ACC basketball preview

Take a look at sports editor Ernesto Suarez’s projections for each ACC team below:

Boston College- The Eagles struggled for most of the 2011-2012 season, finishing with just nine wins and last in the conference. Six of BC’s key players were freshmen, so at the very least they will have more experience on the court. The Eagles will certainly struggle, but should improve upon last year’s record.

Clemson- The Tigers hovered at the .500 mark all season long, finishing 16-15 (8-8 ACC) in 2011. The loss of guards Andre Young and Tanner Smith means the team must rely on its younger players to step up once again. This will likely be a transition year for an inexperienced Clemson unit.

Duke- A second-place ACC finish is not a consolation prize for this group a year after being kicked out of the Big Dance in the first round by Lehigh University. The Blue Devils will have to retool after losing Austin Rivers, Miles Plumlee and Andre Dawkins, but Duke should still find itself in contention with another strong recruiting class.

Florida State- The Seminoles typically pride themselves on defense first, and that’s not expected to change much this year. Senior Michael Sneer returns off a swell 2011-2012 campaign and should headline a strong defensive attack. FSU looks primed for another NCAA Tournament run.

Georgia Tech- The Yellow Jackets faltered down the stretch last year after leading scorer Glen Rice Jr. was dismissed from the program, but Tech does have some momentum with of last season’s starters returning. On paper, the team looks better than last year, but lacks a single dominant threat on the floor.

Maryland- Despite losing out on an offensive star Terrell Stoglin, there are some who believe the Terrapins are ready to move into the elite top tier of ACC teams fighting for position in the NCAA Tournament. Maryland has size in the low post with 7-footer Alex Len and 6-foot-10 freshman Shaquille Cleare, but this team will likely need time before it makes a run.

North Carolina- Much like their Duke counterparts, the Tar Heels always seem capable of coming back from the loss of big-time players, as was the case when four Carolina stars were taken in the first round of the NBA draft. UNC does have a promising point guard in freshman Marcus Paig.

North Carolina State- A year after finishing fourth in the ACC and making a run to the Sweet 16, N.C. State is looking to end the reign of Duke-North Carolina at the apex of the conference. The Wolfpack will return four starters, including star point guard Lorenzo Brown. This team could be another legitimate conference force.

Virginia- Book the Cavaliers as a sleeper team in the ACC. Virginia won 22 games last year – including nine in conference play – but will have to fill a major void after losing leading scorer Mike Scott. Sammy Zeglinski has also left, but look out for incoming freshman Justin Anderson. Virginia’s defense should also be one of the ACC’s best.

Virginia Tech- The Hokies have made their mark during the past few seasons as a team that gets off to a slow start and then makes a run. But they typically have fallen short of making the NCAA Tournament. The perennial bubble team hasn’t made a tournament appearance since 2007. Coach James Johnson will have his work cut out for him.

Wake Forest– The Demon Deacons are in transition, but should improve upon their 4-12 conference pace last year. Senior guard C.J. Harris and junior forward Travis McKie will lead the charge for Wake Forest, and with a good recruiting class, it’s a team with the potential to pick up a few more wins.