1) Duke Blue Devils
2016-2017 Record: 28-9 (11-7)
Key Departures: Jayson Tatum, Luke Kennard, Amile Jefferson, Frank Jackson, Matt Jones, Harry Giles, Chase Jeter
Key Additions: Marvin Bagley, Wendell Carter, Trevon Duval, Gary Trent Jr., Alex O’Connell, Jordan Goldwire, Jordan Tucker
It’s safe to say that Duke had a catastrophic season last year. During the summer, some wondered if the team could go undefeated. Three of their highly touted freshman, Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles, and Marques Bolden, were nursing injuries and were forced into action during the midway point of the season. Tatum was the only player of the three who was able to make a significant impact on the court. Giles’s was never 100% healthy as his explosiveness and athleticism were not there and Duke missed the dominant post presence that they desperately needed.
The loss of senior leaders Amile Jefferson and Matt Jones will put pressure on Grayson Allen to be more of a leader. Being the only senior on the team this upcoming season, Allen’s maturity level needs to improve after exhibiting poor sportsmanship, intentionally tripping opponents on multiple occasions during his forgettable junior year. If Allen can keep his impulses in check, he could be Duke’s go to scorer.
Duke’s 2017 recruiting class may be their best to date, which is saying a lot as they have had multiple one-and-done players who went on to be lottery draft picks. After reclassifying to the 2017 recruiting class, Marvin Bagley decided to forgo his senior year in high school and graduated early in order to have the opportunity to play on a loaded Duke team coached by Mike Krzyzewski. Although he is less experienced than other freshmen, Bagley is possibly the most talented freshman to play under Coach K. At 6’11" and 234 lbs, Bagley has the size to play big and the athleticism to play on the perimeter. Bagley’s post game is polished and he instinctually attacks the glass. Even though he’s not a great outside shooter, he can be a threat to score from the face up, especially when he drives from the perimeter.
Starting alongside Bagley in the front court will be hard working Wendell Carter. Similarly to Bagley, Carter has an impressive post game and can stretch the floor with his outside shot. Carter is agile, and has freakishly long arms (7’3 wingspan). Carter’s passing from the block helps create open looks for teammates.
Duke finally has an elite athlete running the show this season in Trevon Duval. Although not a great three point shooter, Duval is a dynamic playmaker who just needs to learn better decision making. Duval has rare athleticism, and a great handle that allows him to attack the paint with force and put the pressure on the defense.
Rounding out the McDonald’s monster class of the recruits is Gary Trent Jr.. Trent is a true bucket getter who can score in an array of ways. He lacks elite explosiveness and a great first step, but Trent Jr. shoots the ball lights out and can get in the lane and score with either hand. He’s a very polished scorer and a high character kid who could surprise and be a one-and-done lotto pick.
No one doubts the talent that Duke possesses this season, but the big question surrounding the Blue Devils is whether the super talented freshmen can keep their composure against more experienced teams in the tournament. This Duke team is as talented as it has ever been and the key to their team will be if the players can develop maturity and become one cohesive unit. [player: Marques Bolden] and Javin DeLaurier are returners to the Blue Devils who should see an uptick in minutes.
The guard position looks shallow in depth, but Coach K may look to see if freshman Jordan Goldwire and/or Alex O’Connell can play complimentary roles this season. If not, the team will look to be a seven man rotation that will cause the starters to play heavy minutes the entire season. Even with all of this being said, Duke is the most talented team in the ACC and should be expected to be the best team from the conference.
The key to Duke winning a title this year will likely be Trevon Duval’s maturation as a decision maker. He’ll need to be given the freedom to make mistakes early, in order to mature into the dynamic, scoring point guard he can become. It’s a difficult proposition as coach K historically has not had much patience for undisciplined play.
2.) Miami Hurricanes
2016-2017 Record: 21-12 (10-8)
Key Departures: Davon Reed, Kamari Murphy
Key Additions: Lonnie Walker
Head coach Jim Larranaga has built quite the basketball program in Miami. It seems that the team is ready to make another run at the NCAA Tournament due to their young, talented roster. One player who is no longer with the Hurricanes is Davon Reed. Reed did a little bit of everything for Miami, as he was their leading scorer and one of their best defenders. The other key piece missing from last season is Kamari Murphy, a defensive oriented big. The Hurricanes must figure how to move on without these two starters.
