Advertisement

Assessing ACC basketball after NBA draft decisions

Virginia coach Tony Bennett shares a revealing text from guard Ty Jerome about learning from last season's NCAA tournament disappointment.

Only reigning champion Virginia will return two All-ACC players from last basketball season. The league’s top returning scorers will hail from Syracuse, Boston College, North Carolina and Clemson.

Those are among the outcomes of this year’s annual NBA draft dance-a-thon.

Advertisement

Nineteen players from conference teams filed for early draft entry in April. By last week’s deadline to withdraw, seven had elected to resume their college careers.

REMAINED IN DRAFT

Advertisement

Wake Forest: Bryant Crawford and Doral Moore.

Duke: Marvin Bagley, Trevon Duval, Wendell Carter and Gary Trent.

Louisville: Ray Spalding and Deng Adel.

Miami: Lonnie Walker and Bruce Brown.

Advertisement

Boston College: Jerome Robinson.

Georgia Tech: Josh Okogie.

WITHDREW FROM DRAFT

Syracuse: Tyus Battle.

Clemson: Shelton Mitchell and Marcquise Reed.

Boston College: Ky Bowman.

North Carolina: Luke Maye.

Miami: Dewan Huell.

Advertisement

N.C. State: Torin Dorn.

The news was especially good for Clemson, North Carolina and Syracuse, teams that combined to win six NCAA tournament games in March. Conversely, the loss of multiple players to early entry cripples Wake Forest and certainly doesn’t help Louisville and Miami, programs that last season won nary a NCAA tournament game.

The four Duke freshmen who remained in the draft? Well, that’s just how the Blue Devils roll in the one-and-done era, recruiting a succession of elite prospects who figure to be short-timers.

So don’t grow attached to incoming Duke freshmen R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish, Tre Jones, Zion Williamson and Joey Baker. All five playing multiple college seasons would be a larger upset than Mike Krzyzewski retiring to Chapel Hill.

Duke, Clemson and Syracuse reached the Midwest Regional semifinals last season, and with rising senior guards Marcquise Reed and Shelton Mitchell exiting the draft, Clemson is positioned to build upon that Sweet 16 appearance, the program’s first since 1997. Reed (15.8 points per game) was second-team All-ACC last season and will be the league’s No. 4 returning scorer; Mitchell led the Tigers in assists (119) and free-throw accuracy (85.7 percent).

Syracuse guard Tyus Battle (19.2 points per game), Boston College Ky Bowman (17.6) and North Carolina’s Luke Maye (16.9) will be the conference’s top three returning scorers after they withdrew from the draft. Maye and Virginia’s Kyle Guy, who did not enter the draft, are the lone first-team All-ACC selections returning in 2018-19.

Guy and third-teamer Ty Jerome make the Cavaliers the only ACC program with multiple returnees who made one of the three all-league squads last season. Moreover, Virginia welcomes back Sixth Man of the Year De’Andre Hunter.

Next season will mark the third time in the last 15 years that the Cavaliers return two All-ACC players. Suffice to say, the previous two occasions went well.

Led by Sean Singletary and J.R. Reynolds in 2007, Virginia shared the ACC regular-season title with North Carolina and reached the second round of the NCAA tournament.

With Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell returning in 2014, the Cavaliers won their first outright regular-season title since 1981 and their first ACC tournament championship since 1976. A subsequent Sweet 16 appearance was their first since 1995.

Seniors Devon Hall (second-team All-ACC) and Isaiah Wilkins (ACC Defensive Player of the Year) were critical to U.Va.’s ascension to No. 1 in the polls and conference regular-season and tournament championships. But Guy, Jerome, Hunter, veteran bigs Jack Salt, Mamadi Diakite and Jay Huff, and newcomers such as guard Kihei Clark combine to give Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers a roster that should keep them in ACC contention and the national conversation.

With that in mind, an early projection of the 2018-19 ACC finish:

1. VIRGINIA: Care to guess how many times the Cavaliers have finished atop the league’s preseason media poll? Once in 49 seasons, that in Ralph Sampson’s senior year of 1982-83. Could well be twice in 50 seasons.

