GREENSBORO, N.C., NOV. 1 -- Dean Smith gave it his best shot today -- but it wasn't quite enough. He told the annual preseason meeting of Atlantic Coast Conference media members that his North Carolina team was the youngest he had ever had, was too inexperienced, was practicing poorly and "isn't a very good team right now."
The media listened, took notes then picked the Tar Heels to win the ACC, just ahead of Duke. The Blue Devils received 49 first-place votes -- six more than Carolina -- but finished four points behind the Tar Heels because two of the 99 voters picked them either fourth or fifth while none picked Smith's team lower than third.
Georgia Tech, N.C. State, Maryland, Virginia, Clemson and Wake Forest followed in the annual poll. Maryland, which finished 0-14 in the conference last season in Bob Wade's rookie season as coach, was picked as high as third based on the return of all five starters from last season and the addition of three top recruits.
"If we win one ACC game I'll consider the season a success because that will mean we did better than last year," Wade said.
Wade's team is still in flux. Senior Derrick Lewis, a returning first team all-ACC player, is under doctor's orders not to practice because of a recurrence of high blood pressure that hampered him as a freshman. He is taking medication and Wade said he might return this week.
"We're very optimistic, but it's a day-to-day thing," Wade said.
Also not practicing are fifth-year guard Keith Gatlin and transfer Rodney Walker, ordered by Wade to concentrate on academics. That Wade has a brilliant junior college point guard in Rudy Archer may have something to do with his willingness to keep Gatlin out.
Also not practicing is junior Phil Nevin. Wade tried to get Nevin to give up his scholarship last spring when it became apparent Nevin wasn't going to play. Nevin balked and, after a spate of publicity, Wade restored his scholarship but has not allowed him to be a part of the team.
"He has all scholarship privileges," Wade said. "But he is not participating in practice."
Maryland has had fewer troubles this fall than North Carolina. Two weeks ago, Tar Heels sophomore center Scott Williams' father shot and killed Williams' mother, then took his own life. Williams returned to practice on Friday.
Smith, who had missed two days of practice in 26 years, was forced to miss four days because of a serious nose bleed. His doctor told him his blood pressure (now back to normal) had gone up after Williams' tragedy and that, combined with his heavy smoking, had caused the problem.
"I'm only allowed eight cigarettes a day now," said Smith, who has been at least a two-pack-a-day man for years. "But if I put one out early, I can keep it and re-light it."
Finally, two Tar Heels, forwards J.R. Reid and Steve Bucknall, were charged with assault nine days ago after becoming involved in a brawl in a Raleigh nightclub. There is speculation Smith will suspend the two players for North Carolina's opener Nov. 21 against Syracuse.
Even with the preseason troubles, North Carolina -- with Reid, Jeff Lebo and Williams returning -- was the writers' top pick. Duke, returning four starters from its 24-9 team, was close behind.
Georgia Tech, with perhaps the best starting forwards in the country in Tommy Hammonds and Duane Ferrell, got six first-place votes and North Carolina State, which came from sixth place to win the ACC Tournament last season, got the remaining first-place vote.