Over the next few weeks, I’ll be doing a preview of each of the seven major college basketball conferences (American, ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Big East, Pac-12, SEC), leading up to the November 10th tip-off of the 2017-2018 College Basketball season. You can access previous previews by clicking on the conference name. Today, we’re going to dive into the ACC.
Brief History: Since being founded in 1953, the ACC has long been a powerhouse of the college basketball world. Its 15 basketball member schools boast a combined 24 National and Helms Championships to back up their position. The conference is currently led by Commissioner John Swofford.
Reigning Regular Season Champion: North Carolina
Reigning Conference Tournament Champion: Duke
2017 NCAA Tournament Teams (and Seed): North Carolina (1), Duke (2), Louisville (2), Florida State (3), Virginia (5), Notre Dame (5), Miami (8), Virginia Tech (9), Wake Forest (11)
- Duke – We’re looking at a really different Blue Devils team this year than last year, with almost all of their prominent players leaving for the NBA. But this is Duke, and huge departures just don’t effect them the way they do most teams. They’ve got one of the best recruiting classes in the country and kept Grayson Allen for one final year. They’re absolutely in it to win it.
- North Carolina – The reigning National Champs are another team that will look a lot different from last season, with the exception of Joel Berry. UNC will benefit from an easy out-of-conference schedule to get rolling early, then will hope to carry that momentum into ACC play. Expect big things again from the Tar Heels this season.
- Miami – The Canes are returning more minutes this season than any other team in the ACC. Jim Larranaga and company added some top recruits this offseason to help bolster the already strong roster. Miami should be effective on both sides of the ball, and will definitely compete in the top tier of the conference.
- Virginia – The Cavaliers are a team that can control a game. They’ve got arguably the strongest defense in college basketball, and force teams to play down to their slow tempo. If this team can find ways to consistently click on offense and sink some shots, there’s no reason why this team can’t win the ACC, but they’ll stay in 4th until they can achieve that.
- Notre Dame – This team is the anti-Virginia. They’ve got one of the strongest offenses in the nation, but a questionable defense. Seniors Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell will return this season to try to help the Fighting Irish find their defensive rhythm, but realistically, expect Notre Dame to be involved in a lot of high-scoring shootouts.
- Louisville – There’s a lot of question marks with this Cardinals team going into this season, including whether or not they will be able to play in the ACC and NCAA tournament with the recent scandal rocking the program. They’ve had a lot of turmoil and turnover in the front office the last few weeks. This team is talented, but they’ll struggle to get past the headlines currently bogging them down.
- Clemson – This Tigers team has a lot of experience. With three seniors and three juniors that should all see a significant amount of minutes, Clemson is set to potentially have a breakout season. They’re well balanced, not being particularly strong or weak on either side of the ball. They could be dancing for the first time in several years.
- Florida State – The Seminoles were a surprise team last year, with one of the strongest starts to the season in all of college basketball. However, FSU lost their three top scorers this offseason. They have a couple of exciting freshmen, but this team won’t be quite as electric as the Florida State team we saw last season.
- Virginia Tech – The Hokies are another team on the long list of strong offensive teams in the ACC. This team could find themselves on the right side of Selection Sunday if they can get the defense together, as well as overcome injuries and stay healthy.
- Syracuse – The Orange are going to look a lot different than last year, losing all of their top scorers, with the exception of Tyus Battle. They won’t be at the bottom of the conference with the help of some transfers and freshmen, but I don’t expect them to find any kind of rhythm at any point this season. But who knows, Jim Boeheim’s teams have surprised us before.
- Georgia Tech – This is another team who came out and surprised a lot of people in a positive way last season with a relatively strong year. Their big issue last year, however, was their shooting, and I expect the same issue to come back and haunt them this season. Josh Pastner’s Yellow Jackets will live and die by their ability to sink a shot.
- Pittsburgh – This is going to be a rebuilding year for the Panthers, who return almost no one from last year’s team, a team that greatly struggled in conference play. They’re going to have to rely on a lot of unproven freshmen to try to do something this season. They’ll likely have trouble succeeding.
- Wake Forest – The Demon Deacons are going to have a tough time in this conference, with their extremely weak defense. They’ll have trouble defending teams in this high-power, offensively driven conference. Expect Wake to be on the losing end of a lot of high-scoring games.
- NC State – The Wolfpack are coming off of a tough year, and I don’t think they did enough in the offseason to change that. They’ve got a new head coach, and a few new transfers to the program, but it won’t be enough to give NC State the jumpstart they need in one of the toughest conferences in college basketball. This could be a long season.
- Boston College – To say that Boston College has struggled over the last few years would be a gross understatement. Last year they won two games in ACC play, a significant improvement from 2015, when they didn’t win a single conference game. Expect the struggles to continue, and the Eagles to be in the basement yet again.
Bottom Line: The ACC always produces some of the best basketball games every season. The teams are strong, the talent is widespread, the rivalries are real, and almost every game feels extremely competitive. Last season, this conference produced the team that won it all, and could very well do the same this season.