Over the last couple of days, I’ve looked into the past as part of a series of posts on the upcoming ACC basketball season. Now I’ll actually look ahead to the season which, believe it or not, starts tonight. I’ve gone through each team’s non-conference schedule and projected how many wins and losses they will have, and I’ve also gone through each ACC conference game and assigned a winner and a loser. Here are my results and my subsequent rankings for how I believe the teams will finish the regular season, along with a few words about each team.
1. Duke (28-3, 15-3 ACC). Although only 2 starters return from last year, highly touted recruit Jabari Parker and transfer Rodney Hood will make a big impact, and Andre Dawkins returns from injury.
2. Syracuse (28-3, 15-3 ACC). Syracuse has a strong team for their first edition in the ACC, led by CJ Fair and Rakeem Christmas, along with freshman Tyler Ennis, who will make an impact.
3. North Carolina (24-6, 14-4 ACC). Questions do exist about the eligibility of guards PJ Hairston and Leslie McDonald, but a strong frontcourt will guide the Tar Heels through another solid season.
4. Pittsburgh (23-8, 12-6 ACC). Pitt is 1 of 7 schools to be in the NCAA Tournament 11 of the last 12 years, and returns 3 starters, including 2 strong seniors, and has a good home-court advantage at Petersen Events Center, as they participate in ACC play for the first time.
5. Virginia (23-8, 12-6 ACC). Led by a great coach in Tony Bennett and one of the best players in the country in guard Joe Harris, along with forward Akil Mitchell.
6. Notre Dame (22-9, 11-7 ACC). The Irish return guards Eric Atkins, Pat Connaughton, and Jerian Grant, along with good recruiting class to lead them into their first season in the ACC.
7. Maryland (20-11, 10-8 ACC). Arguably last year’s biggest NCAA snub, the Terps lost NBA lottery pick Alex Len, but return proven starters Dez Wells and Nick Faust, along with 4 others with starting experience and freshman guard Roddy Peters.
8. Boston College (16-15, 9-9 ACC). The Eagles return 96% of their scoring, 96% of their rebounding, and 98% of their assists from last year’s improved team. All 5 starters now have another year’s experience and could make some noise in the ACC race.
9. Miami (16-15, 7-11 ACC). The defending ACC champions (regular season and tournament) lose their best 6 players from that roster. This year’s edition had a combined 6 starts last year, all from guard Rion Brown. It will be a struggle for the Hurricanes this year.
10. NC State (15-16, 7-11 ACC). The entire starting 5 from last year’s Wolfpack either graduated or went to the NBA. Now State turns to their former 6th man, forward TJ Warren, to lead the team, and needs center Jordan Vandenberg and guard Tyler Lewis to step up.
11. Wake Forest (16-15, 7-11 ACC). An improved team last year upset Miami and NC State, and gave Duke a scare, and 4 starters return this year. The Deacons also add transfer guard Coron Williams, a good 3-point threat, as they try to improve on coach Jeff Bzdelik’s abysmal 1-24 ACC road record.
12. Florida State (15-15, 7-11 ACC). Others have them ranked higher, and even contending for an NCAA bid, but even though the Seminoles have 3 returning starters, they lose their leader and clutch specialist Michael Snaer to graduation, and may fall victim to the tougher ACC.
13. Georgia Tech (14-17, 6-12 ACC). The Yellow Jackets return 3 starters, and a lot of minutes, from a team that struggled at times but also had some bright moments. It’s tough to have them this low; that just shows how good and deep the ACC is.
14. Clemson (9-21, 2-16 ACC). A 5-13 team from last year loses its two best players, Devin Booker and Milton Jennings, to graduation. The Tigers took 5 charges in 31 games last season, a stat which shows the physical nature of their game that is simply missing.
15. Virginia Tech (6-23, 1-17 ACC). Last year, the Hokies were 4-14 with one of the best players in the nation on their roster in guard Erick Green. Now, him and his 25 points per game are gone, and it will be very difficult to come remotely close to replacing him. Five freshman will have to grow up quickly, and I’m afraid that could be too much to ask.
(For anyone wondering, the ties were broken by ACC tiebreak procedure, as they would be if these are the actual records.)
Sleepers: Boston College, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech
Preseason All-ACC team (this doesn’t mean a thing, but…): Virginia G Joe Harris, Duke G Rasheed Sulaimon, Notre Dame G Eric Atkins, Syracuse F CJ Fair, North Carolina F James Michael McAdoo
I mentioned the ACC’s depth and how tough it was to put Georgia Tech so low. I legitimately believe any of those top 13 teams could be in the top 5 in the conference standings at the end of the year, and any of the 13 could find themselves in the NCAA Tournament at year’s end. This would have been a good year for the ACC without the additions of Syracuse, Notre Dame, and Pittsburgh, but those new members make the conference even tougher.