The Atlantic Coast Conference is consistently one of the best in the country, and this year should be no different. A handful of teams—Virginia, Duke, and North Carolina—should all be in the top ten (or close) when the first AP Poll comes out on Monday morning, and Virginia Tech, Syracuse, NC State, and Florida State could all creep into the top 25.
Before the season starts, we’re going to take a look at some of the top units within the ACC, starting with the always important backcourt. The ACC lost some outstanding guards, including Virginia’s Devon Hall, UNC’s Joel Berry II, and Boston College’s Jerome Robinson, but there is still an embarrassment of riches.
Let’s get right to it.
Honorable Mention: NC State
The Wolfpack have potentially one of the more underrated players in the conference in Torin Dorn. Not only is his name super fun to say, the redshirt senior is just damn good at basketball. Dorn put his name in for the NBA Draft after last season, but withdrew and returned to school for one last go. He was second on the team last season with 13.9 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, and Dorn shot 53% from the field and 31% from three.
Alongside Dorn is sophomore Braxton Beverly who averaged 9.5 points per game and shot 38.5% from three.
5. Boston College
Ky Bowman is one of the most dynamic players in the country, let alone the ACC. I don’t care if he was the only person in the backcourt, he’s good enough to put Boston College on this list. He averaged 17.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game, and shot 36.2% from three. Bowman struggled at Virginia last season (just five points), but I expect him to be a first team All-ACC caliber performer this year.
4. Florida State
The Seminoles went to the Elite 8 last season (seriously, the NCAA tournament is just absurd), and they bring back two top-notch guards in Phil Cofer and Terance Mann. Leonard Hamilton is a little more fluid with his positions when he’s setting the lineup, often just putting out four tall guys with long arms with one super tall guy. At 6-8 (Cofer) and 6-7 (Mann), the duo definitely fits the bill for the ‘Noles.
Cofer and Mann were FSU’s leading scorers with 12.8 and 12.6 points per game, respectively. While Mann is more successful from the field (57%), Cofer can connect from three (37.5%). Devin Vassel, a 6-3, 3-star guard out of Georgia, joins the fray as well.
Jim Boeheim and the Orange got a big boost when Tyus Battle decided to return to Syracuse. He is a dynamic player that can seemingly score points at will, averaging a team-high 19.2 points last season while playing 39 minutes per game. His shooting percentage (40%) isn’t great, but he’s the guy the Orange can look to when they need a bucket. At 6-6, he’s the rangy player that Coach Boeheim loves for that 2-3 zone.
Alongside Battle, Frank Howard returns looking to improve upon his 14.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. Howard makes threes at about the same clip as Battle (33%), and can be tough to guard. Four star freshman Jalen Carey joins Syracuse this season to add some depth to the backcourt, as does Buddy Boeheim (yes, they’re related).
2. Virginia Tech
Like it or not, the Hokies are going to be good this year despite graduating Devin Wilson and Justin Bibbs. Buzz Williams has talented guards in Ahmed Hill (10.6 points per game) and Nickeil Alexander-Walker (10.7 ppg) returning, and add a trio of three-star freshmen guards (one of whom is named Isaiah Wilkins which will never not be weird). The biggest key for Williams, however, is Justin Robinson.
Robinson is now a senior and is returning to build on a season that saw him earn Second Team All-ACC honors and score a team-high 14 points per game. He has good vision on the court and deftly dishes the ball to teammates with a 2.2 assist-to-turnover ratio. Last season Robinson shot 46% from the field and 40% from three, so he can get you in the lane or beyond the arc.
I expect him to have another outstanding season, and Alexander-Walker (who shot 49% and 39%, respectively) will be a player that torments opposing defenses. Oh, and then there’s always Chris Clarke who is back for another season at the hybrid guard-forward position. Sheesh.
The Cavaliers have a backcourt that is not only tops in the ACC, but could be tops in the country. De’Andre Hunter (9.2 points, 3.5 rebounds per game) is a hybrid guard that could function in a lot of different ways in the Virginia offense, but the combo of third years Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy is unrivaled in the conference.
Guy has become the face of the team and earns a lot of the accolades (and attention defensively). He shot 39% from three and 41% from the field last season, knocking down jumpers from all over the court as he lead the Hoos in points per game with 14.1. His quick release and ability to flit off of bone crushing Jack Salt screens is perfect for the Virginia offense. Defensively, Guy has improved exponentially from his first year. He fits the Pack Line well, and has become a better individual defender as Joel Berry II can attest to after Guy forced him into dribbling it off his foot and out of bounds.
Then there’s Jerome. He shot 42% from the floor and 38% from three on the season, averaging 10.6 points and 3.1 rebounds per game. I’ll never pass up an opportunity to drop in a highlight of Jerome’s game-clinching three over Duke, so here it is:
That was his flashiest shot of the season, but he consistently came up with huge shots and big plays for the Cavaliers. In the improbable comeback at Louisville, Jerome’s play down the stretch put the Hoos in the position to pull off the seemingly impossible. Against Boston College, Jerome dropped 31 points as he converted 11-of-17 shots (including 6-of-9 from three).
This is Jerome’s team this season, and he’s put in off-season work with an invitation to Chris Paul’s CP3 Elite Guard Camp where he got rave reviews. At 6-5 he has length that benefits him on both ends of the court, and he takes care of the ball with a 2.4 assist-to-turnover ratio. With Devon Hall graduated, Jerome will have to pick up a lot of the primary ball handling for the Hoos.
As far as reserves go, Virginia has second year Marco Anthony and first year Kihei Clark available. Anthony filled in admirably last season when Nigel Johnson was suspended, and Clark has earned the praise of his teammates for his competitive fire in practice.
What do you think? Who did I miss? Underrate? Overrate? Leave a comment below!