ACC Basketball Season Preview
The most dominant conference in college basketball will get ready for the 2019-20 season this week. With Duke losing the big three of Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett and Cameron Reddish, the conference looks to be wide open.
The ACC has received the most bids to the NCAA Tournament over the past four seasons, and that trend will most likely continue this season. Four teams in this conference ranked in the top 25 in recruiting, and five finished last season ranked.
Will Duke bounce back from losing all its star power? Do we have any sleepers in this conference? Let’s break these teams down into tiers based on how they will finish.
Tier 1: The Champion
North Carolina Tar Heels (2018-19: 29-7, 16-2)
North Carolina brought in two five-star recruits, Cole Anthony and Armando Bacot, to bolster its already dominant lineup. UNC may have lost some big names from last year in Nassir Little, Coby White, Cameron Johnson and Luke Maye, but the Tar Heels are still loaded.
As a No. 1 seed in the 2019 NCAA Tournament, the Tar Heels ended their season in disappointing fashion after a Sweet 16 loss to Auburn. This year, they will look to improve upon that finish, and with all the talent that they’re bringing in, they should be the favorites to take over as ACC champions.
Tier 2: Elite (Tournament Locks)
Duke Blue Devils (2018-19: 32-6, 14-4)
Duke lost a significant amount of star power last season, but that does not mean that Blue Devils are in for a down year. Picking up two five-stars in Vernon Carey and Matthew Hurt keeps them in the right in the hunt.
Key starter Tre Jones will also be returning, and four-star recruit Cassius Stanley joins the roster to keep this team elite. Though the Blue Devils still have a strong lineup, their losses are too much to repeat as ACC champions.
Virginia Cavaliers (2018-19: 35-3, 16-2)
The defending national champions lost their team leader in Guard Kyle Guy. Nevertheless, the Cavaliers bring in the 23rd-ranked recruiting class in the nation to keep them in the hunt for a repeat.
Mamadi Diakite, Jay Huff, Kihei Clark and Braxton Key are all returning, meaning that chances are good that the Cavaliers will be a major threat to become the ACC champs. Even if they don’t quite get there, they are still going to be a dangerous team come tournament time as they always are.
Tier 3: Should Be Tournament Teams
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (2018-19: 14-19, 3-15)
Notre Dame had a very strong recruiting class after a disappointing season last year. This Fighting Irish team picked up four four-star recruits and is ready to make a serious impact in the ACC.
Pittsburgh Panthers (2018-19: 14-19, 3-15)
One of the scariest backcourts in the ACC just brought in the 32nd-ranked recruiting class, which includes two four-stars. Pitt is looking to be the basketball team that we saw from 2002-2016. In this stretch, the Panthers made the tournament 13 of 15 years with eight of those appearances being seeded in the top four.
Florida State Seminoles (2018-19: 29-8, 13-5)
Louisville Cardinals (2018-19: 20-14, 10-8)
Syracuse Orange (2018-19: 20-14, 10-8)
Tier 4: Bubble Teams
North Carolina State Wolfpack (2018-19: 24-12, 9-9)
This Wolfpack team only lost three players from last year, but they brought in three four-star recruits to replace them. NC State could be a major sleeper and should sneak into the tournament.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons (2018-19: 11-20, 4-14)
Wake Forest is another team that looks totally revamped, with one four-star and one five-star ready to compete. The Demon Deacons still have some work to do, but they are well on their way to returning to tournament status.
Clemson Tigers (2018-19: 20-14, 9-9)
Tier 5: Better Luck Next Year
Virginia Tech Hokies (2018-19: 26-9, 12-6)
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2018-19: 14-18, 6-12)
Boston College Golden Eagles (2018-19: 14-17, 5-13)
Miami (FL) Hurricanes (2018-19: 14-18, 5-13)
Caleb Schweiger is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.