Mar 11, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Florida State Seminoles guard Luke Loucks (3), Deividas Dulkys (4) and Jeff Peterson (12) celebrate with the championship trophy after defeating the North Carolina Tar Heels 85-82 in the finals of the 2012 ACC Men

Preseason ACC Basketball Rankings

Coach K said he believes that “The ACC will be a 10-bid league and the best conference in the history of the game.” I am not one to question Coach K, but, atleast this year, I do not believe that is the case. The ACC has many talented teams, but many of them have significant flaws. I see four teams that will fight for the ACC title, and another two that will make the NCAA tournament. Although the ACC could be great this year, I only see five to seven teams making the tournament. I will be going through each team in order of how I ranked them in the ACC.

1. Duke:
•Last seasons record: 30-6
•This season: Steady
•Expected starting lineup: Quinn Cook, Rasheed Sulaimon, Rodney Hood, Jabari Parker, Marshall Plumlee.
•Chance to win ACC: 60%
•Chance to make NCAA tournament: 98%
Last season was a very successful one for Duke, but they came up short in the Elite Eight to Louisville. Although Duke is losing its three leading scorers from last season; Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly,and Seth Curry; they will still be very successful this season. Coach K will be turning this Duke team into a form of his USA Olympic team, playing atleast four, athletic perimeter players at a time. Duke has four players that will likely be all-ACC performers in Quinn Cook, Rasheed Sulaimon, Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker. With this new group of talent, Coach K will likely lead this team to an ACC championship and potentially a one seed in the NCAA tournament. Last seasons team paved the road for a deep Duke post season run. This team definitely has the ability to build on that success and bring Durham back its fifth National Championship.

2. North Carolina:
•Last seasons record: 25-11
•This season: Improving
•Expected starting lineup: Marcus Paige, Leslie McDonald, PJ Hairston, James McAdoo, Brice Johnson.
•Chance to win ACC: 20%
•Chance to make NCAA tournament: 95%
Last season, UNC got off to a slow start but finished the season strong, which led to a 8 seed in the NCAA tournament. The strong finish was fueled by a new lineup that featured PJ Hairston at power forward and James McAdoo at center. Roy Williams was forced to use this short lineup due to a lack of a productive center. This season, Roy Williams does not have the luxary to use the small lineup due to the loss of Dexter Strickland and Reggie Bullock. Like Duke, UNC is talented 1-4, but may lack the center to contend for a championship. I ranked UNC a notch behind Duke because I feel Duke is a little stronger at those 1-4 spots. Still, this UNC team will definitely contend for the ACC championship and will likely make the NCAA tournament as a top 4 seed. If Roy Williams can find the winning combination, like he did last year, this is definitely a dangerous team. I expect him to find his starting group earlier this season, which will lead to a better season for UNC.

3. Syracuse:
•Last seasons record: 30-10
•This season: Declining
•Expected starting lineup: Tyler Ennis, Trevor Cooney, CJ Fair, Jerami Grant, Rakeem Christmas.
•Chance to win ACC: 15%
•Chance to make NCAA tournament: 95%
Last season, Syracuse used its height and zone to make a Final Four run. Like Duke, Syracuse is losing three key players from last season; Brandon Triche, Michael Carter-Williams, and James Southerland. Unlike Duke, they don’t have a top recruit, Jabari Parker, or top transfer, Rodney Hood, to replace them. Syracuse is still a very talented team, led by forward CJ Fair. Syracuse will have a solid year and be a tournament team, but I do not see them winning the ACC. Their guards are not tall enough to prevent Duke and UNC from shooting threes, and Jabari Parker and James McAdoo are perfect 2-3 zone high post players. Syracuse will be good, but will not have the same success they had last year. They are talented in the front court, but do not have the guards to make a deep NCAA tournament run.

4. Notre Dame:
•Last seasons record: 25-10
This season: Steady
•Expected starting lineup: Eric Atkins, Jerian Grant, Pat Connaughton, Cameron Biedscheid, Garrick Sherman.
•Chance to win ACC: 4%
•Chance to make NCAA tournament: 90%
Last season, Notre Dame used a strong regular season to be the 7th seed in the NCAA tournament, but lost in the first round. Notre Dame is losing 5 seniors, including Jack Cooley who averaged a double double last year. Returning to the team is Notre Dame’s star back court of Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant. Notre Dame will not be as strong in the post, and will be even more reliant on their guards to carry them. I see Notre Dame having a very similar season to last year which will lead them to another good NCAA tournament seed. If the backcourt plays amazing and the frontcourt steps up, they can contend for the ACC. More likely, they finish in fourth in the ACC, and get a 5-8 seed in the NCAA tournament. Notre Dame is a team with Sweet Sixteen potential, but not NCAA Championship potential. Notre Dame should have a good first season in the ACC, which will set them as ACC contenders for years to come.

