This is my ninth ACC Basketball Preview for Hubpages. My degree is in literature and education and I've always enjoyed ACC basketball.
The ACC is coming off one of its worst NCAA Tournament performances in decades, and, while the conference does add 18 of the top 100 high school recruits in the country, only six rank among the top 60 prospects, which represents a significant downturn in recruiting overall. Multiple teams are currently working to fill apparent holes in their rotations through an active transfer market, and that process isn't going well either. This has already been the busiest offseason in the history of college basketball; transfers have been granted a one-time waiver for immediate eligibility for the upcoming season, while another rule granting everyone that played last season an additional year of eligibility means that productive graduating seniors are being looked at in much the same way as underclassmen that are draft prospects (injuries and missing the NCAA Tournament are factors likely to come into play). The NBA Draft is still a huge factor as well, and more players are leaving early for non-guaranteed opportunities overseas and in the G League every year. Those decisions are in turn impacting potential rotations and inspiring even more transfers. Free agency for over 350 Division I basketball programs is slowly winding down, and at this point the ACC appears to be in line for six NCAA Tournament berths at most next March.
*This article will be updated as personnel changes unfold, and it will be expanded and become significantly more specific once rosters finally become settled.
Duke Blue Devils
2020-2021: 13-11, 9-9 in the ACC (10th)
Expected Departures: Matthew Hurt (18.3 ppg., 6.2 rpg., 44.4% 3pt.) and DJ Steward (13.0 ppg., 3.9 rpg.) entered the NBA Draft; Jordan Goldwire (5.8 ppg., 4.0 apg., 2.3 spg.) transferred to Oklahoma, Jaemyn Brakefield transferred to Ole Miss, and Henry Coleman transferred to Texas A&M; Patrick Tape also entered the transfer portal
Major Additions: 6-9 top 5 recruit Paul Banchero, 6-7 top 10 recruit AJ Griffin, 6-5 top 20 recruit Trevor Keels, 6-9 Marquette transfer Theo John (8.0 ppg., 5.0 rpg., 1.5 bpg.), 6-2 top 100 recruit Jaylen Blakes
Current Outlook: Contender for a conference title
As we all probably should have expected, the teams most dependent on freshmen (Duke, North Carolina, and Kentucky) struggled last season without preseason practice time, scrimmages, and games to help acclimate their young players, particularly the guards, and for the most part they never completely caught up. The Blue Devils will again be young, but that shouldn’t be as much of an issue with a complete offseason. Goldwire's loss will hurt offensive efficiency and defensive ball pressure, but Jeremy Roach should be much better in year two and the defense should become more cohesive with more practice time. Even without Hurt, the frontcourt should still be among the best in college basketball with Banchero, Griffin, and Mark Williams. There could definitely still be growing pains for another young roster, but Mike Krzyzewski will have one of the most talented teams in the country, and the Blue Devils will be much better prepared than they were a season ago.
Virginia Tech Hokies
2020-2021: 15-7, 9-4 in the ACC (3rd); lost to Florida in the 1st round of the NCAA Tournament
Expected Departures: Joe Bamisile transferred to George Washington and Jalen Cone (9.2 ppg., 34.9% 3pt.) transferred to Northern Arizona; seniors Cartier Diarra (7.5 ppg.) and Cordell Pemsl will also depart
Major Additions: 6-0 Wofford transfer Storm Murphy (17.8 ppg., 4.3 apg., 40.0% 3pt.)
Current Outlook: Back to back NCAA Tournament berths for Mike Young
Mike Young’s Hokies exceeded expectations once again in his second season, finishing third in the ACC and winning Coach of the Year honors for Young along the way. Virginia Tech shouldn’t be able to exceed expectations quite as much this year because everyone should expect them to be good. The team will have the best returning frontcourt in the conference with second team All-ACC player Keve Aluma, Justyn Mutts, and Tyrese Radford. Otherwise, Storm Murphy won’t be quite as effective in the ACC, but he offers more potential as a distrubutor than Jalen Cone and more scoring punch than Wabissa Bede, while Hunter Cattoor and Nahiem Alleyne are still improving after strong sophomore seasons.
