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Cardinals soar to the No. 1 spot in way-too-early ACC basketball rankings

 

While the 2017-18 college basketball season is still nearly six months away, this week’s NBA decisions provided a clearer picture for what the ACC will look like next winter.

Duke took the 2017 ACC crown, while North Carolina claimed the regular season. However, neither will enter next season with the league’s best roster.

Here are our way-too-early ACC rankings:

 

1. Louisville

Key losses: G Donovan Mitchell (NBA), F Jaylen Johnson (NBA), F Mangok Mathiang (GRAD), G Tony Hicks (GRAD), G David Levitch (GRAD), F Matz Stockman (TRANSFER)

Key players returning: G Quentin Snider, F Deng Adel, F V.J. King, F Anas Mahmoud, F Ray Spalding,

Key additions: F Dwayne Sutton (RS), F Malik Williams, G Darius Perry, F Jordan Nwora, F Lance Thomas

Imagine how stacked the Cardinals would be had Donovan Mitchell returned for his junior season. We’ll never know what that version of Louisville would have looked like, but this is a team with NBA length and a veteran point guard — Quentin Snider — who can make it all click.

 

2. Duke

Key losses: G Luke Kennard (NBA), G/F Jayson Tatum (NBA), F Amile Jefferson (GRAD), G Frank Jackson (NBA), G/F Matt Jones (GRAD), F Harry Giles (NBA), F Chase Jeter (TRANSFER)

Key players returning: G Grayson Allen, F Marques Bolden

Key additions: F Wendell Carter Jr., G Trevon Duval, G Gary Trent Jr., G Alex O’Connell, F Jordan Tucker

Death, taxes and Duke reloading with 5-star freshmen. This season’s batch doesn’t possess the star power of the 2016 class, but it’s good enough for the Blue Devils to compete for championships. Oh, and that guy Grayson Allen is back.

 

3. North Carolina

Key losses: G/F Justin Jackson (NBA), F Kennedy Meeks (GRAD), F Isaiah Hicks (GRAD), F Tony Bradley (NBA), G Nate Britt (GRAD)

Key players returning: G Joel Berry, G/F Theo Pinson, G Kenny Williams, F Luke Maye

Key additions: G Jalek Felton, F Garrison Brooks

Fact: This is the most talent Roy Williams has ever returned after winning a national championship.

Also a fact: UNC has more offseason questions in the paint than ever before under Williams.

Joel Berry and Theo Pinson make for an outstanding senior duo, but the Tar Heels will need someone to step up down low.

 

4. Miami

Key losses: G Davon Reed (GRAD), F Kamari Murphy (GRAD)

Key players returning: G Bruce Brown, G Ja’Quan Newton, F Dewan Huell, G Anthony Lawrence, G D.J. Vasiljevic, F Ebuka Izundu

Key additions: G Lonnie Walker, G Chris Lykes, F Deng Gak, F Sam Waardenburg

Jim Larranaga often leaves preseason prognosticators with regret when they sleep on Miami. The Hurricanes almost always exceed expectations, which is scary considering this should be a preseason Top 25 group. Bruce Brown and incoming freshman Lonnie Walker have “NBA lottery” written all over them.

 

5. Notre Dame

Key losses: F V.J. Beachem (GRAD), G Steve Vasturia (GRAD), F Matt Ryan (TRANSFER)

Key players returning: F Bonzie Colson, G Matt Farrell, G Rex Pflueger, G T.J. Gibbs, F Martinas Geben

Key additions: G/F D.J. Harvey

Bonzie Colson is back as the league’s only returning All-ACC first-teamer from last season. He and pick-and-roll partner Matt Farrell will drive opponents crazy as Notre Dame maintains its place as a top-third-of-the-conference squad.

 

6. Virginia

Key losses: G London Perrantes (GRAD), G Marial Shayok (TRANSFER), G Darius Thompson (TRANSFER), F Jarred Reuter (TRANSFER)

Key players returning: F Isaiah Wilkins, G Kyle Guy, G Devon Hall, G Ty Jerome, F Mamadi Diakite, F Jack Salt

Key additions: G Nigel Johnson (TRANSFER), G/F De’Andre Hunter (RS), F Jay Huff (RS)

Last season marked somewhat of a rebuild, but Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome and Mamadi Diakite now all have a year of experience under their belts. Rutgers transfer Nigel Johnson will add more scoring punch, which should help eliminate some of the offensive issues.

 

7. Virginia Tech

Key losses: F Zach LeDay (GRAD), G Seth Allen (GRAD)

Key players returning: F Chris Clarke, G Ahmed Hill, G Justin Bibbs, G Justin Robinson, G/F Ty Outlaw, F Khadim Sy

Key additions: G Nickeil Alexander-Walker, G Wabissa Bede, G Devin Wilson (RS)

Buzz Williams has transformed the Hokies from cellar dweller to ACC threat. Make no mistake, losing Zach LeDay and Seth Allen hurts. But Virginia Tech has a roster of ACC-caliber players, and a second straight NCAA Tournament bid is in the forecast.

