It was pretty much universally thought that the ACC had a down year in basketball last season. The ACC stumbled to seventh in KenPom’s conference rankings last season, the lowest the league has been in the history of the site, which dates back to 1997.
Some say the fall is likely due to coaching turnover at some of the conference’s top programs in recent years. No matter what the reason, this feels like a critical year for the ACC as a whole to bounce back and prove that recent struggles are temporary and not a growing trend.
Historically speaking, the ACC is at its best when Duke and North Carolina are at their best. The Blue Devils are 7-3 as I write this and the Tar Heels are 7-2. Despite their relatively good starts, both have shown they have room for improvement.
Thus far, Clemson and Virginia are off to the best starts. Clemson is a perfect 9-0 and Virginia is 8-1.
Brad Brownell entered the year on the hot seat for Clemson. He has the Tigers off to a perfect start so the seat has cooled off some. Big man P.J Hall may end up being the ACC Player of the Year for Clemson. He is a major matchup issue with his inside-out skill set. In fact , Clemson is an excellent three-point-shooting team that should vie for an ACC title.
Duke, currently at 7-3, has a chance to improve this season as the Blue Devils bring back four starters. That is rare continuity for a program that has consistently lost one-and-done talent in recent years. This should give Jon Scheyer a chance to seriously contend for a national title in his second year at the helm of the program. A healthy Kyle Filipowski will likely be a scary sight for the ACC after he averaged 15 points and nine rebounds per game as a freshman.
I like Duke and Clemson to contend for the title with Miami again being my surprise pick. I feel like I say this every year but coach Jim Larrañaga’s program appears to be in great shape even with some key departures. They still have three starters returning from last season’s Final Four squad and are off to a nice 7-2 start.
The Heels could also be heard from. They have reshaped their roster around veteran stars RJ Davis and Amando Bacot in hopes of bouncing back from missing the NCAA tournament a season ago. It’s a prove-it year for coach Hubert Davis, and the Heels, at 7-2 thus far, have the pieces to overachieve.