ACC Floor Runners for 2016-17

Grayson Allen 2

By Regina Robinson,

As the Atlantic Coast Conference contemplates joining the world of digital streaming with its own network, I give you the conference’s own network of stars, led by guards who are setting the bar high in scoring. But, I didn’t forget about defense. Your welcome Louisville.

10. Pittsburgh – New head coach Kevin Stallings (yes, that guy) comes to Pitt from Vanderbilt, and with his knack for recruiting hopes to snag a big man to fill the gaping hole in the Panthers’ offense under the basket (Stallings is a genius at turning non-All-Americans into NBA players). He is a firm believer in offense over defense and is looking for shooters. The Dubs be damned, I’m not convinced you can win a championship 24 feet from the basket.

9. Florida State – Dwayne Bacon plans to be a legend in the game of basketball. But, he’s going to spend another year (or two? Or three?) at Florida State to make sure that happens; even though he could’ve easily been a first rounder in this year’s draft. He wants to not only go to the NBA as a complete player, but also with a resume that says he helped get the Seminoles to the NCAA tournament.

8. University of Miami (FL) – The third time has got to be the charm to take the Hurricanes and their ACC Coach of the Year Jim Larranaga, past the Sweet Sixteen. Ja’Quan Newton will do some things at point (10.5 PPG and 2.5 APG last season), but not at the Angel Rodriguez level (the senior averaged 12.6 PPG and 4.5 APG last season). “He can score and he can pass, but his assist-to-turnover ratio is 1-to-1,” Larranaga said in a recent Miami Herald interview. “If he’s really going to be the kind of point guard that can lead our team, he needs to improve to 2-to-1 or 3-to-1.”

7. Virginia Tech – A team in the rebuilding phase usually means a wait-til-next-year approach. But the Hokies didn’t get that memo. Tech comes into the 2016-17 after an ACC history-making 2015-16, with the biggest season turnaround (20-15) for a team that finished last the previous year (11-22). It was also the first NIT appearance for Virginia Tech since 2010-11. The more the faces of the Hokies change (including forward Satchel Pierce and guard Jalen Hudson transferring in April), the stronger they’re becoming. Even on the coaching side, adding former Harvard assistant (and grad) Christian Weber.

6. Notre Dame – Speaking with coach Mike Brey recently, he was itching to get back in the gym with his young Fighting Irish squad, led by back-from-NBA-consideration senior V.J. Beachem. Although this group has some postseason experience, it’s a long way to March Madness. The heightened pressure of the tournament can throw even the most seasoned players off their game.

5. Syracuse – Athletic director Kent Syverud said in a campus-wide that Jim Boeheim’s announcement last March that he would retire in three years was meant to help everyone get prepared for the transition from the 39-year Jim Boeheim system. This as a hot topic of discussion as the season is a couple of months from getting underway can either be motivating the Orangemen or bringing down morale. Playing in hostile environments is nothing new for the ‘Cuse, so they will still excel.

4. Louisville – Three words: Rick Pitino defense. Those words hold more water than the numbers that kept the Cardinals out of the NCAA tournament last season (Louisville finished the season 23-8, 4th in the ACC). Besides the Cardinal’s highly-ranked defense (top five for adjusted efficiency for the past eight out of nine seasons), sophomore guard Donovan Mitchell is feeding the ball to a power duo, Mangok Mathiang and Ray Spalding.

3. Virginia – Anthony Gill was no Ralph Sampson last year. Enter Memphis transfer Austin Nichols, who had the 8th best block rate in the 2014-15 season. The Cavs are restocking an already experienced roster with top 10 recruits. Just what they need to wipe away the bad taste of last season’s Elite Eight loss to Syracuse.

2. University of North Carolina – The Tar Heels don’t send top players to the pros (Brice Johnson, LA Clippers and Marcus Paige, Utah Jazz) without having a replacement game plan. It starts with Joel Berry, who has improved in efficiency, usage rate, assist-turnover ratio, shooting and free-throw percentages since starting as a backup point guard in 2014-15. Coach Roy Williams can expect – and may also require a few more 16-point showcases from Justin Jackson (see last year’s semifinal win over Syracuse).

1. Duke – Sorry Duke haters, this is not the year you get to rejoice. The Blue Devils are strong all across the court. Since we’re on the point, guard Grayson Allen was good enough to go pro, but chose to stay another year. To lock in Duke at the top spot will be the best of the best recruits according to Recruiting Services Consensus Index: Harry Giles (power forward, No. 2); Jayson Tatum (small forward, No. 4 prospect); Marques Bolden (center, No. 11); Frank Jackson (guard, No. 14); and Javin DeLaurier (power forward, No. 35 prospect).

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