2018-19 ACC Preview

Sun, 11/04/2018 - 12:22pm

1. Duke Blue Devils

2017-2018 Record: 26-7 (13-5)

Key Departures: Marvin Bagley, Grayson Allen, Wendell Carter, Gary Trent Jr, Trevon Duval

Key Additions: RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson, Cameron Reddish, Tre Jones, Joey Baker

RJ Barrett & Zion WilliamsonRJ Barrett & Zion WilliamsonDuke fell just short of reaching the Final Four last season after a close loss in overtime against the Kansas Jayhawks in the Elite Eight. It would be logical to expect that a mass exodus would eliminate any odds of success for the upcoming season. The Blue Devils are without their entire starting lineup from a season ago; however, with such a fantastic recruiter as the now departed Jeff Capel was, this Duke program became the best program in the country at recruiting one-and-dones, and reloading and feature a revamped lineup that may be the most talented in the country.

Duke perhaps added the most talented recruiting class of the one-and-done generation, well, at least since last year's haul, after snagging McDonald's All-Americans' RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson, Cameron Reddish, and Tre Jones. Besides the obvious talent, head coach Mike Krzyzewski believes the team has already developed both on and off court chemistry. Combine the potential versatility on both ends of the floor, the amount of athletes (Zion in particular) this team has, and the high basketball IQ of its players, and the Blue Devils' are the front runners to win the ACC this upcoming season. They lack depth and experience and are especially weak in terms of bodies in the frontcourt after Zion, but no one can touch the level of talent this team possesses. A first with having players go 1-2-3 in the NBA draft is within the realm of possibility for this year's bunch.

2. Virginia Cavaliers

2017-2018 Record: 31-2 (17-1)

Key Departures: Isaiah Wilkins, Devon Hall

Key Additions: Braxton Key, Francisco Caffaro, Kody Stattmann, Kihei Clark

Going into the NCAA Tournament last season, it seemed that Virginia was poised to finally make a push for a championship. That being said, the Cavaliers were on the losing end of perhaps the biggest upset in the history of college basketball after No. 16 UMBC shocked the world and took down the Cavaliers in the round of 64. The first time a 16 has ever beaten a 1 seed. While the loss is certainly humiliating for Virginia, let's not forget how well the team performed over the course of the season and prior to the loss.

After steamrolling through conference play last season, Virginia is ready to regroup and replicate the regular season success it had a season ago. For one, the Cavaliers bring back one of the best backcourts in the ACC with Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome. The two players are able to play either guard spot and both are more than capable on the defensive side of the ball. After showcasing great potential in his freshman year, DeAndre Hunter appears to be on the verge of a breakout sophomore campaign as his opportunities and minutes will see a huge spike. The Cavaliers were able to snag Braxton Key right before the start of the season as he opted to transfer from Alabama. He's a nice complementary piece to plug into the system in place. Head coach Tony Bennett seems to have a winning formula that's transformed Virginia into a true college basketball powerhouse. Expect the Cavaliers to bounce back and have yet another successful season.

3. North Carolina Tar Heels

2017-2018 Record: 25-10 (11-7)

Key Departures: Joel Berry, Theo Pinson

Key Additions: Nassir Little, Coby White, Rechon Black

North Carolina brings back virtually the same roster from last season, plus a few key additions that will put them as one of the elite teams in the ACC. For one, Luke Maye is one of the leading candidates for ACC Player of the Year entering the season. Also can't forget about Kenny Williams and Cameron Johnson who played critical roles for the Tar Heels as true 3-and-D specialists. Sterling Manley and Garrison Brooks are also two names to keep an eye on, as both are eager to build on promising freshman years with the increased workload expected to come their way.

While there's certainly an established core in place, the looming question hovering over this team is how they replace both the leadership and talent with Joel Berry and Theo Pinson no longer in the picture. While there's still uncertainly about which of the returning players will be able to become the voice in the locker room, head coach Roy Williams was able to soften the blow by acquiring freshman stars Nassir Little and Coby White. Both players are expected to contribute heavily right away, and will be forces to be reckoned with come conference play. While it may be a struggle early on, the Tar Heels will once again be one of the top contenders in the ACC.

