By: Spencer Quist
The Atlantic Coast Conference is a powerhouse. This is not new news, but it is important to understand going into this basketball season. The amount of depth and versatility that teams have in this conference are left unmatched, with legitimate tournament contenders stretching to at least the bottom three teams. This is a conference that outside of the known top tier teams, anything can really happen. So, without further ado, let’s move on into the column.
Favorite to win
No surprises here, the Duke Blue Devils are one-hundred-and-ten-percent your favorite to win the ACC this year. They start the season as the number one seed in the nation, and have the best incoming recruiting class. This can change pretty early on though, as Duke has early tests including #3 Kansas in the always tough State Farm Champions Classic and #12 Michigan State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Others that have a run at the ACC title include reigning national championship runner-up North Carolina and Virginia, who have one of the ACC’s brightest new additions with transfer product Austin Nichols, who averaged 13.3 points and 3.4 blocks on Memphis last year.
The ACC’s sleeper team this year is the Miami (FL) Hurricanes. Miami, who come off of a 27-7 record in 2015-2016, beat multiple top tier teams last year before the tournament. They stole signature wins off of (at the time) #3 Virginia and #11 Louisville in back to back games. After making it into the tournament as a three seed, they beat Buffalo and Wichita St, who were ranked #14 and #11 respectively, before losing to eventual champion Villanova. Even though they lost team leader Angel Rodriguez, they sneakily have the tenth best recruiting class in the nation, snuggled in between two top ranked teams; Kansas and North Carolina. On top of this, Jim Larranaga has shown to be not only a top tier recruiter, but also a top tier coach. Watch out for the Canes.
Player to watch
The player to watch in the ACC has to be NCAA basketball’s current favorite villain; Grayson Allen. Allen, who returns for his junior year, made noise as a freshman with his solid National Championship performance, then proceeded to follow it up with a great sophomore year. Other than the constant tripping occurrences, Allen averaged 21.6 points, going 41.7% from three point range and 46.6% from the field. His offensive fire-power was paired nicely with a modest 4.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. He takes the reigns as the team leader for the second straight year, and has the veteran mindset to help a young Duke team go deep into March.
Come March, the ACC has eight teams in the NCAA tournament. Last year they had seven, and the conference has only gotten stronger. I see Duke, North Carolina, Virginia, Louisville, North Carolina State, Miami (FL), Clemson and Syracuse. I not only see these teams making the tournament, but all making some noise and re-assuring the fact that the ACC is the best basketball conference in the nation.
The tobacco road rivalry is the best in college basketball, arguably the best in sports, and this year I see Duke sweeping North Carolina. Last year it was a 1-1 split, with each team winning at the other’s home court, and I just don’t see Grayson Allen playing bad in his 5th and 6th games against the Tar Heels. Fun Fact: the last time the two teams met and one was not ranked was Feb. 27, 1960. How excited for a game can you get that is three months away? The answer is very. Very excited.