Athlon Sports 2017-18 ACC Basketball Preview

Early tourney exits mean ACC has something to prove

Could a conference that sent a record nine teams to the NCAA Tournament and produced the national champion last season really need to prove it’s not overrated?

 

When eight of those teams failed to get past the second round, that’s the label the ACC was pegged with after being hailed as the best conference in college basketball for much of the 2016-17 regular season. That lack of group success in the postseason was likely a fluke — the ACC sent six teams to the Sweet 16 in 2016 — but the conference will have to perform better in the NCAA Tournament in order to prove it. And there are plenty of reasons to believe it will redeem itself.

 

Duke will be extremely young but extremely talented. Another highly touted recruiting class that was ranked No. 2 nationally will team up with the enigmatic Grayson Allen, who needs to bounce back from a tumultuous junior year.

 

Louisville may have the best blend of talent and experience in the conference, but it's unproven head coach David Padgett that will be leading this team following the dismissal of Rick Pitino. Meanwhile, Notre Dame may have the best player in versatile forward Bonzie Colson.

 

Defending national champ North Carolina still has Final Four potential despite losing most of its dominating frontcourt. Joel Berry II ranks among the nation’s top point guards, and graduate transfer Cameron Johnson, who has already played in the ACC with Pittsburgh, is one of the conference’s top outside shooters. 

 

Miami looks poised for a breakthrough year with the return of a solid backcourt from a team that reached the NCAA Tournament. Prized Canes freshman Lonnie Walker has one-and-done potential.

 

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH

 

1. Duke 

Coach K reloaded again. Three five-star recruits will be counted on to replace three first-round draft picks. Point guard Trevon Duval should be an instant star.

 

2. Louisville 

Rick Pitino is no longer the man in charge, but the Cardinals still have a star-studded roster that is good enough to win the ACC title. Interim coach David Padgett is charged with keeping this team focused.

 

3. North Carolina

Don’t expect a program that’s been to back-to-back national title games to slide back much. Good guard play and outside shooting will make up for big losses in the frontcourt.

 

4. Miami 

This is the most talented team Jim Larranaga has had in his seven years at Coral Gables, and Larranaga has guided the Canes to the Sweet 16 twice before.

 

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5. Notre Dame 

Bonzie Colson should make a run at National Player of the Year honors. But a deep NCAA Tournament run comes down to the supporting cast.

 

6. Virginia Tech

Having such a balanced club last season will ease the loss of Tech’s top two scorers. Three double-digit scorers return, giving Buzz Williams more than enough to build on.

 

7. Virginia 

If possible, the Cavs may play an even slower pace. Replacing point London Perrantes will be a giant task.

 

8. Florida State

Despite losing their top three scorers from a 26-win team, the Noles return enough depth to avoid a big drop-off.

 

9. Wake Forest

Nobody in the ACC returns more experience, but it’s hard to see the Deacs getting better without John Collins.

 

10. Georgia Tech 

The buzz is building after a surprising 21 wins and thanks to the return of key players Ben Lammers and Josh Okogie.

 

11. Syracuse 

Landing grad transfer Geno Thorpe (South Florida) will add some much-needed offense, but there are lots of huge holes to fill with just five scholarship players returning.

 

12. Clemson 

With Jaron Blossomgame gone, the Tigers appear headed for a step back. They haven’t been to the NCAA Tourney since 2011.

 

13. NC State 

Landing an NIT bid would be a solid start for new coach Kevin Keatts, who will build around senior big man Abdul-Malik Abu.

 

14. Boston College

The top five scorers return, but that’s where the good news ends. BC has won 10 ACC games the last four seasons.

 

15. Pittsburgh 

This will be the definition of a rebuilding year for second-year coach Kevin Stallings. The Panthers have only three scholarship players returning.

 

CONFERENCE SUPERLATIVES

Player of the Year: Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame

Best Defensive Player: Ben Lammers, Georgia Tech

Most Underrated Player: Bruce Brown, Miami

Newcomer of the Year: Trevon Duval, Duke

 

ATHLON SPORTS’ ALL-ACC FIRST TEAM

Grayson Allen, Sr., G, Duke

Joel Berry III, Sr., G, North Carolina

Bruce Brown, So., G, Miami

Bonzie Colson, Sr., F, Notre Dame

Trevon Duval, Fr., G, Duke

 

ATHLON SPORTS’ ALL-ACC SECOND TEAM

Deng Adel, Jr., F, Louisville

Bryant Crawford , Jr., G, Wake Forest

Matt Farrell , Sr., G, Notre Dame

Ben Lammers, Sr., C, Georgia Tech

Quentin Snider, Sr., G, Louisville

 

ATHLON SPORTS’ ALL-ACC THIRD TEAM

Wendell Carter, Fr., F, Duke

Chris Clarke, Jr., G, Virginia Tech

Josh Okogie, So., G, Georgia Tech

Theo Pinson, Sr., F, North Carolina

Lonnie Walker, Fr., G, Miami

 

Event Date: 
Thursday, April 6, 2017 - 17:37

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