As July approaches and collegiate athletes continue summer workouts that lead into the fall, college basketball programs are beginning to get a clear vision of their teams following a summer filled with transfers.
Here is where all the ACC teams stand in our ‘Way Too Early’ 2021 ACC Basketball Power Rankings.
15. Boston College Eagles
Last season (4-16)
The Eagles had an unforgettable 2020 season that is going to be very hard to forget. The result of the poor season led to a complete sweep and change of scenery for BC.
Coach Jim Christian who spent the last six years under helm for the Eagles was let go after the unsatisfying 2020 season. Along with Christian, Boston College saw three sophomores transfer out of the program in CJ Felder, Jay Heath, and Wynston Tabbs. Also departing is Steffon Mitchell who was a four-year starter for the Eagles.
College of Charleston head coach Earl Grant comes into Boston College with transfer guard Brevin Galloway to go alongside playmaker Makai Ashton-Langford to round out the back court and hit the refresh button.
The Eagles have talent and youth that can bode nicely with a new face at head coach, but it is going to be hard to do it year one. This season will be a learning year where Boston College can grow, but it still will result in a mediocre year in hopes for the future.
14. Pittsburgh Panthers
Last season (10-12)
Last year the Pittsburgh Panthers had one of the most skilled teams the program has seen since its switch to the ACC in 2011. Justin Champagnie was one of college basketball’s best big men averaging 18.0 ppg and 11.1 rpg leading the Panthers all season.
In the back court Xavier Johnson and Au’Diese Toney both had breakout years both averaging over 14 ppg. Injuries plagued the Panthers during the 2020 season, seeing numerous stars including Champagnie go down throughout the season.
By the end of the season, Pitt failed to reach .500 before seeing all three of these guys departure from the program in the offseason. Two forwards, Mouhamadou Gueye of Stony Brook and Chris Payton of Oakland, transferred into Pitt for this upcoming season and need to provide help right away.
Jeff Capel will compete with this team of guys, but it just seems too much was lost from a team that already ended up falling short of expectations.
13. Miami Hurricanes
Last Season (10-17)
Despite a solid ACC tournament run last year, Jim Larranga and the Hurricanes have their work cut out for them this season.
Miami guard Chris Lykes got hurt two games into the season, and is now transferring to Arkansas. Freshman Earl Timberlake is also departing after being a projected first round draft pick but only played in seven games with Miami due to injury.
Miami will still have star guard Isaiah Wong who enters his junior year. Averaging 17.1 ppg and shooting 43.1%, Wong will have to do a little bit of everything with a depleted front court for the Hurricanes.
12. Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Last season (6-16)
Wake Forest struggled tremendously during the pandemic-stricken 2020 season, and the record is there to prove it. However, numerous injuries led to a depleted team all throughout league play in the ACC which leads to a misleading record.
The Demon Deacons saw East Tennessee State transfer Davien Williamson have a solid year averaging 12.9 ppg along with forward Isaiah Mucius who finished the year averaging 10.3 ppg and 5.2 rpg in an improvement year.
Two guards have transferred into Wake Forest in Jake LaRavia of Indiana State and Alondes Williams from Oklahoma. Following them Ole Miss forward Khadim Sy and Colorado big man Dallas Walton have announced they are transferring into Winston-Salem as well.
There are a lot of question marks including ETSU transfer Damari Monsanto’s health going into the year following an achilles injury, but Wake Forest has the opportunity to have a nice bounce back year.
» Related: Syracuse basketball lands commitment from 2022 four-star Justin Taylor
11. Clemson Tigers
Last season (16-8)
The 2020 season was all over the place for the Clemson Tigers. The beginning of the year saw a nationally ranked 12th team in the AP poll during the first month of the season. During ACC play however, the Tigers failed to find offensive flow some games, leading to some tough losses.
Aamir Simms did it all for Clemson last season, and will not return as he has hired an agent and is looking in the NBA draft waters. Sims was Clemson’s leading scorer, passer, and rebounder last season so it is no surprise how big of a departure this is.
