ACC Conference deep-dive for the 2020-21 season

1.Virginia Cavaliers

PG: Kihei Clark

SG: Tomas Woldentensae

SF: Jabri Abdur-Rahim

PF: Sam Hauser

C: Jay Huff

Bench: Casey Morsell, Reece Beekman, Kody Stattman, Francisco Caffaro, Carson McCorkle

Departures: Mamadi Diakite, Braxton Key

Additions: Sam Hauser (Marquette), Jabri Abdur Rahim, Carson McCorkle, Reece Beekman

The Cavaliers won the most recent NCAA Tournament, so in turn, they have a chance to be back-to-back champions. They lose one of their top players from last season in Mamadi Diakite, but I think they can supplement that loss. I see Jay Huff as the top player in the conference along, with that goes being the player of the year in the conference. Last season, Huff had a 9.1 BPM (Box-Plus-Minus) being was by far the best on the Cavaliers squad last season. Huff is a 7-foot big man who’s an elite defender and can step out and hit threes. Tony Bennett’s team also has its leader from this past season Clark is small for a Basketball player he has the smarts it takes to out-weigh that. They add a big-time wing prospect in Jabri Abdur-Rahim, the son of long-time NBA player, Shareef Abdur Rahim. The younger Abdur-Rahim will play a large role this season. A big piece late in the season was Tomas Woldetensae, a former JUCO player who shot 35% from deep last season and picked it up late. It’s hard to be as terrible as Casey Morsell was on offense last season. Morsell shot 27% from-the-field, and 17% from three, but he’s a great defender made that pill easier to swallow for Tony Bennett. Virginia added a big name transfer in former Marquette forward, Sam Hauser. He’s shot 40%+ in each of his three seasons in College, adds a different dimension from what they had last season. I wouldn’t be even remotely surprised if Virginia won it all this season, they will be the ACC favorites.

2.Louisville Cardinals

Lineup:

PG: David Johnson

SG: Carlik Jones (Radford)

SF: Charles Minlend Jr (San Francisco)

PF: Samuell Williamson

C: Malik Williams

Bench: Josh Nickelberry, Aidan Igehieon, Jae’Lyn Withers, Quinn Slazinski

Additions: Carlik Jones (Radford), Charles Minlend Jr (San Francisco), Quinn Slazinski

Departures: Jordan Nwora, Dwayne Sutton, Fresh Kimble, Darius Perry (UCF), Ryan McMahon

Despite losing Jordan Nwora, Dwayne Sutton, Ryan McMahon, and Steven Enoch, I think they got better. David Johnson has such immense talent he had a 6.1 BPM even though he was injured to start the season and took a while to get into the fold. In Johnson’s Freshman season, he averaged 6.3 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 2.8 APG while not crazy stats, he showed flashes of being a superstar, especially when they won at Duke, he is also an outstanding defender. They added one of the top graduate transfers on the market in Guard, Carlik Jones he, was outstanding last season he had an 8.1 Box-Plus-Minus. They have a former McDonald’s All-American in Samuell Williamson the now-Sophomore has a silky smooth jump shot even though it didn’t go down consistently last season but, he only played intermittent minutes. Williamson is your ideal 3-and-D Wing player he has the chance to be an All-ACC player this year. Malik Williams is a top-tier defender the 6’11 frame allows him to make opposing players’ lives difficult. He’s not where he could be on offense but, we’ll have to see what happens this off-season to improve his game. They also add another key transfer that was added is Charles Minlend Jr from USF. The Cards are a tournament team and, I love the upside.

