ACC Basketball: 17-18 Conference Preview

The ACC is often dubbed the best conference in college basketball. With basketball blue bloods like Duke, North Carolina, Louisville and Notre Dame, it’s easy to see why the conference garners the respect it has. This year the ACC has it all: defending champs, potential #1 pick, and additional NBA prospects all over the place. Let’s take a look at how the ACC Conference was voted in the preseason.

Projected Finishes

  1. Duke – No shock. Duke is the Preseason #1, and for good reason. Marvin Bagley is one of the most talented players in the country and Duke has a true point guard in Trevon Duval. Grayson Allen returning to form will be the piece that puts this Duke team over the top.
  2. North Carolina – This will be a different look UNC team, mainly in size. Meeks, Hicks, Bradley and Justin Jackson all leave. Joel Berry is the team’s nucleus but he’s dealing with several injuries to start the year. Pitt grad transfer Cam Johnson will be big in Berry’s absence. Fellow senior Theo Pinson is a crucial piece to the puzzle. He’s Roy Williams’s Swiss Army knife and will use a different role every night.
  3. Notre Dame – Bonzie Colson torched ACC bigs for 18 and 10 a night last year. Mike Brey will need an increased effort from TJ Gibbs for his team to compete with the best of the ACC. Improvement there, plus Colson and Matt Farrell, gives the Irish solid foundation going into the year.
  4. Miami – The Hurricanes have a veteran guard in JaQuan Newton, highly touted freshman Lonnie Walker, and potential breakout player in Bruce Brown. The keys for Miami will be Walker’s health; He had ACL surgery over the summer but has been cleared completely. If he is healthy out the gate, Miami will be a nightmare opponent.
  5. Louisville –  I think Deng Adel will be one of the best players in the conference in his senior year. The biggest piece for Louisville will be replacing Donovan Mitchell. VJ King will get the first crack and if he can do an adequate job, Lousiville can possibly have as smooth a transition a possible.
  6. Virginia – UVA will have an exciting back court with Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome and Devon Hall. Their issue will be upfront, where they are very thin outside senior Isiah Wilkins. The Cavaliers need to replace their top three scorers in London Perrantes, Austin Nichols and Marial Shayok. Grad transfer Nigel Johnson will help fill some of this loss. A bit of a college journeyman, Johnson averaged 11 points a game last year for Rutgers. He will bring that scoring mentality to Charlottesville, for what will be his third NCAA team.
  7. Virginia Tech – They lose their top 2 two scorers in Seth Allen and Zach LeDay, but they have a solid core returning. Chris Clarke has the ability to lead them in scoring and rebounds. Buzz Williams also has a strong group of guards, including Justin Robinson, Ahmed Hill and Top 100 freshman Wabissa Bede and Nikeil Alexander-Walker.
  8. Florida State – Florida State being eight was a bit of a surprise considering they lost two NBA players and one G-League player. FSU rotated a lot of guys last season, so they do return players who experienced ACC play. None will be more crucial than Terrance Mann. Helping in the back court is highly touted freshman MJ Walker. If the Seminoles can get production out of the great size they have on their roster, they could soldif this pick at eight.
  9. Georgia Tech – Georgia Tech enjoyed a nice NIT run before running into a red hot TCU team in the Championship game. The Yellow Jackets have one of the better one-two punches in the conference in Ben Lammers and Josh Okogie, both of whom received preseason All-ACC honors.
  10. Syracuse – Syracuse was a underwhleming team last year to say the least. Not Tyler Lydon or Andrew White leaves them with even less than last year. Tyus Battle will be their best player and they will need junior Frank Howard to be much more consistent than last season. I do think Cuse has a couple of nice freshman that are a year away from really making an impact.
  11. Wake Forest – Bryant Crawford was overshadowed by John Collins at points last year. That will not be the case this year, as he will be shine for the Demon Deacons. Upfront may be somewhat shaky, but strong guard support with Keyshawn Woods, Brandon Childress and Mitchell Wilbekin will lead this team.
  12. NC State – It’s year one under Kevin Keatts and that’s good news for Wolfpack fans. Keatts fortunately starts his tenure with a good veteran presence. Abdul-Malik Abu returns and Baylor grad transfer Al Freeman gets added into the mix. NC State also has a great freshman in Lavar Batts that will turn heads. 
  13. Clemson – Clemson loses their all-conference talent in Jarred Blossomgame, but Tigers fans will see a more balanced offense this year. They return four of their top six scorers, all of which averaged 7-10 points last year.
  14. Boston College – I don’t need to tell BC fans about Ky Bowman and Jerom Robinson. Despite the struggles BC’s had, and may have, these two can score with anyone in the conference. Jordan Chatman also returns as the team’s third leading scorer, though there a big drop off between second and third.
  15. Pittsburgh – It will be a tough year for Pitt fans, as they watch Jamie Dixon and TCU flourish and their team struggle. They lose 65 points a game from a team that was bad last year. This year will be a lot of evaluating young players and see who fits for the future.