2. NORTH CAROLINA: Maye, Cameron Johnson, Kenny Williams and incoming McDonald’s All-Americans Nassir Little and Coby White make the Tar Heels formidable -- as usual.

3. DUKE: The Blue Devils haven’t finished atop the regular-season standings since their 2010 national champions, led by upperclassmen Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith. The 18-game ACC grind is just too difficult for freshman-dominated squads, even one this gifted.

4. VIRGINIA TECH: Led by Justin Robinson, Chris Clarke and Kerry Blackshear, the Hokies are positioned to reach a third consecutive NCAA tournament for the first time in program history. Virginia Tech’s ACC schedule also figures to lighten with the Hokies, by rotation, exchanging two games each against Duke and Louisville for a pair versus Georgia Tech and Notre Dame.

5. CLEMSON: Reed, Mitchell, Elijah Thomas and Oral Roberts graduate transfer Javan White give the Tigers a core capable of matching last season’s third-place ACC finish. Clemson hasn’t advanced in consecutive NCAA tournaments since 1989 and ’90 with Elden Campbell and Dale Davis.

6. SYRACUSE: Battle, Oshae Brissett and Frank Howard each started all 37 games last season, averaging 38-plus minutes and averaging a combined 48.5 points per game. That’s a start on reaching a second consecutive Sweet 16 for the first time since 2009 and ’10.

7. FLORIDA STATE: After a discouraging late February and early March, the Seminoles upset Xavier and Gonzaga in the NCAA tournament en route to their first regional final since 1993. Underrated Terance Mann is back from that squad, as are Phil Cofer, Trent Forrest and Mfiondu Kabengele, each of whom excelled during the NCAA tournament.

8. LOUISVILLE: Chris Mack steered Xavier to an Elite Eight and three other Sweet 16s in nine seasons. Returning the Cardinals to that level may take some time given Deng Adel and Ray Spalding’s early departures for the NBA. But graduate transfers Christen Cunningham and Khwan Fore, the latter from the University of Richmond, should help bridge the gap.

9. NORTH CAROLINA STATE: Good luck assessing this bunch. Torin Dorn withdrew from the draft and joins Markell Johnson and Braxton Beverly on the perimeter. But so much hinges on transfers such as C.J. Bryce, Wyatt Walker, Devon Daniel and Derek Funderburk.

10. NOTRE DAME: Mike Brey likes his teams old, but Rex Pflueger will likely be his only significant senior. T.J. Gibbs will join Pflueger in the backcourt, and freshman Nate Laszweski could help the frontcourt.

11. BOSTON COLLEGE: The Eagles went 1-for-2 on NBA decisions, losing first-team All-ACC guard Jerome Robinson and retaining Bowman, Robinson’s backcourt running mate and an honorable-mention selection. With all other notable pieces returning, BC has a puncher’s chance of earning its first NCAA bid since 2009.

Advertisement

12. MIAMI: The Hurricanes’ top three scorers — Lonnie Walker, Dewan Huell and Bruce Brown — declared for the draft, and only Huell later withdrew. Florida Gulf Coast graduate transfer Zach Johnson also withdrew from the draft and helps cushion the blow.

13. WAKE FOREST: Bryant Crawford and Doral Moore remained in the NBA draft, and Keyshawn Woods transferred to Ohio State, leaving Wake with one of its top five scorers from last season — Brandon Childress averaged 9.1 points. An acclaimed recruiting class headlined by Jaylen Hoard and Isaiah Mucius needs to be good ASAP.

14. GEORGIA TECH: The Yellow Jackets haven’t had a winning ACC record since 2004, and Josh Okogie’s early draft entry likely precludes ending the drought. Jose Alvarado showed promise as a freshman last season, leading Tech in assists, 3-pointers and steals.

15. PITTSBURGH: The recruiting chops Jeff Capel showed as Oklahoma’s head coach and Duke’s top assistant are evident in his new gig leading the Panthers. But Trey McGowens, Au’Diese Toney and other newcomers face high hurdles after last season’s 0-18 ACC finish.

Advertisement
Advertisement