4. Virginia Tech Hokies

2017-2018 Record: 21-11 (10-8)

Key Departures: Justin Bibbs, Devin Wilson

Key Additions: Landers Nolley, Isaiah Wilkins VT, Jonathan Kabongo, Tyrece Radford

With many key players returning, Virginia Tech is a team that ready to turn heads this upcoming season. Head coach Buzz Williams has done a great job in building this program up, including back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Tournament. While losing Justin Bibbs is certainly a blow, there's enough difference makers on this team that'll make them one of the best teams in the ACC.

Justin Robinson is being handed the keys to the car entering his senior year. Perhaps one of the most underrated players in the ACC, don't be surprised to see Robinson make 1st team all-conference at season's end. Nickeil Alexander Walker is another kid with immense potential who could really break out in his sophomore campaign. While Chris Clarke is currently suspended indefinitely, his intensity and scrappiness needs to replicated by Kerry Blackshear and PJ Throne. Ahmed Hill will be held more accountable for getting teammates involved and helping out on the defensive side of the ball. If the team is able to fire on all cylinders, Virginia Tech is a sleeper to win the conference this season.

5. Syracuse Orange

2017-2018 Record: 20-13 (8-10)

Key Departures: Geno Thorpe, Matthew Moyer

Key Additions: Jalen Carey, Elijah Hughes, Robert Braswell, Buddy Boeheim

Despite under performing in conference play, and barely making the NCAA Tournament by the skin of its teeth, Syracuse enters the season as one of the more talented rosters in the ACC. Head coach Jim Boeheim is known for his ability to galvanize his team despite the obstacles that come along. Having potential freshman star Darius Bazley decommit from the program to train for the NBA is certainly disappointment, but Syracuse still possesses a plethora of talent that could result in another sneaky run in postseason play.

When discussing this year's Orange team, it starts and finishes with Tyus Battle and Frank Howard. This backcourt is able to make plays on both sides of the ball as well as set the soldiers straight come gametime. Don't be surprised to see both make an all-conference team. Paschal Chukwu was blocking shots left and right last season, and his dominance in the paint should resume during his senior year. After showing plenty of promise, especially down the stretch, sophomore Oshae Brissett is the player most likely to break out and put this team over the top. Brissett's ability to score as a forward is the element that Syracuse will need to have in order to put forward the season the program desires.

6. Florida State Seminoles


2017-2018 Record: 20-11 (9-9)

Key Departures: [Player: Braian Angola-Rodas], CJ Walker, Ike Obiagu

Key Additions: David Nichols, Raiquan Gray, Anthony Polite, Devin Vassell

Florida State is entering the season with plenty of confidence as the team brings back most of the roster from its Elite Eight squad from a season ago. Head coach Leonard Hamilton has predicated this team on making teams uncomfortable with tenacious defense, that being said, this team also have plenty of weapons on the offensive side of the ball that'll make the Seminoles a true threat in the ACC.

Terance Mann and Phil Cofer are two players who are looking to cap off their careers with success. Arguably the two best players on the team last season, expect Coach Hamilton to give the duo even more leadership responsibilities than they had in their junior years. Albany transfer David Nichols should be a key contributor right away with scoring on all three levels. Trent Forrest should continue to develop as a combo guard entering his junior year. The program is expecting 6'5" wing MJ Walker to breakout in his sophomore campaign after showing flashes of brilliance his freshman campaign. Walker's development will put this team over the top and put them in a position to be one of the best teams in the ACC.

7. Clemson Tigers

2017-2018 Record: 23-9 (11-7)

Key Departures: Gabe DeVoe, Donte Grantham, Mark Donnal, AJ Oliver

Key Additions: Javan White, Jonathan Baehre, John Newman Hunter Tyson, Parker Fox, Trey Jemison

Clemson's tremendous success was arguably the biggest surprise in the ACC last season. Virtually no one outside of the program expected so many wins. The Tigers are out to prove that last season was no fluke. Head coach Brad Brownell probably doesn't get the credit he deserves for bringing the program to relevancy, nevertheless, the Tigers have a strong enough roster to return to the NCAA Tournament.