North Carolina Tar Heels
2020-2021: 18-11, 10-6 in the ACC (6th); lost to Wisconsin in the 1st round of the NCAA Tournament
Expected Departures: Day’Ron Sharpe (9.5 ppg., 7.6 rpg.) entered the NBA Draft; Walker Kessler (4.4 ppg., 3.2 rpg.) transferred to Auburn and Garrison Brooks (10.2 ppg., 6.9 rpg.) transferred to Mississippi St.; Walker Miller and Sterling Manley entered the transfer portal
Major Additions: 6-8 Virginia transfer Justin McCoy, 6-7 top 70 recruit Dontrez Styles, 6-9 Oklahoma transfer Brady Manek (10.2 ppg., 5.2 rpg., 38.3% 3pt.), and 6-4 top 70 recruit D’Marco Dunn
Current Outlook: Return to the upper tier of the conference
Like Duke and Kentucky, North Carolina’s freshman guards struggled, but their army of giants was so dominant in the paint that the Tar Heels were still able to manage an at large bid into the NCAA Tournament prior to Roy Williams’ first and only first round loss. The opposite could be true for the Tar Heels this season, as they’re loaded with guards that should be much better prepared but have taken a hit with regards to frontcourt talent. Walker Kessler’s departure probably shouldn’t have come as a surprise; he came in with a reputation as the sort of stretch 5 the NBA is looking for, but between the team’s emphasis on offensive rebounding, his physical size, and the distance of the relatively new 3 point line, a Luke Maye game plan wasn’t going to happen for him at North Carolina. On the other hand, Brooks' departure after four strong years with the program was a shock to everyone; considering the team’s struggles the last two seasons, his disappointing personal performance as a senior, his lack of NBA athleticism, and the team’s obvious need, he seemed like an ideal candidate to return. That may have been a signal that it was going to be difficult for North Carolina to hold on to big men with NBA aspirations while continuing to deploy an offense that limited opportunities for them to display the perimeter skills the NBA covets (although, to be clear, hitting threes isn't suddenly going to make Brooks an NBA prospect). The addition of Brady Manek seems to indicate an attempt by new head coach Hubert Davis to modernize, or to at least return to the offensive approach used with Maye. His arrival eliminated the Tar Heels from contention for Creighton transfer Christian Bishop, who would have fit perfectly with what the team was doing last season. Davis will be a head coach for the first time, but he has been working with Williams for the last nine seasons and with the current roster of players for as long as they've been at the school, so it seems unlikely that there will be any more roster turnover as a result of the new hire. Overall, the Tar Heels still have plenty of talent and should land Davis in the NCAA Tournament right away.
Florida State Seminoles
2020-2021: 18-7, 11-4 in the ACC (2nd); lost to Michigan in the NCAA Sweet 16
Expected Departures: Scottie Barnes (10.3 ppg., 4.0 rpg., 4.1 apg., 1.5 spg.), RaiQuan Gray (11.9 ppg., 6.4 rpg.), and Balsa Koprivica (9.1 ppg., 5.6 rpg., 1.4 bpg.) entered the NBA Draft, and M.J. Walker (12.2 ppg., 42.3% 3pt.) is a senior likely to move on as well; Sardaar Calhoun transferred to Texas Tech and Nate Jack transferred to Cleveland St.
Seniors taking an extra year: RayQuan Evans (5.1 ppg., 36.0% 3pt.) and Tanor Ngom
Major Additions: 6-6 top 25 recruit Matthew Cleveland, 6-4 top 30 recruit Jalen Warley, 6-3 Houston transfer Caleb Mills (13.2 ppg., 36.5% 3pt. in 2019-2020), 6-6 Kentucky transfer Cam'Ron Fletcher, and 7-1 top 70 recruit John Butler
Current Outlook: Another top 4 finish in the conference
Recruiting seems to be getting easier every year for Leonard Hamilton. In addition to the incoming talent, Anthony Polite will be a potential All-ACC player as a senior and Malik Osborne can do more. Once again, this team will have tremendous depth, size, and athleticism, and will feature multiple NBA prospects. Offensive efficiency could become an issue again without a true point guard, but someone could step up like Barnes did a year ago and allow the Seminoles to continue to compete at the top of the conference.
