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Way Too Early ACC Basketball Preseason Rankings: 2018-19

Welp May 30th was certainly a rollercoaster of emotions but the NBA draft deadline day has come and gone. We now know who is coming back for at least one more season of ACC basketball and who is taking their talents to the NBA. With all that in mind, let’s try to decipher what this all means and take an admittedly WAY too early look at how the ACC might shape up this year and where Syracuse might land.

  1. Pittsburgh

To be quite honest, I’m not sure how Pitt still has a team after like half their squad sprinted away from the remnants of the Kevin Stallings era and transferred. Even the bag dropper himself, Jeff Capel, is going to need at least more than one year to get this runaway train back on the tracks.

  1. Georgia Tech

Speaking of bag droppers, Josh Pastner’s Yellow Jackets will also enter 2018-19 with a lack of talent except for incoming four-star point guard Mike Devoe. Pastner won coach of the year in the conference just two years ago for overachieving with a young team. Now, with no Ben Lammers, Josh Okogie and Tadric Jackson, he’s going to have to do the same again in order to get GT back to the NCAA tourney for the first time since 2010.

  1. Wake Forest

Essentially no team has had as bad of an offseason as Wake Forest. Their do-it-all point guard Bryant Crawford and trusty rebounder Doral Moore are both staying in the draft. Not to mention, the team’s second best scorer Keyshawn Woods and bench piece Donovan Mitchell are both transferring. On the bright side, the Demon Deacons are bringing in another strong recruiting class, which is ranked top-20 on most sites. Now it’s time for Danny Manning to prove he can do something with the young talent.

  1. NC State

Forget Nevada, let’s start calling NC State transfer U. The Wolfpack are bringing in Missouri transfer Blake Harris, Utah point guard Devon Daniels and UNC Wilmington transfer CJ Bryce to reunite with his old coach Kevin Keatts. NCSU also picked up Kentucky five-star Sacha Killeya-Jones but he won’t be eligible until the 2019-20 season. In the meantime, Keatts’ bunch will use those transfers to try to replace five impact players from last season, including former Syracuse target Omer Yurtseven.

  1. Boston College

Jerome Robinson is gone but the good news for the Eagles is literally everyone else is coming back, including Ky Bowman, the other half of their electric backcourt duo, who took his name out of the draft yesterday. If Teddy Hawkins–who averaged 12.4 points per game in the first nine contests of the season before being sidelined for the rest of the year–can get a medical redshirt, BC is poised to be as good as they’ve been since the Jared Dudley/Tyrese Rice days.

  1. Miami

All things considered Miami was pretty underwhelming last year. Now, the Hurricanes will look to bounce-back after one of its most talented teams in awhile lost Lonnie Walker and Bruce Brown to the NBA Draft. On the bright side, forward Dewan Hall and his 11.4 points per game from last year are coming back after he backed out of the draft process last week.

  1. Louisville

It was a strong week for new Cardinals head coach Chris Mack. Not only did he pick up his first four-star recruit for the 2019 class, but he also added Richmond grad transfer Khwan Fore, who will be eligible to play next season. Fore–who is a gifted finisher at the rim, especially for only being 6 feet tall–will join fellow backcourt mates VJ King and Ryan McMahon (Yes McMahon is the guy who didn’t miss a shot against Syracuse). With the Pitino stench still potent, the Cards are just eyeing a return to the NCAA tourney.

  1. Clemson

I’m not quite drinking the Clemson Kool-Aid just yet. After surprising everyone en route to a fourth place finish in the ACC last year a good portion of the Tigers rotation is coming back. However, they’re going to face a tougher schedule and have to deal with higher expectations. Until we see sustained success that proves last year wasn’t an outlier, I’m not ready to put them inside the top five in my preseason conference poll like some sites are claiming.

