Rise and Fall: ACC Program Review

July 7th, 2008


Like civilizations, all great basketball programs eventually fall.. replaced by an upstart newcomer. In this week's Rise & Fall series, we'll take a look at which BCS programs are rising, falling, or merely treading water.



Expect more out of the same from the Eagles in coming seasons.. a step forward here and there followed by another step back. Al Skinner is a good enough coach to keep the program from bottoming out, so they should hover in the 15-20 win range for awhile.

Amazingly, the Tigers RPI has risen every year since 2001. From that low of 168th to 19th this past season. Another gain isn't likely in 08-09, but its hard to imagine that Oliver Purnell and Co. will break through the Top 10 in the neat future. Mays and Hammonds are gone, and KC Rivers just has one moe season left. Still, give Purnell credit for quieting the doubters and getting Clemson back on the rise.

If anything, it seems like the Devils are slightly on the downwards turn, as they peaked at #1 in the RPI in both '04 and '06. Still, this year's group has top 5 potential and I see no reason why Coach K won't keep loading up on 5-Star prospects in the near future.

Hope and promise. Two things that FSU has had a lot of recent seasons, but they continually manage to avoid the one thing that matters: success. Once again, big time recruits like Chris Singleton join the fray, but another 17-20 win season is likely.

The Jackets have been a middling team for the past two seasons, and change is unlikely this time around. Iman Shumpert was a nice catch for Paul Hewitt, and he should be a major contributor for the next few seasons.

Last year was the 3rd time in 4 seasons that the Terps finished below the top 40 RPI.. disappointing numbers from a program that was once right there with Duke and UNC. Outside of Vasquez, there's not too much to get excited about this year, and its not like there's any monster reenforcements waiting in the wings. The only thing stopping Maryland from a fast decline is that Gary Williams usually manages to get the most out of his team.. he's just not brining in the talent like he used to.

MIAMI - RISING (slowly)
With the exception of Anthony King, most of last year's important contributors return from a 23-win team. Though that total was kind of flukey considering how weak the program had been in recent seasons, more important is the new arena and the signing of DeQuan Jones. More Top 25-50 signings like Jones are needed if Miami wants to seriously solidify its claim as an ACC contender.

Simply put, UNC is blowing up into the nation's premier program. Forget last year's #1 RPI ranking, the huge amount of returning talent, and another solid incoming class.. the future could be even brighter. The 2009 recruiting crop of Henson, Strickland, et al is sick, while Roy Williams has already locked up two of 2010's Top 20 prospects.

Last year at this time, many thought NC State was in the same hyperspeed improvement mode as Wake Forest. But JJ Hickson bolted after a season, Gavin Grant graduated, and Costner and McCauley's production split in half. Suddenly, another last place (or close to it) finish seems likely.

The Cavaliers have had about one legit Top 25 team in the last decade.. so their current mediocrity isn't terribly surprising. But managing only 5 ACC wins despite a consistent 20 ppg from Sean Singletary was definitely a downer. All hope isn't lost as Dave Leitao has some emerging talents like Jones, Landesberg, and Brandenburg to work with.. but in the ACC, those names are merely par for the course.

While the Hokies weren't amazing last year and only project to be in the 30-40 range this year, that's still a major improvement from a team that was one of the worst in major conference basketball just a few years back. Seth Greenburg is proving to be one the best coaches in the league, not necessarily in terms of recruiting (though Jeff Allen was a big deal), but in terms of mastering a system that works.

Perhaps the country's fastest rising program, Wake Forest is on the verge of reaching heights beyond the grasp of Tim Duncan's lengthy arms. Last year's
average 7-9 ACC squad was full of freshman and sophomores, and would have been in line to win 9 or 10 league games even without new enforcements. The addition of three stud prospects though, including the future pro Al-Farouq Aminu, could push the Deacons into the basketball stratosphere.

- Big East Rise & Fall is coming soon...