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  • Writer's pictureThe ACC Guru

ACC Basketball Preview

College Basketball is back! Real games are being played TODAY! The ACC should be very interesting this year, and I can't wait to see how it plays out. The conference might have the best team in the country in UNC, the best recruiting class in Duke, should-be tournament teams in Virginia, Miami, and Virginia Tech, hopeful tournament teams in Florida State and Notre Dame, well-coached teams with a lot of question marks in Wake Forest, Clemson, and Syracuse, and plenty of other great players on not-so-great teams that will be looking to prove me wrong. Today I'm going to go through my predictions for the season. Hopefully tonight we see nothing but blowouts from the ACC, but have plenty of competitive games in the upcoming months. Enjoy the madness beginning in November, not just in March!

Projected Standings:

1) North Carolina

Last Season: 29-10 (15-5), National Runner-up

Key Returners: Armando Bacot, Caleb Love, RJ Davis, Leaky Black, Puff Johnson, Justin McKoy, Dontrez Styles

Newcomers: Pete Nance (Northwestern), Seth Trimble, Jalen Washington, Tyler Nickel

On paper, North Carolina should be the best team in the country. They had the talent all of last year, but played too inconsistent for most of the season, but finally put it all together making a run to the National Championship and beating Duke twice along the way. The core of the team, other than Brady Manek, who ran out of eligibility, decided to come back to try to finish the job this year. Caleb Love and RJ Davis combine to form the most lethal backcourt in the league, ACC POY, Armando Bacot, returns down low as one of the most dominant post players in the country, they have one of the best defenders in the league in Leaky Black, and they replace Manek with one of the best transfers in the country, Pete Nance. I don’t think there’s a better starting 5 in the country, and if that’s not enough, Johnson, McKoy, and Styles are great depth pieces, AND they bring in highly touted freshman, Seth Trimble. The Heels are understandably the favorites for the ACC Championship.

2) Virginia

Last Season: 21-14 (12-8), NIT Quarterfinals

Key Returners: Jayden Gardner, Reece Beekman, Kihei Clark, Kadin Shedrick, Armaan Franklin, Francisco Caffaro, Taine Murray

Newcomers: Ben Vander Plas (Ohio), Isaac Traudt, Isaac McKneely, Leon Bond, Ryan Dunn

Virginia returns all 5 starters, but failed to make the NCAA Tournament last season, so why do I have them projected to finish 2nd in the conference? Tony Bennett. Bennett took a team that parts didn’t fit together and had them playing like a team worthy of an NCAA bid by the end of the year, they just had too many ugly losses early in the season. The major problem with this team last year was their inability to shoot 3s. The hope is that they have addressed this issue by bringing in Ben Vander Plas from Ohio and the 2nd best recruiting class in the ACC, specifically McKneely and Traudt. I expect Bennett to be able to find the right combination in the rotation to increase the shooting and Beekman and Shedrick to take a step forward to get the defense back to their expected level. The ceiling of this team is competing with UNC for the ACC Title, while I believe we saw the floor last year.

3) Duke

Last Season: 32-7 (16-4), ACC Champions, Final Four

Key Returners: Jeremy Roach

Newcomers: Dereck Lively II, Dariq Whitehead, Kyle Filipowski, Mark Mitchell, Tyrese Proctor, Jaden Schutt, Christian Reeves, Jacob Grandison (Illinois), Ryan Young (Northwestern), Kale Catchings (Harvard)

Jon Scheyer has almost an entirely new team in his first season as the head coach, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t talented. They’re bringing in 4 5-star recruits, and that doesn’t even include my pick for Rookie of the year, Tyrese Proctor. Proctor probably would have been a 5-star as well if he was from the USA, but being from Australia, not as many eyes got to see him play. The one main returning contributor from last year’s team, Jeremy Roach, will be the key to this team’s success. Roach was really solid down the stretch last season, and Scheyer will need him to be a coach on the floor to get the most out of the talented freshmen and have this team competing for an ACC Championship again this year.

4) Virginia Tech

Last Season: 23-13 (11-9), ACC Tournament Champions, NCAA Tournament

Key Returners: Justyn Mutts, Hunter Cattoor, Darius Maddox, Sean Padulla, Lynn Kidd

Newcomers: Rodney Rice, Grant Basile (Wright State), John Camden (Memphis), Patrick Wessler, MJ Collins, Mylyjael Poteat (Rice), Darren Buchanan

The Hokies shot themselves both in and out of games last season but got hot the second half of the season winning 14 of their last 17 games, including an ACC Tournament Championship. Yes, losing Keve Aluma is huge, but Grant Basile should be a nice fill-in, and they still have plenty of shooters in Cattoor, Maddox, and Pedula, while Mutts will be their do-it-all player. The biggest weakness on this team will be ball-handling. Padulla is their only true point guard, and he will have to stay healthy this year if they want to reach their ceiling and make it to another NCAA Tournament.

