ACC 2017-18 COLLEGE BASKETBALL PREVIEW
1. Duke Blue Devils – Yep. I know you hate it but Duke should be loaded this year since they return Grayson Allen along with their best freshman class in quite some time. The Blue Devils have four freshman out of the top 12 coming into Durham. Led by freshman Marvin Bagley and Wendell Carter the Blue Devils should be primed for a long tournament run aside from being the top team in the ACC. Biggest non-conference games: vs Michigan State, @Indiana.
2. North Carolina Tar Heels – North Carolina sure is replacing a lot of key players but they do have Joel Berry, Theo Pinson, Luke Maye & pitt transfer Cameron Johnson to add some nice experience. Keep an eye on in coming freshman Garrison Brooks as well. The Tar Heels may take a small step back but this team is still legit and talented enough to potentially win the ACC. Biggest non-conference games: @Stanford, vs Michigan, @Tennessee.
3. Miami Hurricanes – Jim Larranaga should have one of the top ACC teams this year led by one of the best backcourts in all the ACC with Bruce Bowen & JaQuan Newton. Mix that dynamic backcourt with a top 20 recruit in freshman Lonnie Walker and this team could be a real player in the ACC. The biggest question will be how the Hurricane’s play in the paint. Biggest non-conference games: @Minnesota, vs Princeton.
4. Notre Dame Fighting Irish – Notre Dame has to be one of the more underrated basketball teams the past decade or so. Mike Brey’s Irish team this year should contend for the ACC Championship. Led by guard Matt Ferrell and forward Bonzie Colson this Irish team should be primed for another great season. Keep an eye out for incoming freshman forward D.J. Harvey who was a big time recruit for the Irish. Biggest non-conference games: @Michigan State, vs Indiana
5. Louisville Cardinals – Rick Pitino may be gone and incoming freshman Brian Bowen is suspended but David Padgett is inheriting a pretty good roster despite all that has happened. There is some nice experienced players on this roster led by guard Quentin Snyder & forward Deng Adel. Incoming freshman center Malik Williams could play a factor as well. Biggest non-conference games: @Purdue, vs Indiana, vs Memphis.
6. Virginia Tech Hokies – Buzz Williams is doing a great job in Blacksburg and I look for him to continue to build up this program. The Hokies were somewhat taken back when Khadim Sy transferred out of the program. Still, the hokies have a nice bit of upperclassmen returning led by guards Ahmed Hill & Justin Robinson. The real question is when will junior Chris Clarke will return from a torn ACL last February. Regardless, I like Buzz Williams to coach his team up to another tournament bid. Biggest non-conference games: vs Iowa, @Ole Miss, @Kentucky
7. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets – Josh Pastner surprised just about everyone last year with how good his team played. In the end the Yellow Jackets fell just short of a NCAA Tournament Bid but got into the NIT. This year in year two in Atlanta Pastner should get his Yellow Jackets into the big dance. Pastner brings back his top players from last season in Josh Okogie, Ben Lammers, Tadric Jackson. Biggest non-conference games: vs UCLA (in China), vs Northwestern, vs Tennessee, @Georgia.
8. Virginia Cavaliers – The Cavs and Tony Bennett lost some key pieces this past year but they return some veteran leadership with Kyle Guy & Ty Jerome. They also landed Rutgers grad transfer in point guard Nigel Johnson. Veteran guard play is always important in college basketball so that is perhaps a bigger land than most think. This team is loaded defensively the real question will be how well they can score the ball? Biggest non-conference games: @VCU, vs Vanderbilt, vs Wisconsin, @West Virginia.
9. Clemson Tigers – If you follow college basketball closely I think you’d admit that you somewhat felt sorry for Clemson head coach Brad Brownell who’s Clemson Tigers seemed to lose every game against a good opponent by a possession or two. Sometimes teams have to learn the hard way how to win close games. Normally that comes with experience which means this Clemson team should be primed for a good year. The backcourt should be good with Marcquise Reed and Vanderbilt transfer Shelton Mitchell. Plus they welcome Michigan grad transfer Mark Donnal at the Forward spot. This team is experienced and should be good enough to make their first tournament since 2011. Biggest non-conference games: @Ohio State, vs Florida, vs South Carolina.
10. Syracuse Orangemen – Jim Boeheim is still upset his Orange Men didn’t make the NCAA tournament last year. It’s hard to argue that they should have considering that they lost in the opening round of the NIT. This year looked like a setback year but he’s got talent with Tyus Battle and South Florida grad transfer Geno Thorpe so maybe Boeheim can overachieve and take his Orangemen to the big dance. Biggest non-conference games: vs Maryland, vs Kansas, vs UCONN, @Georgetown,
11. Wake Forest Demon Deacons – Danny Manning is doing some nice things at Wake Forest but if the team wants to really compete in the ACC then they have got to learn to be a better defensive team. The backcourt is loaded with talent with Bryant Crawford, Mitchell Wilbekin, & Keyshawn Woods. Another big question coming into this year is will the Demon Deacons be able to score down low on the block? They have talent but it’s pretty unproven. Biggest non-conference games: vs Illinois, vs Richmond, vs Tennessee.
12. Florida State Seminoles – Florida State had a great year last year but should of had a better run in tournament. The upper classmen will need to really step up with all that Florida State lost. The Seminoles will be lead by veterans Phil Cofer & Terrance Mann. Mix them with freshman small forward M.J. Walker and maybe this Seminole team can exceed expectations. Biggest non-conference games: vs Colorado State, @Florida, vs Oklahoma State.
13. NC State Wolfpack – NC State was one of the nation’s most disappointing teams last season and it cost Mark Gottfried his job. Now comes in Kevin Keatts from UNC Wilmington where he did great things but one can’t help but think what dirt he has since he comes from the Pitino coaching tree. Regardless NC State hired a guy who is a proven winner and UNC Wilmington has been a good mid major for a few years now. Keatts brings back some veterans that could perhaps make it so this team surprises. They have four upperclassmen in Allerik Freeman, Abdul-Malik Abu, Torin Dorn, & Sam Hunt to lead this NC State team. Experience can really make a difference in close games so maybe I’m underestimating this NC State team. Biggest non-conference games: vs Arizona, vs Penn State.
14. Boston College Golden Eagles – Finally, BC could be pretty competitive this year! They return their top two players for head coach Jim Christian in Jerome Robinson & Ky Bowman plus they bring in senior grad transfer Deontae Hawkins from Illinois State. All together this could be a pretty good team and while I did pick them 14th in the conference it would not surprise me to see the Golden Eagles finish a couple spots higher. They could be a tough out for some of the big boys. Biggest non-conference games: vs Texas Tech, @Providence, @Nebraska, vs Richmond.
15. Pittsburgh Panthers – Head coach Kevin Stallings has his work cut out for him. Pitt has the lowest returning minutes for anyone roster with just 7 percent of their team minutes returning. That means Stallings is going to have to plug and play with the roster constantly. Senior forward Ryan Luther is their top returning player but even Luther only averaged 12 minutes and four points a night. It just looks like it’s going to be a very long season in Pittsburgh but perhaps Stallings can do the coaching job of a lifetime. Biggest non-conference games: vs Penn State, vs West Virginia.