Gabe DeVoe and and Donte Grantham will surely be missed, not only because they were two of the most talented players on the roster, but mainly because this Clemson team isn't particularly deep. With that being said, Marcquise Reed and Shelton Mitchell are ready to shoulder more of the load as seniors. Elijah Thomas will solidify things down low and anchor this stingy defense. Aamir Simms and David Skara must capitalize on increased opportunities when their numbers are called upon. Javan White and John Newman are two new additions that could really be useful in helping towards Clemson's goal of reaching the NCAA Tournament again.

8. NC State Wolfpack

2017-2018 Record: 21-11 (11-7)

Key Departures: Allerik Freeman, Omer Yurtseven, Lennard Freeman, Sam Hunt, [Player: Abdul-Malik Abu]

Key Additions: CJ Bryce, Devon Daniels, Eric Lockett, Blake Harris, Wyatt Walker, Manny Bates, Player: DJ Funderburk], Jericole Hellems, Ian Steere

Despite always being capable of beating the top teams in the country and being able to mustard their way into the NCAA Tournament, NC State still flies under the radar frequently, and this year's squad should be a competitive team once again. Head coach Kevin Keatts was able to turn this basketball program around during his first year. Patience will likely be necessary because this team will take time to fully develop and find a groove due to the amount of moving parts involved.

Allerik Freeman concluded his final year of eligibility last season and the Wolfpack will surely miss his scoring prowess. Omer Yurtseven pulled a fast one and transferred to Georgetown. As a result of the two players leaving, NC State will be without its leading scorer and best big man from last season. Looking ahead, however, it appears that Keatts has done a remarkable job replacing lost talent by acquiring five transfers who will most likely all being key contributors. Freshman Immanuel Bates may need a year or so to truly reach his potential, but could be called upon when needed. Torin Dorn, Braxton Beverly, and Markell Johnson all provided a combination of scoring, passing, and defensive awareness that made the backcourt a strong suit for NC State last season. Expect the backcourt to continue to improve and lead the Wolfpack to another bid in the NCAA Tournament.

9. Louisville Cardinals

2017-2018 Record: 20-13 (9-9)

Key Departures: Deng Adel, Ray Spalding, Quentin Snider, Anas Mahmoud

Key Additions: Steven Enoch, Akoy Agau, Khwan Fore, Christen Cunningham

While this program has been weathering tough times after the whole Rick Pitino dilemma, it appears there's light at the end of the tunnel for Louisville. For one, Chris Mack is taking the reigns as head coach, which is an outstanding move and a step in the right direction considering what he did to turn Xavier into a powerhouse during his tenure. Fans are hoping Mack does the same with Louisville and brings the team back to relevancy. That being said, the Cardinals were a competitive team last season, and it'll be interesting to see if they're able to take a significant leap. In the long run, it won;t be coacvhing but recruiting that figures to be the key.

The biggest question surrounding Louisville if whether there's enough on the roster to replace the losses suffered. Deng Adel was the go-to scorer, Ray Spalding and Anas Mahmoud were terrific rim protectors, and Quentin Snider was the heart and sole of the team who was able to make clutch plays when called upon. That being said, the Cardinals have no choice but to move on. VJ King is perhaps the most talented player on the team, and many wonder if he'll be able to take a massive step forward after an underwhelming start to his collegiate career. The talent is there, but the key will be whether Coach Mack can instill confidence in the talented forward. The newly formed starting backcourt of Darius Perry and Ryan McMahon will need to tighten up some loose ends in their games in order to make a significant difference. Steven Enoch and Malik Williams are two transfer who will getting playing time from the jump. While this team may be talented yet unfocused at the same time, if there's any coach that's able to bring the best out of their team, Chris Mack figures to be the guy.

