It’s never too early to start thinking about March Madness. Whether your a novice fan or basketball junkie, the rush of filling out a bracket is unmatched in today’s sports world. However, there is still a great amount of basketball to be played before we get to that glorious occasion.
With college football well underway, it’s an opportune time to preview one of college basketball’s most dominant conferences, the ACC. The conference is always at the top of the list when it comes to Final Four contenders. This season should be no different, as there is a possibility that as many as seven ACC teams make the NCAA Tournament.
It all starts with defending national champion, Duke, who might be just as dangerous this season as they were last. While the Blue Devils lost their two star players from its NCAA Championship team(Justise Winslow, Jahlil Okafor ) , they were able to reload by adding two five-star recruits in Brandon Ingram and Derryck Thornton.
Both Ingram and Thornton will step into prominent roles for Duke. Ingram will look to fill the void left by Winslow, while Thornton is set to become the teams starting point guard. The Blue Devils also feature Final Four standout, Grayson Allen, whom is looking to improve upon last season’s breakout freshman year.
But Duke isn’t the only ACC team with National title aspirations. North Carolina and Virginia have assembled some of the countries deepest, and most formidable rosters. North Carolina is led by its senior point guard, Marcus Paige, whose 14 points and 4.5 assists per game pace the Tar Heels offensive attack.
Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks make up one of the ACC’s most potent frontcourt duos. Coach Roy Williams also has two outstanding three-point specialists in Justin Jackson and true freshman, Kenny Williams.
Virginia has been one of the ACC’s premier teams of the last five years. Cavaliers coach, Tony Bennett, will rely on senior Malcom Brogdon, who opted against the NBA and returned for his final season. The offense will primarily revolve around Brogdon and his 14 points per game, but you can also expect senior forward Anthony Gill to improve on last season’s 11.6 point, 6.5 rebound season.
Duke, North Carolina and Virginia are at the head of the class in the ACC. But there are still plenty of talented programs that could play a major role in conference play.
Louisville is a question mark heading into the season. The Cardinals lost Wayne Blackshear, Montrezl Harrell and Terry Rozier to the NBA. To fill the voids left by the departed players, Rick Pitino opted to re-stock his roster with graduate transfers, Trey Lewis (Cleveland State) and Damion Lee (Drexel).
Lewis is a three-point marksman, making 96 of 227 shots from beyond the arc last season.
Lee will likely step into the starting small forward role. The fifth-year senior averaged 21.4 points for the Drexel Dragons a year ago. Florida State might be the ACC’s sleeper team. The Seminoles return leading scorer Xavier Rathan-Mayes and welcome highly regarded freshman, Dwayne Bacon.
There is still plenty of talent remaining in the conference. However, many questions arise when discussing the ACC’s less heralded teams.
Can Syracuse remain competitive without coach Jim Boeheim for the first nine ACC games? Will Notre Dame contend without Jerian Grant? Is Wake Forest a contender under Danny Manning?
How do the rest of the ACC teams stack up to the conferences heavy hitters? Here are some predictions for the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Zach Auguste-Notre Dame (Forward)
Malcom Brogdon-Virginia (Guard)
Jaron Blossomgame-Clemson (Forward)
Marcus Paige- UNC (Guard)
Codi Miller-McIntyre-Wake Forest (Guard)
Projected order of finish
5. Florida State
6. Notre Dame
7. N.C. State
9. Wake Forest
12. Virginia Tech
14. Georgia Tech
15. Boston College