We’ve made it to single digits! In just NINE days, the Virginia Cavaliers basketball team is hitting the court for the first time in the 2018-19 season as they welcome the Towson Tigers to John Paul Jones Arena on November 6th. Over the past few days, we’ve looked at what could be the top five back courts and defenses in the ACC. Today, we’re going to take a look at the frontcourts around the conference.
Let’s get to it!
5. North Carolina Tar Heels
Luke Maye is the favorite for ACC Player of the Year, and the senior big man brings back a double-double average to the Tar Heels. He’s not a traditional post player and can definitely shoot the three, but he’s a big body that can bang around down low if needed. Coach Williams mentioned some hesitation with not having a true back to the basket post guy established for his squad, but Maye is joined by a pair of sophomores in Garrison Brooks and Sterling Manley, along with highly touted freshman forward Nassir Little.
Manley finished second on the team in blocks last season with 24 and had a block percentage of 7.1%. Williams averaged 11.4 points per game, and had an impressive ORtg of 125.3 and an eFG% of 59.8%—both of which were best on the team. Little’s role will be interesting to see, but he’s a talented player and at 6-6, 220, he’s ready to contribute out of the gate.
4. Florida State Seminoles
The 7-4 Christ Koumadje returns for the Seminoles, as does his 9.7% block percentage. As is always the case with Leonard Hamilton’s squads, there are a lot of long, rangy guys that work well together to disrupt everything. Phil Cofer is one of my favorite returning players, and he led the Seminoles last season with 12.8 points per game. It’s a young group for the Noles with four sophomores and a freshman joining the aforementioned senior duo, but knowing Coach Hamilton, they’ll be fine.
3. Clemson Tigers
Elijah Thomas, who averaged 10.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game last season, is one of my favorite returning big men. He’s a physical defender and shot a respectable 56% from the field last season. His defensive rebounding percentage of 25.6% is good for 36th in the nation, and his 10% block percentage is good for 24th. Not too shabby.
Thomas is joined by David Skara and Aamir Simms, both of whom were listed as “limited roles” by KenPom for last year. Simms, now a sophomore, showed real flashes last season and could be a big player for Coach Brownell and the preseason No. 22 Tigers. They also add a graduate transfer, Javan White, from Oral Roberts where he averaged over 10 points and eight rebounds a game.
2. Syracuse Orange
Oshae Brissett, Marek Dolezaj, and Pascal Chukwu all return for Coach Boeheim, and formidable doesn’t seem to be a strong enough word to describe the trio. Brissett was outstanding as a freshman, averaging 14.9 points per game and playing 38+ minutes per game. He’s a very good defensive rebounder (19.4%), and can pick off lazy passes easily. Dolezaj is an efficient shooter with an eFG% of 54.4%, but isn’t a big scoring threat with just under five points per game.
Chukwu, at 7-2, is a block machine at the rim, but committed 4.6 fouls per 40 minutes last season and can get into some trouble. Bourama Sidibe is now a sophomore and will likely see an increase on his 12.4 minutes per game from last season. He’s also a big fouling liability for the Orange though (7.6 FC/40).
1. Duke Blue Devils
This is the easiest thing I’ve ever had to pick, outside putting Virginia first in the defensive categories. Zion Williamson will be one of—if not the—best players in the league (and nation) this season and will be an absolute nightmare for opponents to defend. This likely won’t be happening in games as there’s not often a time that there’s literally no one in the key to defend in some capacity, but holy hell look at this:
ZION WILLIAMSON FROM THE FT LINE. @ZionW32— Duke Basketball (@DukeMBB) August 14, 2018
Offense isn’t his only strength. Just ask this poor kid who had his soul knocked out of his body with this block.
And he’s not alone. Super freshmen RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish join Williamson, and Duke’s only real depth comes at the forward position with Javin DeLaurier, Marques Bolden, Antonio Vrankovic, and Jack White. Barrett or Reddish could potentially function as a three for Coach K, but no matter how you look at it, this frontcourt is aggressively brutal.
Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment below!