5. Virginia:
•Last seasons record: 23-12
•This season: Improving
•Expected starting lineup: Teven Jones, Justin Anderson, Joe Harris, Akil Mitchell, Mike Tobey.
•Chance to win ACC: 1%
•Chance to make NCAA tournament: 60%
Last season, Virginia made a run at the NCAA tournament, but fell short and ended up in the NIT. Most of Virginia’s team returns for this years season, including their top 7 scorers. Joe Harris, all-ACC first team, and Akil Mitchell, all-ACC third team, return to lead the team for another run. After failing to make the NCAA tournament last year as a bubble team, Virginia will be extra motivated to make it this year. As long as Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell can carry the offense again this year, their defense will keep them in games. Virginia’s amazing defense should carry them over many of the lower ACC teams, but they may lack the offense to beat the top tier teams. Virginia probably will not make a real run at the ACC Championship but I think they will break through and become and NCAA tournament team. I believe Virginia will have a very successful year and they will showcase themselves as a potential tournament team for years to come.

6. Pittsburgh:
•Last seasons record: 24-9
•This season: Declining
•Expected starting lineup: James Robinson, DeAndre Kane, Lamar Patterson, Talib Zanna, Mike Young.
•Chance to win ACC: 0%
•Chance to make NCAA tournament: 50%

Last season, Pittsburgh was solid, making the NCAA tournament as an 8 seed but lost in the first round to Wichita St. Pittsburgh loses leading scorer Tray Woodall, senior, and leading rebounder Steven Adams, NBA Draft, but still returns a strong team. If Steven Adams had stayed with the team, Pittsburgh would have been a much for effective team. Pittsburgh is not as talented as many of the top ACC teams and will have to adapt to the new ACC competition. They do not have a star, and will only be successful if they can play well as a team. If Pittsburgh can have a good non conference record, they will have a good chance at making the NCAA tournament. If Pittsburgh struggles early, they will struggle to make up ground in the ACC. I see Pittsburgh as a bubble team, that will make it into the NCAA tournament. Pittsburgh will be the least successful of the new ACC teams, but they will still prove themselves as a contending ACC team. If Pittsburgh can make the NCAA tournament this year, it will get them started in the ACC on the right foot.

7. Boston College:
•Last seasons record: 16-17
•This season: Improving
•Expected starting lineup: Joe Rahon, Oliver Hanlan, Patrick Heckmann, Ryan Anderson, Dennis Clifford.
•Chance to win ACC: 0%
•Chance to make NCAA tournament: 30%
Last season, BC was not great but they made several strides in the right direction. They played Duke and Miami, the top two teams in the ACC last year, to one point games and were one play away from winning both. They are an extremely young team, with their top 8 players in minutes played were either freshman or sophomores. Freshman Oliver Hanlan led BC in scoring, was named ACC freshman of the year, and exploded for 41 points in the ACC tournament vs Georgia Tech. Hanlan looks like an emerging star, and along with sophomore Ryan Anderson, they averaged 30 points per game. If BC’s young players can continue to develop, they can be a sneaky good team this season. I expect BC to make a run at the NCAA tournament, but ultimately fall short. A good season this year will set up a big run next year, when their core is juniors and seniors. BC is definitely on the rise, but I don’t believe it is their year yet.

8. Maryland:
•Last seasons record: 25-13
•This season: Steady
•Expected starting lineup: Nick Faust, Dez Wells, Jake Layman, Charles Mitchell, Shaq Cleare.
•Chance to win ACC: 0%
•Chance to make NCAA tournament: 25%
Last season, Maryland made a run at the NCAA tournament but ultimately fell up short. They are losing just two players to graduation, but they are losing their best player, Alex Len, to the NBA Draft. Maryland has many talented guards and wings, but it is questionable how effective they will be without their center. A large part of Maryland’s effectiveness as a team relied on Len’s post offense, rebounding, and rim protecting. Maryland still has a lot of talented bigs, but none that will be able to fill the role that Len had. This year, Maryland lacks the go to player that they need to be a great team. I think Maryland will have another good year, but not make the jump they were truly hoping for. Maryland will likely be a bubble NCAA tournament team, but will fall short of the tournament again. Maryland will leave the ACC after another disappointing season, and head to the Big Ten, looking for a fresh start.