  1. Florida State

Next year is going to be your classic deep, athletic, and balanced Florida State team. The Seminoles are losing veteran point guard CJ Walker because he’s transferring to Ohio State. However, Phil Cofer received news last week that he will be granted a medical redshirt. True ot FSU fashion, no one on this team is going to set the world on fire. But that’s just how Leonard Hamilton likes it. After all, let’s not forget the ‘Noles made it to the Elite 8 last year using that same recipe.

  1. Notre Dame

The Fighting Irish are going to be really young next year, which is why many sites have them ranked outside the top 10 in the conference. However, ND’s bringing in five new freshmen in one of its best recruiting classes in awhile and UCONN transfer Juwan Durham to pair with impact returners TJ Gibbs, Rex Pflueger and DJ Harvey. Don’t sleep on Mike Brey because this team has all the makings of being sneaky good.

  1. Virginia Tech

The Hokies were arguably one of the most underrated teams in basketball last year and are bringing back four starters and talented big man Chris Clarke. Buzz Williams’ bunch is going to space the floor and shoot a lot of threes yet again. They don’t have a ton of frontcourt size. But with the return of one of the conferences best guards in Justin Robinson and plenty of veteran leadership on the floor at all times, VT could be on its way to one of its best regular seasons in a long time.

  1. Syracuse

The way I see it there’s a clear tier one in the ACC, which is the three teams listed below: UNC, Duke and UVA. Then, there is a drop off–at least on paper–before you get to a huge group of teams that could arguably be placed fourth in the preseason poll. I don’t think there’s any question after learning Battle’s fate, Syracuse is the most talented of those teams in the second tier. After all, the Orange is going to have depth, veteran leadership and improved three-point shooting. Not to mention, likely the second best defense in the conference behind UVA. If Elijah Hughes lives up to the hype and gives them instant offense off the bench, you could make a case this team could crack that top tier. The talent is more than there.

It’s just time for Jimbo and company to prove that talent will translate into a solid regular season because I think we can all agree this bubble thing is getting old.

  1. UNC

If Battle’s decision to come back to school wasn’t the most impactful move from a potential draft pick in the conference, then it was Luke Maye’s choice to return for his senior season in Carolina blue. Maye–who might get some first team preseason All-America love–will join Cam Johnson, McDonald’s All-American game MVP Nassir Little and veteran guard Kenny Williams in the starting lineup for sure. The only question mark is the point guard position. From Ty Lawson to Kendall Marshall, to Marcus Paige to Joel Berry, Carolina has consistently had a strong floor general to help them play at their pace. Many thought Jalek Felton was destined to be the next one but he was kicked off the team last year. Now freshmen Coby White and former YouTube sensation Seventh Woods are set to fight for the role that could decide UNC’s ceiling.

  1. Duke

Since it’s the same every year and we’re all tired of reading it, I’ve decided I’m going to come up with a general Duke preseason rubric that I’ll have for next year and the year after that to copy and paste every time.

After falling short of the national title and losing basically their entire rotation to the NBA draft, the Blue Devils are somehow even more talented on paper. Led by PLAYER A, PLAYER B, and PLAYER C, who are all among the top 10 recruits in the country and surefire lottery picks in next year’s NBA draft, Coach K and company will likely be number one in the nation’s preseason poll yet again. Like any Duke team, there will be some growing pains out of the gate, specifically on defense. Will Coach K teach the group of uber-talented youngsters to play enough team defense to win a national title??? Or will he end up stealing Boeheim’s defense and going to a zone that helps the Blue Devils conveniently start playing well at just the right time before another somewhat underwhelming March Madness exit???

Spoiler: It’s going to be the latter.

  1. UVA

While Duke’s extremely predictable, so is Virginia. I know giving them the top spot in this incredibly early and pointless ACC poll might seem too high when you consider they lost Devon Hall and Isaiah Wilkins. But the Wahoos are bringing back their top two players Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome. Plus, DeAndre Hunter didn’t deviate from the Cavalier norm and enter the draft after his freshman year.  For as long as Tony Bennett is at Virginia, I’m never putting them outside of the top three in my ACC preseason poll and neither should you.

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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