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Rothstein Files | ACC Offseason Notebook

Jon Rothstein



Five Questions Entering The ACC

1. How many ACC teams will make the 2019 NCAA Tournament?

This league has had nine teams in the field of 68 in each of the past two seasons, and that seems again to be a reasonable goal for 2019. The ACC currently has seven teams — Duke, Virginia, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Florida State, Syracuse, and Clemson — in the FRS Preseason Top 25 and four in the Top 10. There’s going to be opportunities in this league to beat quality teams, and that’s an important thing to remember when you’re forecasting potential bids for the 2019 NCAA Tournament. A big thing to keep in mind? The depth of this league is still vastly underrated. Why? Last season, Florida State finished 9-9 in conference play and reached the Elite Eight while Syracuse finished 8-10 in ACC play and advanced all the way to the Sweet 16.

2. Which of Duke’s veterans will step to the forefront?

Most of the college basketball world will rave about the Blue Devils’ star-studded recruiting class featuring R.J. Barrett, Cameron Reddish, Zion Williamson, Tre Jones, and Joey Baker, but those close to the Blue Devils’ program believe that this team’s success next season may ultimately hinge on which veterans emerge as anchors. Returning players are always more important than incoming ones in college basketball, and this situation is no different. Marques Bolden, Javin DeLaurier, and Alex O’Connell all return with the chance to provide this talented young core with some much-needed leadership; all three will get the chance to carve out a role. A word to the wise: Keep an eye on Bolden. The 6-foot-11 big man was one of the top high school players in the country a few years ago, but has never found a rhythm since arriving in college; that should change next season. Bolden averaged 8.0 points and 6.5 rebounds last season in the two ACC games where he logged 19 minutes or more. Don’t be shocked if he has a breakout year as a junior.

3. Will North Carolina get back to playing traditionally?

That’s what Roy Williams would prefer, but that’s not necessarily a guarantee. The Tar Heels played small last season with Luke Maye at the five and Theo Pinson at the four because North Carolina’s young big men — Garrison Brooks, Sterling Manley, and Brandon Huffman — weren’t ready to command the minutes of a starter. Will that change next season? Possibly, but the Tar Heels’ perimeter options are still beyond solid. With Maye cemented up front, Williams returns a pair of wings in Kenny Williams and Cameron Johnson who scored in double-figures last season and adds two freshmen — Coby White and Nassir Little — who will command major minutes out of the gate. The 6-foot-3 White is the likely replacement for Joel Berry, while the 6-foot-7 Little was widely considered to be one of the best high school players in the country last season. Seventh Woods and Brandon Robinson also return as veterans on the perimeter. Williams has won three national titles by playing with power; will that trend continue again in 2018-19? It all depends on the development of Brooks, Manley, and Huffman.

4. What are the expectations for Chris Mack in Year One at Louisville?

To make the NCAA Tournament. The Cardinals don’t have great depth, but there’s still enough left over from both Rick Pitino and David Padgett for this program to hear its name called on Selection Sunday. Mack inherits six players — V.J. King, Darius Perry, Ryan McMahon, Jordan Nwora, Malik Williams, and Dwayne Sutton — who all averaged double-figure minutes a year ago and adds a potential starter in UConn transfer Steve Enoch. Grad transfers Khwan Fore and Christen Cunningham will also be counted upon to provide depth. Louisville can’t afford a major injury and won’t necessarily have enough players on a daily basis to scrimmage, but there’s still enough talent in this program to play meaningful games in March of 2019.

5. Who is the sleeper?

Notre Dame. Murphy’s Law hit the Irish last season after a foot injury forced Bonzie Colson — last year’s ACC Preseason Player of the Year — to miss 15 games. Four-star freshman D.J. Harvey also missed 17 games due to an ailing knee, and veteran point guard Matt Farrell missed five. Now with Colson and Farrell each done with their eligibility, the Irish will enter next season off-the-radar; don’t expect it to necessarily stay that way. Mike Brey returns a pair of hard-nosed veteran guards in TJ Gibbs and Rex Pflueger along with three quality role players in John Mooney, Elijah Burns, and Nikola Djogo who have all been through the gamut. Add 6-foot-11 big man Juwan Durham — a transfer from UConn — and a quartet of freshmen — Prentiss Hubb, Robby Carmody, Dane Goodwin, and Nate Laszewski — who were all ranked in the Top-100 coming out of high school and Brey has some pieces to work with. The biggest key may be health, as Hubb, like Harvey, is coming off a knee injury and needs to be at his best if this team is going to push for an NCAA bid in February and March.