2020-2021: 18-7, 13-4 in the ACC (1st); lost to Ohio in the 1st round of the NCAA Tournament
Expected Departures: Jay Huff (13.0 ppg., 7.1 rpg., 2.6 bpg., 38.7% 3pt.), Sam Hauser (16.0 ppg., 6.8 rpg., 41.7% 3pt.), and Tomas Woldentensae (41.8% 3pt.) are seniors that will not return; Casey Morsell transferred to NC State, Justin McKoy transferred to North Carolina, and Jabri Abdur-Rahim transferred to Georgia
Major Additions: 6-4 Indiana transfer Armaan Franklin (11.4 ppg., 4.1 rpg., 42.4% 3pt.), 6-7 East Carolina transfer Jayden Gardner (18.3 ppg., 8.3 rpg.), 6-9 European recruit Igor Milicic Jr., and 6-5 top 90 recruit Taine Murray
Current Outlook: The Cavaliers may have to play on the second day of the ACC Tournament
The sudden and drastic increase in transfers could hit Virginia harder than anyone. Tony Bennett had become accustomed to allowing players a year to develop and adapt to his offensive and defensive systems before handing them major roles, but that may not be an option now. McKoy and Abdur-Rahim, a top 40 recruit a year ago, seemed destined for larger roles, but those minutes will now potentially go to either less talented players or players new to the system. Even with the addition of Armaan Franklin and Jayden Gardner, there are currently only seven players on the roster that would normally be likely parts of the rotation, and even that requires Kody Stattmann and Kadin Shedrick to step up after missing most of last season with illnesses. Reece Beekman should be significantly better, Gardner will help offensively with his ability as a post scorer that can create his own shot off the dribble, and if Trey Murphy returns (he somehow hasn’t garnered much NBA attention despite being an ideal 3 and D candidate) the team will still have a star, but transfers will have to play significant minutes out of necessity, and their lack of time in the defensive system will definitely impact what is normally Virginia's calling card. The Cavaliers will still be good, but for the first time in five years, and the second time in nine years, UVA seems likely to finish below second place in the ACC.
2020-2021: 13-7, 8-5 in the ACC (7th )
Expected Departures: Carlik Jones (16.8 ppg., 4.9 rpg., 4.5 apg.) and David Johnson (12.6 ppg., 5.8 rpg., 3.2 apg., 38.6% 3pt.) entered the NBA Draft; Josh Nickelberry transferred to LaSalle and Aidan Igiehon transferred to Grand Canyon; Charles Minlend is a senior that will not return; Quinn Slazinski (6.2 ppg., 3.6 rpg.) entered the transfer portal
Seniors taking an extra year: Malik Williams
Major Additions: 6-7 Miami transfer Matt Cross (6.9 ppg., 3.5 rpg., 40% 3pt.), 5-11 Marshall transfer Jarrod West (12.5 ppg., 6.0 apg., 40.8% 3pt.), 6-3 Florida transfer Noah Locke (10.6 ppg., 40.4% 3pt.), 6-3 top 2 junior college transfer Elbert Ellis, 6-10 top 70 recruit Roosevelt Wheeler, and 6-6 top 75 recruit Michael James
Current Outlook: Return to the NCAA Tournament
Chris Mack was able to address any roster issues before they had a chance to materialize thanks to the addition of three highly regarded transfers and a solid traditional recruiting class, and the Cardinals will still have plenty of depth and talent. With the loss of a starting backcourt with professional potential, Louisville will need Jarrod West to adapt almost as well as Jones did in order to pick up where they left off a year ago, but this should still be one of the better teams in the conference.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
2020-2021: 11-15, 7-11 in the ACC (11th)
Expected Departures: Juwan Durham (10.7 ppg., 5.5 rpg., 1.9 bpg.) announced his intentions to leave before the season; Nikola Djogo (5.0 ppg., 3.0 rpg., 40.9% 3pt.) transferred to Northeastern
Major Additions: 6-10 Yale transfer Paul Atkinson (17.6 ppg., 7.3 rpg. in 2019-2020), 6-4 4 star recruit Blake Wesley, and 6-6 4 star recruit J.R. Konieczny
Current Outlook: A climb back to respectability
Mike Brey’s offense has a tendency to get substantially better as players gain experience in his system, and, with the exception of newcomer Paul Atkinson (who at least has several years of Division I experience), this team will be loaded with it. Led by All-ACC players Prentiss Hubb and Nate Lascewski, offensive efficiency should skyrocket, although Durham will definitely be missed defensively. With much of the league in position to struggle, Notre Dame should be able to climb back into the top half of the conference and potentially challenge for an NCAA Tournament bid.