3.Duke Blue Devils

Lineup:

PG: Jordan Goldwire

SG: Wendell Moore Jr

SF: Jalen Johnson

PF: Matthew Hurt

C: Mark Williams

Bench: Jaemyn Brakefield, D.J. Steward Jeremy Roach, Joey Baker, Patrick Tape (Columbia)

Additions: Jalen Johnson, Mark Williams, D.J. Steward, Jaemyn Brakefield, Jeremy Roach, Patrick Tape (Columbia)

Departures: Tre Jones, Vernon Carey Jr, Cassius Stanley, Javin Delaurier, Justin Robinson, Jack White

Coach K has reshuffled his squad once more, losing much of the team from last season. I think Jordan Goldwire starts over the Freshman, Jeremy Roach. Goldwire now a Senior, is a defensive stopper who developed as a scorer last season, shooting 36% from three. Moore is a player I think will have a breakout season as a Freshman he was hampered by injuries. He’s a talented Guard/ Wing who’s a defense-first guy who is a talented scorer but a well-below average shooter last season at only 21% from three. Jalen Johnson has the talent to possibly be the top Freshman in the country, he’s a long and athletic wing with a smooth jumper and will no doubt be a high-impact guy for Coach K. The biggest key in my eyes is what can happen down low? Vernon Carey Jr is gone, not a ton of true big-man depth, a lot will be on the plate of Freshman, Mark Williams. I think Williams is poised for a big season because of the opportunity he’ll have, a big guy who’s a defensive-minded player, just due to pure size and strength he’ll no doubt be able to get some easy buckets against weaker defenders. The other true 5-man is Patrick Tape, a transfer from Columbia of the Ivy League. Tape missed all of last season which game him the ability to grad-transfer a highly-efficient scorer at 66% in 2018-19, but defense is an issue, should play a smaller role, but his veteran presence is needed. Former McDonald’s All-American, Matthew Hurt is back for his Sophomore Season. Hurt didn’t have the Freshman season he had imagined, only averaging 9 PPG while shooting 48% from-the-field, 39% from three. That is all nice but the issue with Hurt is that he has the height to be a four-man but not the strength he struggled on defense and getting rebounds, so that made him more of a wing. That’s not the role they want for Hurt and he needs to add some strength to live up to his potential. The Blue Devils have the talent to win the ACC, but there are questions that I outlined that make them drop for me.

4.North Carolina Tar Heels

Lineup:

PG: Caleb Love

SG: Leaky Black

SF: Puff Johnson

PF: Garrison Brooks

C: Armando Bacot

Bench: Day’Ron Sharpe, Walker Kessler, Anthony Harris, Andrew Platek, Sterling Manley, Kerwin Walton

Additions: Caleb Love, Puff Johnson, Day’Ron Sharpe, Walker Kessler, Kerwin Walton

Departures: Cole Anthony, Brandon Robinson, Brandon Huffman (Jacksonville State), Justin Pierce, Christian Keeling

Last season was an utter disappointment for Roy Williams and the Tar Heels. Having his worst season since he became the HC in Chapel Hill. The lone bright spot of last season was the emergence of Garrison Brooks, who averaged 16 PPG, 8 RPG last season. I do have some slight doubts about if Brooks can repeat that. They have a surplus of bigs, Bacot, Kessler, Sharpe, Walton, and Manley along with Brooks. I just don’t think Brooks will get the chances he did last season, especially with the way the guard depth is weak once more this season. Caleb Love is an immensely talented point guard who will carry the offense, besides him though there’s not another one guard other than Leaky Black on the roster, and he’ll be forced to play shooting guard. Puff Johnson could very well be the biggest X-Factor here, he is a knockdown shooter, something UNC sorely lacks. Other than Love and Johnson there’s little-to-no shooting on this roster. I’m curious to see the way Williams divides up the minutes between the reserve big guys, Kessler, Sharpe, Manley. I would bet Sharpe gets a majority of the minutes, followed by Kessler, and Manley will barely play. I’m very cautious about placing UNC here, but due to pedigree and coaching, I believe Roy Williams will figure it out.

