By Ed Morgans @writered21 on August 29, 2014
While conferences like the Big 10 can be considered the best in college basketball, the ACC is chipping away with that via expansion and recruiting. With Duke and North Carolina combining to land seven McDonald's All-Americans, Louisville entering the league and Virginia bursting on to the scene last season with 30 wins, the league may be at its best. Here's a snapshot of how the ACC's 15 teams stack up.
The good news for the Eagles is that they get leading scorer Olivier Hanlan back. He averaged 18.5 points per game a season ago but often didn't get much help, and Boston College suffered because of it. The Eagles really need to step up to improve this season.
New head coach Buzz Williams has some talent to work with in Blacksburg, and as the non-conference season goes along, it's likely that the ranking for Tech will improve. The Hokies will play better basketball this season, but the ACC is going to be a really tough conference.
Gone is ACC Player of the Year T.J. Warren and with him goes much of North Carolina State's scoring and overall offense. The Wolfpack didn't really groom a secondary scorer last season and that will hurt them early on this year.
Is Wake really better than Virginia Tech or N.C. State? Maybe not. But the Demon Deacons are going to be interesting to watch this season with new head coach Danny Manning at the helm and that alone lifts them a couple spots in this ranking for now.
The Yellow Jackets aren't the worst that the ACC has to offer, but they are far from contending, and on many nights, they were far from even scoring 60 points. Georgia Tech is just kind of there right now in the ACC, treading water.
From ACC champs to also-rans, the Hurricanes fell hard in 2013-14 due to a major loss of talent after a great season the year prior. The rebuilding job may occur faster than most think for Miami, though it will be tough for it to break into the upper half of the conference. That said, expect Miami to upset one of the top four teams this season.
The Seminoles are probably also on the rise and they will be another team that will be a thorn in the side of the top of the ACC this season, even if they aren't good enough to contend. It's never wise to count Florida State out, however.
Having lost the versatile all-around star K.J. McDaniels to the NBA Draft, the Tigers are a team like N.C. State -- have to replace a lot of their attack this season. But Clemson never seems to fall that far, even if it also never seems to reach the next level. The Tigers are a middle of the road team so No. 8 fits them well.
The Fighting Irish lost their way in their first ACC journey last season when top scorer Jerian Grant ran into academic problems and left the team. Grant is scheduled to return this season and that will put Notre Dame on much more firm ground this year.
Pitt has the tough task of rebuilding after losing Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna, but if there are things we've learned about the Panthers under head coach Jamie Dixon, they are that Pitt will win 20 games anyway, be competitive in the league and probably fall early in the NCAA tournament.
It's hard to pick a name team like Syracuse worse than fifth, even if it's deserved. Last season's terrible finish and the loss of Tyler Ennis and C.J. Fair will hurt the Orange. Jim Boeheim will have Syracuse competitive as always, but title contention is a real question mark in the ACC.
Louisville is a national powerhouse and still has Montrezl Harrell in the fold (that won't be a nice sight for Virginia Tech fans), and head coach Rick Pitino's addition to the league means the conference may have the best lineup of coaches in the country. But the first-year adjustment to the ACC is tough and Louisville may struggle with that a bit.
While program-building senior Joe Harris is now gone to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Virginia's Cavaliers return nearly the rest of their roster from last season's ACC regular-season and tournament winners. That, plus a decent freshman class, should have coach Tony Bennett's teams near the top again this year. However, the schedule does UVA no favors. In one stretch, the Cavs play Duke-UNC-Louisville. UVA ends the season at Syracuse and Louisville.
The Tar Heels will probably go as far as guard Marcus Paige takes them, and he's talented enough for that to be quite a long trip. But his inconsistency within games (lousy first halves, then 30-point second halves) could get UNC into trouble in big matchups, of which the ACC will offer plenty. Carolina's freshmen may not quite measure up to Duke, so here they are at No. 2.
So if UVA is No. 3 and UNC is No. 2, of course, Duke is No. 1. The Blue Devils lost a good bit of talent from last season including Jabari Parker, but Duke just seems to reload instead of rebuilding, and four McDonald's All-Americans will certainly help that cause. The early season will be filled with those players meshing together to find the best rotation, but by midway through the ACC season, Duke will be the force to be reckoned with.
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