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ACC Conference Reset: Get caught up on all of the league’s offseason wheelings and dealings

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The NBA Draft’s Early Entry Deadline has come and gone. Just about every elite recruit has decided where they will be playing their college ball next season. The coaching carousel, which ended up spinning a bit faster than initially expected, has come to a close. The transfer market is slowly winding down.  

In other words, by now, we have a pretty good feel for what college basketball is going to look like during the 2017-18 season. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what has happened — and what will happen — in the ACC over the next six months. 

OFFSEASON STORYLINES 

1. Is ‘Is Duke Back???’ going to be a thing again next season?: Unfortunately, it probably will be.

Last year, as the preseason No. 1 team in the country battled injuries and inconsistency, the question of whether or not Duke is back became a consistent talking point. While Duke lost Jayson Tatum, Luke Kennard, Amile Jefferson, Frank Jackson and Harry Giles III this offseason, they not only returned Grayson Allen and Marques Bolden, they added a terrific recruiting class — headlined by five-stars Wendell Carter and Gary Trent Jr. — that was bolstered by the May addition of Trevon Duval.

I know you guys don’t want to hear me say it, but … Duke is going to be a top five team with as much talent as anyone in the country. They are the favorite to win the ACC.

2. Tony Bradley, one-and-dones and UNC’s NCAA investigation: There’s a lot to unpack here. For starters, Tony Bradley became UNC’s first one-and-done player since Brandon Wright and just the third one-and-done player in Roy Williams’ tenure when he signed with an agent last week. Part of this is because Williams has not proven the ability to get elite talent straight to the NBA, and part of that is a direct result on missing a number of elite talents due to the looming NCAA investigation into academic fraud, which, mercifully, is on track to come to an end at some point later this year … (we hope).

Does that mean that Williams will now be able to recruit one-and-done players, like Kevin Knox or Brandon Ingram, to UNC? The better question is whether or not he actually needs to.

Since the one-and-done rule came into effect before the 2006-07 season, Williams has won two national titles, been to four Final Fours and taken home seven ACC regular season titles. Mike Krzyzewski, in contrast, has won two national titles (only one of which came with a one-and-done player on it) in the only two Final Fours that he’s been to while winning just a single ACC regular season title.

Who has been more successful?

Grayson Allen (Photo by Chet Strange/Getty Images)

3. Duke and UNC traded rosters: Roy Williams is one of the few coaches that has bucked the small-ball trend, opting to roll out rosters that feature two bigs that do their damage within eight-feet of the rim. Mike Krzyzewski, on the other hand, has relied more and more on small-ball lineups, with Jabari Parker, Justise Winslow, Brandon Ingram and Jayson Tatum — hell, even Ryan Kelly and Kyle Singler fall into that category — playing the majority of their minutes at the four.

With Duke missing on Kevin Knox, Coach K is going to be counting on Marques Bolden, a five through-and-through, and Wendell Carter, a top five recruit and a beast of a low-post scorer, to play in his front court together. Ol’ Roy, on the other hand, is probably looking at a situation where Theo Pinson sees quite a few minutes at the four while Joel Berry II, Jalek Felton and Kenny Williams roam the perimeter.

This is what happens when rosters are overhauled every spring.

4. So where does Cameron Johnson end up?: This is the major question in the ACC hierarchy. Johnson is a 6-foot-8 forward that averaged 11.9 points and shoots threes at a 42 percent clip. He’s also a grad transfer from Pitt that has two years of eligibility remaining, but is being barred by the Panthers from transferring within the ACC. North Carolina wants him, and looks like the best landing spot for a team that needs perimeter shooting and a player that doesn’t seem to fit into the rotation at Kentucky, Arizona or UCLA anymore.

Stallings has been crushed in the media of late for his refusal to unblock ACC schools, and it doesn’t seem like he’s going to be willing to relent anytime soon.

5. Can Miami actually win an ACC title?: Simply put: Yes, they can. They won one in 2013 and finishing a game out of first place in 2016, and this season, they should end up being just as talented as they were when they won the league. JaQuan Newton will be the veteran presence in the back court while Bruce Brown should be expected to develop into a player that can push for ACC Player of the Year and All-American honors this season. Throw in a five-star recruit in off-guard Lonnie Walker and a former five-star big man in Dewan Huell, and the talent and coaching is there for the Hurricanes. Don’t be surprised when Miami is back near the top of the ACC come February.

