Even before adding the 2013 national champion, the ACC could reclaim its spot as the nation’s premier basketball conference.
In 2013-14, the ACC adds another bona fide basketball powerhouse in Syracuse, plus consistent Big East programs Pittsburgh and Notre Dame to expand to 15 teams. And that’s before Louisville takes the spot of Big Ten-bound Maryland in 2014.
As the ACC gears up for Syracuse playing in Cameron Indoor Stadium and North Carolina heading north to the Carrier Dome, it may be tempting to forget that the Florida schools — Miami in 2013 and Florida State in 2012 — won the last two ACC tournaments.
Duke, North Carolina and Syracuse should be on top again, but teams like Virginia, Maryland and even Boston College return enough parts to be surprise squads in 2013-14 as Notre Dame and Pitt help build the depth in the league.
Here’s a quick look at the ACC with who’s back and who’s gone for the new 15-team league in 2013-14.
Other conference snapshots:
Big 12 (June 6)
Pac-12 (June 11)
Mountain West, A-10, MVC and others (June 13)
1. DUKE (30-6, 14-4 ACC, NCAA Elite Eight)
Key players gone: Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly, Mason Plumlee
Top returners: Quinn Cook, Andre Dawkins, Amile Jefferson, Marshall Plumlee, Rasheed Sulaimon, Tyler Thornton
New faces: Rodney Hood (Mississippi State transfer), Matt Jones, Semi Ojeleye, Jabari Parker (freshmen)
The losses of Curry, Kelly and Plumlee are huge, but Duke will be fine. The backcourt will be among the deepest in the country. Sulaimon stood out on the defensive end and proved capable of carrying the scoring load. Cook was second in the ACC in assists and assist-to-turnover ratio. The freshman Parker, a 6-8 wing, will add some versatility to the lineup. Hood averaged 10.3 points at Mississippi State in 2011-12, and Dawkins averaged better than eight points per game in each of his last two seasons before sitting out in 2012-13.
Related: Realignment tracker for all college basketball moves
2. NORTH CAROLINA (25-11, 12-6 ACC, NCAA round of 32)
Key players gone: Reggie Bullock, Dexter Strickland
Top returners: P.J. Hairston, James Michael McAdoo, Leslie McDonald, Marcus Paige
New faces: Nate Britt, Isaiah Hicks, Kennedy Meeks (freshmen)
McAdoo and Hairston both elected to return to school after North Carolina struggled to live up to expectations last season. The Tar Heels didn’t find their groove until going to a four-guard lineup, so it will be interesting to see how incoming freshmen big men Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks impact the rotation. The Tar Heels’ hopes hinge on the development of McAdoo and Paige.
Related: 2013-14 Conference Snapshot: Big Ten
3. SYRACUSE (30-10, 11-7 Big East, NCAA Final Four)
Key players gone: Michael Carter-Williams, James Southerland, Brandon Triche
Top returners: Rakeem Christmas, Trevor Cooney, C.J. Fair, Jerami Grant, Baye Keita
New faces: Tyler Ennis, Ron Patterson, Tyler Roberson (freshmen)
Replacing the starting backcourt of Carter-Williams and Triche will be challenging as the Orange move to the ACC. Syracuse is counting on incoming point guard Ennis and shooting guard Patterson, who signed with Indiana before going to prep school, to take those roles. Fair is the only returning player who averaged more than 5.1 points last season. He’ll contend for ACC Player of the Year honors.
Related: Syracuse, Melo among top recruiting classes since 2000
4. NOTRE DAME (25-10, 11-7 Big East, NCAA round of 64)
Key players gone: Jack Cooley, Scott Martin
Top returners: Eric Atkins, Zach Auguste, Cameron Biedscheid, Pat Connaughton, Jerian Grant, Tom Knight, Garrick Sherman
New faces: V.J. Beachem, Demetrius Jackson (freshmen)
Mike Brey’s program at Notre Dame is as consistent as they come, winning between 21 and 27 games in each of the last seven seasons (the flip side is no Sweet 16 appearances in that span). Cooley, who averaged a double-double, is gone, and the Irish will have some long road trips into the Southeast and Tobacco Road. But the Irish return their leading scorer Grant among seven of the top nine regulars from a year ago.
Related: 2013-14 Conference Snapshot: American
5. VIRGINIA (23-12, 11-7 ACC, NIT quarterfinal)
Key players gone: Jontel Evans, Paul Jesperson
Top returners: Justin Anderson, Darion Atkins, Joe Harris, Teven Jones, Akil Mitchell, Evan Nolte, Mike Tobey
New faces: Anthony Gill (transfer from South Carolina)
Virginia had too many bad losses to get into the NCAA Tournament last season. Perhaps a year of seasoning for Harris, Mitchell, Anderson and Tobey will bring more consistency. If so, the Cavs could finish among the top teams in the ACC. A major question mark may be at point guard, where Virginia adds two freshmen at the position.
6. PITTSBURGH (24-9, 12-6 Big East, NCAA round of 64)
Key players gone: Steven Adams, J.J. Moore, Dante Taylor, Tray Woodall, Trey Zeigler
Top returners: Durand Johnson, Lamar Patterson, James Robinson, Cameron Wright, Talib Zanna
New faces: Michael Young (freshman)
Adams will be a high draft pick, but he averaged only 7.2 points and 6.3 rebounds in his lone season at Pitt. The bigger loss is Woodall (11.5 ppg, 5.1 apg). Moore and Zeigler also left via transfer. That means Patterson and Zanna will need to carry the Panthers in their new league. The point guard Robinson averaged 3.5 assists in 26.6 minutes as a freshman, so he’ll be expected to take a jump with Woodall gone.
