1. Duke (87 first-place votes): The Blue Devils returned five of their top six scorers and added a stellar freshman class, which makes them national favorites as well. Opponents won't be able to exploit Duke's lack of depth this season. Expect Coach K's team to pressure the ball more.

2. Boston College: The Eagles are one of just seven schools with two Wooden Award candidates: Craig Smith and Jared Dudley. Coach Al Skinner's team will need to adjust quickly to new terrain, but it should not be a problem because BC had a 25-15 road record in the Big East since the start of the 2000-01 season.

3. Wake Forest: Coach Skip Prosser got a bonus when big man Eric Williams decided to return to school, giving the Demon Deacons a strong inside-outside combination. All-league performer Justin Gray moves to point guard, replacing NBA-bound Chris Paul. The true test will be whether Wake can stop anyone defensively.

4. North Carolina State: The loss of its true playmaker, Julius Hodge, hurts, and no returning player averaged more than 10 points last year. That's not a significant problem because the Wolfpack has five players who made more than 33 percent of their three-point shots last season, all of whom mesh in the intricate Princeton-like offense.

5. Maryland: The Terrapins should have better chemistry and leadership, as well as ample incentive to return to the NCAA tournament. Expect some interesting lineup configurations because Coach Gary Williams pledges to push the ball and press. Guards Chris McCray and D.J. Strawberry should excel defensively.

6. North Carolina: The leading returning scorer, David Noel, has scored in double figures just 12 times in his career. The returning point guard, Quentin Thomas, had more turnovers than assists last year. If Coach Roy Williams takes these youngsters to the NCAA tournament, he could get consideration for conference coach of the year.

7. Miami: The Hurricanes returned 86.5 percent of their scoring, which mostly comes from perimeter players, namely Guillermo Diaz, the conference's second-leading returning scorer. The conference's best three-guard lineup could propel the 'Canes into the NCAA tournament after they faded down the stretch last season.

8. Virginia Tech: Early-season injuries could take their toll on the Hokies, but they have enough returning talent -- four starters back -- to return to the postseason for the second consecutive year. It remains to be seen if Tech can be as strong at home as it was last season in the ACC, when it won six of eight games.

9. Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets' players have started a combined three games, all belonging to Theodis Tarver, who made three starts in the 2003 NIT. The leading returning scorer, Anthony Morrow, averaged 5.7 points last year. It's time for a strong sophomore class to produce, but inexperience at point guard could be too much to overcome.

10. Clemson: Without talented big man Sharrod Ford, Clemson can't afford to be the ACC's worst free throw shooting team again. The good: Freshmen had a total of 68 starts last year, 31 more than any other ACC school, and the Tigers led the conference with nearly 10 steals per game.

11. Florida State: The Seminoles could challenge for the top half of the league after losing eight games by three or fewer points last season. They don't have a star because Von Wafer left for the NBA, but watch the development of Uche Echefu, one of the school's best-ever recruits, from Montrose Christian.

12. Virginia: The Cavaliers have what all programs crave: a solid point guard in Sean Singletary, who won ACC rookie of the week honors five times. Conference coaches don't expect Virginia to be down long given Coach Dave Leitao's track record for recruiting when he was an assistant at Connecticut.