5.Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Lineup:

PG: Jose Alvarado

SG: Michael Devoe

SF: Jordan Usher

PF: Khalid Moore

C: Moses Wright

Bench: Bubba Parham, Rodney Howard (Georgia), Kyle Sturdivant (USC), Saba Gigaberia, Tristan Maxwell, Jordan Meka

Additions: Rodney Howard (Georgia), Kyle Sturdivant (USC), Saba Gigaberia, Tristan Maxwell, Jordan Meka

Departures: James Banks III, Evan Cole (Utah Valley), Asanti Price (JUCO)

This team has one of the top guard duos in the nation in Mike Devoe and Jose Alvarado. Devoe has an innate ability to create for himself. He uses his 6’4 lefty frame to drive and use that soft touch and has good ball-skills to create separation against defenders. Alvarado is an elite ball-handler and passer, he can also get hot at times and knock down shots. If Alvarado can be an even more consistent scorer this could be one of the best guard duos in the country. Moses Wright is as steady as they come, a big guy who can get boards and some easy baskets, won’t shock you but does most things well. Bubba Parham, a transfer from VMI who played his first season with the Yellow Jackets last season, is one of the quicker players in the nation, he has a small frame but his elite speed makes up for it. He struggled last season, but the upside is there at VMI in, 2018-19 he averaged 21 PPG while shooting 39% from three if he regains some of that form, Josh Pastner has a high-impact guy on his hands. Jordan Usher is one of the more frustrating players to dive into in the country. His tools make it to where you’d think he can be a good player he just never has been at either USC or Georgia Tech. Due to the lack of a replacement, he’ll start, but I don’t feel good about it. The Yellow Jackets need to make the Big Dance or coach Pastner will receive his walking papers.

6.Florida State Seminoles

Lineup:

PG: Rayquan Evans

SG: M.J. Walker

SF: Scottie Barnes

PF: Malik Osbourne

C: Balsa Koprivica

Bench: Raiquan Gray, Sardaar Calhoun, Anthony Polite, Quincy Ballard, Nathaniel Jack, Tanor Ngom

Additions: Tanor Ngam, Scottie Barnes

Departures: Trent Forrest, Devin Vassell, Patrick Williams, Dominik Olejniczak

Leonard Hamilton has proven time and time again he can rebuild a roster with the best of them. Losing Trent Forrest, Devin Vassell and Pat Williams are irreplaceable, but they add one of the top Freshmen in Scottie Barnes. Usually, we don’t see a Seminoles player average over 14 PPG, that changes this year with Barnes. He may average close to 20 a game, he’s a physical specimen, who’s also a top-notch athlete. The biggest issue is the lack of a true Point Guard. RayQuan Evans is the only one with lead-guard experience and will have to do a lot in that role this season. In Evans’s limited play last season, he showed he can shoot it well. I could see Balsa Koprivica having a huge season, due to injuries his last season of HS, he dropped in the rankings mightily, but at one point he was a big-time recruit. The 7’1 Serbian has a soft touch at the rack and if he bulks up, watch out. M.J. Walker averaged double-figures and shot a solid percentage from three, but his overall percentage of his 39% needs to be improved for him to live up to his potential. The bench here is a lot of unanswered questions, If Calhoun or Polite develop that would make the bench unit much better than it looks. This roster isn’t a top-5 roster in the ACC, but coaching and development reign supreme.

7.Clemson Tigers

Lineup

PG: Al Amir-Dawes

SG: Clyde Trapp

SF: John Newman III

PF: Aamir Simms

C: Lynn Kidd

Bench: P.J. Hall, Hunter Tyson, Nick Honor (Fordham), Alex Hemenway, Olivier-Maxence Prosper

Additions: Lynn Kidd, Nick Honor (Fordham), P.J. Hall, Olivier-Maxence Prosper

Departures: Tevin Mack, Trey Jemison (UAB), Curran Scott, Khavon Moore (USC-Upstate)

I’m likely higher than most on the Tigers’ but there’s a lot to like here. Al-Amir Dawes as a Freshman had a solid season but showed flashes of one day being great. He doesn’t shy away from contact and is tough as nails. John Newman III is one of the best dunkers in the nation. He threw down the hammer many times last season. I think Newman shoots slightly better and emerges as a potential All-ACC player, the talent is evident it’s just if he puts it all together and I think he does. And the star of the team, Aamir Simms. An elite defender in Simms, who also had 13.2 PPG last season while shooting 48% from-the-field, and a blistering 40% from three. They need to run the team through him as he looks to prove he’s one of the best players in the conference. Nick Honor spent one season at Fordham before leaving for Clemson, at Fordham in 2018-19, Honor had 15 PPG but an absurdly high usage rate that affected his efficiency, only 37% from-the-field, 33% from deep but has a smooth stroke. Lynn Kidd, originally a member of the 2021 class re-classified into 2020 a few months back. Kidd is a 6’10 elite athlete who no doubt will play a big role in Brad Brownell’s team this season. P.J. Hall is another big name recruit, a stocky 6’9 Center who can bully smaller big-men down-low. Brad Brownell’s squad could return to the Big Dance for the first time since 2018.

