There are landscape-shifting changes coming to Tobacco Road, and the ACC as a whole.
On April 1, in a move most people assumed was an April Fool’s joke, legendary head coach Roy Williams announced he was retiring from North Carolina. Days later, longtime assistant and former Carolina player Hubert Davis was named Williams’ replacement.
Two months later, Duke announced that Mike Krzyzewski would coach one more year with the Blue Devils before stepping down. Replacing Coach K would be Jon Scheyer, who won a national championship as a player with Duke in 2010 and has been a Blue Devils assistant for several seasons.
More than 2,000 career wins and eight national championships are leaving the league in a 12-month span, replaced by two men without head-coaching experience. Landscape-shifting might be an understatement.
Everyone will have their eyes on Krzyzewski’s final season in Durham, a farewell tour that will start with Duke as the favorite to win the league. The Blue Devils missed the NCAA Tournament last season for the first time since 1995, and Krzyzewski won’t want to end his career with another disappointing campaign. If the five-star freshmen make the expected impact and the sophomores take the next step, Duke can fight for a Final Four.
While there might not be a clear-cut national championship favorite in the ACC, there is plenty of depth, with more than half the league harboring legitimate NCAA Tournament hopes.
Mike Krzyzewski’s final season at the helm should be a successful one. The Blue Devils have reloaded after a 13–11 campaign, adding three five-star recruits — including potential No. 1 pick Paolo Banchero. Look for a breakout season from Mark Williams.
2. North Carolina
It’s a new era in Chapel Hill, and Hubert Davis has a team that can compete for an ACC title. The key will be Caleb Love, a former five-star point guard with plenty of talent who needs to be more consistent.
3. Florida State
Leonard Hamilton saw a trio of players, including lottery pick Scottie Barnes, leave early, but the Seminoles are bringing in several impact newcomers — including Houston transfer Caleb Mills.
4. Virginia Tech
The early-summer departure of Tyrece Radford likely takes the Hokies out of the ACC title hunt, but Mike Young still has Player of the Year candidate Keve Aluma and Wofford transfer Storm Murphy.
In Tony Bennett we trust. The Cavaliers don’t have a ton of talent, but they bring back Kihei Clark and Reece Beekman and land transfers Jayden Gardner and Armaan Franklin.
After missing the NCAA Tournament, the Cardinals should go dancing again. Carlik Jones and David Johnson are tough losses, but Jae’Lyn Withers is poised for a breakout season.
It’s going to be a Boeheim family affair this season, with Jim coaching both Buddy and Jimmy. Syracuse looks poised to become more of a shooting-oriented team.
8. Notre Dame
Mike Brey brings back four starters, including the perennially underrated Prentiss Hubb and potential all-league forward Nate Laszewski. The Irish also added Ivy League Player of the Year Paul Atkinson.
Expect a big jump from the Hurricanes. They’re loaded on the perimeter, with Isaiah Wong perhaps the best backcourt player in the league.
10. Georgia Tech
The Yellow Jackets were one of the pleasant surprises nationally last season, but Moses Wright and Jose Alvarado are gone. That puts a lot on the shoulders of Michael Devoe.
11. NC State
Under Kevin Keatts, the Wolfpack have hovered around the .500 mark in league play every season. They need to take the next step — but who will take on a bigger role in the backcourt?
12. Wake Forest
Steve Forbes had as much roster turnover as anyone in the country in the offseason, but there’s optimism with three returning double-figure scorers and four incoming transfers.
The Tigers haven’t finished below .500 overall since 2013, but Brad Brownell will have to work his magic this season to prevent a decline. They have a formidable perimeter group, but not much proven production up front.
Jeff Capel faces an uphill battle. The Panthers fell apart in the final six weeks of the season, then lost their three best players — including all-league forward Justin Champagnie.
15. Boston College
Welcome to Chestnut Hill, Earl Grant. The former Charleston head coach takes over the toughest job in the league; the Eagles haven’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2009.
Player of the Year: Paolo Banchero, Duke
Best Defensive Player: Manny Bates, NC State
Most Underrated Player: Michael Devoe, Georgia Tech
Newcomer of the Year: Paolo Banchero, Duke
All-ACC First Team
Keve Aluma, Sr., F, Virginia Tech
Armando Bacot, Jr. F/C, North Carolina
Paolo Banchero, Fr. F, Duke
Buddy Boeheim, Sr. G, Syracuse
Isaiah Wong, So., G, Miami
All-ACC Second Team
Kihei Clark, Sr., G, Virginia
Michael Devoe, Sr., G, Georgia Tech
Dawson Garcia, So., F, North Carolina
Prentiss Hubb, Jr., G, Notre Dame
Mark Williams, So. C, Duke
All-ACC Third Team
AJ Griffin, Fr., F, Duke
Nate Laszewski, Jr., F, Notre Dame
Caleb Love, So., G, North Carolina
Caleb Mills, So., G, Florida State
Jae'Lyn Withers, So., F, Louisville