5) Miami

Last Season: 26-11 (14-6), Elite Eight

Key Returners: Isaiah Wong, Jordan Miller, Anthony Walker, Harlond Beverly, Deng Gak, Bensley Joseph, Wooga Poplar

Newcomers: Nijel Pack (Kansas State), AJ Casey, Favour Aire, Christian Watson, Norchad Omier (Arkansas State), Danilo Jovanovich

I loved this team last year with their guard play, and they finally put it all together with an incredible Elite Eight run. Charlie Moore and Kam McGusty are gone, but Jim Larranaga went back to the transfer portal to grab Nijel Pack from Kansas State. He will team up with ACC POY hopeful, Isaiah Wong, to form one of the best backcourts in the conference again. Miami will have to play small at times again this year, with Jordan Miller and Anthony Walker taking up a ton of minutes in the frontcourt, but they do bring in 4-star center, Favour Aire, who could push for significant playing time immediately. I expect this team to compete for the double-bye in the ACC and be a tournament team once again.

6) Florida State

Last Season: 17-14 (10-10), No Postseason

Key Returners: Matthew Cleveland, Caleb Mills, Cam’Ron Fletcher, Naheem McLeod, Jalen Warley

Newcomers: Baba Miller, Cameron Corhen, De’Ante Green, Chandler Jackson, Darin Green (UCF), Jaylan Gainey (Brown), Jeremiah Bembry, Tom House

FSU severely underperformed last season, but a lot of that was due to injuries. Now, they return a big portion of their talent, specifically in Matthew Cleveland and Caleb Mills. Mills proved he can score in the ACC last year, but I expect him to be a much-improved floor-general this year. They add sharp-shooter, Darin Green, from UCF and are expecting Jalen Warley to take a major step forward this year, so Mills and Cleveland don’t have to do all of the scoring. As Florida State always is, this team will be long and deep. I know I have them predicted to finish 6th, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see this team jump back into the top 4 where we’ve seen them so often lately.

7) Notre Dame

Last Season: 24-11 (15-5), NCAA Tournament 2nd Round

Key Returners: Dane Goodwin, Cormac Ryan, Nate Laszewski, Trey Wertz

Newcomers: JJ Starling, Ven-Allen Lubin, Dom Campbell, Marcus Hammond (Niagara)

I’m really looking forward to seeing what this Notre Dame team can be. They were so exciting last year, and it should be a lot of the same this season. They were 2nd in the league in 3-point shooting last year, and with Paul Atkinson moving on and Nate Laszewski playing more time at the 5, they should be even better shooters this year. Goodwin, Ryan, Laszewski, Hammond, and Wertz are all elite shooters. They bring in 5-star freshman, JJ Starling (who I almost picked as my freshman of the year), to facilitate to all of these shooters, and if he’s as good as billed, this could be a scary team to face.

8) Clemson

Last Season: 17-16 (8-12), No Postseason

Key Returners: PJ Hall, Hunter Tyson, Chase Hunter, Alex Hemenway, Ian Schieffelin, Ben Middlebrooks

Newcomers: Brevin Galloway (Boston College), RJ Godfrey, Dillon Hunter, Chauncey Wiggins, Chauncey Gibson

The success of this team will most likely depend on how good PJ Hall is, and how healthy he is after having knee surgery last year. We know that Brad Brownell will have this team playing good defense, but they really need some guards to step up if they’re going to finish in the top half of the league. Brevin Galloway will get the first chance after coming in from Boston College, though he was a little disappointing last season. Hunter Tyson should be a double-digit scorer this year, and if sharp-shooting Alex Hemenway can up his production, the Tigers could be a bubble team come March.

9) Wake Forest

Last Season: 25-10 (13-7), NIT Quarterfinals

Key Returners: Daivien Williamson, Camren Hildreth, Damari Monsanto, Matthew Marsh, Robert McCray

Newcomers: Tyree Appleby (Florida, Andrew Carr (Delaware), Davion Bradford (Kansas State), Bobi Klintman, Zach Keller, Jao Ituka (Marist)

I don’t know what to expect from Wake Forest this year. They lose the ACC POY and a first-round draft pick in Alondes Williams and Jake LaRavia. Williamson and Monsanto are their best returning players and will need to step into larger and more leadership roles. Coach Forbes went back to the transfer portal to see if he can strike gold again and brings in 2 freshman prospects. I really like Bobi Klintman even if he isn’t ranked incredibly high. He chose the Deacs over teams like Kansas, UVA, and Maryland. The range of outcomes is huge this year, but I trust Steve Forbes enough to at least keep this team near the middle of the ACC.

10) Syracuse

Last Season: 16-17 (9-11), No Postseason

Key Returners: Joseph Girard, Jesse Edwards, Benny Williams, Symir Torrence, John Bol Ajak,

Newcomers: Judah Mintz, Chris Bunch, Justin Taylor, Quadir Copeland, Maliq Brown, Peter Carey, Mounir Hima (Duquesne)

Jim Boeheim enters his 47th year as the head coach of the Orange with both of his sons having moved on to professional basketball. The Orange will be led by Joseph Girard and Jesse Edwards, both of which averaged double-digits last season. Boeheim will lean on freshman Judah Mintz to immediately come in and play point guard, which will allow Girard to move off ball which plays more to his strengths as a shooter. This is a really good recruiting class with 3 4-stars, but Boeheim’s defense can be tough to learn at first, and with so much unproven talent on this roster I think their ceiling is a middle-of-the-pack ACC team and being on the bubble.