ACC Offseason Power Rankings

  1. Duke
  2. Virginia
  3. Virginia Tech
  4. North Carolina
  5. Florida State
  6. Syracuse
  7. Clemson
  8. Louisville
  9. NC State
  10. Notre Dame
  11. Miami
  12. Boston College
  13. Wake Forest
  14. Georgia Tech
  15. Pitt
  • ACC Preseason Player of the Year: R.J. Barrett, Duke
  • ACC Preseason Sleeper: Notre Dame
  • ACC Preseason First Team: Ky Bowman, Boston College; Kyle Guy, Virginia; Tyus Battle, Syracuse; R.J. Barrett, Duke; Luke Maye, North Carolina

15 Impact Freshmen

  • R.J. Barrett, Duke
  • Cameron Reddish, Duke
  • Zion Williamson, Duke
  • Tre Jones, Duke
  • Joey Baker, Duke
  • Coby White, North Carolina
  • Nassir Little, North Carolina
  • Rechon Black, North Carolina
  • Landers Nolley, Virginia Tech
  • Jaylen Hoard, Wake Forest
  • Mike Devoe, Georgia Tech
  • Jalen Carey, Syracuse
  • Immanuel Bates, NC State
  • Jairus Hamilton, Boston College
  • Prentiss Hubb, Notre Dame

10 Under-The-Radar Freshmen

  • Wynston Tabbs, Boston College
  • Raiquan Gray, Florida State
  • Xavier Johnson, Pitt
  • Buddy Boeheim, Syracuse
  • Robby Carmody, Notre Dame
  • Dane Goodwin, Notre Dame
  • Nate Laszewski, Notre Dame
  • Isaiah Mucius, Wake Forest
  • John Newman, Clemson
  • Kody Stattman, Virginia

10 Impact Transfers

  • Juwan Durham, Notre Dame
  • C.J. Bryce, NC State
  • Devon Daniels, NC State
  • David Nichols, Florida State
  • Elijah Hughes, Syracuse
  • Steve Enoch, Louisville
  • Khwan Fore, Louisville
  • Zach Johnson, Miami
  • Malik Ellison, Pitt
  • Miles Wilson, Miami

5 Under-The-Radar Transfers

  • Christen Cunningham, Louisville
  • Torry Johnson, Wake Forest
  • Eric Lockett, NC State
  • Javan White, Clemson
  • Sidy Ndir, Pitt

10 Breakout Players

  • Marques Bolden, Duke
  • Mamadi Diakite, Virginia
  • Garrison Brooks, North Carolina
  • Mfiondu Kabengele, Florida State
  • D.J. Harvey, Notre Dame
  • Marek Dolezaj, Syracuse
  • Aamir Simms, Clemson
  • Steffon Mitchell, Boston College
  • Jordan Nwora, Louisville
  • Chaundree Brown, Wake Forest

Jon Rothstein has been a college basketball insider for CBS Sports since 2010 and is the lead college basketball columnist for the FRS Sports Network. He is also the host of the College Hoops Today Podcast via Compass Media Networks, which is available via iTunes. Rothstein is also a regular in-studio correspondent for both WFAN and CBS Sports Radio. He currently lives in Manhattan.

Jon Rothstein has been a college basketball insider for CBS Sports since 2010 and is the lead college basketball columnist for the FanRag Sports Network. He is also the host of the College Hoops Today Podcast via Compass Media Networks, which is available via ITunes. Rothstein is also a regular in-studio correspondent for both WFAN and CBS Sports Radio. He currently lives in Manhattan.