Miami was able to land one of the best incoming freshmen in the country in Lonnie Walker IV. Unfortunately for Walker, he missed the entire offseason due to knee surgery. Now that he is back, it may take a little while for the phenom to recover from surgery, but Miami must have the patience in order to wait for his full potential. Walker is athletic and can shoot lights out from three. Walker also has a nice mid range game that will help him score at all three levels. Center Ebuka Izundu may be in for a bigger role with the team this season. Another player primed to make a jump in production is sophomore Dewan Huell, who can dominate the glass and run the floor.
The backcourt duo of JaQuan Newton and Bruce Brown was vital to Miami last year. The pair complemented each other’s games nicely, and this season figures to be no different. Newton looks to be the new leader of the team entering his senior year. When he is feeling it, he plays with tremendous confidence and is a difficult match up for any defender. Although not the best of shooters, Brown’s energy and leadership are valued assets as Brown’s teammates feed off his high intensity. Brown is also an improved passer and is one of the most well rounded players in the country.
The Miami Hurricanes have an extremely talented roster and are well-coached. Questions over whether there’s enough shots to go around may be a dilemma the team may face, but that’s not always a bad thing. The pieces are there, so it’s up to the players and coaching staff to develop chemistry and for all the players to know their roles. If all of these issues are addressed, expect Miami to be dangerous team in the tournament once again.
3.) Notre Dame Fighting Irish
2016-2017 Record: 26-10 (12-6)
Key Departures: VJ Beachem, Steve Vasturia, and Matt Ryan
Key Additions: DJ Harvey Jr
Notre Dame has been amongst the top ACC teams the last couple of years despite the increase in roster changes the team faces every season.VJ Beachem and Steve Vasturia both just graduated this year. But head coach Mike Brey always gets his team ready to compete with the best teams in the country. Despite having more losses than additions this season, the Fighting Irish should once again be highly competitive in the ACC.
Beachem and Vasturia were two versatile wings who could guard positions one through four on defense and gave their offesnse a lot of fire power. Although the two players will surely be missed, the Notre Dame mentality has always been about next man up.
The one thing Notre Dame has that other teams in the country don’t is great leadership from their seniors Matt Farrell and Bonzie Colson. Farrell is the starting point guard on the Fighting Irish who stepped up big last season after losing Demetrius Jackson to the NBA Draft. His most valuable asset is his leadership and the way he can keep the team focused during games. With all of this being said, Colson is the face of the team and is considered the favorite to win ACC Player of the Year. Despite being undersized for his position, he is a leader and takes it upon himself to bring the best out of his teammates.
One player the Fighting Irish are sure to be excited about is incoming freshman DJ Harvey Jr. A top 50 recruit, the 6’6" and 220 lb Harvey is not only the future of the Fighting Irish, he is also expected to make contributions his freshman year. Notre Dame will also need for some current players to take their game to the next level in order to have a successful season. Sophomore guard Temple Gibbs didn’t see a lot of playing time during his freshman year, but should be a solid contributor.
Another player who see an increase in minutes will be senior forward Martinas Geben. Geben will be asked to relieve starting forward Rex Pflueger when Pflueger rests on the bench. The 6’10" and 252 lbs Geben provides a low post presence and can rebound the ball effectively as well as help on the back end of the defense by blocking shots and protecting the rim.
Although there’s still a lot of questions left to be answered about the Fighting Irish, having two of the best returning players in the ACC in Colson and Farrell is a huge boost. Mike Brey has proven that he is one of the best coaches in the country. If the rest of the team can catch up to their senior leaders, than Notre Dame is a team that is ready to make a run for the top spot in the ACC.
