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The ACC May Have Been Down But That Won’t Last For Long.

And even in a down year, the ACC made the Final Four

Duke v Miami
 GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 10: Tyrese Proctor #5 of the Duke Blue Devils moves the ball against Bensley Joseph #4 of the Miami Hurricanes during the second half in the semifinals of the ACC Basketball Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum on March 10, 2023 in Greensboro, North Carolina. Duke won 85-78.
Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

Early in Danny Hurley’s UConn tenure, after a loss, he basically said better get us while you can, because we’re going to be really good soon.

You could kind of apply that to the ACC this year.

The conference had some things line up that were historically bad: UNC had a keenly disappointing year. Picked for #1 nationally, the Tar Heels missed the post-season. Syracuse staggered to the end of the Jim Boeheim era. Virginia Tech was surprisingly mediocre and the bottom of the conference was undeniably horrible.

However, things never stay the same and in spite of those issues, Miami still got to the Final Four, while the Big 12, the SEC and the Big Ten are sitting at home, looking back at the fawning clippings and wondering what the hell happened.

Let’s start with UNC, which is the weirdest. They’ll get Armando Bacot back, and he’s going to be surly: he said he is coming back because this season was such a disappointment. RJ Davis will join him; Jalen Washington will too. He didn’t play that much this season but he was still getting over a high school ACL injury. We saw him when the Heels were at Duke, albeit briefly, and he just has The Look.

Toss in Seth Trimble and that’s a decent foundation. And of course Caleb Love is gone, which will probably be addition by subtraction. Simeon Wilcher was a big get and Zayden High is also promising. That’s nearly a decent rotation. We still don’t have a firm grasp on Hubert Davis as a coach, but he can pick the rest up in the portal and we’ll see.

Mike Young is too good of a coach for Virginia Tech to stay bad for long. They’ll be fine.

As for the Bottom Four, things are going to change there. Notre Dame made a solid hire in Micah Shrewsbury. The roster is pretty much shot but the portal means hope is eternal. If not next year, they’ll bounce back soon.

Damon Stoudamire seemed like an odd pick for Georgia Tech, but keep a few things in mind.

  • He played for Lute Olson and was exposed to brilliant coaching.
  • He coached at Pacific, which is not an easy job, for five years. As we always say, toss out the pandemic year and he had that program on the right track, finishing 23-10 in his final season pre-pandemic.
  • He has vast NBA experience and connections, and that will sell to recruits. There is absolutely no reason why an ACC program in Atlanta can’t recruit the hell out of Georgia, South Carolina and Florida.

We think he’ll do okay and his offense is likely to be vastly better than Josh Pastner’s was.

Florida State was probably going to be a little down but a second straight year of heavy injuries proved crushing. Leonard Hamilton usually likes to go deep into his bench, but this season he had five guys who pulled at least 28 minutes. Jury is out until we see next season’s roster, but his system works when he has the players.

Louisville was astoundingly bad last year. That won't happen next season, at least not on the same level.

Kenny Payne will have an overhauled roster. So far, it looks like Mike James will be back, as will JJ Traynor and Brandon Huntley-Hatfield. Emmanuel Okafor joined the team mid-season and he has potential. JUCO Koran Davis brings cred.

Freshman Dennis Evans is 7-1 and seen as at least a Top 25 recruit. Kaleb Glenn and Curtis Williams will provide athletic depth on the wings. And getting 6-8 Trentyn Flowers is really going to help. He’s a Top 30-level recruit.

Skyy Clark transfers in from Illinois, which hopefully gives the Cards a decent point guard. They still need more, but this is already a vastly superior roster than Payne’s rough first season. And given the upgraded athleticism, this team should be able to really guard.

Virginia’s post-season life may still be hit or miss, but they’ll be tough as always under Tony Bennett.

We’re also keeping an eye on Pitt. Between the portal and the bonus year from Covid, it’s really hard to know who is returning yet, but we think you can count on five key players: Federiko Federiko, the Diaz Graham twins, Blake Hinson and Dior Johnson.

Hinson proved himself this year. The big guys will all be hitting the weights heavily and should be vastly more effective. And then there’s Johnson.

Johnson behaved disgracefully with a woman this past October, first slapping her for getting his cellphone wet, then getting very violent, ultimately choking her. He was charged with aggravated and simple assault, unlawful restraint, false imprisonment and strangulation, but those were reduced to misdemeanor charges of simple assault and strangulation. He redshirted this season as a result.

He’s lucky not to be in jail, let alone still on the team.

In strictly basketball terms, he’s a real talent but is Johnson, who we read attended nine high schools, reliable? That remains to be seen. If he is, Pitt has a really good starting lineup. If not, they have a ticking bomb.

No one has any idea what Adrian Autry will do as a coach, but he’s picked up two pretty good pieces so far in 7-2 William Patterson and Notre Dame transfer JJ Starling. Syracuse’s program got undeniably musty under Jim Boeheim in the last few years and Autry’s coaching acumen is not obvious to most of us. Big question: will he ditch the 2-3 zone?

There are big question marks at NC State, Wake Forest and Clemson, but the portal now means eternal hope and there are about 1,000 fish in that particular sea, and some of them are pretty big.

We have been impressed with Earl Grant’s work at BC. That guy has his team playing hard. Going into his third season, he really seems to have BC on the rise. No one has any idea of what sort of talent he’ll have, but we’re optimistic.

Finally, Miami has made two straight Elite Eights and this year’s Final Four. They may not be as good next year, but they’ll be plenty good again.

We’ve talked about everyone except Duke and Duke is going to start the season as a Top Ten, possibly Top Five program.

There are still questions about who is returning, so we base this only on what we know so far. Here’s what Jon Scheyer will have for sure:

  • Tyrese Proctor
  • Mark Mitchell
  • Ryan Young
  • Mackenzie Mgbako
  • Sean Stewart
  • Jared McCain
  • Caleb Foster
  • TJ Power

We still don’t know for sure if any of these guys will be back:

  • Kyle Filipowski
  • Dereck Lively
  • Jeremy Roach
  • Jaylen Blakes
  • Jaden Schutt
  • Christian Reeves

Whatever happens, Duke will have a lot of talent to work with.

So will the ACC in general. It’s going to be a fascinating season.