The ACC is a staple in College Basketball and while there’s no Coach K retirement tour, the ACC buzz heading into this season is palpable. The North Carolina-Duke rivalry is always going to be highly contested, maybe no year more than this. While the league seems to have more Tournament teams and a return to ACC dominance. So let’s dive into the ACC heading into this season.
1.North Carolina Tar Heels
In the middle of last season, many wondered if Hubert Davis was the guy for the job, flash forward and they made a National Championship, ended Coach K’s career, and now likely enter this season as the preseason #1 team. The Tar Heels return four of their five starters, most notably Armando Bacot, who was dominant in the Tournament, being a great interior scorer and dominant rebounder, which should translate to an ACC Player of the year season. Caleb Love was certainly streaky but his highs were what made this team great, especially as he had huge games against UCLA and Duke, although he hopes to be more consistent. RJ Davis really was the engine to their run, his takeover of the point guard spot really helped the offense click and while maybe he’s not the highest upside player, he impacts winning.
The Heels will round out the rotation of course with Leaky Black, who while not a good scorer, is an elite defender who shuts down opposing players best while making the right plays. Northwestern transfer Pete Nance isn’t the volume shooter of Manek, but can space the floor and is a little more capable of playing the five to get Bacot rest. The Heels also add two highly coveted freshmen, Seth Trimble provides the team with a good guard option who will hope to develop into a key piece, while Jalen Washington will be an impactful piece up front. Puff Johnson will also contend for minutes, having had a good finish to last season, he hopes to improve into a key bench role.
We’ve seen in the past, North Carolina has lost a National Championship and won the title the very next season and certainly, this team is poised to do just that. A lot of people will point to UCLA of last season as a reason to not be excited but that’s a flawed logic, as North Carolina was a better team than that UCLA team and that UCLA team was also really good. As for this roster, it has four really good players that have played together, plus plenty of good talent that can develop elsewhere. Winning a title is hard but if there’s any team that can do it, this team should be at the top of that list.
2.Duke Blue Devils
The Coach K era ends with 5 National Championships, 13 Final Fours, and 1,202 wins, but a new era begins with Jon Scheyer taking the reins. Scheyer starts off by bringing in a loaded recruiting class that hopes to lift him to early success. Dariq Whitehead probably becomes the star, he’s a three-level scorer, a good ball-handler, and has elite athleticism to project as a great guard. Derek Lively will fill in as the center, his athleticism and size should allow him to be one of the premier centers in the sport. The third of the big three freshmen, Kyle Filipowski will provide skill, size, and shooting to be a great fit next to Lively and make up a great front-court duo.
The Blue Devils fit that rotation with a couple of veteran pieces, headed by Jeremy Roach. Roach is a quality point guard, who will get others involved but also has the chops to make big shots late in games. Jacob Grandison should start at the three, where he fits in as a modern-day three and D player. Tyrese Proctor reclassified to help provide depth, while he’s probably not ready to start day one, look for him to improve throughout the season and be an impact player in March. Mark Mitchell will also provide depth up front as a freshman, while Ryan Young should be a backup center. Jaden Schutt and Jaylen Blakes will compete for any additional minutes.
This roster has all the talent that you could want, Whitehead, Lively, and Filipowski both have a good chance to win Freshman of the year Nationwide. They also have a steady guard in Jeremy Roach and enough shooting to surround that core. There are two questions to have with this team, to start, can we trust Jon Scheyer in his first year to get the best out of the roster? Then, of course, can Duke’s heavily freshman-laden roster win an ACC and NCAA Tournament title? If you take out those two questions, there’s really no reason to believe Duke is anything but one of the teams to beat in the sport.
PG: Jeremy Roach
SG: Jacob Grandison
SF: Dariq Whitehead
PF: Kyle Filipowski
C: Dereck Lively
Bench: Tyrese Proctor, Mark Mitchell, Ryan Young, Jaden Schutt, Jaylen Blakes
3.Florida State Seminoles
Coming off a rough season, Florida State looks to rebound with a now year older roster and continued added depth. Matthew Cleveland looks to step forward and emerge as a draft prospect, his size and athleticism make him a great piece but developed shooting would be big. Caleb Mills transferred in and was an effective scorer and good shooter for the Seminoles, but he hopes to take another step forward again this year. Jalen Warley will hope to develop similarly, the long guard showed unselfish playmaking but will need to develop more as a scorer. The Seminoles’ biggest addition to the roster was adding a knockdown shooter like Darin Green Jr, who will space the floor in a way they simply didn’t a season ago.
