If he gets stronger the sky is the limit.  He will need to play well at both ends with Britt nipping at his "heels", no pun intended.

Miami

Analysis: Shane Larkin was not only the best PG in the conference last year, but also its best overall player. Now in the NBA he leaves a massive void that will not easily be filled. Angel Rodriguez transferred from Kansas State and should be the man next year, but this year he is sitting out. So who handles the rock in the meantime?  Enter precocious Belgian freshman Manu Lecomte, who just might be the steal of this year's recruiting class. Lecomte, who has a plethora of overseas experience, has impressed early with his shooting and passing. But at just 5'9 175, his ability to handle punishment and defend will be under scrutiny. If Lecomte struggles early on Miami can turn to oft injured senior Garrius Adams, who if healthy has the size (6'6) and skill set to give opposing PG's fits. Coach Larranaga and staff would love to keep Adams on the wing though, so look for Manu to get the first crack. Freshman Deandre Burnett is a 6'1 combo guard who can light it up, but may also be better suited to play off the ball. The best PG on campus might be freshman Corn Elder, but he will be running around UM's defensive secondary for Al Golden until at least January.

Rating: 6.5 - This could end up being way too high or way too low. The position has plenty of potential but also tons of the unknown  Whoever starts will have the benefit of working against Rodriguez in practice everyday and that can only help.

Syracuse

Analysis: Like Miami, the Cuse will need to replace a star PG now in the NBA, in Michael Carter-Williams. The heir apparent however, is no mystery. Tyler Ennis comes to upstate NY from the sudden recruiting hotbed of Canada. The consensus 5 star freshman has tight handles, good finishing ability, and a load of expectations. Ennis appears to be the only "true" PG on the roster, so when/if he needs a breather PG play could drop off significantly. We're not sure 3 point specialist Trevor Cooney will exactly excel in this spot.

Rating: 7 - Ennis is not a super athletic type, but does almost everything well. The Orange have plenty of big time players around him, but the lack of depth here has to be a concern for Jim Boeheim and Co.

Notre Dame

Analysis:  6-5 Jerian Grant and 6-2 Eric Atkins are interchangeable and combined for nearly 25 points and 11 assists between them last season.  Atkins is more of a point, but both can handle and score with skill. The Irish in fact, may have the best overall back court in the ACC this year.  Both also averaged over 35 minutes a game last season. But they should have more help with the emergence of top 25 recruit Demetrius Jackson, who while not as big as Atkins or Grant, is much quicker.  There should also be times, when all 3 share the court at the same time.

Rating 8 -  Notre Dame likes to play in the half court, and let their guards pick apart the D. But the addition of Jackson could open things up a little. Grant and Atkins are about as sure-handed a duo as you will find in the country.

Virginia

Analysis: In the Hoos slow down style, it is most important that the PG take care of the ball and play good defense. That and get the ball to Joe Harris. Entrusted with these responsibilities will be 6'5 sophomore Malcolm Brogdon, who redshirted last season, and 6'0 Teven Jones. Brogdon is blessed with good size and a smooth handle, but if he or Jones struggle at all, freshmen Devon Hall and London Perrantes will get long looks.

Rating 5.5 -  There are plenty of reason to be excited about the upcoming season if you are a UVA fan, but PG play is the least awe inspiring of them.

Maryland

Analysis:  Last season no team was more enigmatic or turnover prone in the ACC then the Terps.  A lot of that frankly boiled down to bad PG play. Pe'Shon Howard, who handled a lot of the duties last year, is now in Southern Cal with the Trojans. This leaves the responsibility to sophomore Seth Allen, who looked more like a shoot first combo guard in his freshman campaign. The hope is that Allen improves his floor game and that highly touted 6'4 combo guard Roddy Peters can help as well.

Rating 5.5 - Allen and Peters are both nice players, but one has to wonder if this season will be much like last and the very talented yet up and down Terrapins will continue to be plagued with TOs.

Pittsburgh

Analysis: Perhaps no player in the ACC represents the personality of their team better than James Robinson. Robinson is a workmanlike 6-3 point, who while not flashy, does a terrific job taking care of the ball. Freshman Josh Newkirk is a speedy option as a back up who comes to Pitt from the same HS as John Wall (Word of God, Raleigh NC) .Look for both players to continue to spread the ball to their teammates generously and set up high percentage looks.

