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Florida State Seminoles

2018-19 ACC Men’s Basketball Overview

The Atlantic Coast Conference is one of the top leagues in college basketball nearly every season and has a rich history of success on the national stage. Nine conference teams were selected for last season’s NCAA Tournament and four advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, with two continuing to the Elite Eight. Ten ACC players were selected in the NBA Draft; six in the first round.

Yet, somehow this season may be even more competitive.

ACC teams landed nineteen top-100 recruits, and twelve teams start the year with a legitimate chance of making the NCAA Tournament. Seven conference teams ranked in the Top 25 in the preseason AP and coaches polls. There are nine teams in the top 31 of KenPom’s ranking—including FSU at 12th. And, as of this publication, the ACC is the only undefeated conference left in the country, with its teams standing a collective 27-0. Indeed, the eventual NCAA National Champion may well reside in the ACC.

Boston College

  • 2017-2018: 19-16, 7-11 ACC (12th); lost to Western Kentucky in the 1st Round of the NIT
  • ACC Preseason Media Poll: 12th
  • KenPom Preseason National Ranking: 65th
  • Departures: Jerome Robinson (20.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.3 apg); Deontae Hawkins

The Eagles 1st round loss in the NIT last season represented their first postseason appearance since 2011. BC had an elite backcourt with Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman, but the loss of Robinson leaves them with no secondary ball handler. Bowman (17.6ppg, 6.7rpg, 4.7apg, 1.5spg), a member of the Preseason All-ACC 1st team, will be the center of everything for Boston College. Bowman averaged 38.2 minutes a game last season, finishing fourth-best in the ACC in rebounds and assists and is the ACC’s top returning scorer. Senior guard Jordan Chatman (12.9ppg, 39.5% 3pt) will join Bowman as a starter in the backcourt, having played 36.8 minutes a game last season. Sophomore Steffon Mitchell looks to build on a breakout freshman year in which he led the team in rebounds and blocks. Top-60 recruit Jairus Hamilton is quite similar to Mitchell and could provide some inside and out scoring at the forward position.

There is nothing to suggest overall improvement from Boston College this season, but beating them will not be a given for ACC opponents. Bowman is a big-time player, capable of going off for big numbers on any given night, and his supporting cast is good enough to make a return trip to the NIT a possibility for the Eagles.

Clemson

  • 2017-2018: 25-10, 11-7 ACC (tie for 3rd); lost to Kansas in the Sweet 16
  • ACC Preseason Media Poll: 6th
  • KenPom Preseason National Ranking: 14th
  • Departures: Gabe DeVoe (14.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg), Donte Grantham (14.2 ppg, 6.9 rpg); Mark Donnal; Anthony Oliver (transferred)

The Tigers excellent defense (No. 7 AdjD; KenPom) helped them advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament last season, finishing 20th in the AP Poll. On the hot seat, before his team made the NCAAs for the first time since 2010-11, Coach Brad Brownell looks to return to the Big Dance after losing two of his best players (Gave DeVoe; Donte Grantham) to graduation.

DeVoe led the way for Clemson in their three NCAA Tournament games averaging 25 points, 5 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game while shooting 47.8% from deep. Senior guards Marcquise Reed (15.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3.3 apg, 1.7 spg; Preseason All-ACC 2nd Team) and Shelton Mitchell (12.2 ppg, 3.6 apg, 36.8% 3pt) are scoring threats on the perimeter threats and good defenders, but neither has shown the ability to run the offense like DeVoe. Brownell will now rely upon a pair of 4-star freshman, Hunter Tyson and John Newman III, to replace DeVoe’s 34.3 minutes per game. Sophomores Aamir Simms and Malik William will continue to fill Grantham’s role after the Tigers finished last season 9-7 after losing him to an injury. Senior center Elijah Thomas (10.7 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 2.3 bpg) and graduate transfer Javan White will hold things down in the post for the Tigers. Reed (4th, 3.2 Stl%; 5th, 87.8% FT%; 16th, 22.7 ARate; all in conference games only; KenPom) and Thomas (1st, 10.2 Blk%; 8th, 11.3 OR%; 3rd, 24.4 DR%; all in conference games just; KenPom) were featured as the fourth and fifth players on the ACC all-kenpom.com team.

Clemson is an excellent team that will compete in the top half of the ACC this season and should return to the NCAA Tournament. Their defense will remain one of the best in the nation, but the question will be how their offense looks without a proven distributor.