North Carolina State Wolfpack
2020-2021: 14-11, 9-8 in the ACC (9th); lost to Colorado St. in the NIT quarterfinals
Expected Departures: DJ Funderburk (12.6 ppg., 5.6 rpg.) is a senior that will not return; Shakeel Moore (6.8 ppg., 1.4 spg. in 18.5 mpg.) transferred to Mississippi St., Braxton Beverly (7.0 ppg., 40% 3pt.) transferred to Eastern Kentucky, and Nick Farrar transferred to Charleston
Major Additions: 6-9 top 60 recruit Ernest Ross, 6-3 Virginia transfer Casey Morsell, 6-3 top 90 recruit Terquavion Smith, and 6-8 Providence transfer Greg Gantt (4.0 ppg., 3.1 rpg.), 5-11 4 star recruit Breon Pass
Current Outlook: Awaiting word on Devon Daniels
While there would be no glaring roster needs without him, the potential return of Devon Daniels (16.5 ppg., 5.2 rpg., 3.3 apg., 1.7 spg.) would be a huge boost for the Wolfpack. If Daniels doesn't return, this is a very young team that will be looking at another middle of the pack finish. Either way, the loss of Shakeel Moore (a confident and aggressive player with Russell Westbrook level athleticism), who was essentially recruited over despite having performed better and having a higher ceiling than Casey Morsell or any of the incoming freshmen, is a major setback for the Wolfpack that should temper expectations for their backcourt. NC State could still contend for an NCAA Tournament bid, but Daniels would need to be a part of it.
2020-2021: 10-17, 4-15 in the ACC (13th)
Expected Departures: Earl Timberlake (9.3 ppg., 5.0 rpg., 1.7 spg.) transferred to Memphis, Chris Lykes (15.5 ppg., 4.0 rpg., 5.5 apg., 2.0 spg., 45.5% 3pt.) transferred to Arkansas, Nysier Brooks (7.4 ppg., 5.8 rpg.) transferred to Ole Miss, and Elijah Olaniyi (10.5 ppg., 5.1 rpg.) transferred back to Stony Brook
Major Additions: 6-6 George Mason transfer Jordan Miller (15.8 ppg., 6.1 rpg.), 5-11 DePaul transfer Charlie Moore (14.4 ppg. 4.2 apg., 34.6% 3pt.), 6-4 top 75 recruit Jakai Robinson, 6-1 top 100 recruit Bensley Joseph, and 6-4 4 star recruit Nisine Poplar
Current Outlook: Possible lame-duck season for Jim Larranaga
Miami has been decimated with injuries the last two seasons, but it’s easy to think that there’s more going on with the program than that. The barrage of transfers is obviously concerning, and if the story about what happened with Matt Cross is to be believed then it is flat out disturbing. Cross was humiliatingly left sitting on the bench ready to go in with the primary camera pointed right at him for an entire game against Florida State while Larranaga used six scholarship players and a walk on. Larranaga later reported there were no disciplinary issues. If that’s true, anyone in their right mind would have transferred after that game. If Kameron McGusty and Isaiah Wong return then there is enough talent for a middle of the conference finish (Anthony Walker should eventually be an NBA prospect), but if the Hurricanes have another year like the last two then it may be time for a change.
