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Whether it is on the court or off, the ACC has kept it’s name relevant this year.The conference sent nine teams dancing in March, ultimately winning the whole thing with North Carolina cutting down the nets. The conference has kept his name in the spotlight this offseason. With the FBI cracking down on illegal recruiting in basketball, the ACC received some good and some bad news.
North Carolina not only captured the title, but they were also cleared of any wrongdoing in their academic scandal. The program was accused of players receiving grades in fake classes and having tutors do their work for them. They are also in the clear of any recruiting allegations. Conference counterpart Louisville can’t say the same. Former head coach Rick Pitino and atheltic director Tom Jurich were let go earlier this offseason due to reports of illegal recruiting of freshman Brian Bowen.
The Cardinals are not the only team being looked at, but they’re one of the biggest. Even with the trouble happening in Kentucky, this conference should again dominate. The ACC is stacked with tough teams top to bottom. Expect no less than seven teams to play for the title come March.
The obvious favorite is Duke. And rightfully so, as this is possibly one of the best teams head coach Mike Krzyzewski has had in the one and done era. Led by senior guard Grayson Allen, the Blue Devils could run nine deep. Even with all this talent, Duke still has their flaws. Who takes the last shot? Can all these pieces come together under Allen’s watch? You can bet those questions will be raised if this team doesn’t get off to a hot start. The hype around freshman Marvin Bagley will be unreal. The freshman forward will have high expectations after reclassifying to join this team right before the season. Coack K has been in this position before as a number one ranked team coming into the season. Winning a title will be a challenge, but if any team can pull it off, it’s Duke.
Miami should keep the race for the conference title tight with their talented roster. The Hurricanes are led by a backcourt of senior Jaquan Newton and sophomore Bruce Brown. Brown is considered a first-round pick in the 2018 draft. The Massachusetts native is a flat-out scorer and gets buckets in bunches. You add that to Newton’s ability to hit big time shots and get others involved, and you have a Hurricane team that could make a run in March. Freshman Lonnie Walker will be eased into action once he returns from his injury.
Head coach Tony Bennett will have Virginia right back in the conversation as one of the best teams in the nation. The Cavaliers were young last year. Now with everyone coming back with significant experience, expect them to make a run. Seniors Devon Hall and Isaiah Wilkins will want to make sure they don’t end their careers with another fifth-place finish in the conference. The sophomore duo of Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome will have to step up. These two were highly recruited coming out of high school. Both can score and that is something that the Cavs will need them to do this year.
North Carolina will be good again. They will be without their senior point guard Joel Berry, but expect big things from sophomore Seventh Woods. Woods is a highlight waiting to happen. The Tar Heels have another really good group of freshman coming into help as well. Jalek Felton and Garrison Brooks will look to establish themselves early as the two prize recruits stepping on campus in Chapel Hill this season. Ultimately, the play of Theo Pinson and Luke Maye will be the key. Pinson wants to show everyone he can be an NBA player. Pinson was expected to be the next great Tar Heel. His career has been up down, plagued by injuries and slow starts. This is his time to show he can be their best player. Junior forward Luke Maye made his name late into the year. He was a major part of Carolina’s championship run. Carolina will also have help from graduate transfer Cameron Johnson. The Pitt transfer will give Carolina a versatile guard that can do a variety of things for this basketball team.
Louisville will be looking to make the most of their season before the sanctions start coming down. The Cardinals will be led by interim head coach Scott Padgett. While the school tries to find a new coach, Padgett will have to audition for the job. For most coaches in his position, there is little to no talent on the roster. For Padgett, that is definitely not the case. The Cardinals will have a ton of talent on this roster. Deng Adel has a ton of upside and will be considered a first round talent at year’s end. V.J. King has shown flashes of being a lethal scorer. He should definitely have a better year with some experience under his belt. Louisville will be without Brian Bowen, but the additions of Malik Williams, Darius Perry, Jordan Nwora, and Lance Thomas will give them plenty of depth. Quentin Snider will have to be the heartbeat of this team. The senior point guard will need to hold this team together during this time of adversity.
Syracuse is the hardest team to figure out. For some reason, this Orange team has not played up to Syracuse standards. Of course they have Tyus Battle. Outside of him, everyone else is a toss-up. Luckily for Battle, he should have some help this year. Syracuse welcomes two transfers that should help Tyus with the scoring load. Graduate transfer Geno Thorpe is a pure scorer that can get hot quick. The possibilities of him and Battle taking turns lighting teams up are scary. Braedon Bayer can score as well. The Orange will be counting on their freshman to come in and have an immediate impact. Bourama Sidibe could be the starting center to begin the season. The 13th ranked center according to ESPN, Sidibe has a ton of skill and the work ethic to match. He will set the tone defensively for the Orange. The upperclassmen for Syracuse will have to step up, most importantly Frank Howard. Howard has the ability to be one of the better point guards in the conference. At times he looked the part but his play was to erratic last year. If he can’t get the job done, look for freshman Howard Washington to step up. He has the tools be the starting guard for a lot of Power 5 programs. Jim Boeheim has the talent and the coaching pedigree to get his team dancing in March. He just has to bring them together and make them realize how good they can be.
As soon as you think Notre Dame is out of the picture, they just reload. The Irish return everyone except for two players for the 2017-18 season. The most important piece is senior forward Bonzie Colson. Colson will be asked to outdo a great junior season where he averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds last year. Now the third team all American will be asked to team with point guard Matt Ferrell to form one of the best inside-out combos in the nation. The Irish have a few new pieces that should help. Freshman D.J. Harvey was a top 50 recruit coming out of high school and he can get buckets. Temple Gibbs is another name to watch for. Gibbs could follow in Ferrell’s footsteps as far being a breakout player. Gibbs has a ton of talent and was 4 star recruit coming out of high school. It’s the bench that could hurt Notre Dame this year. Head Coach Mike Brey will have to get his reserves some big minutes early. Notre Dame has the look of a tournament team if they can come together and prove they belong.
The rest of this conference is a toss up. Virginia Tech made the tournament last year and might do so again. They have a nice roster. The only problem for them is all the new pieces. Pittsburgh still doesn’t have it together yet, but they will be intriguing to watch this year. Wake Forest made the tournament a year ago. Head coach Danny Manning has a nice roster, but can all their new guys come in and have an impact right away? Boston College is just a disaster right now hopefully things can get on track in Massachusetts. Clemson will go eight years without a tournament bid, so look for a coaching change in the near future. Georgia Tech should be better, as Ben Lammers and Josh Okogie are going to be fun to watch.
Number of NCAA Tournament Teams (7): Duke, North Carolina, Virginia, Miami, Syracuse, Louisville, Notre Dame
Conference Champion- Duke
Grayson Allen, Guard, Senior, Duke
Bruce Brown, Guard, Sophomore, Miami
Tyus Battle, Guard/ Forward, Sophomore, Syracuse
Marvin Bagley, Forward, Freshman, Duke
Bonzie Colson, Foward, Senior, Notre Dame
Coach Of the Year Scott Padgett, Louisville
Conference Player Of The Year Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame
Breakout Player Of The Year Tyus Battle, Syracuse