11) NC State

Last Season: 11-21 (4-16), No Postseason

Key Returners: Terquavion Smith, Casey Morsell, Breon Pass, Ebenezer Dowuona, Ernest Ross

Newcomers: DJ Burns (Winthrop), Jarkel Joiner (Ole Miss), LJ Thomas, Dusan Mahorcic (Utah), Jack Clark (La Salle)

NC State confused me last year. They had 2 of the best players in the conference in Terquavion Smith and Deron Seabron, but only managed to win 4 ACC games. There just wasn’t much other talent on the team. Surprisingly, Smith decided to come back, and he’ll be expected to be a lottery pick in the NBA next year. They need Casey Morsell to be the #2 option, but he hasn’t shown that he has the offensive ability to be that in the ACC. They went to the transfer portal to try to improve the roster, but the best player coming in is DJ Burns, and while he was fantastic in the Big South at Winthrop, I don’t think that will translate to the ACC. Kevin Keatts better hope that some of these players will step up in a big way, or this could be his last season in Raleigh.

12) Boston College

Last Season: 13-20 (6-14), No Postseason

Key Returners: Makai Ashton-Langford, DeMarr Langford, TJ Bickerstaff, Quinten Post, Jaden Zackery

Newcomers: Prince Aligbe, Donald Hand, Chas Kelley, Armani Mighty, Mason Madsen (Cincinnati)

The Eagles were not a very good basketball team last year, and with much of the roster returning this season, I’m expecting a lot of the same. The Langford brothers are back, and they form a nice backcourt with Quinten Post being a nice piece down low, but I think they’re going to struggle with outside shooting this year. They play ugly and can keep games close with defense, so they may win a few games they shouldn’t, but I’m expecting another double-digit seed from them come tournament time.

13) Pitt

Last Season: 11-21 (6-14), No Postseason

Key Returners: John Hugley, Jamarius Burton, Willam Jeffress, Nate Santos, Nike Sibande

Newcomers: Dior Johnson*, Greg Elliott (Marquette), Blake Hinson (Iowa State), Nelly Cummings (Colgate), Guillermo Diaz, Jorge Diaz, Fede Federiko

I would have higher expectations for the Panthers this year if not for the news about Dior Johnson. Johnson, who is the highest ranked recruit under Jeff Capel, has been charged with assault, suspended indefinitely, and probably should not play this year. This team will be centered around big man, John Hugley, who is an absolute beast, and they surrounded him with shooters from the transfer portal. What they desperately need is a point guard. They were hoping for Johnson to be the guy, but without him, I think they may struggle to run an offense this year.

14) Louisville

Last Season: 13-19 (6-14), No Postseason

Key Returners: El Ellis, Sydney Currey, Jae’lyn Withers, Roosevelt Wheeler

Newcomers: Brandon Huntley-Hatfield (Tennessee), Kamari Lands, Devin Ree, Fabio Basili, Hercy Miller (Xavier)

Kenny Payne enters his first season as the Cardinals head coach, and he is expected to be a prolific recruiter. He has already landed 2 4-star recruits for next year, so the future is looking bright, but unfortunately, it might be a long year this season. El Ellis will be the main ball-handler and leader for this team, but I don’t think he offers enough scoring to make them a contender. The X-factor for this team will be Brandon Huntley-Hatfield. The former 5-star recruit never took-off at Tennessee last year, but a change of scenery and a fresh start could be a very good thing for him.

15) Georgia Tech

Last Season: 12-20 (5-15), No Postseason

Key Returners: Kyle Sturdivant, Rodney Howard, Tristan Maxwell, Deebo Coleman, Deivon Smith, Miles Kelly

Newcomers: Javon Franklin (South Alabama), Lance Terry (Gardner Webb), Freds Pauls Bagatskis, Cyril Martynov

This was a bad basketball team last year, and they lose 3 of their best players from a year ago. They bring in a couple of unproven transfers and add the worst recruiting class in the ACC, so there’s no outside help coming. It’s going to take Sturdivant, Howard, and Coleman taking HUGE steps forward if this is even going to be an average ACC team. I just don’t think they have the talent to compete this year, which is sad for a team that won an ACC Championship just 2 years ago.

Preseason All-ACC

· Armando Bacot, North Carolina

· Isiah Wong, Miami

· Terquavion Smith, NC State

· John Hugley, Pitt

· Jeremy Roach, Duke

ACC POY: Armando Bacot, North Carolina

ACC DPOY: Reece Beekman, Virginia

ACC Freshman of the Year: Tyrese Procter, Duke

ACC Coach of the Year: Tony Bennett, Virginia

Projected NCAA Tournament Teams (7): Duke, Florida State, Miami, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Virginia, & Virginia Tech

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