10. Miami Hurricanes

2017-2018 Record: 22-9 (11-7)

Key Departures: Lonnie Walker, Bruce Brown, JaQuan Newton

Key Additions: Zach Johnson, Deng Gak, Anthony Mack

It's safe to say that Miami is most likely the team to take the biggest decline in the ACC from last season. While head coach Jim Larranaga can be trusted to pull off a few upsets here and there, the Hurricanes will simply have a rough season due to the amount of talent they lost. Lonnie Walker, Bruce Brown, and Ja'Quan Newton were three of the best players on last season's squad, but will no longer be there due to either entering the NBA Draft and/or graduating. Plus the FBI scandal took a toll on Miami's recruiting this off-season, which was heavily needed due to the amount of significant players that left the program.

Dewan Hernandez figures to be the one star player on this abysmal Miami roster. While he's certainly a great defender and can create havoc in the paint on offense, he's not necessarily the guy you want to be the go-to scorer on a team in ACC. Anthony Lawrence and Chris Lykes figure to occupy the backcourt this season. Dejan Vasiljevic can keep the defense modest with his more than impressive stroke from three-point range. Florida Gulf Coast transfer Zach Johnson figures to contribute right away during his first stint with the Hurricanes. Overall, this is considered a rebuilding year for Miami, and this team more than likely won't be able to replicate its success over the last few years.

11. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

2017-2018 Record: 20-14 (8-10)

Key Departures: Bonzie Colson, Matt Farrell, Martinas Geben

Key Additions: Nate Laszewski, Dane Goodwin, Robby Carmody, Prentiss Hubb

It was a pretty dreadful season for Notre Dame due to key players suffering from injuries and the inability to close out games against some of the elite teams in the ACC. Unfortunately for the Fighting Irish, it appears that they're in for another miserable season. Head coach Mike Brey is an excellent coach who can probably help squeeze out a few extra wins, but overall this roster currently doesn't look capable of the same success it has had over the last couple of years. For fans of Notre Dame, appreciate the little things and hope the team is capable of pulling off a big upset or two like it normally does.

It's pretty hard to imagine a scenario where Notre Dame doesn't feel the effects of losing Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell. This team was significantly worse when these two were off the court last season. On a positive note, TJ Gibbs is bound to put up stellar numbers for the Fighting Irish after an impressive sophomore year. Gibbs could be one of the leading scorers in the ACC, so at least Notre Dame has a legitimate No. 1 scorer on the roster. Rex Pflueger is an unique piece who can light it up, too. If the Fighting Irish are to have more success then anticipated, they'll need DJ Harvey, John Mooney, and Juwan Durham to step up and considerably improve upon their skill sets.

12. Boston College Eagles


2017-2018 Record: 19-15 (7-11)

Key Departures: Jerome Robinson, Deontae Hawkins

Key Additions: Jairus Hamilton, Chris Herren Jr, Wynston Tabbs, Jared Hamilton

During the 2016-2017 season, Boston College was the worst team in the ACC,winning a grand total of two conference games. A season later, the Eagles were able to improve their win total to seven. There was clear growth in this team, and they possessed enough talent that one would suspect that they'll take even another jump this upcoming season. That being said, it's probably advisable to pump the brakes on Boston College and stay patient in terms of letting the program build gradually.

The loss of Jerome Robinson can't be overlooked, as he was one of the best scorers in the entire country a season ago. His backcourt mate Ky Bowman does return and is expected to take on the extra burden of carrying this offense now that he's the true No. 1 offensive threat on this team. Jordan Chatman is a solid player who the Eagles can rely on this upcoming season, too. Nik Popovic, Steffon Mitchell, and Johncarlos Reyes figure to keep building upon their games and take on more of a role of scorers due to the loss of Robinson. Jarius Hamilton is a nice young player who can make a name for himself during his freshman campaign if given the opportunity to do so. Christian does a nice job in instilling confidence in his team and getting his players to compete, which could translate into quality wins in the strong ACC this season.

