ACC Conference Preview
The ACC is once again loaded, with three legitimate National Championship contending teams at the top with Virginia, North Carolina, and Duke. The Conference also has eight teams that have a legitimate case to be ranked in the Top-25 preseason, which is simply ridiculous. Syracuse, Virginia Tech, Florida State, all are going to be in that preseason Top-25, while Clemson and NC State both could make it. The ACC then has three bubble teams with Notre Dame, Louisville, and Miami, which all could make the tournament. Finally, the conference has the bottom four of Boston College, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, and Pittsburgh who will all miss the tournament. Having a league this deep is going to positively impact each teams seeding come NCAA Tournament time, while also giving the conference a lot of primetime games.
Power Rankings along with Team Breakdowns
1.Virginia: The Cavaliers are fresh off another ACC regular season and tournament title, the problem is that they then became the first 1 seed to lose to a 16 seed. The trio of De’Andre Hunter, Kyle Guy, and Ty Jerome should be a good one once again, that paired with their Virginia defense should keep them atop the ACC standings. The only question really left for Tony Bennett to answer is whether he can advance in the tournament, this years team certainly could make a Final Four but we’ll have to wait and see if they actually can.
2.North Carolina: The Tar Heels by far have the deepest lineup in the ACC, having 9 or 10 players that can play legitimate minutes this season. Luke Maye and Nassir Little will get most of the headlines, as both could average north of 15 points per game but after them, it is countless names that can step in and play good minutes. Their depth will give many teams issues and will help them get through the ACC gauntlet without too many issues. The Tar Heels are a team that could legitimately win the ACC and they will have a chance to win another National Championship.
3.Duke: Duke enters into this season with one of the best recruiting classes of all time, as they have four Top-15 recruits in the country. RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson will get the most hype, one being the top recruit and one being the most famous one but for Duke to do well this year Cam Reddish, Tre Jones, and Marques Bolden must be key contributors. Duke should have a good season once again, by finishing high in the ACC standings and having a team that could easily go to the Final Four or win the National title.
4.Syracuse: After being mediocre in ACC play over the past few years, the Orange finally have a roster that has the talent compete atop the ACC. The Orange return all five starters and should continue to get good play from the trio of Tyus Battle, Oshae Brissett, and Frank Howard, although the real key will be whether or not players like Jalen Carey and Paschal Chukwu can help out them scoring wise. I think the Orange should go around 12-6 in ACC play and be in good position to get a high seed in March.
5.Florida State: The Seminoles are fresh off a great elite eight run last season and return mostly everyone from that team, however, the big question is whether or not they can continue to compete at that level. Phil Cofer and Terrance Mann should continue to lead the Seminoles in scoring, while players like MJ Walker, Trent Forest, and PJ Savoy should make improvements this season. I think the Seminoles should be in that 4-8 range of the ACC, going around 11-7 or 12-6 in league play, while earning a higher seed in this seasons NCAA Tournament.
6.Virginia Tech: Virginia Tech enters this season with high expectations, as the Hokies look to become a consistent Top-25 team, as well as compete atop the ACC standings. The Hokies return point guard Justin Robinson, who has proven himself to be an elite player, the Hokies also have players like Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Ahmed Hill, Chris Clarke, and Kerry Blackshear who should help the Hokies out. I expect the Hokies to be in that 4-8 range of the ACC, going around 11-7 in conference play, a record that could get the Hokies a high seed in this upcoming NCAA Tournament.
7.Clemson: Clemson had an incredible season last year, as they finished third in the ACC and made it to the Sweet 16, now the real pressure is on the Tigers as they hope to repeat that success this season. The trio of Marcquise Reed, Shelton Mitchell, and Elijah Thomas should continue to thrive, however, beyond that there isn’t a whole lot of talent. I think the Tigers should win a lot of games because of those three, however, with the depth of the ACC, it will be hard for them to have a better record than 11-7 this season.
8.North Carolina State: While NC State does have issues up front, they have one of the deepest and most talented backcourts in the country, which should make them fun to watch. The Wolfpack will likely start four guards and play quick, I expect Torin Dorn, Braxton Beverly, Markell Johnson, CJ Bryce and Devon Daniels to all help NC State have one of the fastest and highest-scoring offenses in the country. The Wolfpack should be a tough matchup for anyone they play against this season, which should allow them to win games in the ACC, ultimately I think they end up going around 10-8 in ACC play while pulling off a few upsets and making the NCAA Tournament.