Duke

  • 2017-2018: 29-8, 13-5 ACC (2nd); lost to Kansas in the Elite 8
  • ACC Preseason Media Poll: 1st
  • KenPom Preseason National Ranking: 3rd
  • Departures: Marvin Bagley III (21.0 ppg, 11.1 rpg), Gary Trent Jr. (14.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg), Wendell Carter Jr. (13.5 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 2.1 bpg), Trevon Duval (10.3 ppg, 5.6 apg, 1.5 spg); Grayson Allen (15.5 ppg, 4.6 apg, 1.7 spg)

Duke lost last seasons entire starting lineup to the NBA Draft but reloads with another ridiculous incoming class. Coach Mike Krzyzewski managed another top recruiting class by landing the #1, #2, #5, #15, and #33 ranked players in the country (247Sports Composite). If you are paying attention at all, you’ve seen the thrilling highlight reels from freshman Zion Williamson, but he was bested in the recruiting rankings by both R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish. The trio were the top three vote-getters in the ACC Preseason Freshman of the Year balloting, with Barrett at the top. Barrett was also selected to the preseason All-ACC 1st Team, while Williamson made the 2nd Team.

Joining Barrett, Reddish, and Williamson as the fourth starting freshman will be point guard Tre Jones (younger brother of Tyus). The #15 overall recruit (247Sports Composite) may well be the most crucial player in this class as he will be called upon to run the offense and control the ball. The starting five will likely be rounded out by junior center Marques Bolden. Sophomore Alex O’Connell established himself as a 3-point threat on 48.9% shooting from deep as a freshman and will be the first man off the bench.

The talent on this team is undeniable and will have Duke in the national spotlight yet again. If that talent outweighs inexperience, and the Blue Devils play solid defense, they’ll not only battle Virginia and North Carolina to win the ACC, but be a top contender for the National Championship, as well.

Florida State

The Seminoles return a majority of the lineup that reached the Elite Eight, including their leaders in points, rebounds, and assists. Senior Phil Cofer (12.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 37.5% 3pt) was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA due to medical hardship, boosting Florida State’s season outlook, but will be out until early December after suffering an injury in preseason practice. Cofer broke out as an inside-out threat last season (36.5% 3pt), finishing as FSU’s leading scorer and second-leading rebounder.

The stat-stuffing Terance Mann (12.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg) comes into his senior season as the team’s second-leading returning scorer and top rebounder. Emerging as the team’s primary ball-handler late last season, junior Trent Forrest will be called on to operate the offense efficiently and is an elite defender. M.J. Walker looks to prove himself as an NBA prospect in his sophomore campaign and should receive more opportunities with the graduation of Braian Angola. The versatile Mfiondu Kabengele (7.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg) will also look to build on his freshman campaign as a stretch 4/5 and is joined in the post by 7’4” center Christ Koumadje (6.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.5 bpg). The Seminoles added graduate transfer David Nichols (Albany) after losing PG CJ Walker to the Buckeyes. Three second-year players (sophomore Wyatt Wilkes, and redshirt freshmen Raiquan Gray and Anthony Polite), along with true freshman Devin Vassell will provide the depth Leonard Hamilton uses to wear out opponents.

The Seminoles look to be improved from last season, but not having Cofer available for the toughest non-conference games could be a problem (he could theoretically return before the ACC/Big Ten Challenge game against Purdue on November 28th). Coach Ham’s squad will compete among the extremely competitive top 8 of the ACC and should have no trouble returning to the NCAA Tournament. FSU has its usual length and athleticism to be disruptive on the defensive end and should become more efficient on offense. Their ceiling this year could be determined by whether or not they can consistently play with the same sustained focus and effort they discovered during last season’s NCAA Tournament run.

Georgia Tech

  • 2017-2018: 13-19, 6-12 ACC (13th)
  • ACC Preseason Media Poll: 13th
  • KenPom Preseason National Ranking: 92nd
  • Departures: Josh Okogie (18.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.8 spg); Ben Lammers (11.7 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 2.4 bpg); Tadric Jackson (12.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg)

The losses of Josh Okogie and Ben Lammers leave a considerable void to fill for the Yellow Jackets in Josh Pastner’s third season. Sophomore point guard Jose Alvarado (12.1 ppg, 3.1 apg, 1.7 spg) returns from a season-ending elbow injury as the only established contributor. Joining him in the backcourt will be freshman Michael Devoe, the consensus #51 recruit in the nation. The struggle for this team will come in the post, as rebounding and defense are huge question marks.