4.) Louisville Cardinals
2016-2017 Record: 25-9 (12-6)
Key Departures: Rick Pitino, Donovan Mitchell, Mangok Mathiang, Jaylen Johnson
Key Additions: Brian Bowen, Darius Perry, Lance Thomas, Jordan Nwora
On paper Louisville is the ACC’s second best team. But the offseason scandals put a dark cloud over the program. Rick Pitino was relieved of his position as head coach and the program is facing sanctions and all sorts of punishments. The entire situation is a disaster. Interim head coach David Padgett is responsible for getting the team focused despite all of the distractions. Even though Louisville is banned from the tournament, we’ve seen teams such as Syracuse play their hearts out even facing a postseason ban.
The biggest question surrounding the Cardinals will be how well the team responds to new interim head coach David Padgett. At only 32 years of age, Padgett doesn’t have the experience that most college basketball head coaches have but it’s possible that the team responds nicely to the new coach. Chances are Padgett doesn’t change too much of the system and the players can not panic about learning something different overnight.
The Cardinals were able to land a five star recruit in Brian Bowen, but questions linger about whether he’ll be cleared to play this year. Bowen may have been involved with the Pitino scandal, so there’s a chance that he doesn’t play at all. Assuming he does, Bowen is capable of scoring on all levels of the court, and be a true impact freshman. Another recruit who’s poised to earn big minutes is Darius Perry, who can score from anywhere in a hurry and his playmaking ability should not be underestimated. Besides their talented freshmen, Louisville also has some returning players who are figured to contribute once again to the team.
Deng Adel is looking to build upon his breakout sophomore year. The wing is able to slash to the basket and plays tight defense on the perimeter. The only area of his game that still needs improvement is his three point shot, which was widely inconsistent last season.
One player who is looking to breakout in his sophomore year like Adel is VJ King. The best player to come out of St Vincent St Mary High School since LeBron James, the Akron star did not have as great of a freshman year as many anticipated, but the talent is there moving forward.
The leader of the Cardinals will be Quentin Snider, who is a true floor general who plays unselfishly and takes care of the basketball. He still struggles with his shooting consistency, but has proven to step up big and make winning plays when called upon.
Even though the Cardinals don’t have an opportunity to win a championship this season, true basketball players still want to win games regardless. Louisville has a roster filled with competitors who will get after it every night and will do anything in order to win. Not having Rick Pitino is not good for the team, but the Cardinals still look to be one of the most complete teams in the ACC.
5.) Virginia Cavaliers
2016-2017 Record: 23-11 (11-7)
Key Departures: London Perrantes, Marial Shayok, Darrius Thompson, Jarred Reuter
Key Additions: Nigel Johnson, De’Andre Hunter
The Virginia Cavaliers are not expected to be as good as they’ve been in previous years; that being said, doubters may be sorely mistaken. Head coach Tony Bennett has built a "sum of its parts" program, much like Bo Ryan had at Wisconsin, that always seems to exceed expectations. The way they can recoup after losing significant players is one of the keys to the program’s success, however, there is no denying that there will be players missed from last year. London Perrantes was the heart and soul of this team. Marial Shayok was a key part in Virginia’s stellar defense last season, along with Darrius Thompson and Jarred Reuter, both of which decided to transfer elsewhere. Nevertheless, the Cavaliers have enough returning pieces and newcomers to have a solid roster.
Devon Hall is primed to become the face of this team. The senior’s ability to create for others as well as create for himself make him a valued asset. Another player who is looking to take on more responsibilities is sharpshooter 2-guard Kyle Guy whose ability to stretch the floor and shoot from three makes him a huge threat on the offensive end. The experience of Virginia will be vital during close games, as the addition of Nigel Johnson from Rutgers will help boast the guard play. Returning players such as Isaiah Wilkins, Ty Jerome, and Jack Salt all figure to see a spike in playing time.
The defense looks to be spectacular once again for the Cavaliers. The questions that remains are how consistently they will be able to put up points. Can they keep up with the high powered offenses in the ACC? Who will have the ball in their hands during the end of games? Virginia is well coached and have eight or so guys who can contribute big minutes, so don’t be dumbfounded when the Cavaliers are one of the best teams in the ACC.