13. Pittsburgh Panthers

2017-2018 Record: 8-24 (0-18)

Key Departures: Ryan Luther, Marcus Carr, Parket Stewart

Key Additions: Malik Ellison, Sidy NDir, Trey McGowens, AuDiese Toney, Xavier Johnson

Calling Pitt a bad basketball team was an understatement last season. This team couldn't even win a single conference game. That being said, it's hard to imagine Pitt being any worse than they were a season ago. For one, the program hired Jeff Capel to be the head coach this off-season, which was the right move. Capel surely learned a thing or two while being the associate head coach under Coach K at Duke. This hire will steer the Pitt basketball in the right direction, but it will take time. For now, there shouldn't be too high of expectations for the Panthers.

Pitt received positive news this off-season after leading scorer Jared Wilson Frame declared that he'd be staying for his senior season. His presence and play will certainly stabilize the team both on and off the court. On the other hand, the next three leading scorers opted to transfer elsewhere, as losing so many games can take its toll on anyone. Players such as Shamiel Stevenson and Khameron Davis could show growth if either are granted an up tick in minutes. Transfers Malik Ellison and Sidy N'Dir can come in right away and help prop the program up. There's also a slew of incoming freshmen, so maybe one or two could pop and contribute immediately, too. And maybe, just maybe, Pitt actually wins a handful of games in the ACC this season.

14. Wake Forest Demon Deacons

2017-2018 Record: 11-20 (4-14)

Key Departures: Bryant Crawford, Keyshawn Woods, Doral Moore, Mitchell Wilbekin

Key Additions: Jaylen Hoard, Isaiah Mucius, Jamie Lewis, Ikenna Smart, Sharone Wright Jr

Perhaps no coach in the ACC is on the hot seat more than Danny Manning this season. Wake Forest is a program historically known for being one of the staples of ACC basketball. It's been tough seeing Wake Forest struggle to get back on its feet. The inability to recruit elite recruits, especially in the North Carolina area, has haunted this team over the last several seasons. While Manning doesn't deserve all the blame for the Demon Deacons' woes, it's worth noting that they are not expected to do much yet again in the ACC this season.

The losses of Bryant Crawford, Keyshawn Woods, and Doral Moore makes way for the next core of players for the Demon Deacons. That means that they'll be plenty of opportunities for other players to step up and separate themselves. While Wake Forest has overall struggled to land top recruits, Jaylen Hoard is an extremely talented recruit who could make a huge difference right out the gate. Don't be surprised to see his name called on draft night, and even in the lottery is within the realm of possibility. Isaiah Mucius and Jamie Lewis are two freshman who can also contribute immediately if given the opportunity to do so. Ikenna Smart is a transfer from Buffalo who's good for dirty work below the rim. As for returning players, look for Brandon Childress and Chaundee Brown to establish themselves early and often.

15. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets


2017-2018 Record: 13-19 (6-12)

Key Departures: Josh Okogie, Tadric Jackson, Ben Lammers

Key Additions: Mike Devoe, Shembari Phillips, Khalid Moore, Kristian Sjolund

Wins were hard to come by for Georgia Tech last season, especially during conference play. Unfortunately for the Yellow Jackets, it seems that this pattern will remain the same this season. The team is losing three of its top four scorers from last season, and many of the returners are still young and unproven players on the collegiate level. Head coach Josh Pastner will need to stay patient with his team and put his players in the best positions to succeed in order for on-court performance to translate into wins.

While Tadric Jackson and Ben Lammers will surely be missed after graduating last year, no loss will be felt more than Josh Okogie after he decided to declare for the NBA Draft after his sophomore year. The departures of key players open up the door for Jose Alvarado to take the reigns and be the face of this program for a few years after showing great promise his freshman year. In Alvarado, at least the Yellow Jackets have a true building block currently on the roster. Abdoulaye Gueye, Brandon Alston, and Curtis Haywood are a few names to look out for, as they will benefit from increased minutes and opportunities. Freshman Mike Devoe has reportedly impressed in the off-season and could be a key contributor right out the gate. Tennessee transfer Shembari Phillips could definitely help on both sides of the ball. Overall, it's hard to imagine Georgia Tech being a true player in the ACC due to the lack of firepower available on the roster.

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Duke is the team to beat in

Duke is the team to beat in the ACC once again???? The last time Duke took home an ACC regular season title, JJ Redick and Sheldon Williams were at Duke.

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