Preseason Awards

Player of the Year – Bonzie Colson (Notre Dame)

I mentioned it above, Colson dominated last season in the paint. Crowned an undersized post player, Colson proves you don’t need to tower over opponents to have success. Colson has the ability to beat defenders from inside and out. Add to it the fact that Mike Brey is great at putting Colson in positions to best succeed, and you have trouble if you’re on the opposing sideline. Duke has the diaper dandies, UNC may be the returning National Champs, and Louisville and Miami have better NBA prospects, but Notre Dame has the Player of the Year.

Freshman of the Year – Marvin Bagley (Duke)

Again, this is really not a surprise. Duke has a number of talented freshman, and Miami does have a super talented player in Lonnie Walker, but none of them compare to Bagley. Many have called him the best prospect since Lebron, and his arrival has been long awaited. On a loaded Duke team, Bagley’s numbers won’t reach their maximum potential, but you will see his ability to change the course of a game several times throughout the year.

All ACC Teams

First Team 

Bonzie Colson – Notre Dame

Marvin Bagley – Duke 

Joel Berry – UNC

Grayson Allen – Duke

Ben Lammers – Georgia Tech

Second Team 

Bruce Brown – Miami

Quentin Snider – Lousiville

Deng Adel – Lousiville

Josh Okogie – Georgia Tech

Jerome Robinson – Boston College

Nasir Little’s Commitment Proves Change Coming in College Recruiting


Last evening, Nasir Little, a Top 15 recruit in the Class of 2018, committed to the University of North Carolina. A top recruit committing to a college basketball blue blood is nothing new. However, Little’s commitment holds a little more significance given the cloud hanging over the college basketball world. Little chose North Carolina over numerous schools. Included in this group was Miami and Arizona, two programs who recently grabbed headlines for roles in a NCAA corruption scandal.

By now most everyone knows that former Arizona assistant “Book” Richardson was one of 10 people arrested in the NCAA bribery scandal. Shortly after, Miami was informed they were under investigation for the same potential issues with a certain recruit. The recruit in question was said to be Nasir Little. A report filed stating that a “University-7,” was trying to give $150,000 to an unknown player in the Class of 2018. University-7 was described as a private research university in Florida with approximately 16,000 students and over 2,600 faculty members, The same report also mentioned that a “University-4, was already promising the recruit money. Little was the only player being recruited by both schools.

Nasir Little is not the first, nor the last to be involved in this scandal

Days after the reports surfaced, Little removed both Miami and Arizona from consideration, opening the door for the Tar Heels. While Little is not the only player to be brought up in these allegations, his swing in recruitment symbolizes a trend that is sure to happen in college hoops. Miami and Arizona were the favorites to land Little’s services, in part for the reason above. Amid controversy however, Little removed himself from the picture, hoping to avoid the same mess Brian Bowen finds himself in currently.