6.) North Carolina Tar Heels
2016-2017: 33-7 (14-4)
Key Departures: Justin Jackson, Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, Tony Bradley, Nate Britt
Key Additions: Jalek Felton, Garrison Brooks, Sterling Manley, Andrew Platek, Brandon Huffman
After a gut wrenching loss in the 2016 NCAA Championship game against Villanova, the UNC Tar Heels did not experience the "championship game hangover" and got right back to the final, this time winning by and defeating Gonzaga, in controversial fashion, for their sixth national championship in program history.
That being said, head coach Roy Williams will need to have one of his better coaching efforts to have even close to the same success. Many of the key players from UNC’s title run have moved on. The biggest weapon they lost was Justin Jackson who had a breakout season and ended up winning ACC Player of the Year during his junior year.
The Tar Heels add a five man recruiting class, but questions remain how many of them will be able to contribute right away. One player who stands out from the group is Jalek Felton. It’s been well publicized, Felton’s uncle is indeed Ray Felton, who played for UNC in college and is now a point guard in the NBA. Jalek Felton was once ranked as a top 10 player in is his recruiting class, but fell to #28 at the end of his senior year in high school. The one question that remains is his shooting, as he’s never been a consistent jump shooter. The other freshman that may see a significant role this year is Garrison Brooks. Brooks is a long and athletic big who does a great job in protecting the rim and crashing the glass.
Seventh Woods is in position to help fill the void of the players lost. He is an extraordinary athlete which help generate buzz around him during his high school days. Now playing for one of the storied teams in the history of the sport, Woods must now prove that his dunking expertise isn’t the only aspect to his game.
Another player who will be asked to do more is senior Theo Pinson. Even though Pinson has never been a stat sheet stuffer, he is a good all-around player who can do a little bit of everything. He attacks the basket aggressively and his shooting has improved every year he’s been at UNC. With UNC cleaning house, Pinson is one of few players remaining that was a key part of their championship run.
One player that could have a breakout season for the Tar Heels is Luke Maye. Maye came out of nowhere at the right time of the season to make some huge plays for them.
The player that UNC will rely on the most this season will be Joel Berry. Even though Berry accidentally broke his hand playing video games right before the start of the season, he is expected to come back from the strange injury and lead the team in scoring and assists. Berry’s toughness was possibly the main reason North Carolina was able win the title.
There is no doubt that UNC has a talented team once again, but the questions that linger are: Can the freshman step up? Will the team struggle without Berry to start the season? Can UNC improve upon their three point percentage? And finally, how in the world did this program avoid major NCAA sanctions after their academic fraud scandal?
The Florida State Seminoles returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012. Although they only didn’t do too much damage, winning only one game, it’s nice to see the Seminoles’s program developing. Head coach Leonard Hamilton has some obstacles at hand, being that the three top scorers from the previous season Dwayne Bacon, Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Jonathan Isaac are no longer with the team.
Terance Mann will be relied on more than ever by Hamilton. He is the highest returning scorer on the Seminoles. The coaching staff rave about how much of a basketball junkie Mann is and that he is ready to accept the greater responsibilities. Mann’s basketball IQ is evident in games, as he always puts himself in the right position both offensively and defensively. Trent Forrest looks to be another guy who’s hungry for playing time this season.
Top 30 recruit MJ Walker is prepared to take on an important role as a freshman. With a game similar to Bacon, Walker’s jump shot is very effective and he has a well-developed mid-range that features a package of moves that will throw defenders off. Another solid add in the recruiting process was Top 100 recruit, Ike Obiagu. The Dikembe Mutombo comparisons are a stretch, but Obiagu is one of the best rim protectors to enter the college game. His defensive instincts are unteachable.
The Florida State Seminoles may have lost their three best players from last season, but the additions made will certainly help. With two freshman who are primed to contribute big minutes right out of the gate, it up to other returning players to step up and make a name for themselves in order for Florida State to stay relevant.