8.Syracuse Orange

Lineup:

PG: Joe Girard III

SG: Alan Griffin (Illinois)

SF: Buddy Boeheim

PF: Quincy Gurrier 

C: Bourama Sidibe

Bench: Marek Dolezaj, Frank Anselem, Kadary Richmond, John Bol Ajok

Additions: Alan Griffin (Illinois), Frank Anselem, Kadary Richmond

Departures: Elijah Hughes, Brycen Goodine (Providence), Jalen Carry (Rhode Island)

The trio of Girard, Boeheim, Griffin is possibly the best shooting trio in the nation. Girard struggled from the field mightily last season but has a smooth stroke and is very Jimmer-like in terms of range and shot form, he shot an outstanding 89% from the charity stripe also shows that when going he can easily become a great shooter from deep. Girard will have a breakout season and be an All-ACC guy. Alan Griffin was fourth in Box-Plus-Minus per Bart Torvik last season, only trailing Obi Toppin, Xavier Tillman, and Killian Tillie. Griffin shot 41% from three last season for the Illini, I think he can replicate that and possibly become a star for Jim Boeheim. The third piece of the fantastic trio is Buddy Boeheim, the coach’s kid. A pure shooting wing who was 36% from three this past season, I think he develops as more than a shooter this season. It’s not a Cuse’ squad without bigs who don’t score, right? Yes, Bourama Sidibe and Marek Dolezaj, the players in the middle of the Cuse zone defense. Steady defenders, not much in the way of offense and that’s the way Coach likes it. Death, Taxes, Cuse on the bubble, but I think the Orange could easily be in if a few things go right. 

9.Virginia Tech Hokies

PG: Wabissa Bede

SG: Jalen Cone

SF: Hunter Catoor

PF: Tyrece Radford

C: Justyn Mutts (Delaware)

Bench: Cartier Diarra (Kansas State), Nayheim Alleyene, Cordell Pemsl (Iowa), Joe Bamisile, Darius Maddox, David N’Guessan

Additions: Cartier Diarra (Kansas State), Cordell Pemsl (Iowa), Justyn Mutts (Delaware), Joe Bamisile, Darius Maddox, David N’Guessan

Departures: Landers Nolley II

Speaking of great 3-point shooting teams, I raise you the Hokies. Jalen Cone, the former top-100 recruit will be given the reign of this team with the departure of Landers Nolley. Cone shot 45% from three last season and will look to show his skills outside of shooting. Last season, top-to-bottom Tyrece Radford was the best player for Mike Young’s squad. Radford is an extremely undersized forward, he’s 6’2″ and played the four spot last season, he’s a good defender and is great at driving but can’t shoot at all, only 8% from deep. Hunter Catoor is another top-notch shooter, he shot over 40% last season and will look to continue to show his spot on the team as a knockdown shooter. The graduate transfer from Delaware, Justyn Mutts joins the fold also, he’s someone who can go up and get any rebound is something much needed for this Hokies squad as they lacked that last season. Another grad transfer they added is K-State guard, Cartier Diarra. The kind of player Diarra is can be confusing, he makes some eye-popping plays then the net possession he’ll go way too fast and turn it over. Not much of a shooter only 30% from deep last season but give him a smaller workload than he had at K-State last season and he could be a major part due to his crafty inside scoring. Another transfer that was acquired is Cordell Pemsl from Iowa. At Iowa, Pemsl didn’t provide much offense, defense is his calling card and what earns him minutes. In Mike Young’s 2nd season, the Hokies shouldn’t falter like they did last season.

