With the Tar Heels media day behind us and Late Night With Roy on Friday, it is officially basketball season. The ACC is yet again the best league in the country, and boasts some of the finest teams in the nation. The league is obviously loaded at the top, but its depth of very good teams is what makes the league so daunting. Here are the 2016 preseason ACC basketball power rankings.
1) Duke- The Blue Devils are going to be loaded. They are atop nearly every preseason national poll so it is pretty easy to pencil them in at number 1 in our preseason rankings. The Blue Devils return first team All-ACC performer Grayson Allen who is many experts’ favorite to win the National Player of the Year. Fifth year senior Amile Jefferson returns after being hurt much of last season. He is Duke’s unquestioned leader and very important for the young, but talented, team.
Duke is ranked so high because of their fantastic recruiting class, which was ranked number 2 in the country by ESPN. The Blue Devils bring in four 5-star prospects in Harry Giles, Jason Tatum, Frank Jackson, and Marques Bolden. Duke is certainly one of the most talented teams in the country, but there are always questions about how freshmen laden teams will mesh. For now, however, Duke sits atop the rankings.
2) North Carolina- Roy Williams returns a talented and experienced team that was one shot away from potentially winning a national championship. It is rare that a team that was so close to winning a national championship returns so much, which is why this North Carolina team has high expectations.
The Heels return three starters in Joel Berry, Justin Jackson, and Kennedy Meeks, and welcome presumed starters Isaiah Hicks and Theo Pinson to the lineup. With veteran guard Nate Britt coming off the bench and a young but capable freshman and sophomore class, North Carolina should again compete for a Final Four. They may not be number one in our rankings today, but there are plenty of reasons to believe they can end there.
3) Virginia- Once again the Cavaliers lose their best player and are potentially a preseason top 5 team. Gone is ACC player of the year Malcolm Brogden, and in steps Memphis transfer Austin Nichols. Nichols averaged a touch over 13 points as a sophomore at Memphis, and should be an impact player for the Cavaliers. Tony Bennett’s squad also returns senior point guard London Perrantes. He is not the flashiest of players, but he runs their slow placed offense to perfection and will again make the Cavaliers ultra competitive.
4) Syracuse- Last year’s NCAA tournament bracket buster, Syracuse returns three key players from their Final Four run, and received a huge boost when they added graduate transfer Andrew White from Nebraska. Tyler Lydon should be a break out star in his sophomore campaign after having a solid freshman season. With Hall-of-Fame coach Jim Boeheim coaching a full season, the Orange will be a serious contender.
5) Clemson- The Tigers boast potentially the best player in the ACC in forward Jaron Blossomgame, and he alone makes them a serious threat. Clemson loses big man Landy Nnoko to graduation, but gained three transfers who should step in and make them a tough team in the ACC. The Tigers will go as Blossomgame does, and that makes them potential party crashers in the league.
6) NC State- The Wolfpack are one of the most talented teams in the ACC, if not the country. Dennis Smith Jr. is on the short list of potential number 1 picks in the NBA draft, and Turkish Center Omer Yurtseven is a supremely talented big man who scored 91 points in a Turkish league game this past season. Mark Gottfried also brings back Malik Abu and BeeJay Anya to solidify their post presence. We would have the Wolfpack higher, but Mark Gottfried seems to always find a way to get his talent to underperform.
7) Louisville- Only in the ACC will you find a Hall of Fame coach with an extremely talented roster at number 7 in a preseason power ranking. Rick Pitino lost his top three scorers from last years’ team, but still has lots of potential on his roster. Quentin Snider is back at point guard for the Cardinals and their sophomore class highlighted by Donovan Mitchell, who will only get better with more playing time. Pitino’s run and gun offense and ferocious defense will again make them a team that nobody wants to play.
8) Florida State- Leonard Hamilton’s group should again boast a potent offense Xavier Rathan-Mayes, also known as the Carolina killer, returns for his junior season and is poised for another great year. Dwayne Bacon surprised many people when he spurned the NBA draft and decided to stay another year in Tallahassee. He is one of the most talented players in the ACC. Add in 5-star freshman Jonathan Isaac and the Seminoles will again be a threat to any team they play.
9) Notre Dame- The Fighting Irish lose both of their leaders in Demetrius Jackson and Zach Auguste, but return VJ Beachum, Bonzie Colson, and Steve Vasturia. Those three players compromise a solid core that has experience playing in big games. If they can find a point guard to replace All-ACC performer Jackson, they could be a surprise in 2016.
10) Virginia Tech- The Hokies are coming off a 20-win season in 2015-2016, and only lose Jalen Hudson. Justin Bibbs and Justin Robinson make up a solid back court that should only improve on their respectable numbers from last season. Ahmed Hill missed all of last season, but looks to bounce back from a solid Freshman campaign in which he averaged eight points a game. With a young but experienced core returning, Virginia Tech has a legitimate chance to make the NCAA tournament this year.
11) Pittsburgh- It will be awfully weird seeing Kevin Stallings and not Jamie Dixon patrol the Panthers sideline, but Pitt should again be a solid team in the ACC. They return Michael Young and James Artis who are imposing wing players. They both can score the basketball from anywhere on the court and create serious matchup problems.
12) Miami- The Hurricanes lost their best three players in Angel Rodriguez, Sheldon McClellan, and Tonye Jekiri so they will not be the same team that has hovered around the top of the ACC for the past few seasons. Miami is not with without talent, however, as they return Ja’Quan Newton and add freshman Dewan Huell. Jim Larrañega will need to have one of his better coaching jobs to have Miami as a contender this season.
13) Wake Forest- Danny Manning loses Devin Thomas and Cody Miller-McIntyre to graduation, and will rely heavily on guard Bryant Crawford. Not much else is known about the Demon Deacons as they will have question marks that will needed to be answered throughout the season.
14) Georgia Tech- Josh Pastnor steps in from Memphis in an impact hire for the Yellow Jackets. He comes to Atlanta with a young roster that lost the majority of its scoring to graduation. It should be a long year for the Rambling Wreck.
15) Boston College- The Eagles went defeated last season in the ACC, losing all ACC games. They will remain at the bottom until they prove they can win a game.