Time to hoop it up, again

Published 9:39 am Monday, November 12, 2018

ACC Basketball 2017-18 was – in the words of Charles Dickens, ‘the best of times and the worst of times.’ Collectively, the league tied a record by sending nine teams to the NCAA Tournament, and two (Duke and Florida State) on to the Elite Eight.

Still, no team made it to the Final Four, let alone win it all. And, there was Virginia’s historical first-round debacle, eliminated at the hands of 16th-seeded UMBC.

Now, as the fall foliage segues from lime green to gold to brown and the wind bites a little harder, it’s time to prognosticate on one of our favorite college sports seasons, in two parts.


Jeff Capel was Mike Krzyzewski’s top recruiter at Duke. Now that he prowls the sidelines along the banks of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio rivers, he has to use some of that magic to secure players for his own Panthers team, having lost three of his top four scorers to transfer. Pitt will compete, but it’s looking like another cold, grey year in the Steel City.


Like Pitt, Tech lost three of its top four players who could put points on the scoreboard. But Coach Josh Pastner hopes to fill the void with a Top-50 recruit (point guard Michael DeVoe) and a transfer (Tennessee shooting guard Shembari Phillips). Plus, after two losing years, that smoke you see isn’t another burning of Atlanta; it’s the hot-seat the head coach is seated on.


Speaking of hot seats, Danny Manning’s sitting on one in a tobacco town, and he’s not blowing smoke. Three Deacons decided to turn pro – none were drafted; but son of Wake Forest legend Randolph Childress, Brandon Childress, returns averaging nine points per game. Wake was the worse team in the league defensively a year ago; and this year they’ll have to outscore opponents to win. But can they with such mediocre offensive talent!?!


Speaking of absences, Bonzie Colson’s and Matt Ferrell’s graduations will be greatly felt in South Bend, Indiana. Ferrell was All-ACC, and barring the injury that kept him out much of the year, Colson would’ve been, too. Coach Mike Brey’s got a team that has some talent, but he’s going to need someone to step up and be the Fightin’ Irish’s go-to player in a pinch. That’s why I don’t see any pot o’ gold at the end of this basketball rainbow.


With Ky Bowman – the Havelock High football player who spurned the gridiron of Chapel Hill for the hardwood of Chestnut Hill – a top-5 ACC scorer returning, the first question is will Bowman find enough playmates to give this team some needed depth? Coach Jim Christian is peaking in this, his fifth year on the bench (almost 20 wins a season ago). They could move up, and like Clemson last year, be this season’s break-out team.


Give Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga credit: since his days at George Mason, there’s no one who works better without an established star. There isn’t one in Coral Gables this year either (just one double-figure scorer returning), but this team is also coming off a year of underachieving – closing 17-18 with four straight ACC wins – and maybe it’s time to show again that Westco Arena is more than a mid-winter resort stop for teams.


Has the dust settled from the NCAA probe? Did the hire of Xavier’s Chris Mack signal a return to greatness? Too many questions, and that was just two of them. Worse still, the Cards have a ‘killer schedule’ (Tennessee, Kentucky, Michigan State, Indiana, and Seton Hall). Mack hit the ground running with his recruiting; and add to that his track record of developing talent – and developing it quickly!


It’s never taken Kevin Keatts long to build a winner (example: UNC-Wilmington). In his first year in West Raleigh he got the Pack to the ‘Big Dance.’ But the loss of four seniors and the transfer of All-ACC big man Omer Yurtseven caused me to relegate the Wolfpack to the Bottom-8. Torin Dorn already leads the ACC in scoring (28 ppg) and he should get a full season from Markell Johnson. There’s a lot of upside here, but it’s got to come together quickly.

Next week I’ll rank my predicted order of finish for spots 1 through 7.


Gene Motley is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at gene.motley@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7211.