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Best Bets: Eight flawed teams that are dangerous enough to win title

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Yesterday, we took a look at the six teams that can legitimately be called national title contenders as well as the three teams that are a small tweak or two away from joining them.

Those nine teams should be the consensus best in college hoops.

Today, we’re going to take a look at the rest of the teams around the country. Here are eight teams that are seriously flawed but dangerous enough to win six games come March. 

FLAWED BUT DANGEROUS

NEVADA (+3000)

THEY CAN WIN IT ALL BECAUSE: There is not team in the country that has as many tough shot makers on their roster as Nevada does. Jordan Caroline, Caleb Martin, Cody Martin. All three of those guys are capable of taking a game over and carrying Nevada to a win, and what makes that so relevant is that that trio — particularly Caroline and Caleb Martin — can do it regardless of the defense that is being played on them. Case in point: The Wolf Pack reached the Sweet 16 last season as an iso-heavy, jump-shooting team with wins over Texas and Cincinnati, two of the top ten defenses in college basketball.

When they get it going, they have the horses to beat anyone in college hoops.

BUT THEY’RE IN TROUBLE BECAUSE: Realistically, how often will the Martin Twins and Jordan Caroline go into their unguardable mode? Will it be often enough for a team that likely won’t end up as a top two seed to win four games in March, let alone the six games they need to win to win a national title? That’s a tough ask.

The other part of this is that Nevada just is not as talented as people think they are. Where is the NBA player on this roster? Both of the Martin twins and Caroline are fifth-year seniors that would have left school last year if there was a demand for them at the next level. They’re back in school. Nevada is loaded with veterans and grad transfers from smaller programs, but there’s a reason those guys were at smaller programs to begin with. Jordan Brown is a McDonald’s All-American, but if he going to be a one-and-done player if he can’t beat out Trey Porter for a starting spot?

WHAT NEEDS CHANGING?: The tournament needs to start. I’ve said this before, but I wonder just how much Nevada actually cares about the regular season. They’ve won the Mountain West already, and the three best players on the roster probably wish they were playing in the NBA right now. What they haven’t done is get past the Sweet 16, so I wonder if we’ll see a different Nevada team show up once the postseason kicks off.

(Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

MARQUETTE (+8000)

THEY CAN WIN IT ALL BECAUSE: Markus Howard is not the only guy on this team that can takeover a game.

Howard is, as we’ve discussed many times in this space, the single-most dangerous scorer in college basketball. He’s popped off for 45 points twice this season, and that doesn’t include when he broke his own Big East record by scoring 53 points in a win at Creighton this month. The issue with Marquette is what happens on the nights that he doesn’t play well or runs into one of the nation’s elite defenders, and we now know: Sam Hauser can win them a game. He went for 31 points at Georgetown on the night where Howard injured his back, and he went for 25 points in the next game when Howard looked like he was still slowed with the injury.

If the Golden Eagles have an answer when Howard is not living his best life, they become much more dangerous.

BUT THEY’RE IN TROUBLE BECAUSE: Part of the reason that I was so high on Marquette coming into the season was that I thought the addition of Joseph Chartouny was the piece Marquette was missing. His addition would give them another perimeter defender and a playmaker that would allow Howard to move off the ball. As it turns out, Chartouny is not as good as we expected defensively and has been a turnover machine.

WHAT NEEDS CHANGING?: The big thing with this group is the turnovers. They rank 225th nationally in turnover rate, which is part of the reason that they’ve dropped from being a top 12 offense to the No. 39 offense, according to KenPom. I’m not too worried about that side of the ball, however, because I think we all know what their ceiling is offensively, and with their defense much improved this year, they don’t need to be quite as hyper-efficient to win games.

(Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

AUBURN (+6000)

THEY CAN WIN IT ALL BECAUSE: They are just so dangerous when they get it rolling offensively. It came in a loss, I know, but we all saw what they did in the second half against Kentucky, turning a 16 point deficit into a lead in the span of about 15 minutes. Bryce Brown is arguably the best shooter in America when he gets it going, and Jared Harper has been dominant at times as well.

BUT THEY’RE IN TROUBLE BECAUSE: No team in the country gambles more defensively than Auburn does. They lead the nation in defensive turnover rate, they lead the nation in block rate and they’re fourth nationally in steal rate. The problem with that is that it has led to them giving up too many open threes, too many layups at the rim and too many free throws. Their defensive possessions either end up in a turnover or points for the other team, which is not the best way to beat the elite of the elite — the reason that pressing teams have a limited upside is that they rely on forcing their opponents to make mistakes, and the thing about really good teams (who typically have really good guards) is that they don’t make too many mistakes.