The question in recruiting has changed. Views on coaches and programs are going to change based on the reports that surface from this investigation. As more schools step into the limelight, the recruiting landscape broadens. Schools that once competed for the top recruits will now be in the mix for less and less. While Miami expects full exoneration, they already saw multiple recruits withdraw consideration just for association. Louisville has also lost their top recruits in 2018 because of the scandal. This opens the door for those schools dubbed “clean” to bring in top classes.

College basketball recruiting is going to be different. That’s the purpose of this investigation. The programs that lost out on McDonald’s All-Americans for playing by the rules now look like prestige institutions. And while every “dirty” program may not get caught, they will come off cleaner than those that get exposed. Thus far, Miami, Louisville and Arizona have been reported. Assistants from Oklahoma State, Auburn and USC were also arrested initially. Those schools have a little bit more to worry about at the moment than recrutiing, but last night’s commitment marked a change in tide.

Let’s root for basketball season to come sooner.

ACC Games To Watch for Upcoming 2017-18 Season

With the basketball season right around the corner, starting Nov. 10, let’s break down some highlighted games and match-ups in one of the most talented, lethal conferences – the ACC.

A few exhibition games here and there, we won’t see action as a collective until the 19th annual Big 10/ACC Challenge Nov. 27-30. The conference leads the Big Ten in the challenge, 11-5-2.

ACC conference play

The ACC starts conference play Dec. 9, when Duke travels to Boston College. Don’t expect a riveting contest between the Eagles and the Blue Devils. Boston College has finished dead last the past two season, and they had an infamous 0-18 conference play record during the 2015-16 season. The battle begins in a conference that has won eight of the last 17 NCAA Championship Tournaments and combined for 63 Final Four appearances.

Tough proving ground for the faint-hearted.

The following match ups are in chronological order as the season progresses and give fans some excitement to look forward to.

Virginia at Virginia Tech –  Wednesday, January 3rd

Why not highlight a showdown between the two in-state teams. Virginia is looking to find its identity again on the road. Last year Virginia Tech topped off Virginia in a double overtime game in Blacksburg. It may be a down year for Tony Bennett and the Cavaliers, which will make this rivalry all the more interesting during the 17-18 season. 

North Carolina at Notre Dame – Saturday, January 13th

Any game that pits two of the most talented players in the conference head-to-head. Joel Berry II is an all-around stud, when healthy. He is an early favorite to win ACC Player of the Year. But Notre Dame forward Bonzie Colson, another favorite to win the PoY, is going to protect his house when the Tar Heels come to town.

Duke at Miami – Monday, January 15th

Miami is a contender in the ACC. This isn’t news. They won the ACC title in 2013, and they see no reason why this year isn’t their year. Highly touted freshman Lonnie Walker is recovering from a knee injury, but should be back by the start of the season and fully healthy by this game. The game is highlighted because Duke is favored to win the ACC with their talented group of incoming freshman, giving the Hurricanes the ultimate proving ground early in conference play. Duke will look to outplay with talent in order to overcome a more experienced, sized Miami team.

Louisville at Miami – Wednesday, January 24th

Miami could have momentum coming into this contest if they manage a win at home against Duke. Louisville’s season is going to start with distraction, as Rick Pitino will be suspended the first five games for an off the court scandal. In early season polls, Miami sits atop of the Cardinals, who while was a No. 2 seed in last year’s tournament lost a key piece in Donovan Mitchell.

Duke at UNC – Thursday, February 8th

It’s the rivalry game we as basketball fans wait all season for. It’s part one of the epic saga between two powerhouse programs, separated by the 10-mile stretch on Tobacco Road. This game will be a perfect gauge of talent among the two programs. For obvious reasons, this game is going to draw the attention of the entire NCAA, not just the ACC. 

Last season’s results: Duke topped UNC, 86-78, at Cameron while the Tar Heels had the final say at home, closing out the season with a 90-83 win.