2020-2021: 18-10, 9-7 in the ACC (8th); lost to Houston in the NCAA Sweet 16
Expected Departures: Quincy Guerrier (13.7 ppg., 8.4 rpg.) and Alan Griffin (13.3 ppg., 5.8 rpg., 1.6 bpg., 36.1% 3pt.) entered the NBA Draft; Marek Dolezaj (9.8 ppg., 5.1 rpg., 3.3 apg.) is a senior that will not return; Kadary Richmond (6.3 ppg., 3.1 apg., 1.6 spg.) transferred to Seton Hall, Robert Braswell transferred to Charlotte, and Woody Newton transferred to Oklahoma State; John Bol Ajak also entered the transfer portal
Major Additions: 6-8 top 25 recruit Benny Williams, 6-9 Villanova transfer Cole Swider (5.7 ppg., 40.2% 3pt.), 6-3 Marquette transfer Symir Torrence, and 6-8 Cornell transfer Jimmy Boeheim (16.7 ppg., 5.6 rpg. in 2019-2020)
Current Outlook: Another year on the bubble
Syracuse has been decimated by the transfer portal and professional basketball. Richmond was a significantly better distributor and defensive player than Joe Girard, Dolezaj's loss will impact several areas, particularly offensive efficiency, and it's not crazy for either Guerrier or Griffin to enter the draft. It will be much more difficult for Buddy Boeheim to score with so much less talent around him, and the Orange will need Benny Williams to live up to his recruiting rankings right away if they are going to remain competitive at all in the ACC.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons
2020-2021: 6-16, 3-15 in the ACC (14th)
Expected Departures: Ian DuBose (10.9 ppg., 4.6 rpg., 36.1% 3pt.) and Jonah Antonio (6.4 ppg., 40% 3pt.) are seniors that will not return; Ismael Massoud (8.3 ppg., 3.4 rpg.) transferred to Kansas State, Ody Oguama (7.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg.) transferred to Cincinnati, Jahcobi Neath transferred to Wisconsin, Emmanuel Okpomo transferred to Temple, and Isaiah Wilkins transferred to Longwood; Jalen Johnson (5.0 ppg.) entered the transfer portal
Major Additions: 6-6 East Tennessee State transfer Damari Monsanto (11.8 ppg., 7.3 rpg., 35.4% 3pt.), 7-0 Colorado transfer Dallas Walton (6.5 ppg., 47.4% 3pt.), 6-6 4 star recruit Lucas Taylor, 6-4 4 star recruit Cameron Hildreth, and 6-9 Indiana St. transfer Jake LaRavia (12.3 ppg., 6.3 rpg.)
Current Outlook: Significant improvement in year two
The rash of departures was not a great way to start year two for Steve Forbes (although, to be fair, several of those players were not his recruits), but he has since made a nice recovery. The Demon Deacons are sure to still be shopping the transfer market, but they have some reason for optimism: Damari Monsanto has the potential to develop into a very good player even with the step up in competition, Carter Whitt was shockingly effective at times despite a clear need for time in a weight room as a midseason early entrant, Daivien Williamson transitioned well after following Forbes from ETSU, and Isaiah Mucius still has the potential to blossom as a senior. Transfers will have a lot to say about how competitive Wake Forest can be, but on paper this looks like a more talented team than it was in February.
2020-2021: 10-12, 6-10 in the ACC (12th)
Expected Departures: Justin Champagnie (18.0 ppg., 11.1 rpg., 1.3 bpg.) entered the NBA Draft; Xavier Johnson (14.2 ppg., 3.4 rpg., 5.7 apg.) transferred to Indiana, Au’Diese Toney (14.4 ppg., 5.9 rpg.) transferred to Arkansas, Abdoul Karim Coulibaly (5.2 ppg., 3.9 rpg.) transferred to St. Bonaventure, Terrell Brown transferred to San Diego, and Gerald Drumgoole transferred to Albany
Major Additions: 6-4 Texas Tech transfer Jamarius Burton, 6-7 Oakland transfer Daniel Oladapo (12.9 ppg., 8.8 rpg.)
Current Outlook: Possible lame-duck season for Jeff Capel
While there haven’t been any NCAA violations for Pittsburgh under Jeff Capel, things seem to be falling apart in much the same way as they did at Oklahoma. His biggest triumph was Justin Champagnie, and at times he was so obviously an NBA player playing against kids that his departure seemed like a foregone conclusion. Otherwise, Capel has managed to alienate his best players, specifically Johnson, Toney, and Trey McGowens. The Panthers needed to rebuild on the fly heading into the offseason, but, with a giant question mark in the post, it appears the team may have become preoccupied with signing five star center Efton Reid; hopefully they've been working on a Plan B the entire time. The return of John Hugley from suspension does at least give the team one ACC caliber post player, but the frontcourt is still a major concern. As should have been expected before Capel was hired, recruiting hasn’t remained consistent, and barring some major transfer additions it seems unlikely that the Panthers will match the 6 ACC wins from each of the last two years.