8) Syracuse Orange
2016-2017 Record: 19-15 (10-8)
Key Departures: Tyler Lydon, Andrew White, John Gillon, Tyler Roberson, DaJuan Coleman, Taurean Thompson
Key Additions: Geno Thorpe, Howard Washington, Bourama Sidibe, Oshae Brissett
The Syracuse Orange lost a lot of pieces from their previous season. Nevertheless, head coach Jim Boeheim is one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all-time, and he has enough talent to put together another solid season for Syracuse.
If Syracuse wants to be one of the best teams in the ACC, Tyus Battle will need to have a breakout season. After an impressive freshman campaign, Battle will need to emerge into the team’s leader, taking control the offense with both scoring and passing. Although Battle was not asked to be a ball distributor his freshman year, the Orange will need him to add that element to his game in order to win games.
Transfer guard Geno Thorpe may be the most important addition made by the Orange during the offseason. Thorpe’s basketball IQ will help him transition and thrive in Syracuse’s defensive scheme. Another addition for Boeheim to be excited about is freshman Oshae Brissett. What stands out about Brissett is his athleticism, as he moves around the court smoothly and has the ability to play above the rim.
After missing almost his entire sophomore season with an eye injury, Paschal Chukwu is ready to command the middle for the Orange. At a staggering 7’2", Chukwu will oppose his will on anyone who dares to enter the lane. Syracuse will need Chukwu to collect rebounds at an efficient rate too. Frank Howard’s role figures to increase this season, as he has shown signs of growth during his first two seasons with the team.
Syracuse tends to have good seasons when the expectations are low. Whether the players and coaching staff like being viewed as underdogs or not is up for debate, but if all bodes well for the Orange, don’t be shocked if they make the tournament this season.
9.) Boston College Eagles
2016-2017 Record: 9-23 (2-16)
Key Departures: Connar Tava, Mo Jeffers, Garland Owens, AJ Turner
Key Additions: Deontae Hawkins, Steffon Mitchell
Despite being the bottom feeders of the ACC last season, the Eagles’s roster looks drastically improved. Last season had some bright spots in it, but the team was never able to mesh well together, hence why they won a grand total of two conference games. This season, Boston College is ready to put the past behind them and begin to no longer be the team that is marked as an easy win on all the other ACC teams’ calendars. Boston College didn’t lose anyone significant last season. Connar Tava and Mo Jeffers were two solid contributors on the glass, but neither them averaged over six points per game, so they will most likely not be missed. AJ Turner was their biggest loss, as he did play pretty well last season. Ultimately, Turner decided to transfer to Northwestern as he saw his role diminish as the season progressed. Turner was a solid scorer who could shoot threes, but the Eagles believed that they are better off without him. The biggest positive for the Eagles is that their team seems to have plenty of capable players.
The offseason for the Eagles was pretty decent despite not having a stellar recruiting class. Steffon Mitchell may be the only note worthy freshman who could play significant minutes for the team this season. Mitchell has a very nice touch around the rim and a good handle that will help him create separation and make plays off the dribble. He was has good court awareness and is able to find open players in stride an in a half court setting. The other key acquisition for the Eagles was Deontae Hawkins. Hawkins put together a splendid career at Illinois State, proving that he is a solid scorer who can shoot threes as well as rebound the ball effectively.
Although Boston College was the laughing stock of the ACC last season, two players on the team showed flashes during the lackluster season. Ky Bowman could be primed for a standout sophomore season after showcasing promise during his freshman year. Bowman is an acrobat in the air and can make difficult, contested shots that not many other players can make. He was also deadly behind the three point line. In order for the ACC All-Freshman player to elevate his game to newer heights, Bowman must become a more engaged defender as well as a more willing passer. If those two elements are incorporated into Bowman’s game, he will have the chance to make an All ACC team at the conclusion of his sophomore year.
The other returning player that the Eagles are ecstatic about is Jerome Robinson. After a breakout sophomore season, Robinson is poised to build upon his success and take his game to the next level. Robinson is a lot of fun to watch, due to his passion for the game. His three point shot complements his attacking mentality perfectly, creating a matchup nightmare for defenders.