This is a very young Yellow Jackets squad with plenty of talent, particularly on the perimeter, but they’re not quite ready to rise from the bottom of the conference standings. They’re capable of playing teams close and pulling off occasional upsets, but this season will primarily be about gaining experience for the future.

Louisville

  • 2017-2018: 22-14, 9-9 ACC (tie for 8th); lost to Mississippi State in the NIT Quarterfinals
  • ACC Preseason Media Poll: 11th
  • KenPom Preseason National Ranking: 62nd
  • Departures: Deng Adel (15.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg); Ray Spalding (12.3 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.5 spg, 1.7 bpg); Quentin Snider (11.8 ppg, 4.0 apg) and Anas Mahmoud (6.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.9 bpg)

The Cardinals’ season was more notable for things happening off the court than on it as interim coach Scott Padgett stepped in after Rick Pitino was fired amid a federal investigation into corruption and bribery. Padgett has since been replaced by Chris Mack (Xavier). Mack looks to use the advantages of being at a program like Louisville to build on his nine seasons at Xavier during which he managed eight NCAA appearances, advancing to three Sweet Sixteens and one Elite Eight.

Mack will have a talented roster filled with length and athleticism to deploy in his pack line defense. He’s added several transfers, bringing immediate experience while he recruits for the future. The Cardinals could finish in the bottom half of the ACC in this transition year and make a return to the NIT, but they have a shot at making the NCAAs depending on how quickly they can pick up the new system. The big question will be how quickly Mack can move the program past Pitino’s scandals.

Miami

  • 2017-2018: 22-10, 11-7 ACC (tie for 3rd); lost to Loyola-Chicago in the NCAA Round of 64
  • ACC Preseason Media Poll: 10th
  • KenPom Preseason National Ranking: 21st
  • Departures: Lonnie Walker (11.5 ppg); Bruce Brown Jr. (11.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 4.0 apg, 1.3 spg); Ja’Quan Newton (8.8 ppg)

The Hurricanes return 5’7” point guard Chris Lykes (9.6 ppg, 34.5% 3pt), long-range bomber Dejan Vasiljevic (9.0 ppg, 41.1% 3pt), and a former 5-star recruit in junior Dewan Huell Hernandez (11.4 ppg, 6.7 rpg), although the latter’s currently being held out due to the ongoing shoe company investigation. UM added graduate transfer Zach Johnson (Florida Gulf Coast), and Anthony Mack (Wyoming) on the wing.

If several of last year’s backups are able to increase their production, the Hurricanes could exceed their position in the ACC preseason poll. Undersized in the backcourt, this team will give opponents trouble with their quickness. Miami played in their third consecutive NCAA Tournament last season, but could struggle to get back there with no proven replacements for two players (Brown; Walker) lost as early entrants to the NBA Draft.

North Carolina

  • 2017-2018: 26-11, 11-7 ACC (tie for 3rd); lost to Texas A&M in the NCAA Round of 32
  • ACC Preseason Media Poll: 3rd
  • KenPom Preseason National Ranking: 4th
  • Departures: Joel Berry (17.1 ppg, 3.2 apg) and Theo Pinson (10.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 5.1 apg)

Luke Maye (16.9 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 43.1% 3pt), who broke out as a star during UNC’s 2017 NCAA National Championship run, returns for his senior season as the ACC Preseason Player of the Year, and a candidate for national player of the year. He ranked third on the ACC all-kenpom.com team thanks to finishing 10th in ORtg (118.2), 16th in eFG% (55.2%), 9th in OR% (10.3%), 10th in DR% (21.3), and 1st in 3pt% with 43.1% (ACC only). Joining him in the frontcourt will be uber-talented freshman Nassir Little, the #3 overall recruit (Roy Williams’ first top-5 recruit since Harrison Barnes). Little’s projected as a top-5 pick in next years NBA Draft. His length and athleticism make him an outstanding defender, and he’ll be an explosive scorer as the stretch four for the Tar Heels. A pair of returning starters at the wing, seniors Cameron Johnson (12.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 34.1% 3pt) and Kenny Williams (11.4 ppg, 40.7% 3pt), will be called upon to stretch the floor with outside shooting and to maintain their contributions on the glass that helped make Carolina the third-best rebounding team in the country last season (37.4% OffReb%; KenPom).

