ACC CONFERENCE RESET: North Carolina, Virginia the favorites, but what about Miami?

(AP Photo/Ryan M. Kelly)

College basketball’s non-conference season is coming to a close, and to help you shake off post-holiday haze and the hangover of losing in your fantasy football playoffs, we’ll be providing you with some midseason primers to get you caught up on all the nation’s most important conferences.

Today, we’re taking a look at the ACC.

ACC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia

By the end of the year, I think that Marcus Paige will be the recipient of this award, but given the fact that he has yet to really find his rhythm offensively and has essentially played half of the season as he’s dealt with a broken hand and an ankle injury, it’s impossible to give the North Carolina star this award. Enter Brogdon, who has been Virginia’s best player and one of the most underrated players in the country. He averages 16.5 points, 4.5 boards and 3.0 assists on a team that gets the second-fewest offensive possessions per game out of the 351 Division I teams in the country. Throw in the fact that the ‘Hoos are currently the highest-ranked team in the nation’s best conference, and it’s hard to go against him at this point.


  • Cat Barber, N.C. State
  • Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia
  • Damion Lee, Louisville
  • Grayson Allen, Duke
  • Brice Johnson, North Carolina

[2015 REVIEW: Best Dunks | Best Games]


  1. Louisville is actually good: They haven’t actually beaten anyone this season — which is something that will probably come back to bite them come Selection Sunday — but I do think that Louisville is one of the top 25 teams in college basketball. I’m not yet convinced, however, that they have enough front court strength to be able to compete for a league title, but those grad transfers, Damion Lee and Trey Lewis, are the real deal. They won’t reach their ceiling unless a couple of the young guys come of age during league play.
  2. Miami looks like they’re better: I’ve said it a thousand times by now: this Miami group reminds me so much of the team that won the 2013 ACC title. They’re loaded with veterans, they have a talented back court full of playmakers (Sheldon McClellan, Angel Rodriguez, Ja’Quan Newton), they have a front line that’s chock full of big, athletic, old guys that play hard and understand what they’re going to be asked to do, and they have a head coach that knows how to fit all of those pieces together. This is a really, really good basketball team.
  3. North Carolina is probably the league’s best: I know that they lost at Northern Iowa and I know that they lost at Texas, but I’m still riding with the Tar Heels as the best team in the ACC; I’ve yet to change my pick of North Carolina as the eventual national champion. The key for this group is going to be health — Kennedy Meeks and Marcus Paige have been banged up — but their absences may actually be a boon come March. When Paige was out, Joel Berry and Justin Jackson had to learn how to play a leading role. Without Meeks in the lineup, Brice Johnson has looked like Dwight Howard. It will be interesting to see how that carries over to ACC play.

[CONFERENCE RESETS: ACC | Big Ten | American]


  1. Amile Jefferson’s foot: Jefferson broke his foot a couple of weeks ago and underwent surgery to repair the injury, and while he’s not Duke’s best player — Grayson Allen is — or their best prospect — hello, Brandon Ingram — he’s their most valuable in the sense that they don’t have anyone else on their roster that can do what he does. He averages a double-double and can switch onto guards in Duke’s half court defense. When will he return, and will he be back to full health when he does?
  2. Virginia’s slow starts: The four times that Virginia has played top 25 caliber teams this season they’ve managed to dig themselves a first half hole and dig out of it down the stretch. Much of that has been the result of timely three-point shooting from London Perrantes against West Virginia, Villanova and Cal, but those late threes are going to dry up eventually just like they did against George Washington in November. In other words, you can’t count solely on late runs to win a conference as good as the ACC, and Virginia, when they’re playing well, is good enough to win the ACC.
  3. Who else stands out?: That’s the big story about the ACC this season. There appears to be a clear-cut top five in the league, but in putting together the power rankings below, I can see as many as six more teams being capable of earning themselves an NCAA tournament bid. Can Syracuse figure out their issues defensively? How far can Cat Barber lead N.C. State? Is Wake Forest for real? What about Pitt and Florida State? Can Notre Dame turn things around in league play? As many as three of those teams are probably going to make the NCAA tournament. Any guesses on which three?
North Carolina's Brice Johnson (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
North Carolina’s Brice Johnson (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)


BETTER THAN THEIR RECORD: I really like this Wake Forest team. They already have a win over Indiana under their belt, and that came before Codi Miller-McIntyre had returned from his injury. The combination of Devin Thomas and Konstantinos Mitoglou is better than anyone gives them credit for, and Bryant Crawford is quietly having a freshman all-ACC caliber season.

BEAT SOMEONE AND WE’LL TALK: We’re getting ready to start ACC play and Pittsburgh has yet to land a win over a team that we can count on being in the NCAA tournament. Their best win came over Davidson. Their best half of the season came against Gonzaga on opening night in a game that was cancelled due to the floor conditions. Michael Young and Jamel Artis are a solid 1-2 punch, but I’m not buying into this team until I see them beat one of the top five teams in the ACC.