Boston College may have the best backcourt in the ACC. Bowman and Robinson will certainly do their part to help win games, but the question remains if the rest of the team can catch up to their level of play, and can head coach Jim Christian put his team in a position to win meaningful games? The Eagles have the potential to win some upset games this season and cause mayhem in the ACC.
10) Virginia Tech Hokies
2016-2017 Record: 22-11 (10-8)
Key Departures: Zach LeDay, Seth Allen, Ty Outlaw, Khadim Sy, Johnny Hamilton
Key Additions: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Wabissa Bede, PJ Horne
Head coach Buzz Williams has done a terrific job with the program ever since he was hired. The players love playing for him and have improved tremendously since Williams’s arrival. Virginia Tech is in an interesting situation, as the team still has talented players, but has lost many of their key players from the previous year. The biggest departure of Virigina Tech is Zach LeDay. The senior did so much during his time at Virginia Tech, as he was the leading scorer and rebounder his final year in college. The Hokies’s second leading scorer is also no longer with the team. Seth Allen’s ability to shoot lights out from three will truly be missed, as well as his senior leadership. Although he is still with the team, the Hokies unfortunately lost Ty Outlaw to a season ending knee injury. Khadim Sy and Johnny Hamilton both decided to transfer from the school. Even though Virginia Tech lost some keys pieces that helped them reach the tournament last season, it is not the end of the world as there’s light at the end of the tunnel for the Hokies.
Buzz Williams was able to pull off a successful recruiting year for Virginia Tech, as the program looks to have promising freshman who are ready to play immediately. The highest touted prospect the Hokies have is Nickeil Alexander-Walker. The freshman guard has a lot going for him. Alexander-Walker can take a rebound and go coast-to-coast in a matter of seconds. He can finish at the rim with either hand and does a really good job shooting off a screen. Some concerns to his game include his trigger happy habits and his turnover prone instances.
Another freshman who’s seeking minutes is Wabissa Bede. Although not vertically gifted, Bede is still able to get into the paint and finish around the basket. Bede is always smiling and appears to be having a good time every time he plays in a game, which displays his love and passion for basketball.
PJ Horne is another freshman who may be put in due for his defensive versatility and ability to stretch the floor. Besides the additions the Hokies made in the offseason, there are plenty of players who are returning to the team this season.
Ahmed Hill is looking to build off his solid sophomore season, providing good on-ball defense and perimeter shooting when called upon. Senior guard Devin Wilson has had a rough going during his time at Virginia Tech, but maybe he can end on a high note and help provide leadership and playmaking for the Hokies this season.
One player who is sniffing out a breakout season could be Kerry Blackshear Jr. Listed at 6’10" and 260 lbs, the big man may look to dominate the middle of this stingy Hokies defense and become the go-to guy down low on the offensive end. He could be the candidate to replace the production of LeDay.
Buzz Williams is forming an excellent program at Virginia Tech, and another tournament appearance will be pivotal for future recruiting. The dividends have already paid off so far, as the program has been able to land top recruits. The biggest question with this team will be who will be the leader of this team. Who will be the go to scorer? Can the young players perform at a high level on a consistent basis? If the young players can progress at a fast pace, then it’s very possible that the Hokies can return to the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year.
11.) North Carolina State Wolfpack
2016-2017 Record: 15-17 (4-14)
Key Departures: Mark Gottfried, Dennis Smith Jr., Maverick Rowan, Ted Kapita, Terry Henderson, BeeJay Anya
Key Additions: Kevin Keatts, Lavar Batts, Braxton Beverly (redshirt), Sam Hunt
It’s safe to say that NC State was disappointing last season. The inability to generate wins caused former head coach Mark Gottfried to get fired. New head coach Kevin Keatts has an entirely different team to work with. It was a surprise to the basketball world how poorly the Wolfpack despite having one of the most electrifying players in the country in Dennis Smith Jr. Keatts is looking to change the culture of the team as he takes the reigns of the program.
It’s safe to say that NC State lost more than they gained this offseason. Smith is the most talented player the Wolfpack have had in years, so his production and presence will truly be missed.