7. MARYLAND (25-13, 8-10 ACC, NIT semifinal)
Key players gone: Logan Aronhalt, Pe’Shon Howard, Alex Len, James Padgett
Top returners: Seth Allen, Shaquille Cleare, Nick Faust, Jake Layman, Charles Mitchell, Dez Wells
New faces: Roddy Peters (freshman), Evan Smotrycz (transfer from Michigan)
Len’s departure for the NBA draft hurts, but the Terrapins could have a squad ready to play in the NCAA Tournament. A handful of freshmen played last season in supporting roles, but Wells and Faust will be the leaders in the backcourt. The Terps’ prospects will be much better if the freshman Peters can hold down the point guard spot.
8. FLORIDA STATE (18-16, 9-9 ACC, NIT first round)
Key players gone: Terrance Shannon, Michael Snaer, Terry Whisnant
Top returners: Boris Bojanovsky, Devon Bookert, Montay Brandon, Ian Miller, Aaron Thomas, Kiel Turpin, Okaro White
New faces: Xavier Rathan-Mayes (freshman)
Florida State likely would have been a top-25 team had the nation’s top recruit, Andrew Wiggins, picked the Seminoles on May 13. FSU loses a go-to shooter in Snaer, and Shannon (VCU), while Whisnant (East Carolina) also elected to transfer. White (12.4 points per game) is the only returning player who averaged more than seven points per game, but the Seminoles have brought in three top-70 recruits in the last two recruiting cycles.
Related: 2013-14 Conference Snapshot: SEC
9. BOSTON COLLEGE (16-17, 7-11 ACC)
Key players gone: Andrew Van Nest
Top returners: Ryan Anderson, Dennis Clifford, Oliver Hanlan, Patrick Heckmann, Lonnie Jackson, Eddie Odio, Joe Rahon
New faces: Alex Dragicevich (transfer from Notre Dame)
In three seasons, Steve Donahue has rebuilt the Boston College roster, yielding one of the ACC’s youngest teams the last two seasons. That comes full circle in 2013-14. The Eagles return every player who averaged at least 11 minutes per game last season. Boston College could approach the .500 mark in the league.
10. NC STATE (24-11, 11-7 ACC, NCAA round of 64)
Key players gone: Lorenzo Brown, Richard Howell, C.J. Leslie, Rodney Purvis, Scott Wood
Top returners: T.J. Warren
New faces: BeeJay Anya, Anthony Barber (freshmen), Ralston Turner (transfer from LSU), Kyle Washington (freshman)
NC State is more or less starting over, which may not be a bad thing after the preseason ACC favorite finished fourth in the league and lost its first NCAA Tournament game. Warren (12.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg) is the top returner on a team that brings in another talented group of freshmen. Warren will be the clear leader here, but Turner (12.3 ppg at LSU in 2010-11) is another veteran.
11. GEORGIA TECH (16-15, 6-12 ACC)
Key players gone: Brandon Reed, Mfon Udofia
Top returners: Chris Bolden, Robert Carter, Marcus Georges-Hunt, Kammeon Holsey, Daniel Miller, John Morris
Georgia Tech hasn’t won 20 games since 2009-10, but the Yellow Jackets should get closer to that benchmark in Brian Gregory’s third season. The top four scorers are back, though none averaged more than 10.8 points per game. The frontcourt should be a strength with Carter, Holsey and Miller returning plus 6-5 wing Georges-Hunt.
12. MIAMI (29-7, 15-3 ACC, NCAA Sweet 16)
Key players gone: Julian Gamble, Reggie Johnson, Kenny Kadji, Shane Larkin, Trey McKinney Jones, Durand Scott
Top returners: Rion Brown
New faces: Garrius Adams (redshirted last season), Angel Rodriguez (transfer from Kansas State)
No ACC team loses more than the defending conference champs. With Larkin heading to the NBA Draft, Miami lost its top six scorers. Brown proved capable of a 20-point game here and there last season, but he’ll need to do that more regularly. Adams, a point guard, was injured all of last season, while seven-foot center Tonye Jekiri needs to play more as a sophomore. Rodriguez will be a key addition if he receives a waiver to play immediately after averaging 11.4 points and 5.2 assists as a starter at Kansas State last season.
13. WAKE FOREST (13-18, 6-12 ACC)
Key players gone: Chase Fischer, C.J. Harris
Top returners: Arnaud William Adala Moto, Tyler Cavanaugh, Madison Jones, Travis McKie, Codi Miller-McIntyre, Aaron Roundtree III, Devin Thomas
New faces: Coron Williams (transfer from Robert Morris)
Wake Forest quietly won more ACC games (six) last season than it had in Jeff Bzdelik’s first two seasons combined (five). The bulk of last year’s team returns, minus leading scorer Harris. Williams was a three-point sharp-shooter at Robert Morris before transferring to Wake Forest as a graduate student.
14. CLEMSON (13-18, 5-13 ACC)
Key players gone: Devin Booker, Milton Jennings
Top returners: Adonis Filer, Rod Hall, Damarcus Harrison, K.J. McDaniels, Jordan Roper
Clemson lost 10 of its final 11 games, including seven in a row, for the Tigers’ first losing season since 2003-04. In Booker and Jennings, Clemson loses two of its top three scorers and top two rebounders. The remainder of the roster will be sophomores and juniors in 2013-14, so this could be the first of two key seasons for Brad Brownell.
15. VIRGINIA TECH (13-19, 4-14 ACC)
Key players gone: Robert Brown, Erick Green
Top returners: C.J. Barksdale, Christian Breyer, Jarell Eddie, Will Johnston, Cadarian Raines, Joey Van Zegeren, Marshall Wood
Virginia Tech won only four ACC games with the league’s top scorer, but now Green is gone. Brown, the Hokies’ third-leading scorer, transferred to UAB, so the expectations won't be great in James Johnson’s second season.