10.Boston College Eagles

Lineup:

PG: Jay Heath

SG: Wynston Tabbs

SF: C.J. Felder

PF: Steffon Mitchell

C: James Karnik (Lehigh)

Bench: Rich Kelly (Quinnipiac) Fred Scott (Rider), DeMarr Langford, Makai Ashton-Langford (Providence)

Additions: Rich Kelly (Quinnipiac), James Karnik (Lehigh), Makai Ashton-Langford (Providence), DeMarr Langford

Departures: Derryck Thornton, Nik Popovic, Julian Rishwain (San Francisco), Jarius Hamilton (Maryland), Julian Hamilton, Chris Herren Jr (San Diego)

A Jim Christian led team might be good? 2020 drops many surprises so add this to the tally! What makes this team different from the other recent Boston College teams that disappointed? In my eyes, it’s the lack of a star that helps them. No Jerome Robinson, no Ky Bowman while they were both fantastic, having an unselfish guy who will play whatever role is huge along with better depth. The best player on the team? The best Glue-Guy in the country is Steffon Mitchell. He’s such an elite defender, a solid passer for a big, good scorer inside, he’s not a guy who’s stats will make you freak out, but he’s far more important than his 9 PPG, 8 RPG would indicate. After a year hiatus due to injury, Wynston Tabbs is back in 2018-19. As a Freshman, Tabbs had 13.9 PPG while shooting 43% from-the-field and showed flashes of greatness, unfortunately, we didn’t get to see him last season. The other starting guard, Jay Heath, who has a shot to be an elite shooter. He shot 36% from deep last season as A Freshman while averaging 13 PPG. The three transfers who will play big roles this season are Rich Kelly, a sharpshooting guard who came in from Quinnipiac. Fred Scott from Rider who started his career at DePaul, a stretch-big who’s a score-first guy. Then the final one is James Karnik, given he needs a waiver. He wasn’t likely to apply for one before Southern Utah transfer, Andre Adams suffered a season-ending injury. Karnik is a 6’9 big who had 12.2 PPG, 7.2 RPG at Lehigh last season, a big-time part for Jim Christian. Can the Eagles get back to the Big Dance? It’s possible.

11.North Carolina State Wolfpack

Lineup:

PG: Devon Daniels

SG: Braxton Beverly

SF: Jericole Hellems

PF: Manny Bates

C: D.J. Funderburk

Bench: Cam Hayes, Nick Farrar, Ebenezer Dowouna, Shakeel Moore, Jaylon Gibson, Thomas Allen (Nebraska)

Additions: Thomas Allen (Nebraska), Cam Hayes, Nick Farrar, Ebenezer Dowouna, Shakeel Moore, Jaylon Gibson

Departures: Markell Johnson, C.J. Bryce, Pat Andree

In Kevin Keatts’ fourth Season, the Wolfpack will be firmly on the outside looking in once more. Devon Daniels, the senior guard is a stocky score first guy, who rebounds his position well, he shot 47% from-the-field is as good as you could ask for, but only 32% from three, hopefully, he improves upon that. Speaking of Senior returnees, D.J. Funderburk is back. He averaged 12.8 PPG last season, he will once more be a big factor in the ACC. Who can be the biggest difference-maker? Manny Bates. When you think of top-tier defenders, Bates needs to be at the top of the list. He’s a force on the block, he only had 5 PPG last season but that’s not what he’s there for. Expect him to only improve and continue to be an elite defender. The sharpshooter on this team is Braxton Beverly, shooting 34%+ in all three seasons for NC State, which should continue once more. They add a key transfer this season is Thomas Allen, transferred in from Nebraska and sat last season. He averaged 9 PPG while shooting 36% from deep for a decent Cornhuskers team. Would I be surprised if NC State is better than I have them? Not at all. 

