2018-19 ACC Preseason Rankings

Once again, the ACC will be the nation’s best basketball conference in 2018-19. The league is absolutely loaded from top to bottom, and I’m projecting nine teams to make the NCAA tournament. Read below to see where I think each team will finish in the standings come March.

15. Pittsburgh

While Jeff Capel may turn out to be the right hire for Pitt, don’t expect him to have things turned around right away in year one. This Panthers squad once again lacks the talent necessary to compete in the nation’s top league, and a finish outside of the bottom three will be a shock. Jared Wilson-Frame is the lone double-digit returning scorer, and Capel will rely on the senior to set a good example for a young squad that will look to be back in the national picture a few years down the road.

Postseason Projection: none

14. Georgia Tech

The Yellow Jackets were one of the draft deadline’s biggest losers last year when star guard Josh Okogie decided to leave early, going on to be a first-round pick of the Minnesota Timberwolves. They also lost star center Ben Lammers and guard Tadric Jackson to graduation. Sophomore point guard Jose Alvarado is back to lead a rebuilding squad that’ll have a tough time trying to climb out of the ACC’s basement.

Postseason Projection: none

13. Wake Forest

Danny Manning will field a very young but promising team this season. 5-star forward Jaylen Hoard is a rare talent that has a great shot at being a 2019 lottery pick, and he is joined by fellow highly touted frosh Isaiah Myers and Jamie Lewis. Junior guard Brandon Childress and sophomore Chaundee Brown played well in limited minutes last year, and if they can step up their games in new expanded roles and Manning can get the most out of his talented freshman, the Deacons will be a tough out this season.

Postseason Projection: none

12. Louisville

Chris Mack was a home run hire for the Cardinals, but the effects on recruiting from the Adidas scandal still linger and will be noticeable on the court this season. This team has solid size and athleticism, especially down low, but lack the talent of a typical Louisville team and also don’t have any proven playmakers on offense. They hope junior wing V.J. King can be that go-to guy this year, and he will have some help in grad-transfer guards Khwan Fore (Richmond) and Christen Cunningham (Samford), who both put up solid numbers at their previous schools.

Postseason Projection: none

11. Boston College

First round draft pick and 1st team All-ACC guard Jerome Robinson will be sorely missed, but the Eagles still return plenty of talent from a team that was surprisingly competitive last season. Junior guard Ky Bowman stuffed the stat sheet last year (18 pts, 7 reb, 5 ast) and is one of the best players in the conference. He is joined in the backcourt by sharpshooting senior Jordan Chatman (13 ppg). If 4-star freshman forward Jairus Hamilton can give the frontcourt a solid boost, the Golden Eagles could pull some upsets again this season.

Postseason Projection: NIT

10. Notre Dame

The Irish are coming off a disappointing year that saw them just miss out on the NCAA tournament after struggling through the regular season with injuries to stars Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell. Colson and Farrell are both gone now, and despite Mike Brey’s best recruiting class ever stepping on campus, the Irish will likely struggle to get back to the top of the ACC. However, Brey’s teams have succeeded expectations often in the past, and if star guard T.J. Gibbs can get some consistent help, they may very well be back in the hunt for an NCAA tournament bid in March.

Postseason Projection: NIT

9. Miami

Lonnie Walker and Bruce Brown are off to the NBA, but Jim Larranaga has done a nice job of rebuilding. Florida Gulf Coast grad transfer Zach Johnson is a pure scorer who will fit in nicely to a backcourt that includes speedy sophomore point guard Chris Lykes and junior sharpshooter Dejan Vasilijvec. Senior forward Dewan Hernandez is one of the conferences most underrated players, and along with senior Anthony Lawrence forms one of the top frontcourt duos in the league. While they don’t have the NBA talent they had a year ago, there is enough talent and depth on this Hurricanes team to be on the right side of the bubble come March.

Postseason Projection: 9 seed

8. N.C. State

The Wolfpack will be a dangerous team this year thanks to one of the nation’s most talented and deepest backcourts. Braxton Beverly and Markel Johnson (2018 ACC assist leader) are elite playmakers and are joined by returning leading scorer Torin Dorn (14 ppg) on the wing. They also bring in a trio of transfers in C.J. Bryce (UNCW), Eric Lockett (FIU), and Devon Daniels (Utah), who all averaged double figures at their last school and provide the Wolfpack with a ridiculous amount of backcourt depth. The X-factors for this team lies in the frontcourt, where 4-star freshman Ian Steere and junior Samford transfer Wyatt Walker, who impressed in practice last year, will carry the load. If they can make all the new pieces fit in, this Wolfpack team will be around for a while in March.

