Monday, October 22, 2007

Tobacco Road rules ACC (preseason) hoops

It's been a long time since N.C. State has been mentioned in the same breath as its Tobacco Road neighbors Duke and North Carolina when one is talking preseason Atlantic Coast Conference basketball. Sure, anything can happen with the first ball is tossed up, but it's still fun to see the Wolfpack is such company -- even in mid-October.

"The three schools located within 30 miles of each other have combined to win nine NCAA championships and make 32 trips to the Final Four, but nearly two decades have passed since they've been this good at the same time," writes the Associated Press.

"Picked 1-2-3 in the league's preseason poll, the Tar Heels, Blue Devils and Wolfpack are bracing to spend much of the season bunched near the top of the ACC race.

" 'It speaks volumes for the three schools,' Duke captain DeMarcus Nelson said Sunday during the league's annual media day.

"The schools in the Research Triangle area seem positioned to take advantage of a conference that returns only five of the 15 players named to the league's first, second and third teams after last season. The key returnees include preseason league player of the year Tyler Hansbrough of North Carolina and fellow all-ACC picks Sean Singletary of Virginia, Brandon Costner of N.C. State and Tyrese Rice of Boston College.

"Still, it's been nearly 20 years since the last time Duke, North Carolina and N.C. State claimed the top three spots - in any order - in the final conference standings. In 1988, the Tar Heels won and were followed by the Wolfpack and Blue Devils. ..."

"I think State winning last year will kind of add to the rivalry," UNC's Tyler Hansbrough told the AP. "Duke and Carolina, they've always been big. Especially when (all three) are at the top, it's going to be really, really big."

But on the eve of a season in which supremacy in the Raleigh-Durham metropolitan area could lead to the top spot in the conference race and a favorable seed in the NCAA tournament, Nelson is approaching those goals in a different order.

"When we think about what we want to do, we say we want to be the best team in the country. We say we want to be ACC champions, national champions," Nelson
said. "Those are the type of goals that we set. If we are those things, then we'll be the best team in the Triangle."

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