9. Florida St:
•Last seasons record: 18-16
•This season: Steady
•Expected starting lineup: Devin Bookert, Ian Miller, Montay Brandon, Okaro White, Kiel Turpin.
•Chance to win ACC: 0%
•Chance to make NCAA tournament: 10%
Last season, Florida St had a disappointing season and is now losing its top player Michael Snaer. Snaer was a leader for this team and was their top defender and scorer. Florida St was able to beat the bad teams, but was 0-5 vs ranked teams. It likely won’t get any better this season with the loss of Michael Snaer. Their problems could have been solved by top recruit Andrew Wiggins, but he decided to attend Kansas. Andrew Wiggins would have been a huge piece to Florida St that could have made them a tournament team this year. Now, Florida St. will be leaning on Okaro White to carry them to the tournament. This is not a recipe for success. Even with Florida St’s top defense, they will not have the offense to help them win big games. Florida St will once again be decent, but not good enough to be a tournament team. Until Leonard Hamilton can bring in a top recruit, Florida St will be stuck as an average team for the near future.

10. Wake Forest:
•Last seasons record: 13-18
•This season: Improving
•Expected starting lineup: Codi Miller-McIntyre, Madison Jones, Arnaud William Adala Moto, Travis McKie, Devin Thomas.
•Chance to win ACC: 0%
•Chance to make NCAA tournament: 5%
Last season, Wake Forest had a very poor year, as they were one of 4 ACC teams to finish below .500 win percentage. Unfortunately, this season does not look much better as leading scorer CJ Harris graduated. But, there is some hope for this Wake Forest team. Travis McKie is coming back for his senior season and looks ready to lead the team. Also, rising sophomores Devin Thomas and Codi Miller-McIntyre look prime for break out seasons. Although I don’t see them making the NCAA tournament, I see them progressing from last season. They proved their potential with their double digit win over then number 2 Miami. If Wake Forest improves at the rate they are capable of, they could be an NIT team this season. For most schools, that would be a bad sign. For Wake Forest, it would be a step in the right direction for a team in need of a good season. With the ACC dramatically improving, Wake Forest needs a good season to stay in the picture. I think they get it, and continue to improve towards a solid ACC team in the near future.

11. Georgia Tech:
•Last seasons record: 16-15
•This season: Steady
•Expected starting lineup: Solomon Poole, Chris Bolden, Marcus Georges-Hunt, Robert Carter, Daniel Miller.
•Chance to win ACC: 0%
•Chance to make NCAA tournament: 2%
Last season, Georgia Tech started strong, but finished just 6-12 against ACC teams. Among those six wins was ACC winner Miami, 71-69 on a Marcus Georges-Hunt tip in at the buzzer. Georgia Tech returns 4 of their 5 starters from last season and hopes to make improvements from last year. The biggest jump should come from sophomore forwards Robert Carter and Marcus Georges-Hunt, who were both invited to the US U19 World Championship training camp. Surprisingly, Georgia Tech has the most players who were invited to the training camp from the ACC. Georgia Tech should be a stronger team next season, but will not likely improve their standing in the ACC. They will be improved, but lack the talent to compete with the top level ACC teams. I think the NCAA tournament is definitely a reach for this team, but the NIT is not out of the question. If Georgia Tech can make the NIT, that would be a very successful season for them. I think Georgia Tech is good, but just not good enough for the improved ACC.

