Last year, the ACC was defined by a young and incoming players. They struggled in the non-conference matchups but improved enough to show their worth in March. As a new season approaches, Streaking the Lawn ranks each of the teams in a conference that hopes to get off to a hot start.
After just winning 12 total games in 2021-22, the Yellow Jackets lose another duo of leading scorers. Michael Devoe and Jordan Usher accounted for a whopping 49.3% of the roster’s total three-pointers made. In a system that values spacing and outside shooting, there is little proven talent in the program. Perhaps, former Auburn and South Alabama center Javon Franklin can add a new element to the offense instead.
Most will agree that Cardinals new head coach Kenny Payne was qualified for this high profile job. However, Chris Mack left the program in a rebuilding stage and the results will likely not show as quickly as year one. Ideally, Louisville would have added more in the transfer portal this offseason. Instead, returners El Ellis and Jae’Lyn Withers are expected to lead the offense.
The Panthers enter year five of the Jeff Capel era and still, he has been unable to string together a successful season. Things looked hopeful over the last few months as the program topped off a productive offseason by adding prized recruit, Dior Johnson. Now, it appears that Johnson will not suit up in uniform any time soon and it is much easier to assume Pitt will resort to their regular ways. Keep an eye out for dominant big John Hugley, who the team will continue to ride or die with.
12. Clemson Tigers
Somehow, Brad Brownell is still here. It appears Clemson is perfectly okay being mediocre in basketball as long as they get all the attention in football. The only problem is, outside of P.J. Hall, albeit a very polished scorer, the Tigers do not have many options offensively. Defense will keep them in some games but, as we saw last year, you have to score to win.
Many think Kevin Keatts has driven the program into the ground and his NC State track record proves just that. Losing Dereon Seabron will hurt but Keatts made better use of the portal than perhaps any other team across the conference. Returner Terquavion Smith and Mississippi State transfer Jarkel Joiner complement each other and ought to make a quality backcourt for the Wolfpack. The major question marks come from the front court, most specifically on the defense end.
10. Syracuse Orange
In 2021-22, Jim Boeheim saw his team finish below .500 for the first time in his entire tenure. Yes, the Orange can shoot and score in transition, but his infamous 2-3 zone did not have its normal effect. This roster brings in a large, capable freshman class, most notably combo guard Judah Mintz. Expect the Orange to make a slight improvement but inexperience may continue to bite them defensively.
The Eagles showed a lot by ending last season with nearly three encouraging ACC Tournament wins. This is a program that has made heavy strides on the defensive end and benefitted from a culture change. The offense has been hard to come by at times but the Eagles return all three of their double digit scorers from 2021-22. Quentin Post is an additional role player who stepped up late in the year.
2021-22 was a strange year for Wake Forest. They produced the ACC’s Player of the Year (Alondes Williams) and Coach of the Year (Steve Forbes) yet failed to make the NCAA Tournament. Nonetheless, it is time to start respecting them as a program. Tyree Abblebee transfers from Florida with experience and the ability to get to the foul line at a high rate. He will lead the offense, along with returning guard Daivien Williamson.
This Seminoles roster looks to be one of the more experienced ones in recent history. 6’7 Matthew Cleveland is a prime example of Leonard Hamilton’s personnel of “position-less” basketball players and projects as their leading scorer. Darin Greene Jr., who has three years of Division 1 experience, transfers from UCF as a dangerous catch-and-shoot shooter. This team’s talent does appear to be slightly below the norm for FSU but the deep bench has likely returned.
The Fighting Irish needed to pick it up on the defensive end last year and they answered the task. They were never a great defensive team but an adequate defense which complemented an elite offense worked well. Essentially, there are two extremes on this Notre Dame roster. Super seniors Dane Goodwin, Cormac Ryan, and Nate Laszewski provide the safe production. On the other hand, true freshman J.J. Starling has by far the most upside, and could be in the running for the ACC’s Freshman of the Year.
Mike Young has built a respectable, well-rounded program in Blacksburg. As usual, the Hokies have a lot of shooters and players that can guard on-ball. Size was initially an issue following the departure of Keve Aluma, so Young went out and grabbed Wright State superstar Grant Basile to anchor the post. They are not filled with five-star talent but this Virginia Tech team can certainly compete with the big boys in the conference.
A bounce back regular season and surprising Elite Eight run proved one thing — Jim Larrañaga still has it. He recruits athletes and most specifically prioritizes athleticism over size and length. That is exactly what Coach L added with Kansas State transfer Nijel Pack, who is one of the most dangerous three point shooters in the entire country. Add Isaiah Wong, who can score from anywhere, and the Canes will be a matchup nightmare for many, once again.
Last year was a rough one in Charlottesville but Tony Bennett has earned enough trust to assume that a supplemented roster and plenty of returners will lead to vast improvement. Virginia brings back all five of its starters. Included in that mix are Reece Beekman and Kadin Shedrick, both of whom are expected to continue to take leaps offensively. There’s also a recruiting class full of capable, top-100 players, most notably guard Isaac McKneely. Bennett topped off the roster by adding stretch four Ben Vander Plas from the transfer portal who should immediately raise this team’s floor.
While Jon Scheyer is known as a mastermind schematically, it is quite notable that the recruiting has not skipped a beat either. It goes to show that the program that Coach K built has a legacy far beyond his own name. Dariq Whitehead, Dereck Lively, and Kyle Filipowski are this year’s trio of true freshman phenoms. Lively in particular will be vital.
This Tar Heels roster has the perfect combination of talent plus experience. They bring back several main pieces from their runners-up team, including Armando Bacot and Caleb Love. Sharp shooter RJ Davis and lockdown defender Leaky Black return as well. Brady Manek gone? No problem, Hubert Davis had the team covered with Northwestern transfer Pete Nance, who is a prime example of a scrappy stretch big.