The Seminoles will once again rely on their bench for much of their production. Freshman Baba Miller will be one of the more interesting players to watch with his size and guard-like skill set. Cam’Ron Fletcher should continue to provide this team with a solid option at the four because of his size and spacing. As will Cameron Cohern, who can space the floor and be a bruising scorer inside, making him a good long-term piece. De’Ante Green will also look to play in the frontcourt, making his mark most likely as a versatile forward that can play-make. Chandler Jackson rounds out the likely rotation being a good defensive wing, who hopes to gain Hamilton’s trust early on.
This Florida State team seems to be flying a bit under the radar. While last season was a rough one, the Seminoles did develop throughout the season and now this team seems to fit in better. They have a lot more depth than a year ago, they have more shooting and Leonard Hamilton won’t let the defense be bad again. Sure, having no real superstars will keep this team from making a Final Four run, but they’ll contend near the top of the ACC and have a single-digit seed in the NCAA Tournament once again.
PG: Jalen Warley
SG: Caleb Mills
SF: Darin Green Jr
PF: Matthew Cleveland
C: Baba Miller
Bench: Cam’Ron Fletcher, Cameron Cohern, De’Ante Green, Chandler Jackson
New year, same core for a Virginia team hoping to bounce back and not only make the NCAA Tournament but make a deep Tournament run. Kihei Clark is back again, we know he’s going to be solid running the point and getting others involved but he can also score. Jayden Gardner will play the four and be the leading scorer, as he will score inside for this team. Reece Beekman will hope to take a step forward while being known for his shutdown defense, he started to take a step forward late a season ago.
Armaan Franklin fills out the backcourt, while he struggled shooting a year ago, he’s due for a bounce-back season where he spaces the floor. Kadin Shedrick will act as a mobile, shot-blocking big man, which is a key role. Francisco Caffaro will act as a more stiff big man, who will rebound and defend around the rim. Ben Vander Plas comes in having beaten Virginia previously, he can space the floor, score efficiently inside, and rebound, making him a good change of pace up front. Isaac Traudt rounds out the big man rotation, being a good athletic four-star big man. Isaac McKeenly and Leon Bond project to get good minutes as freshmen, both hoping to provide some scoring pop and crack the rotation early on.
This Virginia roster reminds me a little of the 2017 Virginia team, there appears to be a changing of the guard roster-wise but currently, the veteran pieces make what’s best for the present. Clark and Gardner as core pieces are solid but have a limited upside, while I’m not sure anyone else is quite ready to carry the load offensively. The defense and Tony Bennett are enough to get this team to contend in the ACC but probably not to do much more.
PG: Kihei Clark
SG: Reece Beekman
SF: Armaan Franklin
PF: Jayden Gardner
C: Kadin Shedrick
Bench: Ben Vander Plas, Francisco Caffaro, Leon Bond, Isaac McKneely, Isaac Traudt
Coming off the program’s first-ever Elite Eight, Miami has gone back to work to try to improve upon its roster largely through the portal and recruiting-wise. Nijel Pack was the most sought-after transfer, yet the Canes landed the scoring guard, who is one of the best high-volume shooters in the sport. Alongside Pack is Isaiah Wong, who was a key piece a year ago, he thrives scoring off the bounce and is a three-level scorer, which makes one of the best 1-2 punches in College Basketball. Jordan Miller returns as a starter hoping to once again provide some scoring pop on the wing.
The Canes add in Norchad Omier, who projects to be a decent scorer but also a high-level rebounder for this team. Anthony Walker will provide elite athleticism at the five spot for the Hurricanes. Jakai Robinson hopes to give some depth in his first year of playing minutes. Freshman AJ Casey should get rotation minutes in the front court as well. Harlond Beverly also will hope to be a good piece off the bench as a guard this season.