Possibly more important to this team’s chances of competing for ACC and National titles is finding someone to facilitate the offense, a job done well in different ways by seniors Joel Berry and Theo Pinson last season. Maye will need to use his ability as a passer more often, and freshman forward Leaky Black (#71 overall recruit) has a similar game to that of Pinson, but the real challenge will be replacing Berry at the point guard position. Sophomore Seventh Woods backed up Berry last season, but will compete for the starting job this season with freshman Coby White (#25 overall recruit). White is the all-time leading scorer in North Carolina high school basketball history and is a score-first point guard, similar to Berry.

The Tar Heels will compete with Virginia and Duke as the top three teams in the ACC this season, but just how good they can be will depend on how well White is able to run the offense. They’ll put up plenty of points regardless, but if White’s able to win the job from Woods, UNC could win the ACC and find themselves playing for another National Championship.

N.C. State

  • 2017-2018: 21-12, 11-7 ACC (tie for 3rd); lost to Seton Hall in the NCAA Round of 64
  • ACC Preseason Media Poll: 8th
  • KenPom Preseason National Ranking: 36th
  • Departures: Allerik Freeman (16.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg), Lennard Freeman (7.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg), Sam Hunt; Abdul-Malik Abu; Omer Yurtseven (13.5 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.8 bpg; transferred to Georgetown)

Having already lost a ton of production from last season, the Wolfpack took another big hit by losing sophomore point guard Braxton Beverly (9.5 ppg, 3.9 apg, 38.5% 3pt) to a fractured bone in his left hand during preseason practice. Beverly, who started 26 games last season and was second on the team with 60 3-pointers, underwent surgery and is out indefinitely (update: Beverly was able to return after missing just the season-opener).

NC State still has junior point guard Markell Johnson (8.9 ppg, 7.3 apg, 1.7 spg, 40.9% 3pt) and 6’5” guard C.J. Bryce, who followed coach Kevin Keatts to Raleigh from UNC Wilmington, will be available after sitting out last season. Keatts also added five transfers this offseason in hopes of building a roster that better fits his system than the one he had in his first season.

With the potential to be an excellent team on the offensive end, the Wolfpack will lean on their defensive pressure and solid three-point defense to overcome a limited frontcourt that found them near the bottom of the country in FG% defense last season. In his second year, Keatts’ team will again be very competitive in the ACC, and they’re likely to get back to the NCAA Tournament.

Notre Dame

  • 2017-2018: 21-15, 8-10 ACC (tie for 10th); lost to Penn State in the 2nd Round of the NIT
  • ACC Preseason Media Poll: 9th
  • KenPom Preseason National Ranking: 58th
  • Departures: Bonzie Colson (19.7 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 1.7 spg, 2.2 bpg), Matt Farrell (16.3 ppg, 5.5 apg); Martinas Geben (11.1 ppg, 8.0 rpg)

Coach Mike Brey does not usually give freshman big minutes but may have to use his 3rd ranked recruiting class in the ACC to help offset the losses of Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell. Brey got a taste of what to expect without both players last season, as Colson, a national player of the year candidate at the start of last season, missed over half the year due to injury, while Farrell suffered numerous injuries, as well. The Fighting Irish naturally struggled, especially without Colson, finishing the season far below expectations.

The good news at point guard is that junior T.J. Gibbs (15.3 ppg, 3.0 apg, 40.3% 3pt) proved a capable option while playing 37.4 minutes a game last year. Senior Rex Pflueger (8.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.2 apg) will join Gibbs in the backcourt as a defensive stopper. In the post, center John Mooney (5.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg) will be joined by 6-11 transfer Juwan Durham, previously a top-50 recruit who struggled in one season at UConn, but gives the Irish a long and athletic power forward.

Mainly touted for their shooting ability, Notre Dame’s four-man freshmen class will mostly provide depth, as Brey will be forced to give at least some of them significant minutes. The Irish project to finish in the middle of the ACC and make a return to the NIT, but if Durham and a couple freshmen can be productive, they have a shot to reach March Madness.