12.Miami Hurricanes

Lineup:

PG: Chris Lykes

SG: Isaiah Wong

SF: Kam McGusty

PF: Earl Timberlake

C: Sam Waardenburg

Bench: Nysier Brooks (Cincinnati), Matt Cross, Anthony Walker III, Deng Gak, Rodney Miller Jr, Willie Herenton, Harlond Beverly

Additions: Nysier Brooks (Cincinnati), Earl Timberlake

After another lost season for the Canes’ is this year different? Talent-Wise it most definitely is. Chris Lykes and McGusty both dealt with injuries on-and-off last season the pedigree with Lykes speaks to how good he can be, he needs to be on the court. Lykes had his best shooting season last season, 38% from deep, he will be a-top the ACC in scoring again. McGusty had 12 PPG last season while shooting 43% from-the-field, 32% from three, if healthy he will be a big contributor once again. A substantial recruit that was added is Earl Timberlake. His size and strength are unmatched, a Guard/ Wing hybrid, who can get whatever he wants at the cup against less-strong defenders. Imposing his physicality will be the main thing for him, know what you have, and use it to your advantage. The big-man grouping of Senior’s Sam Waardenburg and Cincinnati transfer, Nysier Brooks will be an interesting one to follow. Waardenburg is one of the least efficient bigs you’ll find only shooting 41% from-the-field, while Brooks being much more efficient likely steals minutes from Waardenburg as the season rolls on. Harlond Beverly is another breakout candidate, he’s a very athletic combo-guard who needs to improve his shooting, that’s the main setback with Beverly. Wong showed flashes of being the next go-to scorer at The U following Chris Lykes departure following the 2020-21 season, however for this season as the third focal point in terms of scoring he needs to continue to be a good shooter with his 37% from three and plays his role. Anthony Walker could also steal minutes as the season moves along, great burst for a big-man, shows a different archetype from Waardenburg and Brooks. Jim Larranaga should have a bounce-back season his hands.

13. Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Lineup:

PG: Daivien Williamson (ETSU)

SG: Ismael Massoud

SF: Jalen Johnson (Tennessee)

PF: Isaiah Mucius

C: Ody Oguama

Bench: Jacobi Neath, Ian DuBose (Houston Baptist), Jonah Antonio (UNLV), Isaiah Wilkins (Virginia Tech) Sunday Okeke, Emmanuel Okpomo

Additions: Daivien Williamson (ETSU), Jalen Johnson, Ian DuBose (Houston Baptist), Jonah Antonio (UNLV), Emmanuel Okpomo

Departures: Brandon Childress, Chaundee Brown (Michigan), Olivier Sarr (Kentucky), Michael Wynn (Akron), Sharone Wright Jr

Steve Forbes heading to Winston-Salem was one of the most underrated topics of the offseason. After a five-season stint at ETSU, earning two NCAA Tournament bids, and notching 30-wins in 2019-20. Getting a proven winner to replace Danny Manning is significant, trying to bring back the glory of the Tim Duncan and Chris Paul days and try to put recent times in the rear-view mirror. Forbes brought former ETSU guard, Daivien Williamson along with him to Winston-Salem, fittingly enough that’s Williamson’s hometown. Williamson has an elite motor and is uber-efficient, shooting 48% from-the-field, along with a very good 38% from deep while running the point for a 30-win ETSU squad. One of my top breakout candidates in the nation is G/Wing, Ismael Massoud. If you were to draw up a modern-day 3-and-D player, Massoud fits the prototype to a tee. A very good defender and an elite shooter are what you have with Massoud, shooting 39% from three as a Freshman, he will take the next step-up from his 4.8 PPG Freshman season. Coach Forbes also pouched ETSU transfer candidate, Jalen Johnson to come with him to Wake instead of staying with his ETSU Commitment. Isaiah Mucius is another guy who has all the physical tools to be a great player, we just haven’t seen it consistently up to this point. Losing Olivier Sarr won’t be easy to stomach for Steve Forbes and company but it was expected. Ody Oguama will be the one now put into the starting center role. A defensive-minded big who hasn’t turned the corner in terms of offensive skills just yet will have a tall task in replacing Sarr. A pair of Guard grad transfers, Ian DuBose, Jonah Antonio from Houston Baptist, and UNLV respectively. DuBose was a star on a brutally bad HBU team, ranking 343 out of 352 D-1 Teams last season. DuBose had 19.0 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 3.8 RPG while shooting 43% from-the-field, 32% from long distance last season. While the efficiency numbers aren’t good, they aren’t terrible for the lone bright spot on an awful team. Antonio has always been a guy that you hear can shoot, at the D-1 level, we’ve yet to see it. Antonio shot 33% for Mount St Mary’s in his lone season there, spent a season at a JUCO, then one season for UNLV where he shot 31% from three. He has a nice jumper it just doesn’t go in as much as I’d like it to. The Deacs are on the up with Steve Forbes at the helm. 