The Hurricanes do lose quite a bit from last season’s team but adding Nijel Pack and loading up in the front court should help this team manage. Offensively, this team will be worse than a year ago due to the loss of Moore and McGusty but the defense gets better and that should be enough to help Miami continue to be a top-tier team in the ACC, with a chance to get hot and make another Elite Eight.
PG: Nijel Pack
SG: Isaiah Wong
SF: Jordan Miller
PF: Norchad Omier
C: Anthony Walker
Bench: Harlond Beverly, Jakai Robinson, AJ Casey, Favour Aire
6.Virginia Tech Hokies
Mike Young and Virginia Tech did something they had never done in program history, win an ACC Tournament title. Thanks to that, the Hokies come into this season eyeing another NCAA Tournament appearance and to contend near the top of the ACC. Justyn Mutts returns as the top scorer, his versatility and passing at the four make him a unique piece that helps the offense run. Hunter Cattoor returns as the high-level shooting three-point threat, which makes him the most important guard for opposing teams. Darius Maddox looks to take a big step forward, his size and shooting will be on display as he should take a big jump up in production.
The Hokies will need Sean Pedulla to take a step forward as he takes over as the point guard, he can score it but needs to be a key facilitator. Wright State transfer Grant Basile comes in as a five-man that can score inside effectively and space the floor, making him a good Keve Aluma replacement. The Hokies will look to pluck freshman Rodney Rice into a bench role as a come-off-the-bench and provide instant offense-type player. Lynn Kidd and Patrick Wessler will fill in as backup bigs, while MJ Collins also hopes to be a guard in the rotation.
This Hokies team will have to rebuild quite a bit from last year but what Mike Young did well was prepared for last season’s departures. Maddox and Pedulla are poised for breakout seasons, while the offense always seems to do better than what it looks like on paper. At their best, the pieces fit together well and the Hokies become a mainstay in the Top 25 but they also have just as good a chance to not make the Tournament if they can’t get the expected internal improvement.
PG: Sean Pedulla
SG: Hunter Cattoor
SF: Darius Maddox
PF: Justyn Mutts
C: Grant Basile
Bench: Rodney Rice, MJ Collins, Lynn Kidd, Patrick Wessler
7.Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The Irish ended a Tournament drought a season ago and even made the Second Round, now Mike Brey hopes to lead his team to another Tournament. Dane Goodwin will be the returning scorer, his size and shooting make him a great go-to option. Nate Laszewski will anchor the center spot, his size and ability to shoot helps the Irish space the floor. Freshman JJ Starling also hopes to be a double-digit scorer, the guard is good at getting to the rim and is a true scorer, he probably fills in as the iso scorer when the offense breaks down.
Cormac Ryan will start and provide the Irish with another really good shooter at the two spot. Marcus Hammond can provide a point guard to the roster, as he’s a good passer and a capable scorer as well. Trey Wertz is another good shooter, who hopes to take a step forward again. The Irish hope to get Ven-Allen Lubin to be a key contributor in year one. Dom Campbell and Tony Sanders also could fill out the rotation.
This Irish team has a lot of depth at the guard spot, plus plenty of shooting. JJ Starling also can act as a get to the basket guard similar to the way Blake Wesley did a year ago. The defense might be a bit of a concern without any real rim protection. That said, with some good wins early in the season, the Irish should have a good chance to make the NCAA Tournament but this team is likely bubble bound.
PG: Marcus Hammond
SG: JJ Starling
SF: Cormac Ryan
PF: Dane Goodwin
C: Nate Laszewski
Bench: Trey Wertz, Ven-Allen Lubin, Dom Campbell, Tony Sanders
Death, Taxes, Syracuse on the bubble. Jim Boeheim is back and while we will never know if he will ever retire, he will continue to coach Syracuse to the bubble. This team has a really good frontcourt, Jesse Edwards is a dominant paint presence, who now will hopefully be the focal point of the offense. Next to him, Benny Williams projects to get minutes at the four, where he’ll defend and provide additional paint scoring. Joe Girard III will be the main guard option, he has the ability to get hot from deep but will look to also be a good distributor for this offense to continue to have success.
