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2012 ACC women's basketball preview: Can Alyssa Thomas carry the Maryland Terrapins to the top again?

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AP Preseason All-American Alyssa Thomas took the Maryland Terrapins to the ACC championship last season as a sophomore and picked up a number of accolades in the process. With the expectations for her even higher individually, can she help the Terps win consecutive ACC titles?

Mark Dolejs-US PRESSWIRE

ACC Player of the Year: Alyssa Thomas, Maryland

After being named ACC Rookie of the Year in 2011, Maryland’s do-it-all forward really burst on the national scene in 2012 averaging nearly a double-double with 17.2 points and 8 rebounds. Her list of accomplishments last year were impressive: ACC Player of the Year, ACC Tournament MVP, AP All-America First Team, USBWA All-American, WBCA Coaches' All-American. All of this while just being a sophomore, one would surmise that she would be line to even having a bigger year this year.

As her head coach Brenda Frese said about Thomas, "The most ferocious competitor I've ever coached. I knew the first time I saw her when I recruited her that she had a chance to be an All-American. Alyssa plays with a passion that very few can match. She can make plays that others can only dream about."

ACC Defensive Player of the Year: Elizabeth Williams, Duke

Williams came to Duke as a highly touted defensive presence and she did not disappoint in her first season in Durham. In her first season as a Blue Devil, Williams had a freshman record of 116 blocks which already places her as ninth all time in school history; Williams’ 116 blocks were also more than 216 Division I teams. Williams had multiple games of four blocks or more in 14 games with a school record -- 12 blocks against Wake Forest. In 2011 Williams was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year, a finalist for WBCA Defensive Player of the Year and USBWA National Freshman of the Year.

ACC Conference Champions: Duke

Duke is the favorite if they can overcome the early injuries to their team: Williams (stress fracture), Richa Jackson (knee), Amber Henson (knee), Chloe Wells (foot), and Katie Heckman (ACL). Outside of Heckman, Duke should be fully healthy by December and be in full stride by the time they start conference play.

Duke returns arguably one of the top play making point guards in the country, Chelsea Gray. Gray has an uncanny ability of making the “big” shot or making a spectacular pass and she’s clearly the catalyst for the Blue Devils. Her size (5’11”) and court vision makes her the premier point guard in the ACC. Duke also returns 6’1” Tricia Liston (12 points and 46% from three) and 6’3” versatile hard-nosed G/F Haley Peters (10.8 points and 5.6 rebounds). Also look for major contributions from Wells, Henson, Jackson as well as freshmen Sierra Moore and Alexis Jones.