Pittsburgh

  • 2017-2018: 8-24, 0-18 ACC (15th)
  • ACC Preseason Media Poll: 15th
  • KenPom Preseason National Ranking: 138th
  • Departures: Ryan Luther (12.7 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 38.7% 3pt, transferred to Arizona), Marcus Carr (10.0 ppg, 4.0 apg, 33.3 % 3pt, transferred to Minnesota), and Parker Stewart (9.1 ppg, 38.6% 3pt, transferred to UT Martin)

After going 0-18 in the ACC, Pittsburgh parted ways with head coach Kevin Stallings and replaced him with Duke assistant Jeff Capel. They now begin another rebuild, just two seasons after Stallings took over for Jamie Dixon (TCU). Several players transferred from the program after the coaching change, leaving this now undermanned roster even less capable of competing in the ACC. They do return their leading scorer, Jared Wilson-Frame (13.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg), and wing Shamiel Stevenson (8.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 37.5% 3pt).

Recruiting big-time talent to this program will be more difficult, but Capel has proven himself to be an excellent recruiter as a head coach at Oklahoma and most recently an assistant at Duke. This season will be another rough one for the Panthers, as they likely find themselves at the bottom of the conference standings again.

Syracuse

  • 2017-2018: 23-14, 8-10 ACC (tie for 10th) in; lost to Duke in the Sweet 16
  • ACC Preseason Media Poll: 4th
  • KenPom Preseason National Ranking: 8th
  • Departures: Matthew Moyer (transferred to Vanderbilt)

The Orange squeaked into the NCAA Tournament last season and made it to the Sweet Sixteen on the strength of their defense, which finished the year 5th best in the country in adjusted efficiency (KenPom). Their offense was not nearly as potent, coming in at #135 in adjusted efficiency with an effective field goal percentage worse than that of 323 other teams (KenPom).

Jim Boeheim’s team returns most of last season’s production, although he was down to using just six players at the end of the season. Preseason all-ACC 1st Team member, Tyus Battle (19.2 ppg) leads the way as a dynamic scorer in his junior year. Point guard Frank Howard (14.4 ppg, 4.7 apg, 1.8 spg) and forward Oshae Brissett (14.9 ppg, 8.8 rpg) also return. Freshman combo guard Jalen Carey (#61 recruit) brings quickness as a ball handler, while less heralded freshmen Buddy Boeheim (Coach Boeheim’s son) will be asked to help spread the floor with his perimeter shooting.

Boeheim’s zone should again facilitate one of the best defenses in the nation and will make this team very competitive in ACC play. They should improve offensively just by having a deeper rotation. How much the offense improves will be what determines whether they separate themselves from the ultra-competitive second tier of the ACC.

Virginia

  • 2017-2018: 31-3, 17-1 ACC (1st); ACC Championship; lost to UMBC in the NCAA Round of 64
  • ACC Preseason Media Poll: 2nd
  • KenPom Preseason National Ranking: 2nd
  • Departures: Devon Hall (11.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.1 apg), Isaiah Wilkins (6.0 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.4 bpg), and Nigel Johnson

There’s no way around it: this season will be about moving past last year’s historic loss to UMBC in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament. Being the only #1 seed to ever lose to a #16 will deservedly be something the ’Hoos hear about from opposing fans for eternity. However, they’ll often get the last laugh, as they’re one the best teams in the country, once again.

Juniors Kyle Guy (14.1 ppg, 39.2% 3pt) and Ty Jerome (10.6 ppg, 3.9 apg, 37.9% 3pt) will control the backcourt. Both possess the ability to distribute as well as create off the dribble and are threats from beyond the arc. Redshirt sophomore De’Andre Hunter (9.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg), named the ACC Sixth Man of the Year last season, was playing as well as anyone on the team down the stretch, before a wrist injury in the ACC Tournament ended his season. Braxton Key, a junior transfer from Alabama who was an All-SEC Freshman Team member, was granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA due to medical hardship, giving Tony Bennett another skilled perimeter player. In the post, Senior Jack Salt returns to anchor the defense and junior Mamadi Diakite is a reliable post scorer who will be looked to increase his contributions on the boards and as a rim protector.

The infamous loss to UMBC aside, this is a team that won 28 games last year in the regular season and three more on their way to winning the ACC Tournament. Bennett’s pack-line system was the best defense in the country with an 85.6 adjusted efficiency last season (KenPom). The Cavaliers make putting up points painful for their opponents and then limit the number of possessions by playing at a snail’s pace on the offensive end (59.4 adj. tempo, dead last in the country last season; KenPom).

Virginia is an elite team again this year and will have absolutely no trouble returning to the NCAA Tournament. As last year proved, anything can happen during March Madness.

