Duke will enter the 2016-17 season as the Atlantic Coast Conference favorite, according to a vote of media in conjunction with the league’s annual “Operation Basketball.”
The Blue Devils, who return junior All-America guard Grayson Allen and senior starting guard Matt Jones from last year’s team that finished 25-11 and earned the program’s 21st consecutive NCAA Tournament berth, received 85 of 91 first-place votes in the preseason poll released Wednesday.
Duke also welcomes back 6-foot-9 graduate forward Amile Jefferson following an injury that sidelined him for most of last season, and sophomore Luke Kennard, who was a key contributor in his first year. The Blue Devils’ freshman class includes promising frontcourt players Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles.
Defending ACC champion North Carolina (six first-place votes) finished second in the voting, followed by Virginia, Louisville and Syracuse. Each of those teams has joined Duke in virtually every preseason Top 25 national ranking.
ACC preseason voters selected NC State sixth, followed by Notre Dame, Florida State and Miami. Virginia Tech was picked 10th, while Clemson, Pitt, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech and Boston College rounded out the voting.
The Blue Devils’ Allen, a 6-foot-5 native of Jacksonville, Florida, averaged 21.6 points per game last season to rank second among ACC scorers. Allen scored in double figures in 33 of 35 games, including 19 games with 20-or-more points. He raised his points per game average 17.2 points from his freshman year, setting an ACC record for scoring improvement in a single season.
NC State’s Dennis Smith, Jr., a 6-foot-3 guard from Fayetteville, North Carolina, received the nod as the Preseason Rookie of the Year. The highest-ranked recruit (No. 4 overall) that NC State has signed since the Recruiting Services Consensus Index began ranking prospects in 1998, Smith has been rated college basketball’s No. 1 incoming point guard by ESPN.
Allen also led the balloting for the Preseason All-ACC First Team, where he was joined by Clemson’s Jaron Blossomgame, North Carolina’s Joel Berry II, Virginia’s London Perrantes and NC State’s Smith.
The Preseason All-ACC Second Team consists of North Carolina’s Justin Jackson, Duke’s Jayson Tatum, Syracuse’s Tyler Lydon, Florida State’s Dwayne Bacon and Pitt’s Michael Young.
Duke was picked as the ACC preseason favorite for the 16th time in the 48-year history of the poll and the 15th time under current head coach Mike Krzyzewski. The Blue Devils were last tabbed as the favorite prior to the 2014-15 season.
The regular season begins for all 15 ACC teams the weekend of November 11. In addition to an 18-game regular-season conference schedule, the 64th annual ACC Tournament will be played for the first time at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, tipping off with first round games on Tuesday, March 7, and concluding with the Saturday night championship game on March 11,
ACC Operation Basketball 2016-17 Preseason Poll
(First-place votes in parenthesis)
Team & Points
1. Duke (85) – 1359
2. North Carolina (6) – 1239
3. Virginia – 1125
4. Louisville – 1034
5. Syracuse – 905
6. NC State – 772
7. Notre Dame – 716
8. Florida State – 705
9. Miami – 650
10. Virginia Tech – 645
11. Clemson – 623
12. Pitt – 511
13. Wake Forest – 309
14. Georgia Tech – 199
15. Boston College – 128
2016-17 Preseason All-ACC Team
(votes in parenthesis)
Grayson Allen, Duke (87)
Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson (70)
Joel Berry II, North Carolina (45)
London Perrantes, Virginia (36)
Dennis Smith, Jr., NC State (34)
Justin Jackson, North Carolina (22)
Jayson Tatum, Duke (21)
Tyler Lydon, Syracuse (20)
Dwayne Bacon, Florida State (16)
Michael Young, Pitt (14)
ACC Preseason Player of the Year
Grayson Allen, Duke (70)
Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson (7)
London Perrantes, Virginia (5)
Joel Berry II, North Carolina (5)
Dennis Smith, Jr., NC State (2)
Andrew White, Syracuse (1)
Davon Reed, Miami (1)
ACC Preseason Rookie of the Year
Dennis Smith, Jr., NC State (51)
Jayson Tatum, Duke (20)
Harry Giles, Duke (10)
Tyus Battle, Syracuse (5)
VJ King, Louisville (2)
Jonathan Isaac, Florida State (2)
Josh Okogie, Georgia Tech (1)