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October 5, 2006

ACC Preview: Big Men

Devils Illustrated wraps up its ACC positional preview with an overview of the league's big men.

1) Tyler Hansbrough (North Carolina): No introduction is needed for arguably the ACC's premier returning player. The 6-9, 255 pounder dominated the lane in his freshman season a year ago and should be back at it again this year. Hansbrough is a relentless competitor on the glass and can dominate a game with his offensive board work. He was terrific all season, but of course the game that stands out to most came on the road at Duke, when Hansbrough had 27 points and 10 rebounds in UNC's upset victory. And even though he is only a freshman, no UNC post play discussion will be complete this year without a mention of Brandan Wright. The five star Tennessean will immediately add some high octane athleticism to the Tar Heels in the paint.

2) Josh McRoberts (Duke): Emerging out of the shadow of the departed Shelden Williams, McRoberts will have his opportunity to be Duke's go to scorer around the basket. The role should allow him a bit more of a comfort level this year, compared to last season when he was often used primarily as a screener and at best the third offensive option. McRoberts needs to develop a bit more of a mean streak on the glass, but if that comes, he has the potential to be outstanding when you combine his ability to handle the ball and pass it as well. Barring a flare up of his back, expect big things from Duke's inside man in 06-07.

3) Ra'Sean Dickey (Georgia Tech): Yellow Jackets coach Paul Hewitt calls Dickey the best post scorer he has ever coached, and if the big makes as much improvement this year as he did last year he will start drawing some major attention across the country. Over the final 13 games of last season, Dickey averaged more than 16 points and seven rebounds, displaying an ability to score with either hand and knock down a short range jumper. He has made better than 60 percent of his field goal attempts in each of his first two seasons, and is a competitor on the offensive glass.

4) Ekene Ibekwe (Maryland): Ibekwe flirted with the NBA Draft last summer before deciding to suit up for his senior year with Maryland. That move will probably pay dividends, as Ibekwe has a chance to be an All-ACC player if he can have a great year. Last year Ibekwe averaged 11 points and six rebounds, but his ceiling his higher than that. He shot the ball well last year and has decent range for a big man. He's also a big factor on defense. Ibekwe blocked 43 shots and had 25 steals last season.

5) Coleman Collins (Virginia Tech): Collins returns to the Hokies after an emotional junior season when he dealt with the long sickness and death of his father during the heart of the basketball schedule. He didn't let that stop him from putting together a terrific season, including a 25 point outing at Duke in a near upset that Sean Dockery foiled at the buzzer. Collins averaged 15 points and seven rebounds on the season. He's an efficient scorer around the basket and is a smart defensive player. He didn't foul out of any games last year and averaged less than three fouls per contest.

6) Anthony King (Miami): The 6-9, 245 pound senior is an experienced warrior in the ACC, having started all 34 games last season and owning 63 starts in his career. A strong presence on both ends of the floor, King was an All-ACC defensive team selection as a sophomore in 2004-05. He shoots free throws pretty well for a big man and averaged nearly two blocks per game as a junior. King needs a big season to give the Hurricanes a chance to have a successful season.

7) Uche Echefu (Florida State): Everybody knows the talent is there for Echefu, it's just a matter of when it is going to break out. He was basically a non-factor last season but there is a reason he was rated the number two center in his class coming out of high school. He's a quick leaper and has the ability to develop into a dangerous shooter away from the basket. Look for Echefu to have many more opportunities to shine as a sophomore.

8) Andrew Brackman (NC State): A solid role player for Herb Sendek last year, Brackman will have to be more than that for Sidney Lowe this season. He's an interesting big man because he likes to shoot from outside and can be dangerous with his shot and with his passing. He'll need to up his physicalness around the goal this year to help NC State in the rebounding department.

9) John Oates (Boston College): The junior 6-10, 255 pounder was in the shadow of All-American Craig Smith last year, and while Oates will never reach Smith's level, he can do some nice things in Al Skinner's system. His role should grow more this year after starting every game last season but only averaging 15 minutes per game. The Eagles will need him on the defensive end around the goal and on the boards in particular. Oates is comfortable away from the goal also; he hit 17 of 53 three point attempts last season.

10) James Mays (Clemson): At 6-9, 225 pounds, Mayes is more of a slender forward than he is a true big man. However, Clemson must replace Akin Akingbala and Steve Allen from last year which means Mayes will probably log most of his minutes in the paint. His biggest strength playing center would undoubtedly be his quickness and ability to run the floor. He's a very versatile defender; Oliver Purnell likes to make him the focal point of Clemson's press.

Others: Virginia will have a big man by committee approach this season, with the athletic Tunji Soroye joining forces with veteran Jason Cain and Lithuanian Laurynas Mikalauskas to provide the Cavaliers an inside presence. Wake Forest big man Kyle Visser is in need of a good senior year after a disappointing roller coaster ride a year ago. With Eric Williams gone, Visser has to be reliable.

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