9.Louisville: Louisville enters year one of the Chris Mack era with some good pieces, although it’s likely that this will just be a rebuilding year. The Cardinals are deep at the guard position, meaning they should try to play a small ball lineup this season, with either Jordan Nwora or VJ King being at the four the entire season. Look for King, Darius Perry, and Malik Williams to all improve their play and become key contributors. I think this team has the talent to be in the mix for an NCAA Tournament bid, I see them likely going 7-11 in ACC play, which would make Cardinals fans nervous on Selection Sunday.
10.Miami: The Hurricanes this year have a solid group of players, however, the real question is whether they can compete with other teams in the league. The Hurricanes should be led by Chris Lykes, Dewan Huell, Dejan Vasijevec, and Zach Johnson, while they will need other players to step up. At their best Miami could contend in that 4-8 range in the ACC, although it’s more likely they go 8-10 in ACC play, which would find them on the bubble come Selection Sunday.
11.Notre Dame: Notre Dame has a lot of good solid young pieces, the question though is whether or not they can compete in the ACC and get into the NCAA Tournament. The Irish should be led by Temple Gibbs, while players like DJ Harvey, Rex Pflueger, and Elijah Burns should help out scoring-wise. I think the ceiling on this team is a team that comfortably makes it into the tournament, although a likely result is a 7-11 finish in the ACC and another nerve-racking Selection Sunday for the Irish
12.Boston College: Boston College enters this year likely staring down another missed NCAA Tournament, in part because of the Eagles lack of depth. While Boston College might be down this season, one fun thing to watch will be what Ky Bowman can fo this season, Bowman is an elite level scorer, who could find himself leading the ACC in scoring. Boston College is the best of the bottom four teams, meaning they should beat up on the bottom of the league, although they will likely lose to most if not all the teams ranked ahead of them, meaning they should go around 4-14 in league play.
13.Wake Forest: Wake Forest put together another great recruiting class but once again will be lacking the experience needed to realistically compete in the ACC. Jaylen Hoard, Isaiah Mucius, Brandon Childress and Chandee Brown are a decent formation of players, which should allow the Demon Deacons to beat out some ACC teams. I think the Demon Deacons should win a couple of games based on talent alone but a reasonable finish in the ACC is probably going to be 4-14.
14.Georgia Tech: Georgia Tech should once again be near the bottom of the ACC this season, as they don’t have a good enough collection of experienced players to compete against the top of the ACC. The Yellow Jackets have some decent pieces with Jose Alvarado, Curtis Haywood, and Mike DeVoe but those players probably aren’t good enough to win games in the ACC this season. I think Georgia Tech should probably go either 4-14 or 3-15 in the ACC, while the Yellow Jackets miss another NCAA Tournament.
15.Pittsburgh: Jeff Capel comes into year one at Pittsburgh with a lot of work to do in order to make Pittsburgh relevant again. The Panthers roster is just not good at the moment and while Capel did a decent job of damage control by getting a couple of four-star recruits in Trey McGowens and Au’Diese Toney, it is evident that the Panthers will struggle this year. I think the Panthers should avoid going 0-18 like last season, although they’ll probably still end up being dead last in the ACC.
RJ Barrett (ACC Player of the year):
Luke Maye – North Carolina
Tyus Battle – Syracuse
Ky Bowman – Boston College
De’Andre Hunter – Virginia
Kyle Guy – Virginia
Justin Robinson – Virginia Tech
Marcquise Reed – Clemson
Naasir Little – North Carolina
Zion Williamson – Duke
Cam Reddish – Duke
Torin Dorn – NC State
Temple Gibbs – Notre Dame
Terrance Mann – Florida State
Oshae Brissett – Syracuse
Five Best Freshmen
RJ Barrett – Duke
Nassir Little – North Carolina
Cam Reddish – Duke
Zion Williamson – Duke
Coby White – North Carolina
Five Best Newcomers
Zach Johnson – Miami
CJ Bryce – NC State
Khwan Fore – Louisville
Christen Cunningham – Louisville
Devon Daniels – NC State
Five Breakout Players
Torin Dorn – NC State
De’Andre Hunter – Virginia
Braxton Beverly – NC State
Chris Lykes – Miami
Darius Perry – Louisville