ACC Basketball Loaded With Talent Of All Ages in 2014

By Gregory Philson
Marcus Paige
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

ACC basketball may have had a somewhat disappointing 2013-14 NCAA basketball season with the Duke Blue Devils falling out early despite having Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood, the North Carolina Tar Heels never fully gelling and the Syracuse Orange not living up to a 25-0 start. This upcoming 2014-15 season should be nothing like that because of the overwhelming high-level talent returning and the great classes coming in for many of the teams.

Duke has the No. 1 recruiting class in the land with Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones both considered the best players at their positions. Duke also has the experience of Rasheed Sulaimon, Quinn Cook and Amile Jefferson helping the youngsters mature at an easier rate. Cook has all the ability to be a potent player on both ends and should be a go-to player down the stretch.

North Carolina also has a highly respected class with Justin Jackson slated to start and Theo Pinson and Joel Berry adding skills to the backcourt. Marcus Paige is coming off a breakout sophomore season where he made highlights with late-game heroics and a cold-blooded attack against rival Duke during the regular season. Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson are both primed to have standout years, and the Tar Heels will also have depth that was missing last year.

The Louisville Cardinals will be joining the ACC with a full head of steam. Montrezl Harrell‘s surprising return eased the graduation of Russ Smith. Harrell will be an absolute force in the ACC and should have an amazing first year in the new conference. Shaqquan Aaron leads a fantastic 2014 class, and his ability to run the court, find open players and score when it is desperately needed could make Cards fans forget Smith quickly. Louisville also has great depth in the post and should be able to bang around with any team in the league.

The rest of the league will also have a ton of talent with the Pitt Panthers returning James Robinson and Cameron Wright at the guard spots and a more fit Jamel Artis at forward. Sheldon Jeter also will make his way into the lineup after transferring and could make up for the departed Lamar Patterson. The Panthers did not make a lot of noise on the recruiting end but should be as tough of an out as any team in the league.

Syracuse went through a very interesting season, and after Tyler Ennis left for the NBA, the Orange may have looked less likely to go on a run next season. However, with top recruit Kaleb Joseph coming in, there may be more of an addition than a subtraction. Ennis was definitely a potent player down the stretch of games, but his overall contributions were overhyped. Joseph may be better suited for the game plan and will be a better fit immediately.

The ACC had a down year last season, but the talented teams there should make next season exciting.

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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