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.

Kentucky moves scrimmage to Eastern Kentucky for flood relief

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky will play its annual Blue-White men’s basketball scrimmage in Eastern Kentucky to benefit victims of the devastating summer floods.

The school announced that the Oct. 22 event at Appalachian Wireless Arena in Pikeville will feature a pregame Fan Fest. Ticket proceeds will go through Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief.

Wildcat players will also participate in a community service activity with local organizations in the relief effort.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said the team was excited to play for Eastern Kentucky fans and added, “We hope we can provide a temporary escape with basketball and community engagement.”

The scrimmage traditionally is held at Rupp Arena. It will occur eight days after its Big Blue Madness public workout at Rupp.

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy says freshman Tionna Herron is recovering from open-heart surgery to correct a structural abnormality.

The 6-foot-4 post player learned of her condition after arriving at school in June and received other opinions before surgery was recommended. Senior trainer Courtney Jones said in a release that Herron underwent surgery Aug. 24 at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and is recovering at home in DeSoto, Texas.

Elzy said Herron “is the definition of a warrior” and all are grateful to be on the other side of the player’s surgery. Herron is expected back on campus early next month and will continue rehabilitation until she’s cleared to return to normal activity.

“Her will and determination to eventually return to the court is inspiring, and it’s that `game-on’ attitude that is what makes her such a perfect fit in our program,” Elzy said in a release. “We are so thrilled for Tionna’s return to our locker room; it’s not the same without our full team together.”

Herron committed to Kentucky during last fall’s early signing period, rated as a four-star prospect and a top-70 player in last year’s class. Kentucky won last year’s Southeastern Conference Tournament and reached the NCAA Tournament’s first round.

Emoni Bates charged with 2 felonies

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SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, Mich — Emoni Bates, a former basketball prodigy who transferred to Eastern Michigan from Memphis, was charged with two felonies after police found a gun in a car during a traffic stop.

The 18-year-old Bates failed to stop at an intersection Sunday night and a search turned up the weapon, said Derrick Jackson, a spokesman for the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office.

Defense attorney Steve Haney told The Associated Press that the vehicle and the gun didn’t belong to Bates.

“I hope people can reserve judgment and understand there’s a presumption of innocence,” Haney said. “This was not his vehicle. This was not his gun. … We’re still gathering facts, too.”

Bates was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and altering identification marks on a firearm. He was released after his lawyer entered a not guilty plea. Bates’ next court hearing is Oct. 6.

“This is his first brush with the law,” Haney said in court. “He poses no threat or risk to society.”

Less than a month ago, the 6-foot-9 Bates transferred to Eastern Michigan to play for his hometown Eagles. Bates averaged nearly 10 points a game last season as a freshman at Memphis, where he enrolled after reclassifying to skip a year of high school and join the class of 2021.

“We are aware of a situation involving one of our student athletes,” EMU spokesman Greg Steiner said. “We are working to gather more details and will have further comment when more information is available.”

Bates was the first sophomore to win the Gatorade national player of the year award in high school basketball in 2020, beating out Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley. Detroit drafted Cunningham No. 1 overall last year, two spots before Cleveland took Mobley in the 2021 NBA draft.

Bates committed to playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State two years ago, later de-committed and signed with Memphis. Bates played in 18 games for the Tigers, who finished 22-11 under Penny Hardaway. Bates missed much of the season with a back injury before appearing in Memphis’ two NCAA Tournament games.

In 2019, as a high school freshman, the slender and skilled guard led Ypsilanti Lincoln to a state title and was named Michigan’s Division 1 Player of the Year by The Associated Press. His sophomore season was cut short by the pandemic and he attended Ypsi Prep Academy as a junior, his final year of high school.

UConn to pay Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million over firing

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn announced Thursday it has agreed to pay former men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million to settle discrimination claims surrounding his 2018 firing.

The money is in addition to the more than $11.1 million in back salary Ollie has already been paid after an arbitrator ruled in January that he was improperly fired under the school’s agreement with its professor’s union.

“I am grateful that we were able to reach agreement,” Ollie said in a statement Thursday. “My time at UConn as a student-athlete and coach is something I will always cherish. I am pleased that this matter is now fully and finally resolved.”

Ollie, a former UConn point guard who guided the Huskies to a 127-79 record and the 2014 national championship in six seasons as head coach, was let go after two losing seasons. UConn also stopped paying him under his contract, citing numerous NCAA violations in terminating the deal.

In 2019, the NCAA placed UConn on probation for two years and Ollie was sanctioned individually for violations, which the NCAA found occurred between 2013 and 2018. Ollie’s attorneys, Jacques Parenteau and William Madsen, accused UConn of making false claims to the NCAA for the purpose of firing Ollie “with cause.”

The school had argued that Ollie’s transgressions were serious and that his individual contract superseded those union protections.

Ollie’s lawyers had argued that white coaches, including Hall-of-Famers Jim Calhoun and women’s coach Geno Auriemma, had also committed NCAA violations, without being fired, and indicated they were planning to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The school and Ollie said in a joint statement Thursday they were settling “to avoid further costly and protracted litigation.”

Both sides declined to comment further.

Ollie, who faced three years of restrictions from the NCAA on becoming a college basketball coach again, is currently coaching for Overtime Elite, a league that prepares top prospects who are not attending college for the pros.

Dream’s McDonald returning to Arizona to coach under Barnes

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TUCSON, Ariz. — Atlanta Dream guard Aari McDonald is returning to Arizona to work under coach Adia Barnes.

The school announced that McDonald will serve as director of recruiting operations while continuing to fulfill her WNBA commitments. She will oversee all recruiting logistics, assist with on-campus visits, manage recruit information and social media content at Arizona.

McDonald was one of the best players in Arizona history after transferring from Washington as a sophomore. She was an All-American and the Pac-12 player of the year in 2020-21, leading the Wildcats to the national championship game, which they lost to Stanford.

McDonald broke Barnes’ single-season scoring record and had the highest career scoring average in school history before being selected by the Dream with the third overall pick of the 2021 WNBA draft.