ACC hoops – the rest of the story

Published 10:05 am Monday, November 28, 2016

Part-2 of my ACC pre-season preview and already there’ve been some bumps and burps. Beginning with myself: there are 15 ACC basketball teams; I keep forgetting Notre Dame is all-in for everything but football, so that leaves eight more teams to pick.

In my First-7, a quick review of the Big-Four: Duke has already been bitten, a week ago at the hands of Kansas. But when you play five games in 10 days in three different cities, you get my respect.

As for North Carolina, without prejudice I can say the thing that’s most impressive about the Tar Heels so far to me is how well all the pieces are fitting together. As I told UNC fans here in the office, Billy Harrell and Cliff Forbes, Roy Williams’ team’s biggest asset is diversity. So many players can do so many things. Now if they can just avoid injury.

Wake Forest (4-1), only losing to defending NCAA champ, Villanova – way to go, Coach Danny Manning! Same for NC State (4-1), only a shootout short, 112-94, to 22nd ranked Creighton.

Now, for the rest of the league’s eight league teams looking to not end up as turkeys.

VIRGINIA TECH: The Hokies struggled through a long, painful, protracted losing streak before a couple of changes late last season helped facilitate a five-game winning streak to close out the conference schedule and a win in both the ACC and NIT tournaments. With only one significant personnel loss (Jalen Robinson, transfer!) from what was a very young roster that should mature, Buzz Williams has the Hokies in position to contend for an NCAA Tournament bid in just his third year in Blacksburg. PICK: 8th in the ACC.

MIAMI: No lofty expectations (Sweet 16) for Jim Larranaga’s bunch down on South Beach (well, Coral Gables!) this season, but the man does have a way with getting the most from his personnel. Not only that, but there’s still plenty of talent and a great coach, so the Hurricanes should still be good, but the youth movement makes a middle of the league finish a more likely scenario for the upcoming season. PICK: 7th in the ACC.

NOTRE DAME: Undefeated so far on the young season, but a more telling test will come in the Big-10 Challenge against Iowa. The Irish reached the Elite 8 for the second year in a row last year- and, for the second year in a row, they lost their two best players following the season. While it was just ‘two-gone’, losing your two best players two years running without adding an elite, immediately productive replacement should mean a rebuilding effort in South Bend. PICK: 10th in the ACC.

CLEMSON: Brad Brownell’s Tigers were a surprising omission from last year’s NIT Tournament; the extra games would have been beneficial, but the season was still reason for optimism. Brownell – a defensive mastermind – produced the best offensive team of his tenure, and the Tigers had a truly great month of January that included wins against five NCAA Tournament teams. If this year’s team shoots as well as it should, Clemson will have a chance to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011. PICK: 9th in the ACC.

PITTSBURGH: Welcome to the ACC, Coach Kevin Stallings. Somehow, even though the SEC isn’t a basketball league, this seemed more to me like a lateral move. 17 years at Vanderbilt and he made the Sweet 16 one time. Don’t expect a huge stylistic change from (former coach) Jamie Dixon’s style of play. PICK: 11th in the ACC.

FLORIDA STATE/GEORGIA TECH/BOSTON COLLEGE: The Yellow Jackets have a new coach; Leonard Hamilton may feel some heat in Tallahassee since football season was disappointing, and as for BC: just hope for the best. PICK: 13-15 in the ACC (in no particular order).


Gene Motley is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7211.