Naz Bohannon from Youngstown State will transfer into Clemson for his fifth year and look to make up for the loss of Simms. Nick Honor alongside Al-Amir Dawes are both important guards set to make their return to the Tigers, both averaging over 20 minutes in the back court last season.
Clemson will rely on role players of last year to now step up this year, and it seems like a daunting task after having numerous years of Aamir Simms running the show.
10. NC State Wolfpack
Last season (14-11)
Kevin Keatts and the Wolfpack had a successful year on the NCAA Tournament bubble last season and ended up being selected in the NIT. The veteran presence of guard Braxton Beverly along with the outburst of a season Jericole Hellems had averaging almost 13 ppg and 5 rpg led NC State to a solid year.
Heading into this year however, there are just so many question marks for the Wolfpack. Forward Derek Funderbunk departs from the team and there is still question on whether leading scorer from last year Devon Daniels returns to the squad.
After some worry for NC State, Many Bates is back for another year, but losing veterans like Beverly will result in a challenging upcoming season.
No. 9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Last season (11-15)
The Fighting Irish had an up and down 2020 season that was also impacted heavily by the pandemic. In a year full of uncertainties, Notre Dame bounces back this season with certainty that guys like Prentiss Hubb, Nate Laszeswki, and Dane Goodwin will return.
Hubb averaged 14.6 ppg and 5.8 apg working well with big man Nate Laszeswki all year down low. These two return as a dynamic duo in the ACC that now has experience.
In a league where there are a lot of team’s with complete new identities, Notre Dame has the experience to have a good year. The Fighting Irish have to play better defense next year in order to be a tournament team.
8. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Last season (17-9)
Similar to NC State, the Yellow Jackets have so many question marks surrounding their team still as we approach mid way through summer workouts.
After winning the ACC tournament last year and making the NCAA Tournament, Georgia Tech returns Mike Devoe in the back court. However, ACC Defensive Player of the Year Jose Alvarado is still undecided whether he will be back for a fifth year.
If Alvarado returns, Georgia Tech could arguably have the best back court in the ACC. Yet with the departure of ACC Player of the Year Moses Wright in the front court, there are just too many questions for their big men.
7. Syracuse Orange
Last season (18-10)
Another year, another underdog tournament run for Jim Boeheim and the Syracuse Orange. Quickly following the tournament run however was key departures of breakout forward Quincy Guerrier to Oregon and sophomore Kadary Richmond to Seton Hall.
Both were key components to the Orange last season, and now Syracuse looks to have guys step up in big roles. ESPN Top 100 forward Benny Williams is set to get solid minutes in his freshman year in orange, along with transfers Symir Torrence from Marquette and Cole Swider of Villanova.
Syracuse needs to see a bounce back year from Joe Girard III alongside Buddy Boeheim who broke out in the NCAA tournament last season. Girard will now be an experienced veteran guard who needs to help all the new guys who come into Boeheim’s zone.
With Jim Boeheim teaming up with both his sons Jimmy and Buddy now, it is impossible to count this squad out come March.
» Related: ACC rivals provide blueprint for next Syracuse basketball coach
6. Louisville Cardinals
Last season (13-7)
It is officially the revenge season for the Louisville Cardinals, who were the biggest snub of the 2021 NCAA Tournament. Despite the departure of two of their best players going pro in Carlik Jones and David Johnson, the Cardinals were very active in the transfer portal.
Louisville acquired Florida shooting guard Noah Locke in the transfer portal and Miami forward Matt Cross. Center Malik Williams will be back and healthy along with Jae’lyn Withers who led the team in rebounds last year (7.7rpg).
The Cardinals have a lot of talent coming in and are looking to do damage. With a chip on their shoulder from last season, look for Louisville to make some noise in the ACC.
5. Virginia Tech Hokies
Last season (15-7)
The pandemic seriously hurt the Hokies last year since they only played three games the last month of the regular season. Yet, Virginia Tech is back with avengence, and keeps a solid core with head coach Mike Young at the front.