WHAT NEEDS CHANGING?: Chuma Okeke and Anfernee McLemore need to get back to being the players they were early in the season. What makes those two so valuable is that they are both versatile defenders with some size, strength and athleticism that can protect the rim, rebound the ball and stretch the floor offensively. McLemore hasn’t quite looked like himself coming off of last year’s horrific ankle injury, and Okeke’s work on the defensive glass is nowhere near what it was a season ago.

(AP Photo/Mic Smith)

VIRGINIA TECH (+6000)

THEY CAN WIN IT ALL BECAUSE: The Hokies have what may amount to the best backcourt in the ACC and are the nation’s third-best three-point shooting team. It’s really as simple as that. The combination of Justin Robinson and Nickeil Alexander-Walker gives Buzz Williams a pair of elite playmakers that thrive in ball-screen whom he can surround with 40 percent three-point shooters. You can’t ask for much more than that, and on the nights when they get it rolling, they are going to be able to score with anyone.

BUT THEY’RE IN TROUBLE BECAUSE: They haven’t exactly done anything of note this season. Yes, that win over Purdue is going to hold up well because Purdue’s computer numbers will get inflated playing in the Big Ten, but that’s their only win that matters right now. They also lost to Penn State (who is 7-12 on the season, 0-8 in the Big Ten and has not beaten another team in the top 100 on KenPom) and in the last nine days got embarrassed by both Virginia and North Carolina.

Granted, all three of their losses came on the road, but at this point all the positivity I have regarding Virginia Tech stems is a theory. They’ve done nothing on the court to prove themselves a top ten team to date.

WHAT NEEDS CHANGING?: The Hokies have to be better defensively. Getting to the defensive glass more will help, but the big thing is running people off of the three-point line. Virginia shot 13-for-24 from three against them. North Carolina shot 16-for-34. As a team, they rank 198th nationally in defensive three-point percentage. Monmouth — who is 286th on KenPom — is the only team in college basketball that gives up a higher percentage of points allowed from beyond the arc.

(Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

VILLANOVA (+3000)

THEY CAN WIN IT ALL BECAUSE: Are you going to be the guy betting against the team that has won two of the last three national titles?

We knew at some point that the Wildcats would figure it out, and it looks like they have. They’ve won seven straight games since losing at Kansas and are the only undefeated team left in the Big East. Some of that is due to their inexperienced role players getting more comfortable with what Jay Wright is asking of them — specifically, Collin Gillespie has really been shooting the ball well — but the big difference is that both Eric Paschall and Phil Booth have played like all-americans for the last month. During this winning streak, Booth is averaging 20.9 points, 5.4 assists and 5.1 boards while shooting 49 percent from three while Paschall has posted 20.6 points, 7.7 boards and 2.3 assists while shooting 42.6 percent from three.

When those two playing like that, Villanova can hang with anyone.

BUT THEY’RE IN TROUBLE BECAUSE: This entire seven-game run has come against six Big East teams not named Marquette as well as UConn. That’s not exactly a murderer’s row. We know about the issues facing the Big East conference this season. Before league play started, we said that there probably wasn’t a top 25 team in the conference, and now that Villanova is running roughshod over a bunch of teams that we know aren’t top 25 teams, we’re supposed to believe this team is suddenly as good as the Villanova teams of the last three years?

WHAT NEEDS CHANGING?: The biggest thing with this group is that they can’t simply be a two-man team. Jermaine Samuels, Cole Swider (when he gets healthy), Dhamir Cosby-Rountree. They have to be impact players. Beyond that, Villanova just needs to be better defensively. They currently rank 88th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric. That’s not good enough.

(David Purdy/Getty Images)

IOWA STATE (+4000)

THEY CAN WIN IT ALL BECAUSE: Iowa State has a roster that is built precisely the way that modern basketball is supposed to be played. They have five perimeter players (Marial Shayok, Nick Weiler-Babb, Tyrese Haliburton, Talen Horton-Tucker, Lindell Wigginton) that can on or off the ball — running ball-screens and spacing the floor with their shooting — who are all switchable defensively. They have a pair of big bodies (Michael Jacobson, Cam Lard) in the frontcourt that can score 1-on-1 in the paint, rebound the ball and protect the rim. They have NBA talent on their roster, and are probably the most talented team in the Big 12.

