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The Atlantic Coast Conference is clearly divided into two tiers
this season: the haves and the have-at-its. The former group
includes three of the usual suspects--Wake Forest (page 72),
North Carolina (page 76) and Duke (page 100)--and a fourth,
Clemson (page 107), that is poised to join the conference's
elite. And the latter? As Florida State coach Pat Kennedy puts
it, "That's where the dogfight is going to be."

For Kennedy's sake, Florida State needs to win that tussle.
After three straight losing seasons, fan interest has reached a
nadir, and athletic director Dave Hart's dissatisfaction with
the program is the worst-kept secret in Tallahassee. Kennedy
gamely asserts that he is not worried about keeping his job, but
he does allow that "getting back to the NCAA tournament would
certainly make it an easier situation."

He has the players to pull it off. Senior James Collins (18.3
points per game) is the ACC's best returning shooting guard, and
wiry 6'11" sophomore Randell Jackson is an NBA prospect. If 6'9"
junior forward Corey Louis can play with more passion, the
Seminoles could propel themselves into the thick of the race,
keeping Kennedy employed in the process.

Whatever turmoil is swirling around Florida State, it is no
match for what has befallen Virginia over the last 12 months.
After going only 6-10 in the conference last season, the program
had to weather the arrests of four players in three off-season
episodes. The only one of those players still on the team,
senior guard Harold Deane, was found guilty of trespassing in
April after he refused to leave a private fund-raiser at a club
in Charlottesville. "It's basically been torture," coach Jeff
Jones says. "It's going to take some time before we can erase
the perceptions I'm sure people drew from last year."

Maryland also struggled for much of last season, though the
Terps rallied late with five wins in seven games to get back
into the NCAA tournament. Four starters are gone, but the fifth,
senior power forward Keith Booth (15.3 points, 7.9 rebounds), is
an all-conference candidate. Maryland's success will depend
heavily on the play of two sophomores, swingman Laron Profit and
point guard Terrell Stokes.

Though the NBA drafted Stephon Marbury and Drew Barry, the
stellar backcourt for Georgia Tech last year, the Yellow Jackets
seemed to be in good shape with the return of do-everything
junior forward Matt Harpring and the arrival of freshman point
guard Kevin Morris. But the NCAA did not give Morris credit for
one of his high school courses, and if his appeal fails, he
won't be able to join the team until next fall. With 6'5"
sophomore Gary Saunders academically ineligible for at least the
first semester, Tech may begin the year starting two walk-ons in
its backcourt.

N.C. State has had the conference's most inept program of late,
finishing eighth or ninth the last four years. New coach Herb
Sendek will rely on senior forward Danny Strong to lift the
Wolfpack out of the conference cellar.


COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO Jackson gives the Seminoles a shot. [Randell Jackson in game]


1 Wake Forest (5) 26-6
2 North Carolina (7) 21-11
3 Duke (20) 18-13
4 Clemson (23) 18-11
5 Florida State 13-14
6 Virginia 12-15
7 Maryland 17-13
8 Georgia Tech 24-12
9 North Carolina State 15-16