The Orange bring in a good recruiting class to help out, Judah Mintz will be a guard scorer and passer, who should be a starter day one. Chris Bunch and Justin Taylor will both compete for the last starting spot, both are four-star freshmen who can space the floor at the 3. Symir Torrence will provide point guard stability into the rotation but isn’t really a scorer. The Orange probably won’t play all that many players in the rotation but freshmen Quadir Copeland, Maliq Brown, and Peter Carey all could crack the rotation.
This Orange team could be flying under the radar this season, yes the Boeheim brothers are gone but the Orange were not good defensively a year ago and that should change. The Orange are younger, more athletic, and will be a tougher team. Look for the young pieces to get run to start, while the Orange could do well using Jesse Edwards down low. In the end, just bet that the Orange will be somewhere near the bubble because they’re going to be there anyway.
PG: Joe Girard III
SG: Judah Mintz
SF: Justin Taylor
PF: Benny Williams
C: Jesse Edwards
Bench: Symir Torrence, Chris Bunch, Quadir Copeland, Peter Carey
9.Boston College Eagles
Yes, you are looking at this correctly, Boston College is in the Top-9 of an ACC preview, which seems inaccurate but should be a testament to Earl Grant. Grant’s Eagles finished last season strong, but now bring a lot of pieces back. Makai Ashton-Langford emerged as the top option a season ago, his ability to control the floor, and be a good passer and three-level scorer will be key this season. His brother DeMarr Langford Jr feeds off him by being a good rim attacking guard, plus a good defender. Joining the brothers, Jaeden Zackery helps fill a need as being both a good shot-creator and most importantly a three-point specialist.
The Eagles front court will roll out Quinten Post, who’s a good shot-blocking big to help protect the paint and provide the team with inside scoring. TJ Bickerstaff will get minutes at the five and maybe the four as well, although in a more limited capacity. Freshman, Prince Aligbe looks to be a good option at the four as well, as he has good size and mobility. The Eagles also picked up transfer CJ Penha to help fill the void at the wing spot. While the Eagles have a solid backcourt, freshman Donald Hand being an additional guard that can score off the bench will be another good piece.
While this Boston College team is much improved from where it typically has been, the fact remains that the Eagles are still not an NCAA Tournament team. This team has good guard play but the frontcourt isn’t great and the program has never shown the consistency needed to make the Tournament. That said, this team could use a successful season to help momentum going into next year. Earl Grant seems to be the right guy for Boston College, if the support garners around him, there’s no reason he can’t have this team competing for Tournament appearances in the near future.
PG: Makai Ashton-Langford
SG: DeMarr Langford
SF: Jaeden Zachary
PF: Prince Aligbe
C: Quinten Post
Bench: Donald Hand, TJ Bickerstaff, CJ Penha Jr
10.Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Coming into this season, Wake Forest is hoping to replicate last season where they nearly made the NCAA Tournament when no one thought they would. While it’s not a talented roster on paper, Steve Forbes has shown that he can win without an abundance of talent before. Daivien Williamson is the leading returning scorer, he is a good shot-maker and shooter, who projects to be the go-to option. Tyree Appleby will start at the point, he will make things happen and be a good passer while providing some scoring as well. Andrew Carr also will be a key contributor, his efficiency inside will be on display and makes him a reliable interior scorer.
Wake Forest will hope to get internal development from some of their pieces like Damari Monsanto, who provides the team with a good shooter on the wing. Cameron Hildreth looks to get a bigger role as a guard, who can handle the ball and score. Davion Bradford comes in hoping to get a fresh start, he was good at times for Kansas State but was not aggressive enough. Freshman, Zach Keller should get minutes, he’s very skilled and could potentially start. Jao Ituka comes in looking to be a good backup guard, who can pass and score.
This Wake Forest team has some solid pieces, Williamson and Appleby make a good guard tandem. Andrew Carr should be a decent enough contributor inside, while they have plenty of other decent pieces around them. That said, this team doesn’t have enough to make the NCAA Tournament. Forbes’ coaching and this roster might keep this team from bottoming out but there’s not enough star power to make the Tournament.