COACH UNDER PRESSURE: Georgia Tech has actually been a bit better than I expected them to be early on this season, but they are still looking at a situation where they are likely to miss out on the NCAA tournament, and possibly the postseason altogether. If that happens, Brian Gregory may be forced to look for employment elsewhere.


Tourney teams

  • 1. North Carolina (10-2): Health is the key for the Tar Heels. Kennedy Meeks has missed three games and Marcus Paige, already coming off of a broken hand, is dealing with an ankle injury. When healthy, this is still my pick to win the national title.
  • 2. Virginia (10-1): As I wrote earlier, my concern with the ‘Hoos is their early-game slumps. Get those figured out, and they’ll be right there at the end of the season.
  • 3. Miami (10-1): I love Miami. Talented, veteran guards that can make plays. A big, athletic front court that plays hard and knows their roles. And a coach that knows how to make the most out of what he has.
  • 4. Louisville (11-2): I love the duo of Damion Lee and Trey Lewis, and Donovan Mitchell’s emergence on Saturday was promising, but I still have doubts about their front line. Louisville would be fifth on this list if Amile Jefferson were healthy.
  • 5. Duke (9-2): Amile Jefferson was their most valuable player because he’s the only guy that didn’t really have a backup. Until we know details regarding his injury, it’s hard to picture the Blue Devils competing for the league title.
  • 6. Syracuse (10-3): The Orange have a couple of nice non-conference wins — UConn, Texas A&M — and a pair of total head scratchers — Wisconsin at home, St. John’s. I think they iron out some of those inconsistencies come ACC play, and their shooting ability will win them some games they have no business winning.
  • 7. N.C. State (9-3): Cat Barber has been playing like one of college basketball’s best point guards. If Abdul-Malik Abu continues to do what he’s been doing the last two weeks, the Wolfpack will surprise some people once they get Terry Henderson healthy.
  • 8. Wake Forest (8-3): I’m going to roll the dice on this one. I think Wake is better than they get credit for now that Codi Miller-McIntyre is back in the lineup, and with a non-conference win over Indiana already on their résumé, the Demon Deacons have a real chance to sneak into the NCAA tournament.

NIT teams

  • 9. Notre Dame (8-3): This may be a bit of a surprising pick considering that I had Notre Dame in my preseason top 25, but Demetrius Jackson has not been quite as good as I expected and the Irish are missing Pat Connaughton more than we realize.
  • 10. Pittsburgh (10-1): We’ve been fooled by Pitt and their soft non-conference scheduling before. As I wrote earlier, I’ll believe it when I see it.
  • 11. Florida State (9-2): I still love the talent on this Florida State roster, but I’m not convinced they’re going to be able to land enough good wins to go dancing. They’re a year away.

Autobid or bust

  • 12. Georgia Tech (9-3)
  • 13. Virginia Tech (8-4)
  • 14. Clemson (7-5)
  • 15. Boston College (6-6)

Purdue’s Edey returning to school at NBA draft deadline; Kentucky’s Tshiebwe stays in

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Purdue’s Zach Edey decided it was the right call to go back to school instead of staying in the NBA draft. His predecessor as national player of the year, Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, is sticking with his pro pursuit.

And Connecticut’s reign as NCAA champion will begin with multiple starters having left for the NBA draft and one returning after flirting with doing the same.

The 7-foot-4 Edey and UConn guard Tristen Newton were among the notable names to announce that they were withdrawing from the draft, the NCAA’s deadline for players who declared as early entrants to pull out and retain their college eligibility.

Edey’s decision came in social media posts from both the center and the Boilermakers program that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament behind Edey, The Associated Press men’s national player of the year.

But Tshiebwe announced late in the afternoon that he would remain in the draft after a college career that included being named the AP national player of the year in 2022.

For the current champions, Newton (10.1 points, 4.7 assists, 4.5 rebounds) is returning after being one of four Huskies to declare for the draft after a run to UConn’s fifth national championship in early April. He scored a game-high 19 points to go with 10 rebounds in the victory over San Diego State in the title game.

The others were Final Four Most Outstanding Player Adama Sanogo, wing Jordan Hawkins and versatile guard Andre Jackson Jr. Sanogo (17.8 points) and Hawkins (16.3) have made it clear they have closed the door on their college careers, while team spokesman Phil Chardis said that Jackson (6.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists) would remain in the draft.

The Huskies have 247sports’ No. 3-ranked recruiting class for next year to restock the roster, led by McDonald’s All-American point guard Stephon Castle.

The NBA’s withdrawal deadline is June 12, but is moot when it comes to college players returning to school due to the NCAA’s earlier timeline to retain playing eligibility.