Louisville at Duke – Wednesday, February 21st

This is a big test for Louisville. The Cardinals look for a pair of wins in thee days against UNC and Duke. Two wins would give Louisville a boost up in polls and nods for better seeding in the tournament. While back to back games against UNC and Duke is never easy, the Cards have a veteran team capable of handling this tough test. It won’t be an easy year for the Cardinals. Hopefully they have talent to back up the team.

UNC at Duke – Saturday, March 3rd

The battle on Tobacco Road part two is a hands-down, no-brainer hyped game. Why not save the best for last. UNC not only has to take on a prolific Blue Devils team, but they have to keep their focus in one of the most legendary gyms in Cameron Indoor. At this point in the season, you can expect the two teams to be vying for the best eye bid. It will be a challenge to take on the Crazies at home. Not to mention it’s senior night for Grayson Allen. Talk about your momentum. 

Player watch list:

  • Joel Berry II, UNC

  • Deng Adel, Louisville

  • Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame

  • Grayson Allen, Duke

  • Bruce Brown, Miami

  • Marvin Bagley, Duke

NBA Should Find A Home In Kentucky

It’s inevitable. An expansion in the NBA is coming. We could see two new teams in the mix in the near future. It’s just a matter of when and most importantly, where. 

Seattle is high on everyone’s list. Pretty easy to understand. All the city needs is the OK from the league and the SuperSonics would be able to start all over. The city, which has been void of a pro basketball team for almost a decade, would welcome its beloved SuperSonics. 

But we’re missing out on other states that are synonymous with hoops – Kentucky.

Kentucky is Hoops Heaven

Kentucky

Kentucky is a blank slate, waiting for a big league team to start roots.

Kentucky is one of 24 states void of a major sport, being the fourth most populous state behind Virginia, Alabama and South Carolina.

The last time basketball was on the big state in Kentucky was during the era of the American Basketball Association. So, why not now?

The Blue Grass State bleeds hoops. The fandom is faithful. If you’re not a University of Kentucky fan, you sport a Louisville gear proudly, waiting to debate with a big blue fan. And you can bet that you’ll see a sea of blue or Cardinal-red fill gyms on the road. They travel. They travel obsessively.

Yes. The SuperSonics would find instant success in the franchise’s revival, but can you imagine the type of following Kentucky would have?

Even with a passionate college basketball fan base, the NBA season works on a bit of a different season schedule. After March Madness, college basketball fans itch for more. The NBA stage will do, which sees its season extend three more months than NCAA. But who should the people of Kentucky invest in?

And let’s be real. The fan base in Kentucky, whether it be UK or Louisville, puts some pro team fans to shame.

Oh yeah, and there’s a pretty big talent pool in Kentucky.

There are currently 34 former Kentucky players playing professionally.

Rival Louisville boasts 18 in the pros.

Kentucky has been tossed around, and it’s one of the prospects on a short list. Other candidates in question include Las Vegas, Mexico City, Kansas City and Vancouver.

Kentucky is already a state that draws hype over hoops. It’s where high school athletes would love to play. A possible pro team would give the state 10 times an appeal.

Tyler Ennis Leads St. Benedict’s to Second Win of Weekend

If you can do it once, why not do it again?

Playing a game for the second night in a row, St. Benedict’s, led by Tyler Ennis’ 17 points and five steals, stayed ahead of Roselle Catholic and won big, 70-48.

“I thought yesterday wasn’t as fast-paced and our pace is fast-paced,” said Ennis, after the game. “We needed to extend the lead, so second half we came out and wanted to finish it early.”

Ennis took more of a starring role on Sunday night than he did on Saturday, when Melvin Johnson scored 29 to lead the St. Benedict’s.

With Louisville head coach Rick Pitino looking on, Ennis showed his range of skills, working on the inside and the outside to orchestrate the offense.

As the only team in the Tip Off Showcase to play two games, Ennis and the Gray Bees walked away from West Orange 2-0.

“It was a great event. There was a lot of media coverage and great teams. It doesn’t get much better than that.”