Earlier this month, the Virginia Cavaliers were picked to finish 4th in the ACC by both the media and the coaches. As a reminder, last season the Hoos were picked 4th in both preseason polls as well. As another reminder, they finished in first place and won the ACC Tournament too.
The Streaking the Lawn staff conducted a preseason poll of our own, with Duke narrowly edging Virginia for the top spot. (In fact, we were only all able to agree on one thing - Virginia Tech is the worst).
Here are our full rankings:
1) Duke Blue Devils (Average Rank: 1.7, 4 first place votes)
I hate listing Duke first in anything, but they ended up atop our preseason poll. I guess bringing in 3 of the best players in the nation, including our ACC Rookie of the Year pick Jahlil Okafor, counts for something. We'll have to wait and see how quickly Coach K gets this young team to gel, but the Blue Devils will be a force this year.
2) Virginia Cavaliers (Average Rank: 1.8, 5 first place votes)
The Hoos actually had more first place votes among the 9 of us than Duke did. Scroll down so you know whom to blame for this injustice. The good news: Tony Bennett has met or exceeded preseason expectations in each of his 5 seasons as head coach. So we just want to join the ACC media in allowing him to do so again.
3) Louisville Cardinals (Average Rank: 2.9)
With the addition of Louisville, the Hoos received a serious upgrade in their designated "rival." Led by ACC Player of the Year candidate Montrezl Harrell, the Cardinals are tabbed 3rd in the nation by KenPom, behind Duke and Kentucky. The rotation may not be the deepest, but its one of the best, most experienced in the nation. The UVA - Louisville matchups will be battles.
4) North Carolina Tar Heels (Average Rank: 3.8)
We know Marcus Paige is really really good, and picked him as our ACC Player of the Year favorite. But this Tar Heel squad must eliminate the inconsistency they suffered from last season. (They beat Louisville and Michigan State, then started 1-4 in the ACC, then won 12 straight, then faltered in the postseason). With non-Paige weapons uncertain, KenPom's #20 preseason rank seems more reasonable than the #6 in both polls.
5) Syracuse Orange (Average Rank: 5.0)
Syracuse lost most of their production from last season, with Tyler Ennis, CJ Fair, and Jeremi Grant all moving on. Luckily for the Orange, they have Fair-like and Grant-like replacement players at the ready. The biggest question will be at point guard, where freshman Kaleb Joseph will be given the car keys with big shoes to fill.
6) Pittsburgh Panthers (Average Rank: 6.1)
The Panthers take some heavy losses with the graduations of Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna. Cameron Wright must increase his efficiency as the team's sole senior contributor, and the Panthers will have to win some low-scoring slogs, which have never been outside Jamie Dixon's comfort zone.
7) Florida State Seminoles (Average Rank: 7.3)
It's hard to imagine Leonard Hamilton putting together an uncompetitive team - you have to go back to 2005 to find the last time he went worse than 7-9 in the ACC. Their roster, without Ian Miller and Okaro White looks to be on the bare side (though without White, it should also be on the better-behaved side). But this team just finds ways to slide into NCAA bubble discussion anyways.
8) Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Average Rank: 8.4)
Jerian Grant's return from academic suspension alone is enough to give us confidence that ND's offense will be solid. But last year, they finished ranked 204th in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency. Mike Brey's team have never been defensive juggernauts, but the Irish will have to at attempt to keep their opponents from scoring this time around.
9) NC State Wolfpack (Average Rank 9.0)
The Wolfpack made the NCAA Tournament last year despite sporting the league's 3rd-worst defense. The team has some pieces, but with TJ Warren no longer able to throw up an easy 20+ points per night (he scored 17 or more points in 17 of his 18 ACC games. The other was his 4 point effort vs. UVA), there are question marks on both sides of the ball.
10) Miami Hurricanes (Average Rank: 9.6)
Miami is another one of those teams that gets an instant preseason boost by virtue of their head coach's track record. The Canes should have been awful last year, but still managed to scrape together a 7-11 ACC record. There ceiling isn't high, but they'll stay out of the basement once again.
11) Clemson Tigers (Average Rank: 10.7)
The loss of KJ McDaniels will hurt the Tigers on both sides of the ball. He led a defense that was ranked as one of the conference's best, but just couldn't make up for his teammates' inability to put the ball in the basket. We are unclear if anyone will be able to execute that "ball in the basket" play this year either.
12) Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (Average Rank: 12.7)
GT is yet another one of last season's offensively-challenged ACC squads. There's no reason to expect any improvement, as the graduations of Trae Golden and Daniel Miller have left Marcus Georges-Hunt basically all alone. Twelfth may be optimistic.
13) Boston College Golden Eagles (Average Rank: 12.7)
After BC's 298th national rank in defensive efficiency last season, new coach Jim Christian could at least hope to benefit from regression to the mean. Ryan Anderson transferred, but BC has the potential for a capable offense if Oliver Hanlan can lead the charge again; however, it won't be anything like last season's surprisingly capable unit. Most likely, the offense will regress, the defense will improve, and they'll be about where they were last season.
14) Wake Forest Demon Deacons (Average Rank: 13.4)
After his 4 year stint of losing 12+ each season, Jeff Bzdelik is finally gone. Danny Manning can't do worse, but this rebuilding project probably needs a couple years.
15) Virginia Tech Hokies (Average Rank: 15.0)
ACC Player of the Year: Marcus Paige
ACC Rookies of the Year: Jahlil Okafor
Here are our full ballots - let us know where you agree, and how you'd do things differently:
|ACC POY:||Malcolm Brogdon||Marcus Paige||Marcus Paige||Marcus Paige||Marcus Paige||Montrezl Harrell||Marcus Paige||Malcolm Brogdon||Marcus Paige|
|ACC ROY:||Jahlil Okafor||Jahlil Okafor||Jahlil Okafor||Jahlil Okafor||Jahlil Okafor||Jahlil Okafor||Jahlil Okafor||BJ Stith||Jahlil Okafor|