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6. Is this the year that Notre Dame and Virginia fall off?: Mike Brey and Tony Bennett are two of the best coaches in the country at establishing tradition and culture, developing the players they recruit to be stars by the time they are juniors and senior. At some point, however, consistently losing key pieces is going to catch up to them, and both the Irish and the Wahoos are looking at something of a youth movement this year.

Notre Dame does return seniors Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell, but they are going to be relying heavily on inexperienced players like Temple Gibbs, Rex Pflueger and D.J. Harvey to play major minutes. UVA, on the other hand, is nearing a full rebuild, as they look to replace London Perrantes and a pair of rising seniors that transferred out of the program with a Rutgers transfer and a slew of talented, but inexperienced, freshmen and sophomores.

IMPORTANT ADDITIONS

  • Trevon Duval, Duke: Duke reeled in three five-star prospects this summer, including big man Wendell Carter and Gary Trent Jr., but the real story here is that they finally landed a point guard to replace Tyus Jones three seasons later. Is he the piece that finally puts it all together for the Blue Devils?
  • Lonnie Walker, Miami: The Hurricanes are going to be much better than you think they will be, largely due to the fact that I expect sophomore Bruce Brown to be a star. But Lonnie Walker, a five-star shooting guard that Miami outdueled Villanova and Arizona for, was a monster addition.
  • Jalek Felton, North Carolina: Is small-ball in the cards for the Tar Heels this season? If it is, Felton, the back-end five-star recruit that Roy Williams seems to thrive with every year, should see a lot of minutes next to Joel Berry II.
  • D.J. Harvey, Notre Dame: Harvey was, at one point, a top ten prospect in the class. He graduated as a top 50 recruit, but he’s a skilled, versatile 6-foot-7 wing, which is precisely the kind of player that Mike Brey thrives with.

SURPRISING DEPARTURES

  • Donovan Mitchell, Louisville: I still like this Louisville roster and expect them to be a top ten team this season, but man, losing Donovan Mitchell to the NBA is a shot to the gut. I’m an admitted Mitchell stan, but I would have had the Cardinals as the preseason No. 1 team and Mitchell as a National Player of the Year contender had he returned.
  • Frank Jackson, Duke: It doesn’t take a genius to read through the tea leaves and see that Jackson leaving Duke to likely end up in the second round of the NBA Draft coincided with Trevon Duval’s decision to enroll. The loss still hurts, however, because he would have been awesome sharing a back court with Duval, Grayson Allen and Gary Trent Jr.
  • Tony Bradley, North Carolina: The loss of Bradley hurts UNC because it’s pretty clear that the Tar Heels had built their roster around having him on campus for at least one more season. He would have been in the all-american discussion had he returned.

COACHING CHANGES

  • Kevin Keatts, N.C. State: Keatts left UNC Wilmington and replaced Mark Gottfried in Raleigh, and he’s already started to load up on talent, convincing Omer Yurtseven to return to school while adding transfer Al Freeman (Baylor), C.J. Bryce (UNCW) and Devon Daniels (Utah). Getting players won’t be his problem, and it wasn’t Gottfried’s. Turning that talent into wins is where the former Wolfpack man struggled, and it will be on Keatts to buck that trend.
Bonzie Colson (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

WAY-TOO-EARLY ALL-CONFERENCE PREDICTIONS

Joel Berry II, North Carolina (Player of the Year)
Grayson Allen, Duke
Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame
Bruce Brown, Miami
Deng Adel, Louisville

