James: Every football season, we bloggers and pundits preach the importance of the league to perform well out of conference to improve the league's image. Basketball certainly has a much better reputation historically, but do you think the ACC has some work to do before league play starts to get back to being viewed as the NCAA's standard-bearer for the sport? Could a dominant or lackluster performance in November and December significantly help or hurt the ACC's reputation or are most folks' opinions about ACC basketball pretty set?
Bird: Personally, I think the ACC is still the best league. We produce more NBA talent per team and continuously produce Final 4 teams. The Big East has had a nice run lately but as far as consistently performing in out of conference match ups and continuously sending big time talent to the NBA, the ACC is tops.
James: We've all seen our teams at least once now. Have you seen anything in the limited action thus far that is cause for concern or cause for greater optimism than where your opinion stood just a couple of weeks ago?
Bird: Our team looks awful. The assists and rebounds are columns have been virtually empty in our first two efforts. Our big men are young, inexperienced, and lacking in Gani Lawal hustle. Our guards are not getting good penetration and pulling defenders away from our shooters. Instead of a 4 guard offense, we're playing with 4 guards on the floor and a terrified power forward. Maybe things will congeal once we get some minutes under live fire but for now Tech fans should not be optimistic about making the Dance in 2011.
James: Give me your preseason votes for: POY, COY, ROY. Explain.
Bird: I don't really follow ACC hoops. I only really follow GT hoops. So my ACC POTY will be that VT guy that's supposedly good. The Coach of the Year will be Roy Williams because any improvement would be better than the circus he fielded last season. My Rookie of the Year will be one of UNC's superstar recruits since I'm assuming UNC will be starting all freshmen this season. They kicked everyone off their team from the 2009-2010 season, right?
James: Which stands the greater probability of reoccurring this season: Duke winning the national title or Carolina returning to the NIT?
Bird: I hate Duke but Duke definitely has a good shot. The tournament is all about seeding and Duke always gets a #1 seed (aka easy road to the Final 4). The more gimme games you get, the better your odds of winning the whole thing are. Duke is a great regular season team with a relatively down ACC. They're already guaranteed the #1 or #2 overall seeding in the NCAA's before this season starts. Plus, you gotta factor in the hype they're bringing in when selection time comes.
James: I can't speak to the attendance figures for most of the other schools in the league, but State's opening matchup against Tennessee Tech was nowhere near a sellout. There were quite a few empty seats in the Dean Dome for the game against Lipscomb, as well. As television and internet technology continue to advance, consumers are starting to get better entertainment value for the dollar staying home rather than paying for tickets to attend the games themselves. In the coming years, how will ADs--struggling to balance very tight budgets--continue to move tickets and put butts in the seats without slashing ticket prices drastically?
Bird: Well, Georgia Tech is drastically renovating Alexander Memorial Coliseum in an effort to encourage more fans to attend games. The next step to increasing attendance is probably the termination of Paul Hewitt. Most diehard Tech hoops fans are pretty fed up with the lack of progression seen in Hewitt's teams year to year. But ultimately, winning cures all.
Other ways to increase attendance would be to schedule less games on weeknights, push the hoops season into the Spring (to alleviate families' pocket books), and maybe even shorten the season removing superfluous games against Random Upstate University (RPI ranking 1,040,506).
James: Which team will be the big surprise this season, either exceeding expectations greatly or falling well short of them?
Bird: I work with a lot of State grads and they force me to watch a few Sidney Lowe games per year. I feel like Sidney could find a way to coach the Dream Team to a losing record. So I'd say NC State will fail to meet expectations. And maybe Clemson or some other random school will do better than expected. Beats the Hell outta me. I watch 1-2 ACC games a year that don't involve Georgia Tech.
Thanks to James for hosting the Roundtable.