Keve Aluma has become a breakout star for Virginia Tech who will likely be back after testing NBA Draft waters. Wofford guard Storm Murphy shoots 40% from three and is making the transfer to Blacksburg.
Justyn Mutts returns in the front court along Aluma, with experienced forward Tyrece Radford also coming back being one of the most aggressive players in the ACC. The Hokies are ready to make a big run, with covid hopefully not being their issue anymore.
4. Virginia Cavaliers
Last season (18-7)
At this point no matter the class coming in, you cannot rank Tony Bennett’s Virginia squad outside of the top 5 in the ACC. Bennett is able to take guys and turn them into winner’s and we see it every year.
Virginia had a rollercoaster of an offseason after being upset to #13 seed Ohio in the NCAA Tournament following a covid pause. Jay Huff and Sam Hauser who were both front court stars are gone, yet the Cavaliers picked up a huge East Carolina transfer in Jayden Gardner. At 6’7 Gardner will be an impactful forward in the ACC for UVA right away.
Veteran guard Kihei Clark will be back and Virginia hopes to get big man Trey Murphy to come back from testing the draft, and more production from backup center Kadin Shedrick. Bennett has a tough task ahead of him with some key departures, but this team will bounce back like always.
3. North Carolina Tar Heels
Last season (18-11)
Not often does a program have a historic Hall of Fame coach retire and bounce back better the next year, but that is what I predict Carolina to do. After all, Hubert Davis knows exactly how this program is run and will continue to lead with the legacy their program has.
Aside from the coaching change, UNC simply has pure talent returning in numerous spots. Caleb Love returns for his sophomore season after putting up solid numbers at 10.5 ppg and 3.6 apg in his first year.
Right alongside Love is returning sophomore guard RJ Davis who averaged 8.4 ppg in his freshman season.
UNC lost Garrison Brooks and Walker Kessler which hurts the front court, but Armando Bacot returns and looks to be the obvious biggest force in the Tar Heel front court.
Brady Manek from Oklahoma also transfers in, and at 6’9 is a stretch forward who will cause trouble in the ACC. After a mediocre season last year, UNC will be coming back strong.
2. Duke Blue Devils
Last season (13-11)
The Duke Blue Devils head into this upcoming season with an immense amount of pressure following coach Mike Krzyzewski announcing his retirement after this season.
The good thing for Duke is that despite all the focus that is on them with Coach K’s departure and their below average 2021 campaign, this Blue Devils team coming in has a ton of pure talent.
Paolo Banchero leads the way for the incoming freshman class, as the 6’9 forward is third on ESPN Top 100 for the class of 2021. Guard Trevor Keels is also a five star committed to Duke who adds shooting to this squad alongside 6’7 wing AJ Griffin out of White Plains, NY.
Duke lost a lot in Matthew Hurt, DJ Steward, and Jalen Johnson however the incoming class is stacked. With Coach K bringing it all together for one last run, Duke is poised for a big comeback season.
1. Florida State Seminoles
Last season (18-7)
The only way you can rank higher than the stacked Duke recruting class is by consistency, and that is exactly what head coach Leonard Hamilton preaches to his guys at Florida State.
Even though the Seminoles saw star guard Scottie Barnes go to the NBA alongside MJ Walker, Raiquan Gray, and Balsa Koprivica all departing, the incoming class and transfers make up for their losses.
Caleb Mills is a star guard from Houston who transfers in after averaging over 13 ppg on 38.5% shooting in his freshman campaign with the Cougars.
Beside Mills transferring, FSU will rely on their top 5 2021 recruiting class to lead the way with three four stars in forward Matt Cleveland, center John Butler, and guard Jalen Waley who will provide for FSU outside the arc.
You can never doubt Leonard Hamilton’s abiltity to compete and stand atop the ACC, and even with his departures, the Seminoles consistency has lead them to another powerful incoming class.
For more Syracuse coverage, Like our Facebook page, follow us @TheJuiceOnline and listen to our podcast.