PG: Tyree Appleby
SG: Daivien Williamson
SF: Cameron Hildreth
PF: Damari Monsanto
C: Andrew Carr
Bench: Davion Bradford, Zach Keller, Jao Ituka
11.NC State Wolfpack
There is very real pressure on Kevin Keatts to win this season after another missed NCAA Tournament and the roster is built knowing just that, as there is a multitude of transfers and only one true freshman. Terquavion Smith will be the player to watch, his size, ability to knock down shots from everywhere and be a solid distributor make him one of the best players in the sport. He will be joined by Jarkel Joiner, who was a good scorer at Ole Miss and will fill in as a good secondary scorer. Casey Morsell will also start, while not a great offensive threat, he’s the best guard defender on the roster.
The Wolfpack will combine that with a solid frontcourt with depth, DJ Burns will provide the team with NCAA Tournament experience, him being a solid role player and additional scorer will be key. Ebenezer Dowuona will anchor the center spot, he’s a good shot blocker and will score around the rim. Jack Clark transfers in hoping to provide some spacing to the frontcourt, as he can step out and shoot. Dusan Mohoric can come in and score and rebound at the center spot. The Wolfpack will look at freshman LJ Thomas to contribute as he is a point guard with the ability to knock down shots.
This Wolfpack team actually has NCAA Tournament upside if you can buy everything working out. Terquavion Smith might be the best player in the conference and he’s surrounded by experienced pieces. The question is whether NC State can put it together, last year they had Dereon Seabron and Terquavion Smith and finished last in the ACC. Sure the roster seems to fit together better but can we trust it to actually lead to Tournament success, I’m not so sure. Realistically this team probably winds up being too inconsistent and will miss out on both the NCAA Tournament and NIT.
PG: Terquavion Smith
SG: Jarkel Joiner
SF: Casey Morsell
PF: DJ Burns
C: Ebenezer Dowuona
Bench: Jack Clark, LJ Thomas, Dusan Mahoric
Coming into this season, Clemson hopes to get back to the NCAA Tournament if things go right and usually its the teams that no one expects anything out of that get Clemson to the dance. PJ Hall returns as the top scorer, his size and interior scoring matched with his floor spacing make him one of the matchup nightmares for defenders. Hunter Tyson pairs with him, he is a decent scorer and shooter who can have big games if teams double Hall. Chase Hunter also returns hoping to get a bigger role offensively as both a playmaker and scorer as he will start this year.
The Tigers bring in Brevin Gallaway to be a contributor, while he’s a natural two-guard, he is known more for his ability to space the floor. Dillon Hunter will look to be a key contributor right away, he can knock down shots and create similarly to his brother Chase. Alex Hemenway should help space the floor and might even start for this roster. The Tigers will fill the front court out with Ian Schieffelin, a skilled sophomore, and RJ Godfrey, who projects to be a solid piece.
Clemson may not be the most talented team even but at the end of the day, there’s enough talent in this roster to manage. PJ Hall will dominate inside, while the rest of the roster should be able to help him carry the burden. The real concern is that there’s no natural point guard, which isn’t ideal. Even still, there’s just enough here to be decent and that should excite Clemson fans as they will hope to make the NCAA Tournament again.
PG: Dillon Hunter
SG: Brevin Galloway
SF: Chase Hunter
PF: Hunter Tyson
C: PJ Hall
Bench: Alex Hemenway, RJ Godfrey, Ian Schiefflin, Josh Beadle
The Kenny Payne era begins now and with a roster that seems to be a year away from actually competing. With an eye on a loaded class, and what Cardinals fans hope a commitment from DJ Wagner, this year will be an afterthought. The Cardinals have some depth in the frontcourt, Brandon Huntley-Hatfield is a high-profile recruit, who while not great at Tennessee, should be in for a bounce-back season. Jae’Lyn Withers provides some experience and an ability to space the floor. El Ellis will be the main guard option, he can score from all three levels and pass.