 14.Pittsburgh Panthers

Lineup:

PG: Xavier Johnson

SG: Au’Diese Toney

SF: Justin Champagnie

PF: Noah Collier

C: Terrell Brown

Bench: William Jeffress Jr, Femi Odukale, Ithel Horton, John Hugley, Max Amaduson, Abdoul Karim Coulibaly

Additions: Noah Collier, Max Amaduson, William Jeffress Jr

Departures: Ryan Murphy, Trey McGowens (Nebraska), Eric Hamilton

Now in Jeff Capel’s third season, he likely thinks he has the squad with tournament aspirations, I have some reservations about this team though. In 2018-19, Xavier Johnson looked to be a rising star, yet he took a massive step-down last season. Johnson went from averaging 15.5 PPG to 11.7 PPG as a Sophomore, shooting percentage also took a nose-dive from 41% to 37%. If Johnson bounces back, things bode well for the Panthers. Au’Diese Toney is a lengthy shooting guard, he shot 46% from-the-field, with 32% from three last season. If Toney can progress as a shooter, he could take on a starring role. Justin Champagnie as a Freshman averaged 12 PPG along with 7.2 RPG last season. While I provide this stat, you may continue to notice a bad trend, only shot 26% from three, this team struggles shooting in a big way. Another thing that is an issue is the play from bigs. The main question is what can Terrell Brown be as a senior? He’s always been a good defender, just doesn’t provide a ton in terms of offense. His efficiency took a big jump from 43% to 52% this past season, but for a 6’10 big who can’t shoot he should be better. The Panthers did receive a gut-punch earlier this past week with the news of Miami (OH) transfer, Nike Sibande getting his waiver denied. One way or the other, I think the Panthers have their best season under Capel and are firmly in the NIT conversation. 

15.Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Lineup: 

PG: Cormac Ryan (Stanford)

SG: Prentiss Hubb

SF: Dane Goodwin

PF: Nate Laszewski

C: Juwan Durham

Bench: Nikola Djogo, Tony Sanders Jr, Matt Zona

Additions: Tony Sanders Jr, Matt Zona

Departures: John Money, T.J. Gibbs, Rex Pflugger

Lots of question marks with Mike Brey’s squad earning them this last and final spot in the ACC. Cormac Ryan, a transfer from Stanford who sat last season, once a top-100 prospect. Ryan known as a top-tier shooter coming into college only shot 41% from three last season, I’m intrigued to see how he develops this season after a year off. Prentiss Hubb took a notable jump from his first to his second season, averaging 12 PPG in his Sophomore campaign, a solid shooter at 34% from three though, I’d like to see improvement in other areas of the floor in terms of efficiency. Dane Goodwin is someone many in the industry are big on and that’s for a good reason, he’s a talented player who averaged 10.8 PPG, shot 43% from-the-field, and 37% from three last season as he looks to build upon that next season. Nate Lazewski hit one of the best buzzer-beaters in College Basketball last season, hitting a huge fadeaway three with time expiring to send the game against Toledo to OT eventually leading to a Fighting Irish victory. Laszewski is a 6’10” forward with a buttery smooth jumper, but just sank them in at a 31% clip, I’d like to see that be better and I think it could quite easily. One of my big issues with this team is the depth and play down-low, there’s just not a ton there in terms of depth. Juwan Durham will have to fill the huge shoes that John Mooney left behind with his consistent double-double’s, just impossible to replace. Durham is a solid player he had 7.8 PPG, 4.6 RPG this past season in just 17 minutes per game. Though being my final team in the ACC, this conference is loaded and the Fighting Irish won’t be bad at all.

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