TREY ALEXANDER: Creighton gets back a 6-4 guard who averaged 13.6 points and shot 41% from 3-point range in his first full season as a starter.

ADEM BONA: The 6-foot-10 forward and Pac-12 freshman of the year is returning to UCLA after starting 32 games as a rookie and averaging 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks – with coach Mick Cronin praising his toughness for “competing through multiple injuries for as long as he could” in a statement Wednesday.

EDEY: He averaged 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.5 assists while shooting 60.7% from the field. His presence alone helps Purdue be a factor in the Big Ten race.

JOSIAH-JORDAN JAMES: The 6-6 guard went through the NBA G League Combine and had workouts with multiple teams before opting to return to Tennessee for a fifth season alongside teammate Santiago Vescovi.

JUDAH MINTZ: The 6-3 freshman averaged 16.3 points and 4.6 assists for Syracuse, ranking third among Division I freshmen in scoring behind only Alabama’s Brandon Miller and Lamar’s Nate Calmese.

OWLS’ RETURNEES: Florida Atlantic got good news after its surprise Final Four run with the return leading scorers Johnell Davis (13.8) and Alijah Martin (13.4). ESPN first reported their decisions, while Martin later posted a social media statement.

TERRENCE SHANNON JR.: Illinois got a big boost with Shannon announcing his night in a social media post. The 6-6 guard is returning for a fifth college season after averaging 17.2 points.

SPARTANS’ RETURNEES: Michigan State announced that guards Jaden Akins and A.J. Hoggard have withdrawn from the NBA draft. Standout guard Tyson Walker had previously withdrawn in April, setting up Tom Izzo to have five of his top scorers back.


KOBE BROWN: Missouri’s 6-8 swingman opted against returning for a fifth college season after being an AP first-team all-Southeastern Conference pick averaging 15.8 points last season.

JAYLEN CLARK: The third-year UCLA guard averaged 13.0 points and 6.0 rebounds while leading the Pac-12 with 2.6 steals en route to being named Naismith national defensive player of the year. Cronin called him a winner with strong intangibles who made UCLA “a better program because he chose to be a Bruin.”

BRICE SENSABAUGH: The Ohio State freshman averaged 16.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in 31 games before missing his final two in the Big Ten Tournament due to a knee injury. He’s a potential first-round prospect.

TSHIEBWE: The 6-9, 260-pound forward is a tough interior presence who led the country in rebounds for two straight seasons (15.1 in 2022, 13.7 in 2023) while racking up 48 double-doubles. But he faces an uncertain next stop and is projected at best as a second-round prospect.

North Carolina transfer Caleb Love commits to Arizona

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Caleb Love is now headed to Arizona.

The North Carolina transfer tweeted, less than a month after decommitting from Michigan, that he will play next season with the Wildcats.

“Caleb is a tremendously talented guard who has significant experience playing college basketball at a high level,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said in a statement. “We look forward to helping Caleb grow his game at Arizona. And as we near the completion of the roster for the upcoming season, we feel great about how everything has come together. Now it’s time for the real work to start.”

A 6-foot-4 guard, Love averaged 14.6 points and 3.3 assists in three seasons at North Carolina. He averaged 17.6 points in seven NCAA Tournament games, helping lead the Tar Heels to the 2022 national championship game.

Love entered the transfer portal after leading North Carolina with 73 3-pointers as a junior and initially committed to Michigan. He decommitted from the Wolverines earlier this month, reportedly due to an admissions issue involving academic credits.

Love narrowed his transfer targets to three schools before choosing to play at Arizona over Gonzaga and Texas.

Love will likely start on a team that will have dynamic perimeter players, including Pelle Larsson, Kylan Boswell and Alabama transfer Jaden Bradley.

Biden celebrates LSU women’s and UConn men’s basketball teams at separate White House events


WASHINGTON – All of the past drama and sore feelings associated with Louisiana State’s invitation to the White House were seemingly forgotten or set aside Friday as President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcomed the championship women’s basketball team to the mansion with smiles, hugs and lavish praise all around.

The visit had once appeared in jeopardy after Jill Biden suggested that the losing Iowa team be invited, too. But none of that was mentioned as both Bidens heralded the players for their performance and the way they have helped advance women’s sports.

“Folks, we witnessed history,” the president said. “In this team, we saw hope, we saw pride and we saw purpose. It matters.”

The ceremony was halted for about 10 minutes after forward Sa’Myah Smith appeared to collapse as she and her teammates stood behind Biden. A wheelchair was brought in and coach Kim Mulkey assured the audience that Smith was fine.

LSU said in a statement that Smith felt overheated, nauseous and thought she might faint. She was evaluated by LSU and White House medical staff and was later able to rejoin the team. “She is feeling well, in good spirits, and will undergo further evaluation once back in Baton Rouge,” the LSU statement said.

