ACC Basketball Preview
As college basketball returns for another highly anticipated season, one certainly could not look past the ACC when seeking out this year’s national championship contenders. The ACC sent nine teams to last season’s NCAA Tournament, and it is entirely plausible to argue that that number could reach double digits this March.
ACC Preseason Favorites
Duke Blue Devils:
2017-2018: 29-8, 13-5 (2nd) in the ACC; lost to Kansas in the Elite 8
Key departures: Grayson Allen (15.5 ppg.), Marvin Bagley III (21.0 ppg., 11.1 rpg.), Gary Trent Jr. (14.5 ppg., 40.2% 3pt.), Wendell Carter Jr. (13.5 ppg., 9.1 rpg, 2.1 bpg.), and Trevon Duval (10.3 ppg., 5.6 apg., 1.5 spg.)
Key additions: Four of Duke's five-man freshmen class were ranked inside the top-20 of the final ESPN Top-100 rankings, with R.J. Barrett (No. 1), Zion Williamson (No. 2), Cameron Reddish (No. 3) and Tre Jones (No. 17) all expected to play major roles for Mike Krzyzewski in what could be one of his last seasons as the head coach for the Blue Devils.
Now obviously, losing an entire starting five in a year after barely missing the Final Four is not the most ideal situation for any head coach. However, Duke hauled the top three high school prospects in the class of 2018, a feat no program in college basketball history ever accomplished before.
Potential NBA lottery picks R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cameron Reddish, combined with Krzyzewski’s staff will make Duke a clear-cut championship contender come postseason time.
2017-2018: 31-3, 17-1 (1st) in the ACC; lost to #16 seed UMBC in the NCAA Round of 64
Key departures: Devon Hall (11.7 ppg., 43.2% 3pt.), and Isaiah Wilkins (6.0 ppg., 6.2 rpg., 1.4 bpg.)
Key returning players: Junior backcourt of Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome; forward De’Andre Hunter (injured during the 2017-2018 NCAA tournament)
Last season, Virginia won its third ACC regular season title in the past five years and followed that up by making college basketball history in the NCAA tournament. Unfortunately, the Cavaliers will remain in sports history books for all the wrong reasons, as they became the first No. 1 seed ever to lose to a No. 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The challenge of recovering from last season’s humiliation will be taken on by the same group of players, minus two seniors. But because of the elite defensive culture that Tony Bennett has instilled in his program year in and year out, combined with the return of an experienced and motivated bunch, Virginia should once again finish as one of the top teams in the ACC.
North Carolina Tar Heels:
2017-2018: 26-11, 11-7 (tie for 3rd) in the ACC; lost to Texas A&M in the NCAA Round of 32
Key departures: Joel Berry (17.1 ppg.) and Theo Pinson (10.3 ppg., 6.5 rpg., 5.1 apg.)
Key returners: Luke Maye, Cameron Johnson, Kenny Williams, Sterling Manley and Garrison Brooks
Key additions: ESPN 100 Freshmen Nassir Little ( No. 6), Coby White (No. 23) and Rechon Black (No. 51)
The loss of Joel Berry and Theo Pinson cannot be overlooked, as both four-year players served imperative roles in the Tar Heels’ recent tournament success. Nevertheless, coach Roy Williams still has plenty of pieces to work with, such as preseason candidate for National Player of the Year, in Maye. Maye, along with talented incoming freshman Little, will lead UNC in what looks like another national title contending year for Roy Williams.
Other ACC teams that are projected to make this year’s NCAA tournament:
Virginia Tech Hokies
Florida State Seminoles
N.C. State Wolfpack
ACC teams that are projected to potentially be on the bubble in March:
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Boston College Eagles
More Names to know:
Tyus Battle, Syracuse
Ky Bowman, Boston College
T.J. Gibbs, Notre Dame
Justin Robinson, Virginia Tech
Markell Johnson, NC State
Pasquale Tartaro is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.