WAY-TOO-EARLY POWER RANKINGS

  1. Duke: Duke has plenty of talent next season. Trevon Duval, Grayson Allen and Wendell Carter is as talented of a top three as you’ll find. The key will be how all the pieces fit together.
  2. Miami: The Hurricanes will enter 2017-18 with the nation’s most underrated backcourt with Bruce Brown, Lonnie Walker and JaQuan Newton, and Jim Larrañaga is as good as anyone at using elite guards.
  3. Louisville: I’m going to go long on Louisville here. Losing Donovan Mitchell hurt; before he signed with an agent, when it looked like he may return to school, we had the Cardinals as the preseason No. 1 team in the country. But Deng Adel is returning, giving a team that struggled offensively last season a go-to scorer, and with a core of young and athletic talents, particularly in the front court, Rick Pitino should have another top ten-caliber roster to work with. Their ceiling will be determined by how the likes of V.J. King, Ray Spalding and Anas Mahmoud develop.
  4. North Carolina: Losing Tony Bradley was a killer. Well, ‘killer’ may be too strong, but with him back in the fold, the Tar Heels looked like a top five team.
  5. Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish have reached the point where I’m just going to assume they will be a top 25 team pushing for top four in the ACC every preseason. Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell are back to carry the load again.
  6. Virginia Tech: The Hokies lose Zach LeDay and Seth Allen, but they add Nickeil Alexander-Walker, get Chris Clarke healthy and return basically everyone else of relevance.
  7. Virginia: Losing London Perrantes hurts, but the Wahoos added a veteran point guard in Nigel Johnson to a roster with quite a bit of young talent. I think they’re a year away.
  8. N.C. State: Keatts has already added some pieces to a roster with talent on it. The big question is going to be how they adjust to his style of play?
  9. Syracuse: The Orange graduate John Gillon and Andrew White while losing Tyler Lydon to the draft. Once again, they’re going to be looking for a point guard. What does Tyus Battle turn into?
  10. Florida State: Replacing Jonathan Isaac, Dwayne Bacon and Xavier Rathan-Mayes won’t be easy, but bring in five-star M.J. Walker will help.
  11. Wake Forest: John Collins’ development into a star happened one year too soon, but Danny Manning does have some solid back court talent returning and joining the program.
  12. Clemson: It has to be frustrating for Brad Brownell that he couldn’t get back to the NCAA tournament with Jaron Blossomgame back. I don’t think it’s out of the question that Brownell could get there with this roster, however.
  13. Georgia Tech: Josh Pastner put together a surprisingly good first season in Atlanta. Ben Lammers return was massive. What does Josh Okogie develop into?
  14. Boston College: The duo of Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman will be good. Will there be enough around them to get the Eagles out of the ACC basement?
  15. Pittsburgh: Six players transferred out of Pitt this offseason. At this point, are we sure that Kevin Stallings will have enough players on his roster to field a team this fall.

Preaching patience, new Pitt AD says hoops program “a complete rebuild”

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Things did not go particularly well for Kevin Stallings in his first year at Pitt. The program, which essentially pushed Jamie Dixon out the door for being consistently good but not often enough great, struggled, going 16-17 overall and 4-14 in the ACC, just two games out of the cellar.

On top of that, six players prematurely left the program this spring.

Not great, especially when you’ve got a new boss that didn’t hire you, as is the case for Stallings with new Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke, who came aboard in March. In her first meeting with Stallings, Lyke asked a rather blunt question.

“Do you want to be here?” according to the Beaver County Times.

Stallings answered that he did, and his new athletic director would appear to be willing to give her predecessor’s hire time to reclaim and rebuild the program.

“It’s a steep climb, if you will,” Lyke said. “It’s not something that’s going to come easy and it takes an incredible amount of work.”

Stallings’ personal reputation took a significant amount of damage this spring when he attempted to block Cameron Johnson from an intra-ACC transfer to North Carolina. NBC Sports’ Scott Phillips called him a “town-deaf clown” in his attempt to keep Johnson from being a Tar Heel, a position he later relinquished, allowing Johnson to head to Chapel Hill.

Losing Johnson certainly won’t help Stallings and the Panthers recover from the difficult first season. Pitt didn’t hit any grand-slams in recruiting but is adding four-star guard Marcus Carr in its 2017 class.

The immediate outlook doesn’t look particularly bright, but Pitt appears to be positioning itself to exhibit some patience.

“If you look at the team, it is a complete rebuild,” Lyke said. “So I do think that (Stallings) is going to need a little time to develop it.

“But, we’ve got to be headed in the right direction. There’s some things that have got to get better and noticeable improvements. I’ve already seen those things start to happen.”

 

Miller Time: Indiana coach cashes in with $24 million deal

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — New Indiana coach Archie Miller will make $24 million under his seven-year deal — and potentially even more in bonuses.

Miller accepted the job in March, but the athletic department didn’t announce details of the contract until Tuesday.

