The Blue Devils lose Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood to the NBA, but bring in one of the top recruiting classes in the country. Seven-foot center Jahlil Okafor, widely considered to be the top prospect in the 2014 class, will bring a classic back to the basket mentality inside. Freshman point guard Tyus Jones is a heady floor general who should be ready to contribute and Justise Winslow has the makings for one of the top glue guys in the conference. Junior shooting guard Rasheed Sulaimon will be looked upon to carry the scoring load and stretch a defense from the perimeter. Amile Jefferson should be another key contributor, but a lot of this season will ride on the freshman class.
2. North Carolina
North Carolina may have the top returner in the conference with junior point guard Marcus Paige. After a breakout sophomore year, Paige will lead an athletic squad with a mixture of experience and youth. Freshmen Justin Jackson and Theo Pinson will see big roles immediately and will push J.P. Tokoto for a starting spot. Brice Johnson had a solid sophomore season as he looks to build upon his 10.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. Sophomore Kennedy Meeks has reportedly dropped weight and could have a breakout year ahead. The Tar Heels will have plenty of depth and will certainly be in contention for the ACC title.
Leading scorer Russ Smith is off to the NBA, but the backcourt of Chris Jones and Terry Rozier should make for a solid unit on both ends of the floor. Montrezl Harrell will clearly be the centerpiece for the Cardinals after turning down a likely first-round selection. Louisville will have a nice freshman class as well, led by athletic wing Shaqquan Aaron and true point guard Quentin Snider. Wayne Blackshear, once a top recruit in 2011, could also have a breakout season on hand with the loss of Luke Hancock.
Although the defending ACC champions lose Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell to graduation, they return a solid core of juniors with Malcolm Brogdon, Justin Anderson, Anthony Gill, and Mike Tobey. Point guard London Perrantes also returns after surpassing expectations last season. The Cavaliers may lack a clear superstar, but head coach Tony Bennett has a nice array of returners who can compete in the ACC once again.
Tyler Ennis and Jerami Grant left early for the NBA Draft while leading scorer C.J. Fair has graduated. Trevor Cooney showed the ability to stretch the floor with his knock-down jumper but freshman Kaleb Joseph will need to show similar poise that Ennis displayed last year. Another incoming freshman, Chris McCullough, will likely step in as a starter as well. Michael Gbinije and Rakeem Christmas will look to improve as they likely step into starting roles this season.
Jamie Dixon loses Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna, the top two scorers from last year’s team, but brings in Vanderbilt transfer Shelton Jeter along with a big recruiting class filled with a mixture of freshmen and junior college prospects. James Robinson is one of the steadier point guards in the conference and Cameron Wright is expected to have a big senior year.
7. N.C. State
T.J. Warren was named the ACC Player of the Year last season for good reason and will be nearly impossible to replace after he left for the NBA. Starting point guard Tyler Lewis also departed after he decided to transfer to Butler. The Wolfpack should still be talented enough to make some noise in the ACC behind the backcourt of Anthony (Cat) Barber and Alabama transfer Trevor Lacey. There’s plenty of heralded recruits on this team, but the key will be if frontcourt players can produce at a high level.
8. Notre Dame
After losing leading scorer Jerian Grant midway through last season due to academic issues, he’s expected to return to lead the Irish this year. He was one of the top performers in the ACC prior to his departure. Replacing Eric Atkins and Garrick Sherman should be tough, but freshman Bonzie Colson has a chance to contribute immediately. Grant will need to carry the Irish this season.
9. Florida State
Losing seniors Ian Miller and Okaro White to graduation will definitely hurt the Seminoles but head coach Leonard Hamilton will always find a way to compete in the highly competitive ACC. Xavier Rathan-Mayes is a shooting guard to watch this season after he was academically ineligible last year. There also are some key JUCO signees that should contribute immediately.
Miami loses plenty of players from last season, including leading scorer Rion Brown, but brings in Kansas State transfer Angel Rodriguez, Texas transfer Sheldon McClellan, and top recruit Ja’Quan Newton. There will be plenty of turnover for the Hurricanes but it will be interesting to see if the chemistry comes together.
11. Virginia Tech
The Hokies finished last in the ACC last season and will lose leading scorer Jarell Eddie to make matters worse; however, there will be a change of scenery at Virginia Tech. New head coach Buzz Williams will bring in notable freshmen Ahmed Hill and Justin Bibbs, a pair of elite recruits that will be expected to contribute immediately. Junior college recruit Shane Henry will also be a newcomer to watch as Williams moves into the ACC.
K.J. McDaniels was the leading scorer (17.1 PPG) and rebounder (7.1 RPG) for the Tigers and will certainly be tough to replace. The top returning scorer from last year’s team, Damarcus Harrison, only averaged 7.8 points per game but defense will be the calling card like last season. Harrison and Jordan Roper will need to take a step forward this season.
13. Georgia Tech
After a disappointing season, leading scorer Trae Golden has graduated and leading rebounder Robert Carter transferred to Maryland. The Yellow Jackets will lean on Marcus Georges-Hunt – the only returner from last year’s squad who was a double-figure scorer – in addition to transfers Robert Sampson and Demarco Cox. There’s a lot of unknowns with this year’s squad with a much different roster being formed.
14. Wake Forest
Recently hired Danny Manning faces a tough task in his first year at Wake Forest. Coron Williams and Travis McKie graduated while Arnaud-William Moto has decided to transfer out of the program. The Demon Deacons will return leading scorer Codi Miller-McIntrye and leading rebounder Devin Thomas, but the lack of depth will be tough for Manning to manage in the ACC.
15. Boston College
Olivier Hanlan, the leading scorer from last year’s squad, returns to highlight the roster but the Eagles lose Ryan Anderson and Joe Rahon to the transfer market. New head coach Jim Christian will have to bring out the best of the similar roster that finished 4-14 in the conference last season.
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