Duke is led by Parker and Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood (10.3 PPG in the 2011-12 season), but just like any other successful Mike Krzyzewski team, role players will have to come up with big plays if the Blue Devils are to walk away with another ACC crown. Sophomore Amile Jefferson played just under 13 minutes-per-game last season, but with a year in the books and with a projected starter status, he will have to add some post presence with Mason Plumlee‘s double-double averages gone.
North Carolina‘s James Michael McAdoo may not have lived up to his freshman hype just yet, but he still averaged more than 14 PPG and was the Tar Heel’s most athletic player during the team’s 2012-13 season. McAdoo is expected to grow even more as a junior, but he will still need some help from fellow starters if UNC can topple Duke.
This will begin and end with what sophomore forward Joel James can add in the middle. James only scored in double-digits once (11 points against Florida Atlantic) and did not have a 10-plus rebounding effort. He will have to improve in every way this season to help free McAdoo from guarding bigger players in the post and open him up on offense.
Fair (14.5 PPG, 7 RPG) is the Orange’s go-to-guy, and he will have no problem with that. However, he cannot do everything by himself and with Rakeem Christmas starting alongside him at forward, Fair should have more support in scoring and rebounding. Christmas averaged only 4.6 RPG and will need to come close to doubling that number.
Syracuse is notorious for having poor defensive rebounding numbers because of the zone-scheme. Christmas will have to alleviate some of that to not only help Fair, but to also keep other teams from getting second and third chances.
Pittsburgh is in a rebuilding year after five of their top eight players in minutes are gone. This kind of turnover will place a lot pressure on Lamar Patterson, James Robinson and Talib Zanna. Patterson is the only one of the three returning starters to average at least 10 PPG. Zanna was just short at 9.6 PPG.
None of the three grabbed many rebounds. That may be attributed to coach Jamie Dixon keeping his players to under 30 minutes of playing time per game. Whether that is the case this season or not is to be determined. Freshman Michael Young has high expectations as a top prospect, and he will need to throw his 6-foot-8, 245-pound frame in the post.
Virginia is led by seniors Joe Harris (16.4 PPG) and Akil Mitchell (13.1 PPG), but no other projected starter averaged more than 10 PPG for the Cavaliers last season. Despite being ranked high in the ACC’s total defense, UVA will need another scorer. Sophomore Justin Anderson is the most likely case after posting at least 15 points — including a season-high 24 points in a NIT quarterfinal loss to Iowa — in the last three games of the season. Anderson also had nine other games of double-figure scoring and will need to be more consistent this season.