The Cardinals’ frontcourt is filled with plenty of other options as well, Sydney Curry was really good as an interior scorer and rebounder a year ago. Kamari Lands provides the team with an athletic wing, who could be a good long-term prospect. Devin Ree and Michael James also look to provide the Cardinals with some additional help on the wing. Roosevelt Wheeler and JJ Traynor are forwards that likely will fill into the rotation, although neither has gotten much run in their young careers.
The Cardinals will struggle this season, El Ellis is a fine player but when he’s the only guard, that’s a problem. Sure, holding out for next year and getting a likely loaded recruiting class will be big for the future but that doesn’t help this year. Kenny Payne will be a good coach and program leader, that said, coaching this team to anything but a bottom-5 finish in the ACC with this team would be incredible.
PG: El Ellis
SG: Devin Ree
PF: Kamari Lands
PF: Jae’Lyn Withers
C: Brandon Huntley-Hatfield
Bench: Sydney Curry, Michael James, Roosevelt Wheeler, JJ Traynor
The Jeff Capel special has involved never even giving fans hope that they can have an NCAA Tournament team but maybe this year can be different. The Panthers finished not last in the ACC and brought back their top-2 players. John Hugley is an effective big man, who is efficient, great around the rim, and a good rebounder. Jamarius Burton will provide the team with a good scorer, shooter, and someone who can play on the ball if needed. Dior Johnson was the big addition, he’s a quick athletic lead guard, who can score effortlessly around the rim, the question is whether he steps foot on the court.
The Panthers surround that group with decent pieces like Nelly Cummings, who is a good shooter and passer. William Jeffries will start at the four, while not much of a threat offensively, he’s a good defender and is experienced. Greg Elliot transfers in hopes that his ability to knock down shots will get him in the starting rotation. Nate Santos will hope to get an upgrade in minutes after playing rarely a season ago. Look for Federiko Federiko and Jorge Diaz to try to get backup minutes at the five.
This Pittsburgh team has a decent amount of talent, Hugley is a really underrated center who will put up numbers. Add to that Jamarius Burton, Nelly Cummings and Greg Elliot who are all quality guards and the roster isn’t bad. Pittsburgh can’t be trusted to have a great season despite this, frankly, they are cursed, and add to that the fact Jeff Capel teams consistently underwhelms and that’s the reason Pittsburgh will remain near the bottom of the ACC.
PG: Nelly Cummings
SG: Jamarius Burton
SF: Dior Johnson
PF: William Jeffries
C: John Hugley
Bench: Greg Elliot, Nate Santos, Federiko Federiko, Jorge Diaz
15.Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Two years ago, Georgia Tech won the ACC title, this year they project to finish dead last in the ACC. The Yellow Jackets will look to Rodney Howard to take a step forward, he’s a good rebounder, who hopes to be a reliable offensive threat inside. Kyle Sturdivant will continue to be a good point guard, although he’s not much of a scorer. They also add in Lance Terry, who was a good scorer at Gardner-Webb and hopes to take that to the ACC.
The Yellow Jackets badly need significant improvement from some of their bench from a year ago. Dallen Coleman was a good wing shooter off the bench but now will be more keyed upon by opponents. Jalon Moore could hope to move into the starting rotation. Miles Kelly looks to be a bench spark off the bench, as he takes a step forward. Devion Smith will be a good steady hand at the point but he’ll likely be behind Sturdivant. Jordan Meka and Jermontae Hill look to fill out the rotation at the five.
This Yellow Jackets roster doesn’t have a lot of upside and is largely dependent on breakouts to win games. Sure, this team could win a few games in the ACC but it’s hard to see this team doing much more than that.
PG: Kyle Sturdivant
SG: Lance Terry
SF: Jalon Moore
PF: Dallan Coleman
C: Rodney Howard
Bench: Miles Kelly, Devion Smith, Jordan Meka, Jermontae Hill
Player of the year: Armando Bacot, North Carolina
Freshman of the year: Dariq Whitehead, Duke
Newcomer of the year: Nijel Pack, Miami
Defensive Player of the year: Reece Beekman, Virginia
Most Improved Player: Darius Maddox, Virginia Tech