 

8. Florida State

Key losses: G Dwayne Bacon (NBA), F Jonathan Isaac (NBA), G Xavier Rathan-Mayes (NBA), F Michael Ojo (GRAD), F Jarquez Smith (GRAD)

Key players returning: G Terance Mann, G P.J. Savoy, G Trent Forrest, G C.J. Walker, G Braian Angola-Rodas, F Christ Koumadje, F Phil Cofer

Key additions: G M.J. Walker, F Ikechukwu Obiagu, F RaiQuan Gray

The Seminoles’ 2017-18 outlook became brighter this week with the addition of heralded guard M.J. Walker. Florida State says goodbye to four starters, but Leonard Hamilton’s 12-man rotation from last season has others prepared.

 

9. Wake Forest

Key losses: F John Collins (NBA), F Austin Arians (GRAD)

Key players returning: G Bryant Crawford, G Keyshawn Woods, F Dinos Mitoglou, G Mitchell Wilbekin, G Brandon Childress, F Doral Moore

Key additions: G Chaundee Brown, F Olivier Sarr

Did John Collins dominate because Wake Forest’s guards created spacing, or did the Deacons’ guards benefit from defenses keying on Collins? Perhaps we’ll find out this season as Danny Manning has a giant hole to fill at center.

 

10. Clemson

Key losses: F Jaron Blossomgame (GRAD), G Avry Holmes (GRAD), F Sidy Djitte (GRAD), G Ty Hudson (TRANSFER)

Key players returning: G Shelton Mitchell, F Donte Grantham, G Marcquise Reed, F Elijah Thomas, G Gabe DeVoe

Key additions: F Mark Donnal (TRANSFER), F David Skara (RS), G A.J. Oliver (RS), G/F Aamir Simms

Shelton Mitchell, Marcquise Reed and Elijah Thomas have proven to be excellent transfer pickups, and fourth-year starter Donte Grantham offers continuity to Brad Brownell’s team. However, filling Jaron Blossomgame’s shoes won’t be easy, and that’s bad news for a coach who needs to win now.

 

11. Georgia Tech

Key losses: F Quinton Stephens (GRAD), G Josh Heath (GRAD), F Christian Matthews (TRANSFER), G Corey Heyward (GRAD)

Key players returning: F Ben Lammers, G Josh Okogie, G Tadric Jackson, G Justin Moore

Key additions: G Jose Alvarado

With its defense-first approach, Georgia Tech shocked the college basketball world last season by winning 21 games. Shot-blocking monster Ben Lammers will lead a Yellow Jacket squad with a quality veteran core, but depth could be a concern.

 

12. Syracuse

Key losses: F Tyler Lydon (NBA), G Andrew White III (GRAD), G John Gillon (GRAD), F Tyler Roberson (GRAD), F DaJuan Coleman (GRAD)

Key players returning: G Tyus Battle, F Taurean Thompson, G Frank Howard, F Paschal Chukwu

Key additions: F Matthew Moyer (RS), G/F, Marek Dolezaj, F O’Shae Brissett

Sophomore Tyus Battle is in line to become Syracuse’s next star, but this won’t be Jim Boeheim’s next great team. Taurean Thompson is a promising frontcourt player, but the Orange doesn’t have enough to make up for its losses.

 

13. NC State

Key losses: G Dennis Smith Jr. (NBA), G Terry Henderson (GRAD), G Maverick Rowan (NBA), F BeeJay Anya (GRAD), F Ted Kapita (NBA)

Key players returning: F Abdul-Malik Abu, G Torin Dorn, F Omer Yurtseven, G Markell Johnson

Key additions: G Al Freeman, G Sam Hunt, F Lennard Freeman (RS), G Lavar Batts

New Wolfpack head coach Kevin Keatts has plenty of rebuilding to do, but don’t be surprised if he upgrades NC State’s play on the defensive end of the floor immediately. If the NCAA grants Terry Henderson his appeal for a sixth year, the Pack could jump a spot or two in these rankings.

 

14. Boston College

Key losses: F A.J. Turner (TRANSFER), F Connar Tava (GRAD), F Mo Jeffers (GRAD), F Garland Owens (TRANSFER)

Key players returning: G Jerome Robinson, G Ky Bowman, G Jordan Chatman, F Nik Popovic, F Johncarlos Reyes

Key additions: None

Guards Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman are capable of blowing up the box score on any given night. The problem is the lack of talent and depth around them. The Eagles will finish in a familiar spot — near the bottom of the ACC.

 

15. Pittsburgh

Key losses: F Michael Young (GRAD), F Jamel Artis (GRAD), G Cam Johnson (TRANSFER), F Sheldon Jeter (GRAD), G/F Chris Jones (GRAD), F Rozelle Nix (TRANSFER), G Damon Wilson (TRANSFER), F Corey Manigault (TRANSFER)

Key players returning: F Ryan Luther

Key additions: G Marcus Carr, F Jared Wilson-Frame

Someone else will probably leave Pitt by the time you finish reading this sentence. On the bright side, everyone will be checking out the media guide to familiarize themselves with all of the new faces.