Since the passage of Title IX in 1972, Biden said, more than half of all college students are women, and there are now 10 times more female athletes in college and high school. He said most sports stories are still about men, and that that needs to change.

Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs and activities.

“Folks, we need to support women sports, not just during the championship run but during the entire year,” President Biden said.

After the Tigers beat Iowa for the NCAA title in April in a game the first lady attended, she caused an uproar by suggesting that the Hawkeyes also come to the White House.

LSU star Angel Reese called the idea “A JOKE” and said she would prefer to visit with former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, instead. The LSU team largely is Black, while Iowa’s top player, Caitlin Clark, is white, as are most of her teammates.

Nothing came of Jill Biden’s idea and the White House only invited the Tigers. Reese ultimately said she would not skip the White House visit. She and co-captain Emily Ward presented team jerseys bearing the number “46” to Biden and the first lady. Hugs were exchanged.

Jill Biden also lavished praise on the team, saying the players showed “what it means to be a champion.”

“In this room, I see the absolute best of the best,” she said, adding that watching them play was “pure magic.”

“Every basket was pure joy and I kept thinking about how far women’s sports have come,” the first lady added, noting that she grew up before Title IX was passed. “We’ve made so much progress and we still have so much more work to do.”

The president added that “the way in which women’s sports has come along is just incredible. It’s really neat to see, since I’ve got four granddaughters.”

After Smith was helped to a wheelchair, Mulkey told the audience the player was OK.

“As you can see, we leave our mark where we go,” Mulkey joked. “Sa’Myah is fine. She’s kind of, right now, embarrassed.”

A few members of Congress and Biden aides past and present with Louisiana roots dropped what they were doing to attend the East Room event, including White House budget director Shalanda Young. Young is in the thick of negotiations with House Republicans to reach a deal by the middle of next week to stave off what would be a globally calamitous U.S. financial default if the U.S. can no longer borrow the money it needs to pay its bills.

The president, who wore a necktie in the shade of LSU’s purple, said Young, who grew up in Baton Rouge, told him, “I’m leaving the talks to be here.” Rep. Garret Graves, one of the House GOP negotiators, also attended.

Biden closed sports Friday by changing to a blue tie and welcoming the UConn’s men’s championship team for its own celebration. The Huskies won their fifth national title by defeating San Diego State, 76-59, in April.

“Congratulations to the whole UConn nation,” he said.

Marquette’s Prosper says he will stay in draft rather than returning to school

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MILWAUKEE — Olivier-Maxence Prosper announced he is keeping his name under NBA draft consideration rather than returning to Marquette.

The 6-foot-8 forward announced his decision.

“Thank you Marquette nation, my coaches, my teammates and support staff for embracing me from day one,” Prosper said in an Instagram post. “My time at Marquette has been incredible. With that being said, I will remain in the 2023 NBA Draft. I’m excited for what comes next. On to the next chapter…”

Prosper had announced last month he was entering the draft. He still could have returned to school and maintained his college eligibility by withdrawing from the draft by May 31. Prosper’s announcement indicates he instead is going ahead with his plans to turn pro.

Prosper averaged 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds last season while helping Marquette go 29-7 and win the Big East’s regular-season and tournament titles. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

He played two seasons at Marquette after transferring from Clemson, where he spent one season.

Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr. returning for last season of eligibility

kansas mccullar
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Kevin McCullar Jr. said that he will return to Kansas for his final year of eligibility, likely rounding out a roster that could make the Jayhawks the preseason No. 1 next season.

McCullar transferred from Texas Tech to Kansas for last season, when he started 33 of 34 games and averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 rebounds. He was also among the nation’s leaders in steals, and along with being selected to the Big 12’s all-defensive team, the 6-foot-6 forward was a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award.

“To be able to play in front of the best fans in the country; to play for the best coach in the nation, I truly believe we have the pieces to hang another banner in the Phog,” McCullar said in announcing his return.

Along with McCullar, the Jayhawks return starters Dajuan Harris Jr. and K.J. Adams from a team that went 28–8, won the Big 12 regular-season title and was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where it lost to Arkansas in the second round.

Perhaps more importantly, the Jayhawks landed Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson, widely considered the best player in the portal, to anchor a lineup that was missing a true big man. They also grabbed former five-star prospect Arterio Morris, who left Texas, and Towson’s Nick Timberlake, who emerged last season as one of the best 3-point shooters in the country.

The Jayhawks also have an elite recruiting class arriving that is headlined by five-star recruit Elmarko Jackson.

McCullar declared for the draft but, after getting feedback from scouts, decided to return. He was a redshirt senior last season, but he has another year of eligibility because part of his career was played during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a big day for Kansas basketball,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “Kevin is not only a terrific player but a terrific teammate. He fit in so well in year one and we’re excited about what he’ll do with our program from a leadership standpoint.”