Three days from now, we’ll have Virginia Basketball back on our screens as the Hoos welcome Towson to town for the season opener on Tuesday. Previously in the countdown, I’ve predicted the top five defenses, backcourts, and front courts in the ACC, so today it’s all about the offense. There’s a couple teams that will be surefire shooters, and some that might actually not be terrible? Let’s dig in.
Honorable Mention: Virginia Tech
The Hokies scored just shy of 80 points per game last season and return the likes of Justin Robinson (14 points per game), Kerry Blackshear Jr. (12.5), Nickeil Alexander-Walker (10.7), and Ahmed Hill (10.8). Those four were No. 1, No. 3, No. 4, and No. 5 in scoring last season for the Hokies, respectively. KenPom projects VaTech as the No. 8 team in offense this season in the preseason rankings and this is a squad that is building off of a season in which they shot 50% from the field and 39% from three. The only big scoring presence that graduated was Justin Bibbs, but recent news of Chris Clarke being “suspended indefinitely” from the team (and subsequently removed from the roster online) keeps VaTech out of the top five.
5. NC State Wolfpack
This is another squad that I have questions on regarding potential unexpected absences, but instead of suspension like the aforementioned Hokies, it’s an injury to Braxton Beverly. Beverly, now a sophomore, broke his hand in late October and needed surgery to repair it. He will miss at least part of the non-conference schedule, which is a hit to the Pack as he shot 39% beyond the arc last season and had 121 assists to just 37 turnovers (3.3 assist-to-turnover ratio). Joining Beverly is Torin Dorn (13.9 points per game) and Markell Johnson (8.9 points per game). The Wolfpack are rated the No. 15 preseason offense per KenPom and averaged over 81 points per game last season. They finished 2017-18 with the No. 21 offense in KenPom last year.
Also Considered: Florida State, Clemson
I may be alone in this, but I’m excited about this season’s offense. Not only do the Hoos have bonafide stars in Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy, and De’Andre Hunter, but Tony Bennett has transfer Braxton Key in the mix to really diversify the offense. There was talk among the players at Virginia’s media day of some new wrinkles to the offense, and Mamadi Diakite has the making to become a breakout star this season.
Help me...is Syracuse going to score points? People complain about Virginia’s offense, but the Orange was brutal to watch last season as it seemed like they just panicked until they made Tyus Battle shoot it. This year, Battle has some backup with Frank Howard, a more experienced Oshae Brissett, the return of Pascal Chukwu, and newcomers Buddy Boeheim and ECU transfer Elijah Hughes. KenPom puts the Orange at No. 17 to start the season.
This UNC team is kind of weird. There’s a couple big stars—Luke Maye and Nassir Little—but it doesn’t have that crazy hyped feel that often comes with a highly regarded Tar Heel squad. Cameron Johnson, a transfer from Pitt, averaged 12.4 points per game for the Heels last season and can be deadly beyond the arc. Kenny Willams (11.4 points per game) is the third double digit scorer returning for the Heels (Luke Maye averaged 16.9 per game). One of the things that made UNC so dangerous offensively last season was their ability to grab offensive rebounds. The Heels return over 60% of that offensive rebounding performance, including 113 from Maye (10.3% per KenPom).
Shocker, right? Once again, Duke is going to be incredibly difficult to show down offensively. RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, and Zion Williamson are the high level recruits that get all the attention, but keep an eye out for Tre Jones. He’s the younger brother of Tyus Jones, who helped lead the Blue Devils to the 2015 National Championship. Jones will run the offense for Coach K, and his performance will be crucial as he tries to decide which five star recruit gets the ball to dunk it. This could be a too many five stars in the kitchen type scenario, but they’re certainly capable.