Virginia Tech

  • 2017-2018: 21-12, 10-8 ACC (7th); lost to Alabama in the NCAA Round of 64
  • ACC Preseason Media Poll: 5th
  • KenPom Preseason National Ranking: 31st
  • Departures: Justin Bibbs (13.3 ppg) and Devin Wilson

Virginia Tech finished last season as one of the most efficient offenses in the nation (115.3 Adj. Efficiency, 28th; KenPom) and had the 6th best effective field goal percentage at 57.7% (KenPom). Coach Buzz Williams was set to return all but one major contributor from that team, but the Hokies’ season outlook took a significant hit at the end of October when senior forward Chris Clarke (8.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.0 apg, 42.4% 3pt) was indefinitely suspended. Clarke was immediately removed from the official roster, per school protocol, with no indication of a return. The Hokies are now without their key frontcourt player who was not only their best rebounder and a stalwart defender, but looked to improve as a scoring threat in his final season.

Williams will now have to rely even more on senior Justin Robinson (14.0 ppg, 5.6 apg, 1.2 spg, 39.8% 3pt%) who returns after an outstanding junior year in which he led the team in points, assists, and steals, while also shooting a high percentage beyond the arc. Joining Robinson as a starter in the backcourt as this season’s potential leading scorer is sophomore Nickeil Alexander-Walker (10.7 ppg, 39.2% 3pt). Alexander-Walker was the consensus #40 recruit in the country in 2017 and projects as a first-round pick in next year’s NBA Draft.

Athletic and long wing Ahmed Hill (10.6 ppg, 41.0% 3pt) returns for his senior season at small forward. Also expected to get time at SF will be Landers Nolley, the #67 overall recruit. Junior Kerry Blackshear (12.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg) will again start at center. Granted a sixth year of eligibility after sitting out last season with a ruptured ACL, forward Ty Outlaw is one of the best three-point shooters in the country. In a limited role until starting the last 9 games of the 2016-2017 season for the Hokies, Outlaw had the 11th best 3pt% in the country at 49.7% and the 2nd best in conference games at 51.5% from deep. Outlaw’s offensive efficiency and outside shot could help offset the absence of Clarke’s defensive rebounding and post scoring.

Even after finishing last season nationally at 6th in Effective FG% and 31st in 3PT%, VT had a reasonable chance to be better in nearly every category this year before the loss of Clarke. Already undersized in the paint and now without their best rebounder, the Hokies could find themselves outmatched by ACC teams with more size. Before Clarke’s suspension, this team seemed certain to return to the NCAA Tournament and capable of making it past the first weekend. Now a finish at least a few spots back from their ACC Preseason Media Poll projection of 5th seems more likely with a return to the NCAA still possible, but much more difficult.

Wake Forest

Wake Forest disappointed last season with the 3rd worst offense (110.9 AdjO; KenPom) and 2nd worst defense (103.0 AdjD; KenPom) in the ACC, leaving them second from last in the overall standings. Brandon Childress (9.1 ppg, 3.6 apg, 37.9% 3pt) will take over at the point, and while he is capable of running the offense, he hasn’t shown the ability to do so any more efficiently than Crawford. A pair of 3* freshmen, point guard Jamie Lewis and freshman combo guard Sharone Wright Jr., will compete to start alongside Childress in the backcourt.

Another pair of freshmen will likely start at forward. Jaylen Hoard, coach Danny Manning’s first 5* recruit (#24 overall recruit, #6 SF), is a scoring threat from all over the floor as a stretch four. Isaiah Mucius (#94 overall recruit) is a raw athlete with a less complete skillset at this stage than Hoard.

This year could find Manning in danger of feeling his seat warm up in Winston Salem. A very young team will keep the Deacons at the bottom of the ACC, once again. At least Hoard, who is likely to leave after this season as a projected top 10 pick in the NBA Draft, provides Demon Deacon fans with something exciting to watch during yet another rebuild.


2018-19 Composite ACC Basketball Schedule (PDF)

Conference play doesn’t tip off for another month and a half, when Notre Dame travels to Virginia Tech in a lone game on New Year’s Day at 1pm. However, given the criteria used to determine NCAAT bids, it’s important for the ACC to continue their hot start. (“Rising tide lifts all boats.”)

The first day of multiple conference matchups sees Florida State head to Virginia on Saturday, January 5th at 3pm (ESPN2).

The 2019 New York Life ACC Tournament will be played Tuesday, March 12th through Saturday, March 15th at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte.

What are your thoughts on the ACC outlook this year? How high can FSU finish? How many teams will be invited to the Big Dance?

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