That being said, freshman Lavar Batts looks capable of playing a big role with the team early on. Batts is a freak athlete who will at least replicate some of the athleticism lost due to Smith’s departure.
The curious case of Braxton Beverly still has not been settled as the NCAA has dropped the ball and decided against all logic to rule him ineligible. If he is forced to redshirt his freshman year, it will be due to a strange incident. Beverly, originally committed to Ohio State, and is currently not allowed to play this season since he took summer classes at Ohio State.
Coming from North Carolina A&T is senior transfer Sam Hunt. After having a fine year with the Aggies, Hunt is looking to play for a more storied program during his final year of eligibility.
NC State seems to be deep at the guard positions, as Allerik Freeman and Torin Dorn are two talented players who are ready to take on more responsibility. Freeman, the former Baylor Bear, is a true marksman from three point range and will help generate instant offense for the Wolfpack. Dorn is another former transfer who originally played for Charlotte. Unlike Freeman, Dorn is more of a conventional guard who plays unselfishly and looks to find open teammates.
Sophomore Omer Yurtseven has perhaps the most upside on the team. The 7-foot Turkish center is a force on the block who has a nice touch and can finish with either hand around the basket. Yurtseven is also a tenacious rebounder and can protect the rim on the defensive side of the ball.
The NC State basketball team is going to look much different this season. Can Keatts implement his style? Will it work? Can the Wolfpack actually be better without Dennis Smith Jr? After having such large expectations heading into last season, NC State will have a fresh start to recollect themselves and try to not relive their brutal past.
12.) Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
2016-2017 Record: 21-16 (8-10)
Key Departures: Quinton Stephens, Josh Heath, Corey Heyward
Key Additions: Jose Alvarado, Brandon Alston, Evan Cole, Curtis Haywood, Moses Wright
The Yellow Jackets put teams on upset alert during ACC play, defeating teams such as North Carolina, Florida State, and Notre Dame. Reaching the NIT championship game is a step in the right direction for the Yellow Jackets that struggled during ACC play. Georgia Tech’s success in the NIT can testify the ACC’s prowess in college basketball. The good news for the Yellow Jackets is that the team didn’t lose too many pieces from the previous season.
Head coach Josh Pastner was able to pick up four freshman who could potentially find playing time this season. Jose Alvarado may be the most ready to do so. The point guard may be small in stature, but there’s a cockiness about Alvarado that allows him to play freely and make decisions without hesitation. Another freshman who’s in a position to receive a significant role with the team is Evan Cole. The big man is able to stroke it behind the three point line with the best of them. Brandon Alston is searching for playing time against better competition after he decided to transfer from Lehigh to Georgia Tech.
Ben Lammers is looking to end his career on a high note at Georgia Tech. Lammers really came on during his junior year, proving to be one of the best big men in the ACC. His shot blocking ability is one of the best in the country. Plus add his great touch around the rim and his high basketball IQ, Georgia Tech has something to be excited about this season.
The keys to the Georgia Tech belong to sophomore guard Josh Okogie. His freshman season came out of nowhere, as Okogie exceeded all expectations. His ability to draw contact and get to the free throw line is rare. Okogie gets after it on the defensive end, has the vision to find open players, and rebounds well for position. If Georgia Tech wants to have any success this season, the answer lies in the hands of Okogie.
Georgia Tech will definitely improve upon last year’s ACC performance. Are Lammers and Okogie legit ACC Player of the Year candidates? Does Georgia Tech have the depth to compete with the top teams in the ACC? Whether all these questions get answered or not, the Yellow Jackets are a team on the come-up, and will be a problem to deal with down the road.
13.) Wake Forest Demon Deacons
2016-2017 Record: 19-14 (9-9)
Key Departures: John Collins, Dinos Mitoglou, Austin Arians
Key Additions: Chaundee Brown, Terrence Thompson, Melo Eggleston
Wake Forest made the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2010 last season. A successful year to say the least, the Demon Deacons look to build upon their success. Head coach Danny Manning has done a fine job building this team from the ground up, but players are going to need to step up and take on bigger roles this season in order to get back to the tournament. John Collins was one of the top players to play for Wake Forest in the twenty-first century.
