ACC Basketball: Frontcourts Will Determine 2014-15 Champion

By Gregory Philson
Montrezl Harrell
David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

The ACC is usually hyped up because of the plethora of guards and wing players that populate the league. However, with the Duke Blue Devils acquiring Jahlil Okafor in the 2014 recruiting chase, the North Carolina Tar Heels bringing back nearly their entire frontline and Montrezl Harrell returning to the Louisville Cardinals‘ front court may be the talk of the conference this season.

Okafor is considered the No. 1 recruit because of his skills in the paint on both ends of the court. Duke struggled to score in the paint at times and suffered losses due to poor rebounding on more than one occasion. Despite losing Jabari Parker, Duke has a chance to be an ever better team because of the balance Okafor will provide. Duke will be able to go inside out on offense and hold opponents to only one possession on defense.

North Carolina returns Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson as starting forwards and will get help with the bench play of Joel James. Meeks is a strong player who has the potential to bang players of any size around, and he could get many players into foul trouble. Johnson is lanky and sneaky forward who can hit a mid-range jumper and drop a baby hook shot over anyone. James is a sturdy player who does not mind playing dirty. He will offer toughness if a game gets chippy.

Harrell is a one-man wrecking crew for coach Rick Pitino and Louisville. Even if Harrell was the only forward on the team, Louisville will still be a difficult team to handle in the paint. Harrell will be joined inside with 7-foot-2 Matz Stockman and Anas Osama Mahmoud. Stockman is good prototypical center, and Mahmoud is long and could be a breakout player. Chinanu Onuaku will also provide rebounding and power.

The rest of the league also has post presence with the Pitt Panthers getting a more experienced Michael Young. Young is a rugged player who fits coach Jamie Dixon‘s system perfectly. Syracuse has Rakeem Christmas returning, and his ability to rebound and shot block will help Syracuse on both ends of the court.

The ACC still has a lot of guards who can match up with anyone in the country, but the 2014-15 conference championship could be determined by which team’s frontline gives the best effort all season long.

Gregory T. Philson is an ACC basketball writer at Follow him on Twitter @GTPhilson, “Like” him on Facebook, and add him to your network on GoogleRead more here.

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