Rating 7 - Pitt shot 47% from the floor as a team last year and 10 players averaged double figure minutes. They are a deep and unselfish team and that all starts at the point. Robinson may not be spectacular but he is more than solid.

FSU

AnalysisIan Miller showed a lot of guts basically playing mostly on one leg last year (when he played),  but he was also largely ineffective. If the talented senior is healthy it is an instant upgrade at the point for the Seminoles. Miller has potential to score 15 a game with out breaking a sweat. Sophomore Devon Bookert got a lot of experience with Miller hobbled last year and shot the ball very well. Montay Brandon can also run some point and  has great size at 6'7 but should see most of his time on the wing. The key will be Miller, who two years ago had the attention of NBA scouts will his explosiveness.

Rating 6.5 - If Miller returns to form, they could rate even higher then this.  Bookert looks like a more than capable performer in his own right.

Boston College

Analysis: Olivier Hanlan captured ACC freshman of the year after averaging over 15 ppg last year. Hanlan can man either guard spot but seems best suited to play off the ball with his explosive scoring touch. Less heralded fellow sophomore Joe Rahon is the more pure point of the two. Rahon, who averaged 10.1 ppg and 3.7 apg, is also the Eagles best on ball defender. The two combine to assure BC has one of the better backcourts in the ACC. Lonnie Jackson and Patrick Heckmann can also both handle a little.

Rating 7.5 - Rahon could find his way right next to Hanlan on some ALL ACC teams with a little improvement. He played with a poise and maturity that was beyond his years last season.

Georgia Tech

Analysis:  6'3 Chris Bolden looks more comfortable as a scorer then distributor.  That leaves less than sensational options in sophomore Solomon Poole, RS freshman Corey Heyward, and incoming freshman Travis Jorgenson. The position would take an immediate upswing if Tennessee transfer Trae Golden (12.1 ppg 3.9 apg at UT)  receives his waiver and is eligible ASAP.  To date nothing has been decided.

Rating 6 -  If Golden is eligible this jumps up at least a point.  If not it probably drops.

NC State

AnalysisTyler Lewis showed great skill and potential as a freshman last year, but still might lose his job with the arrival of one of the best HS PGs in the country in Anthony "Cat" Barber.  Barber's nickname only touches on how quick he is.  Wolfpack fans will really enjoy his explosive game. Lewis is quite the luxury as "the other guy."  JUCO transfer Desmond Lee can play both guard spots and adds depth.

Rating 8 -  Barber could take the league by storm, but if he struggles early on Lewis is a heady player who can more then handle his own.

Wake Forest

Analysis:  Year in and year out this team underachieves and disappoints. If this is the year they buck the trend, Codi Miller-McIntyre needs to improve upon an up and down freshman campaign. CMM came in highly touted and has the talent to help the Deacs turn things around.  Fellow sophomore Madison Jones will spell McIntyre when he needs a breather.

Rating 6.5 - If I have learned one thing the past few years, it is not to trust the talent of Wake. This rating has a chance to be much higher if Miller-McIntyre takes big strides in his second go around.

Clemson

Analysis: Last year was a very long one in Death Valley.  One bright spot was 5'11 dynamo Jordan Roper who averaged 7.9 ppg and shot over 41% from three. But Roper, despite his size, is more an off guard..  That leaves Rod Hall, who rarely looks for his own shot, to man the PG. A couple of combo guards in Demarcus Harrison and Devin Coleman can handle some when needed.

Rating 5.5 - Roper is a nice player, who if capable of running the show, would upgrade this spot significantly. Hall is not terrible, but very limited. The good news is, all of the options are disruptive as defenders.

Virginia Tech

Analysis: Will any team miss a player more than the Hokies miss Erick GreenMarquis Rankin spelled Green with limited effectiveness (more turnovers than assists) last year. Adam Smith is a transfer from UNC Wilmington who averaged 13.7 ppg 2 years ago but is far more a shooting guard than point.  Devin Wilson is a freshman who will also get some looks.

Rating: 4.5 - VT caught a bad break when Malik Mueller was ruled academically ineligible.  There is no team in the league with a worse situation at PG than the Hokies.

Be sure to check back in the coming days as we break down each position on the floor in the ACC.

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