With the college basketball season is less than a month away, here are our Preseason ACC Power Rankings.
Tier 1: Tournament Teams
1. North Carolina
Returning off a trip to the NCAA finals, UNC has arguably the best backcourt in the nation with Caleb Love, RJ Davis, and incoming freshman Seth Trimble. The embarrassment of riches does not end there, as Armando Bacot is also back and looking for a potential ACC Player of the Year award. This team is deep, and the four-point loss in the finals could motivate this team all season.
Coach K is gone (allegedly), yet three of the top 5 recruits are still in Durham. Duke will be Duke. At the end of the day, inexperience is what holds Duke back from leapfrogging UNC here, and if Duke’s freshman can get chemistry fast, this team will be dangerous.
This team is like the 1995 New Jersey Devils (yawn). Boring but championship-caliber. This team is so deep with veterans, Jayden Gardner is another potential ACC player of the year, and the transfer of Ben Vander Plas will make UVA even more dangerous from behind the arc. This team is so deep I could see Tony Bennett barely using top-50 recruit Isaac McKneely, which will only benefit the program in the future. UVA is back.
4. Virginia Tech
Reigning ACC Champs, Virginia Tech will continue its momentum this season. The three-headed backcourt of Pedula-Maddox-Cattoor should provide ball distribution and efficient shooting. The spacing these players will provide should cause nightmares for opposing teams. And if you try to hedge against this backcourt, returning starter Justyn Mutts and Grant Basile, transfer from Wright State, can make you pay for that decision. This should be a fun team with the potential to explode on opponents who are not ready.
5. Notre Dame
Took long enough to get back to the Tournament, but Notre Dame looks like an Indiana basketball school again. What do you do when you return your backcourt that just made the NCAA tournament? Sign the best incoming point guard in the ACC in JJ Starling. Notre Dame has veteran leadership and outside shooting, which should cause some headaches for the opposing team all year.
Isaiah Wong is back after passing up what would have most likely been a second-round selection in this past draft. John Ruiz and Lifewallet have invested a lot of money in this team, which should pay off in a tournament appearance. Nijel Pack may be the most impactful transfer in the ACC year. But guess what, enjoy the Tournament, John, because LifeWallet will never get my medical records (unless he wants to sign me to a NIL deal).
Tier 2: Should/Could make the Tournament
7. Florida State
Returning their top scorer Caleb Mills and ACC sixth-man of the year Matthew Cleveland will provide stability needed for a tournament team. Baba Miller could be a lottery pick in this upcoming NBA Draft. Jaylan Gainey could be the most underrated transfer in the conference this year after his outstanding defensive play in the Ivy League. But this team is plagued by injuries. If FSU stays healthy, the NCAA tournament should be in the future. But if the injury bug bites again, FSU could be in trouble.
8. NC State
The best returnee in the ACC, Terquavion Smith, is back for another year before heading off to the NBA as a lottery pick (I hope you like Cleveland winters, Terquavion). Unlike FSU, what will derail this team is not just injuries, which NC State dealt with last year, but also inexperience. I have no idea who will even start at PF for this team after all of last year’s injuries; I have no idea how reigning Big South player of the year DJ Burns will slot in after transferring into Raleigh. There are lots of question marks here, but with Smith back, it’s hard not to see them making the NCAA tournament as of October 2022. This could change by November, though.
9. Wake Forest
This roster looks destined for the same result as last year, an NIT tournament appearance. Fresh off his ACC Coach of the Year, Steve Forbes is a great coach who should be ready to take on the four transfers Wake Forest signed this offseason. When it comes to coaches who can get the most out of transfers, the idea of a coach who worked his way to the ACC from coaching at Community Colleges seems like a good bet. The question, though, is will he achieve this? If Forbes does, Wake Forest may look at a tournament appearance. If the transfers do not mesh with what he’s built at Wake Forest, the team will be looking at the NCAA tournament on a TV over Tyson Chicken Patties in the dining hall.
Tier 3: Minor Miracles can get them to the NCAA Tournament
One of the best big men in the ACC, PJ Hall, is back. Chase Hunter, a sharpshooter from outside, is back. You know who else is back, head coach Brad Brownell. With a mediocre recruiting class, an underwhelming coach, and no future in sight, Clemson will need to hope the combo of Hall and Hunter Tyson dominates down low. If that happens, maybe this team makes waves in the NCAA. I would not bet on that, but influential big men with an outlet shooter can be tricky.
11. Boston College
Boston College is in this tier solely because of Coach Earl Grant. Last year’s below .500 record may not look impressive on paper, but that includes three overtime losses and a blown game against Pitt. The culture is changing at Boston College. The loss of Brevin Galloway to Clemson hurts, and the lack of an inside presence will haunt them some nights. However, this team could be one of the best defensive teams in the country, and if Donald Hand Jr. looks like his dad from his UVA days, this team could have a sneaky good backcourt. This team could finish the season firmly on the bubble or in the gutter.
Desperation will be the theme this season with Pitt. John Hugley is a force and arguably the most underrated player in the ACC. For USA East, he played next to Benny Williams and showed us everything Syracuse fans want to see in Benny Williams. Nelly Cummings may be the point guard Jeff Capel has desperately needed since he arrived in Oakland. This team is experienced, deep, and needs to win. With seven new players on the roster, will this team gel, though? If this team does not succeed, Jeff Capel may be the associate head coach for the Richmond Spiders at this time next year. This team could easily be in the below tier. Still, with the desperation this coaching staff has and the number of grown men on this roster, if Pitt can avoid the injury bug, they have the potential to sneak into the NCAA tournament or, at minimum, get an NIT bid. If they do not achieve this, expect Pitt to return to the basement of the ACC for years to come with a new coach to lead the rebuild.
The positive news for Syracuse fans is your two most famous alumni are back. Craig Carton is back on WFAN, and Heather DuBrow is back on Real Housewives of Orange County. But Heather DuBrow is no Bethenny Frankel, Craig Carton is no Mike Francesa, and Syracuse Basketball is not Syracuse Basketball (this year). Judah Mintz will be an excellent PG for Syracuse. If Jesse Edwards keeps progressing at the rate he was prior to his wrist injury, a VERY bright future awaits him post-college. If teams are forced to double Edwards, Joseph Girard III will have enough open looks to cement himself as a top perimeter shooter in the NCAA. Still, I have no faith in Benny Williams turning the corner into the caliber of player we thought he was. A NIL collective was created too late for this class, and Adam Weitsman’s pledge to bring in a 5-star recruit will go into effect next season. This should be a down year for Syracuse, but the future is exceptionally bright with six great recruits coming in this year and future help on the way.
Tier 4: Start recruiting for 2023-2024
14. Georgia Tech
Josh Pastner should call his dad and start begging him to send him AAU players from Houston. Unfortunately, if dad did get Josh some recruits, they would not be on campus until next year. If you live in Georgia and want to watch good basketball, I recommend just checking out the local high school scene. Many great Georgia recruits will be leaving the state to play for good basketball teams next year.
Kenny Payne is a great coach who inherited a formidable roster to work with. There is no outside shooting on this roster. Papa John is too busy giving his money to the MyPillow guy instead of NIL deals. Kenny Payne is already building a great recruiting class for next year. This will be a rebuilding year for Louisville but expect Louisville to return to national prominence within the next two years.