Wake Forest was able to land the talented freshman guard Chaundee Brown during the recruitment process. Listed at 6’5" and 215 lbs, Brown has the size to play either guard spot, but when watching him play, he thrives more with a ball in his hands and seems to be more of a on-ball type of player.
Another incomer, albeit a senior, is Terrence Thompson who is a transfer from Marshall. Thompson enjoyed a solid career at Marshall, but is now focused on playing more meaningful minutes for a bigger school.
After transferring from Charlotte last season, Keyshawn Woods had himself a sophomore year for the Demon Deacons, contributing to the terms in an array of ways, such as shooting, rebounding, and passing. With Collins no longer in the picture, Woods may be one of the guys who sees an increase in production.
Brandon Childress didn’t get too many opportunities to shine during his freshman year, but that may change his sophomore year if he is able to showcase his playmaking abilities more frequently.
Mitchell Wilbekin has been consistent during his time at Wake Forest but has never been able to breakout. Will his minutes be there or will he get beaten out by other players at his position? Doral Moore is the big man who will need to make up the most ground lost in terms of rebounding that Collins is leaving behind.
With all of these players competing for playing time, the one player who appears to be the new face of the team is Bryant Crawford. Crawford is able to create his own shots with ease by using his quickness and his handle to go past defenders and take it to the rack, where he can score with either hand. Crawford is also a willing passer and will hit teammates with passes if he sees the opening.
There’s a lot to like about the Demon Deacons heading into this season, but how big deal of a deal is it to not have John Collins? Are they too guard heavy with not enough big men depth? Can Crawford carry this team to the NCAA tournament? Only time will answer these questions, but for now, it appears that Wake Forest is one of the most difficult teams to project in the ACC.
14.) Clemson Tigers
2016-2017 Record: 17-16 (6-12)
Key Departures: Jaron Blossomgame, Avry Holmes, Sidy Djitte
Key Additions: Mark Donnal, Malik William, Aamir Simms, Anthony Oliver, Clyde Trapp
The Clemson Tigers are surely in rebuild mode this season. There isn’t an excess of talent on this roster. Head coach Brad Brownell will need to put forth one of his best coaching performances in order for this team to keep up with the best teams in the ACC.
The Tigers weren’t able to acquire a great recruiting class, but they may still need for some of these freshman to step up regardless. Anthony Oliver may see some minutes come his way, even though he may not be physically developed enough. The one thing that Anthony brings to the table is his extraordinary ability to knock down threes. Not only can he shoot, but he is very consistent and has very good range on his shot. That alone will get him playing time on the Tigers that are in need of shooting and scoring overall.
Aamir Simms may have the most potential out of all the incoming freshman. Simms is a athletic big man who can shoot, dribble, and rebound effectively. He also has a nice hook shot to go along with his polished post game. Simms has also proven that he is willing to go after it on defense. After not receiving a substantial enough role at Michigan, Mark Donnal decided to transfer to Clemson in order to get more minutes. Donnal shoots the ball at a efficient rate and is also a more than capable rebounder.
Donte Grantham is a senior forward who is looking to capitalize off the opportunity of a bigger role now that Blossomgame is no longer in the picture. Grantham brings an all around game that includes the ability to make threes as well as block shots and grab rebounds. He is a long and lengthy big man who is athletic enough to guard multiple positions.
Gabe DeVoe has steadily increased his scoring average during his time at Clemson, so the question if whether he can take the next step with bigger responsibilities? He has shown he can score but hasn’t proven his ability to make others around him better.
Marcquise Reed may have the best chance to be the focal point of the Tigers this season due to his shot making ability and willingness to pass to other teammates and allow them to make plays for themselves.
There are a lot of holes in this Clemson team. Do they have enough scorers to keep up with high powered offenses? Who is the next man up after the departure of three seniors? Who steps in as the leader(s) of this team? Brownell and the rest of the Clemson Tigers are going to have their hands full in the ACC this season.