12. NC State:
•Last seasons record: 24-11
•This season: Declining
•Expected starting lineup: Tyler Lewis, Anthony Barber, Ralston Turner, TJ Warren, Jordan Vandenburg.
•Chance to win ACC: 0%
•Chance to make NCAA tournament: 1%
Last season, NC State was able to make the NCAA tournament, but lost in the first round to Temple. That success will not carry over to next season. All five opening night starters from last year are gone, and NC State is left with a severe lack of talent and depth. Nc State was very talented last season, but was never able to put that talent together. Now without Lorenzo Brown, Rodney Purvis, Scott Woods, CJ Leslie and Richard Howell, NC State is looking at a bad season. The only significant players returning are Tyler Lewis and TJ Warren. A lot of pressure will be put on Lewis, Warren and freshman Anthony Barber to have the same success as last season. That will not happen and NC State will not make the tournament, after making it two straight years. NC State is trying to be in the same league as Duke and UNC, but years like this will prove they are not there yet. NC State will not have a productive year, but if they can develop players and bring in some top freshman next year, they may return to the top of the ACC. One down year should not prevent NC State from being a top ACC team in future years.

13. Clemson:
•Last seasons record: 13-18
•This season: Steady
•Expected starting lineup: Rod Hall, Damarcus Harrison, Jaron Blossomgame, KJ McDaniels, Landry Nnoko.
•Chance to win ACC: 0%
•Chance to make NCAA tournament: 0%
Last season, Clemson had a very disappointing year, losing their last 7 games and 10 of their last 11. Unfortunately, 2 of there top 3 scorers are also graduating, in Devin Booker and Milton Jennings. Clemson does have some talented players returning, but will have no seniors and will struggle for a lack of leadership. This Clemson team will struggle with youth, but this team will have two years to gel, thanks to the lack of seniors. If they are able to find the right mix this year, it could propel them to a much better year next season. If Clemson can play .500 basketball or better, they could be a sneaky pick for the NCAA tournament next year. I personally don’t see this team making a tournament run over the next two years, but it is a possibility. I don’t see much hope for this years team, but i do see them making the NIT next season. The NIT would be the step in the right direction for a team that underachieved last year.

14. Miami:
•Last seasons record: 29-7
•This season: Declining
•Expected starting lineup: Angel Rodriguez, Rion Brown, Erik Swoope, Raphael Akpejiori, Tonye Jekeri.
•Chance to win ACC: 0%
•Chance to make NCAA tournament: 0%
Last season, Miami had a breakout year that no one could have predicted. Disappointingly, that success will not carry over to this season. Like NC State, their entire starting five is gone, including Shane Larkin. NC State still has some returning talent, but Miami has almost none. Kansas State guard Angel Rodriguez transferred to Miami for the year, and he will likely be their best player. Other than Rion Brown, no one else on this years team made much of a contribution last season. Miami was able to get some excitement past year, but all the momentum they gained from last year will be gone. In order to rise as an ACC team, they needed to have multiple successful years. This lack of talent this season will likely scare away many top recruits they may have gained from last years season. It is really disappointing, but Miami will not be a player in the ACC this year. Jim Larranaga is a very good coach, but will need to recruit better to build a real solid basketball team for the future. Miami made progress last year, but it will all be erased with a terrible year this season.

15. Virginia Tech:
•Last seasons record: 13-19
•This season: Steady
•Expected starting lineup: Marquis Rankin, Donte Clark, Jarell Eddie, CJ Barksdale, Cadarian Raines.
•Chance to win ACC: 0%
•Chance to make NCAA tournament: 0%
Last season, Virginia Tech was the worst team in the ACC. This year, Virginia Tech may be even worse. Virginia Tech was unable to win games last season with ACC player of the year Erick Green leading the way. Erick Green and his NCAA leading points per game will be gone and its hard to see Virginia Tech improving from last year. Jarell Eddie and Cadarian Raines are good players, but they can not lead the team by themselves. Virginia Tech will likely come in last in the ACC again this year, with their main competition being Miami. Virginia Tech’s future does not look that promising either, with no expected freshman or sophomore starters. Virginia Tech seems to be stuck at the bottom of the ACC, with it being a very tough path to get out of the cellar. Virginia Tech’s future does not look promising. They will not make the NCAA tournament, and I don’t see them making it in the near future. Sorry Virginia Tech fans.

 

I believe that Duke will in the end win the ACC. I think Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Virginia, and Pittsburgh will make the NCAA tournament while Boston College and Maryland will make the NIT.

Special thank you to Jon Pence for helping me with this blog for projected starting fives. You can follow him on twitter @scacchoops and read his articles at scacchoops.com. Next week, I have an interview with Adam Rowe, @BlueDevilLair on Tuesday, and next Friday, I will be give you my NCAA basketball preseason top 10 teams.

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