Postseason Projection: 8 seed

7. Clemson

Leading scorer Marcquise Reed (16 ppg) tested the NBA waters last spring before deciding to come back for his senior season, giving the Tigers the look of a top 25 team for the second straight year. Fellow seniors Shelton Mitchell and Elijah Thomas are proven studs that give this team a quality core that can hang with anyone in the nation. If they can get enough help from the supporting cast of freshman and guys who had limited roles last year, this team could again reach the second weekend of the tournament.

Postseason Projection: 6 seed

6. Florida State

The Seminoles get a ton of production back from last year’s surprise elite-8 team, so expect this year’s squad to enter the season playing with swagger and confidence. Power forward Phil Cofer is the leading returning scorer and teams up with a pair of monster centers in 7’4” Christ Koumadje and 7’1” Ike Obiagu to form perhaps the nation’s most intimidating frontcourt. Do-it-all G/F Terance Mann is the leader of a deep and athletic backcourt. Good luck scoring on the Seminoles this year.

Postseason Projection: 4 seed

5. Syracuse

Another team that made a surprise run to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament in 2018, the Orange return all 5 starters from a year ago and bring in a couple promising newcomers as well. Tyus Battle averaged over 19 ppg last season and is one of the best overall players in college basketball. Sophomore forward Oshae Brissett had his ups and downs a year ago, but he is very talented as well and could be a lottery pick if he can develop a more consistent jumper. Freshman Jalen Cary and redshirt sophomore transfer G/F Elijah Hughes provide talented depth that the Orange lacked a year ago. We know they’ll be able to defend, and if all goes as planned this team should much better offensively and will have their sights set on another deep run in March.

Postseason Projection: 4 seed

4. North Carolina

The Tar Heels have a nice mix of veteran leadership and young talent and will look like a typical UNC team this season. Senior forward Luke Maye averaged a double-double last year and is arguably the top returning player in the country. Freshman forward Nassir Little is a projected top 5 pick and paired up with Maye forms a pick-your-poison type frontcourt. As if those two aren’t hard enough to deal with, wings Cam Johnson and Kenny Williams are terrific scorers on the outside, giving 5-star freshman point guard Coby White a ton of options to dish the rock to. North Carolina will give nearly every team matchup nightmares and will be a popular pick to cut down the nets this April.

Postseason Projection: 3 seed

3. Virginia Tech

Buzz Williams’s squad returns four starters and six of the top seven players from a team that suffered a disappointing first round exit in last year’s NCAA tournament. I absolutely love the talent and chemistry of this team, and you know they’ll play hard with Williams in charge. The Hokies backcourt will be scary good if Nickeil Alexander-Walker can make as big of a leap as most expect him to in his sophomore season. Senior Justin Robinson is one of the nation’s best point guards, and his steady and intelligent style of play makes him a perfect fit to run this team. While the Hokies may not overwhelm you coming off the bus, they play hard and have no glaring weaknesses, making them a top-ten caliber squad.

Postseason Projection: 3 seed

2. Duke

No team in college hoops has received as much preseason hype as the Blue Devils, and deservedly so. Boasting the nation’s top 3 recruits, Duke will be crazy talented and perhaps the country’s most fun team to watch. While everyone knows about R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish, the key to this team’s success rely on the play of fellow frosh point guard Tre Jones, sophomore guard Alex O’Connell, and junior center Marques Bolden. Consistent strong play from the role players is necessary for a 2019 Duke national title run.

Postseason Projection: 2 seed

1. Virginia

This is another blueprint Tony Bennett squad that has what it takes to win the best conference in America yet again. While they aren’t too flashy, guards Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy, and DeAndre Hunter will play suffocating defense and smart, efficient offense. The Cavaliers also just got word last week that Alabama transfer Braxton Key is eligible to play this season, giving this team an athletic wing that can guard multiple positions and allow them to play small ball with an extra shooter on the court. Their style of play will win a ton of basketball games, but all eyes will be on the Cavaliers in March as they try to finally break their NCAA tournament curse, which was at its worst last year when they became the 1st number one seed to lose to a 16 seed in a game that America won’t let them live down. The best way to make people forget? A final four run, which this team is capable of doing if they can keep their composure in March.

Postseason Projection: 1 seed

One Comments

  1. Nice summary. There is a lot of talent in this league. I think 6 or 7 teams have the potential to make sweet sixteen.

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