CLEMSON - Anyone who thought the Atlantic Coast Conference would be down this
season might want to take another look.
Sure, the migration of talent away from the conference and into the NBA was
heavy - at least 20 of the top 40 scorers from last season did not return for
2002-2003 - the influx of exciting young freshmen have kept ACC teams
rolling. Players like J.J. Redick and Shavlik Randolph at Duke, or Raymond
Felton and Rashad McCants at North Carolina.
The ACC, it seems, doesn't rebuild. It simply reloads.
And with the top out-of-conference record and No. 2 conference RPI so far
this season, one can only wonder what will happen when league play gets
rolling full bore.
"I don't think any coaches or players surprised," Clemson head coach Larry
Shyatt said. "All did agree we'd be a young league, but the guys dug in and
won important games and maybe not such unimportant games. But we stayed away
from those upsets."
Shyatt's team, too, has a pair of true freshmen seeing considerable minutes
early this season. Backcourt mates Shawan Robinson and Julian Betko have
found themselves on the floor in several clutch situations through the team's
first 10 games.
Neither log the minutes of Redick, Felton or McCants, all of whom start for
their respective teams. But the idea of freshmen ultimately hitting a wall -
physically wearing down - as the season progresses is nothing more than a
myth as far as Shyatt is concerned.
If anything, he expects the young players - and their teams - to get better.
"I would think everybody continues to improve," he said. "The coaching gets
better, the competition gets better. Certainly when league play starts
everybody can feel the buzz in the gyms, and the physicality gets more
"But we're going to knock one another off because this is a very talented
The influx of new, younger stars in the ACC - as well as in other conferences
around the country - has offset the loss of more experienced players who have
decided to leave school early for a shot at the NBA.
Last year alone players like Jason Williams and Mike Dunleavy of Duke - and
stepping out of conference players such as Dejuan Wagner of Memphis and Caron
Butler of UConn - took their immense talents to the NBA early.
But it's not just the top talent taking a shot at future riches.
These days it's not unusual for a player who can't even start for his college
team to declare early for the draft. Others are solid performers, but hardly
worthy of lottery pick status.
Clemson itself got a dose of that bad medicine two years ago when guard Will
Solomon left school with a year of eligibility remaining.
"What you're seeing is symptomatic of our game last 3-4 years, especially our
league," Shyatt said. "You've got the non-McDonald's All Americans even
leaving early. Now you add the McDonald's All-Americans who don't even plan
on staying more than a year or two, what you have is more emphasis and more
playing time for young people because the pace has quickened."
A quick glance at ACC games between Saturday and Tuesday
CLEMSON - After having its season-opening nine game winning streak snapped by Duke last Sunday, Clemson returns to Littlejohn Coliseum at 4 p.m. today to face Morris Brown.
The Tigers (9-1, 0-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) defeated the Wolverines 70-57 in last year's season opener, the only other meeting between the two schools. Morris Brown, an independent, has struggled to a 1-12 record so far this season.
Clemson will be led by senior point guard Ed Scott, who sits atop the early ACC scoring race at nearly 20 points per game, and is fourth in assists (6.5). He has led Clemson in both scoring and assists in nine of the Tigers' first 10 games.
Except for an off night against Duke, sophomore off guard Chey Christie (11.9) has been steady in support of Scott, giving the Tigers a nice one-two combination at the guard spots. As a duo, Scott and Christie are averaging 31.3 points, 9.5 assists, 7.3 rebounds and three steals per game.
Morris Brown's leading scorer is Anthony Adams at 14.2 points per game.
The rest of the ACC schedule, through and including next Tuesday, includes:
-North Carolina at Virginia
Virginia has won three in a row and five of the last six meetings but still trails in the series by a 114-45 margin ... the Tar Heels are 22-15 in University Hall ... four of the last seven meetings decided by seven points or less.
-Florida State (9-3, 0-1) at Maryland (8-3, 1-0)
Maryland has won 13 of the last 14 meetings and is 20-6 against the Seminoles all-time ...the Terps are 8-3 against FSU in College Park ...Florida State leads the ACC in field goal percentage defense (.352) while Maryland is second (.354).
-N.C. State (8-2, 1-0) at Georgia Tech (6-5, 0-1)
The 72nd meeting between the two teams ...N.C. State has won nine of the last 12 and leads the series 41-30 ... Tech leads 18-11 in games played in Atlanta ... six of the last 10 meetings decided by eight points or less.
-Wake Forest (10-0, 0-0) at Duke (10-0, 1-0)
Sunday’s game marks the 221st meeting between the two long-time rivals ... Duke’s current 13-game series’ win streak followed a nine-game victory streak by Wake Forest ... Duke leads the series 148-72, including a 48- 16 mark in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
-Clemson at North Carolina
Only one stat matters here - Clemson has never won at Chapel Hill.
-Florida State at Georgia Tech
Tech's Chris Bosh lead's all ACC freshmen in rebounding (9.6) and is fourth in scoring (15.6).