He will receive a base salary of $550,000 per year and $1 million in deferred income each season. Miller also will receive an additional $1.85 million in outside marketing and promotional income — and will get a $50,000 per year raise each year through March 2024.

Miller can earn a $250,000 bonus for winning a national championship. He can earn an additional $125,000 for a Big Ten regular-season title, reaching the Final Four and producing multiyear Academic Progress Rate scores over 950.

Utah, BYU rivalry back on after one-year hiatus

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The BYU-Utah annual rivalry series will be back on this season after taking a one-year hiatus last year.

For just the second time since 1909, the Utes and the Cougars did not play in 2016-17 after Utah head coach Larry Kyrstkowiak asked for a one-year cooling off period stemming from an intense and emotional game against BYU in 2015-16. In that game, then-freshman Nick Emery was ejected as a result of this punch that he threw:

The last time those two teams did not play was due to World War II.

The game will be played at BYU on Dec. 16th.

Utah will also play Utah State this season, the first time that they have played the Aggies since 2011.

 

California bans state-funded travel to eight states; does it affect college hoops?

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A new California law could end up causing a headache for the sports teams for public universities in the state.

Because of recently-added laws that are perceived as discriminatory against the LGBT community, California has now banned travel to eight states: Texas, Alabama, Kentucky and South Dakota join a list that already includes Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee.

The law states that contracts that were signed before Jan. 1st, 2017, are exempted and can be fulfilled, but there’s not guarantee that will be the case in the future.

“Moving forward, the athletic department will not schedule future games in states that fail to meet the standards established by the new law,” a UCLA spokesman told the Sacramento Bee. That said, the university does not use state funding for travel sports teams as it currently stands, and the goal of the law to avoid “spending taxpayer dollars in states that discriminate,” according to California’s Attorney General.

On the college basketball side of things, the biggest question mark here is whether or not this law will prevent teams from playing in the NCAA tournament if they are sent to a site in one of those eight states. Next season alone, there are first weekend sites in Kansas, Texas, North Carolina and Tennessee, not to mention the Final Four taking place in San Antonio. The location for many of those events were determined prior to January 1st.

“We are generally not going to deny student-athletes the opportunity to compete in the postseason,” a UCLA spokesman told NBC Sports.

The next question then becomes whether or not regular season travel will be allowed. Earlier this year, Cal dropped out of talks with Kansas about a potential home-and-home series due to this law, and if regular season travel is not allowed, it would mean that Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Louisville and Wichita State, along with Kansas, are not allowed to be visited by California public schools that need state funding to travel. A request for a clarification on the legality of college sports teams traveling to those states has been filed with the Attorney General by Fresno State, whose football team is headed to Alabama for a game this year.

Travel for recruiting is also a question that needs to be answered, but at the highest level of the sport, that is typically funded by boosters.

N.C. State adds grad transfer Sam Hunt

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N.C. State added its fourth transfer this offseason. Like ex-Baylor guard Al Freeman, the latest one is eligible to play next season.

Sam Hunt, a double-digit scorer the past two seasons at North Carolina A&T, officially enrolled at North Carolina State on Monday morning.

“Sam is a great young man and will bring much needed depth to our backcourt,” N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts said in a statement. “I want guys who are excited about being a part of our program and Sam really wants to be here.

“Sam is a combo guard that can space the floor with his ability to shoot the basketball. He is a good fit for the system and will bring a wealth of experience to our roster.”

Hunt, the 6-foot-2 guard, averaged 12.7 points per game last season, a dip from the 15.4 points per game he posted for the Aggies as a redshirt sophomore.

Hunt joins a roster that lost its three leading scorers from a season ago, one that ended 15-17 (4-14 ACC). Dennis Smith Jr. is a member of the Dallas Mavericks. Maverick Rowan also pursued a professional career and Terry Henderson was denied an additional year from the NCAA.

The Wolf Pack bring back forwards Abdul-Malik Abu and Omer Yurtseven as well as Torin Dorn.

Keatts, who took over the program after leading UNC Wilmington to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, has already built for the future. UNC Wilmington transfer C.J. Bryce, 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game for the Seahawks, has followed him to Raleigh. Utah transfer Devon Daniels committed to the Wolf Pack the same day as Bryce. Both will have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules. Bryce will have two years of eligibility while Daniels will have three.