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Television analysts Dan Bonner and Cory Alexander predicted good things for UVa, Duke and Syracuse. As for Virginia Tech? The Hokies are “going to be weak,” Bonner said.
Duke's Jabari Parker is introduced during the team's Countdown to Craziness NCAA college basketball preseason event in Durham, N.C., Friday.
Sunday, October 20, 2013
TV analysts Dan Bonner and Cory Alexander expect the upcoming basketball season to be a fun one for Virginia, Duke and Syracuse fans.
The winter could be gloomy for Virginia Tech fans, though.
Bonner expects Virginia to wind up fourth or fifth in the 15-team ACC, with the potential to finish even higher. He figures UVa will be a Top 25 team nationally.
“Virginia is positioned to have a very strong year,” said Bonner, a color commentator for both the syndicated ACC Network and for the ACC regional cable package that includes CSN. “Joe Harris, he’s going to take a step forward. With Mike Tobey and Akil Mitchell if he’s healthy all year, that gives them a really solid inside game.
“The issues that they have are at the guard spot. Are they going to be able to score from the perimeter? Are they going to be able to handle the ball? I think the answers to those questions are going to be yes.
“Now, how do they react if Joe Harris gets hurt? How do they react if Mike Tobey gets hurt? I don’t think there’s tremendous depth on any of these teams.”
Alexander, a former UVa point guard, said the Cavaliers can be a Top 25 squad “if they can get the quality point guard play that they need.” He expects them to finish fourth, fifth or sixth in the ACC.
Alexander predicts ACC newcomer Syracuse will win the league crown because of coach Jim Boeheim’s zone defense.
“It’s too difficult to adapt to that zone in one year,” said Alexander, an analyst for ESPNU and the ACC Network. “Coach Boeheim’s zone is going to come in and be just an insurmountable task for teams.
“Not only that, they’re talented — C.J. Fair, as good as he is. Jerami Grant might be the best NBA prospect on the team. Tyler Ennis is a very good freshman point guard. They’ve got [Rakeem] Christmas, DaJuan Coleman — they’ve got huge size in the middle, so they’re going to be able to rebound.”
Bonner considers Duke, Syracuse and North Carolina to be potential Final Four teams. He figures Duke or Syracuse will win the ACC title.
The Blue Devils must replace Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee but return Quinn Cook and Rahseed Sulaimon. They have added highly touted freshman Jabari Parker and Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood.
“They can play a number of guys in a number of different positions, and they can score,” said Bonner, who was an analyst for the CBS/Turner telecasts of the NCAA tournament last season. “They will be able to do some things defensively that maybe they couldn’t do [last year] because they’ll be faster. They’ll be harder to defend. They’ll be able to defend better.”
Alexander is also high on Duke but expects UNC to finish fourth, fifth or sixth. He considers Maryland to be the ACC’s third-best squad.
The ACC has boosted its reputation by adding Syracuse, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh to its ranks. All three made the NCAA tournament as Big East members last season, with the Orange reaching the Final Four.
“The ACC has returned back to its perch where we belong as the best conference in the country,” Alexander said.
Bonner said either the ACC or the Big Ten will be the nation’s best league this season.
“You can’t judge how strong a conference is in one year until you get to the postseason,” Bonner said.
“At the top, [the ACC] is really, really going to be strong. At the bottom, it might not be so good, so let’s back off a little bit on this being the greatest conference in history until we see what happens. I think it has the potential to be [that] in the future, I’m not sure that this year’s the year.”
Alexander expects Virginia Tech, which finished in the cellar the past two seasons, to wind up in the bottom third of the league this season. But he does not expect another last-place finish.
“[Coach] James Johnson will have the opportunity to play his style of play; they’ve got a little more depth,” Alexander said. “Having an identity will give them an opportunity to go out and win four or five or six [ACC] games.”
Bonner said the Hokies are “going to be weak.”
“It’s going to be a struggle for them,” he said. “They don’t have a really strong recruiting class to fill in for what they lost. I think it’s going to be a long season for them.”
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