2020-2021: 16-8, 10-6 in the ACC (tie for 5th); lost to Rutgers in the 1st round of the NCAA Tournament
Expected Departures: Aamir Simms (13.4 ppg., 6.4 rpg., 2.7 apg., 40% 3pt.) and Jonathan Baehre (3.4 rpg.) are seniors that are moving on; Olivier-Maxence Prosper transferred to Marquette, Clyde Trapp (7.3 ppg., 5.3 rpg., 35.1% 3pt.) transferred to Charlotte, John Newman transferred to Cincinnati, and Lynn Kidd entered the transfer portal
Major Additions: 6-4 South Florida transfer David Collins (12.5 ppg., 37.3% 3pt.), 6-6 Youngstown St. transfer Naz Bohannon (16.5 ppg., 8.2 rpg.), and 6-3 4 star recruit Joshua Beadle
Current Outlook: Likely to return to the bottom half of the league
The offseason got off to a terrible start for Brad Brownell, as the seemingly inevitable loss of his best player (Simms) was compounded by the loss of his best guard (Trapp) and his best prospect (Prosper). A long bench and inconsistent minutes seem to have alienated several players, although that definitely won't be a problem this season. After significant additional attrition,the Tigers have been left with substantially less depth and talent.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
2020-2021: 17-9, 11-6 in the ACC (4th); lost to Loyola-Chicago in the 1st round of the NCAA Tournament
Expected Departures: Moses Wright (17.4 ppg., 8.0 rpg., 1.5 spg., 1.6 bpg., 41.4% 3pt.) and Jose Alvarado (15.2 ppg., 3.5 rpg., 4.1 apg., 2.8 spg., 39% 3pt.) are seniors likely to depart
Seniors taking an extra year: Jordan Usher, Bubba Parham
Major Additions: 6-1 Mississippi State transfer Deivon Smith, 6-6 top 50 recruit Dallan Coleman, 6-5 top 90 recruit Miles Kelly, and 6-6 4 star recruit Jalon Moore
Current Outlook: Likely to struggle with a hole in the middle
Josh Pastnor has assemble plenty of talent on the wings and Georgia Tech will be competitive 2 through 4, but Alvarado and Wright keyed the Yellow Jackets’ attack at both ends of the floor, and there is no clear replacement for Wright. Neither Kyle Sturdivant or Bubba Parham, who has been little more than a passable reserve since transferring, can pressure the ball or run the offense as effectively as Alvarado. Deivon Smith has the potential to do both, but he may be a year or two away from being the player Alvarado was at the offensive end as a senior. The bigger problem may be the hole in the middle; rim protection has been a key to Georgia Tech’s defense during Pastnor’s tenure thanks to Ben Lammers, James Banks, and Moses Wright, and neither Saba Gigiberia or Rodney Howard has shown much to be optimistic about to this point (although, to be fair, player development has been excellent under Pastnor). Again, there are many options available in the transfer portal, but Pastnor does have some work to do.
Boston College Eagles
2020-2021: 4-16, 2-11 in the ACC (15th)
Expected Departures: Jay Heath (14.5 ppg., 35.0% 3pt.) transferred to Arizona State, CJ Felder (9.7 ppg., 5.9 rpg., 2.2 bpg.) transferred to Florida, Wynston Tabbs (13.3 ppg., 39.7% 3pt.) transferred to East Carolina, Rich Kelly (11.0 ppg., 37.2% 3pt.) transferred to UMass, and Kamari Williams transferred to Miami (Ohio); Steffon Mitchell (9.1 ppg., 7.3 rpg.) and Luka Kraljevic entered the transfer portal
Major Additions: 6-2 College of Charleston transfer Brevin Galloway (15.0 ppg., 41.9% 3pt.), 6-9 Drexel transfer T.J. Bickerstaff (10.2 ppg., 5.2 rpg.), and 7-0 Mississippi St. transfer Quinten Post
Current Outlook: Starting an almost complete rebuild
After seeing diminishing returns at the College of Charleston over the last two seasons, Earl Grant will be taking over a team that is as close to starting from scratch as a major conference program can be. BC’s only real chance to be competitive in Grant's first year will be through the transfer portal – although, to be clear, there are still many players available in that market.