They create matchup problems offensively and have just enough size and versatility defensively that they can matchup well enough with just about anyone.

BUT THEY’RE IN TROUBLE BECAUSE: Injuries keep sapping their depth. I’m not sure there is a team in college basketball that has dealt with more key pieces missing significant stretches of games than the Cyclones have, and where this really shows up …

WHAT NEEDS CHANGING?: … is with Wigginton and Lard. At one point during Big 12 play last year, Lard was playing like the best big man in the conference. Wigginton was thought to be the best returning perimeter player in the conference. Lard has dealt with off-the-court issues (he was suspended to start the year) and an ankle injury and has yet to play more than 16 minutes in a game this season. He had five fouls in six minutes against Kansas on Monday. Wigginton has been equally ineffective. He’s shooting 31.9 percent from three and 37.5 percent from the floor and looks like a man devoid of confidence. Iowa State needs those two to play like they’re capable of if they have any hope of reaching their ceiling.

(Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

TEXAS TECH (+3000)

THEY CAN WIN IT ALL BECAUSE: They are, quite simply, the best defensive team in college basketball. As of today, they rank No. 1 in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric as well as No. 1 in raw points-per-possession allowed. That defense isn’t going anywhere.

BUT THEY’RE IN TROUBLE BECAUSE: The Red Raiders are really struggling to get anything going on the offensive end of the floor. Jarrett Culver has been sensational this season, but he’s more or less the only player that Chris Beard can rely on to create shots for his team. Personally, I think Culver is good enough to do that. People that I’ve talked to around the Big 12 think so. I’m sure Beard thinks so. The problem is that the only person that doesn’t realize just how good Jarrett Culver is is Jarrett Culver.

WHAT NEEDS CHANGING?: With the way that Texas Tech can defend, they don’t have to be great offensively to be able to make a run in March. Remember, in 2017, a South Carolina team that was not as good as this Texas Tech team reached the Final Four and lost to Gonzaga by four for the right to get to the national title game. This is doable, but the only way that can happen is if Culver decides to start playing like a guy that can take over games and has NBA teams considering him as a top ten pick. He makes teammates better, he’s a tough finisher around the rim, he can create out of ball-screens and he’s more-than-capable as a shooter. When he starts playing like that, Tech will snap out of this three-game losing streak.

(Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

SYRACUSE (+6000)

THEY CAN WIN IT ALL BECAUSE: It literally does not matter what Syracuse does during the regular season. Jim Boeheim has proven this over and over again, sneaking into the NCAA tournament when we did not think he deserved to be there and then putting together a run that no one saw coming.

There’s a reason for this, too. That zone that the Orange play is so difficult to figure out if you’ve never seen it. There is so much length and so much size that it’s almost impossible to pass through the zone. They don’t let you get the ball to the short-corner. If you get the ball to the high-post, all those arms makes it like trying to play basketball in the middle of a bush. They dare you to shoot over the top of the zone, but you never get  shot in rhythm and their length allows them to contest even when it looks like they’re playing off you.

There isn’t a team in the country that they can’t frustrate, and that’s what makes them such a nightmare to see in March.

BUT THEY’RE IN TROUBLE BECAUSE: They still can’t shoot. Elijah Hughes is shooting 35.7 percent from three this year, and he’s far and away the best shooter on the team. Boeheim’s three best weapons offensively — Tyus Battle, Oshae Brissett, Frank Howard — all shoot under 30 percent from three. That’s not their only issue offensively, either. Howard is this team’s point guard, but he can be turnover prone. Ask Tre Jones.

WHAT NEEDS CHANGING?: Nothing’s going to change. This is who Syracuse is.

UConn officially back in Big East

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UConn is coming home.

On Wednesday, the UConn Board of Trustees voted unanimously to accept an offer from the Big East Conference to join the league in all sports offered. A press conference is scheduled for Thursday in New York City where the school and the conference will make their reunification complete.

The move will allow for the Husky men’s and women’s basketball programs to return to a conference that prioritizes the sport and reignites rivalries that were lost five years ago, when UConn opted not to join the new Big East after the seven catholic schools departed.

UConn is expected to join the Big East for the 2020-21 season.

The Big East does not have football or hockey, which means that UConn’s football program will be left without a home. The American is not expected to allow UConn to keep their football team as a member of the league.

Yale, ex-basketball player settle lawsuit over expulsion

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HARTFORD, Conn. — Yale University and a former basketball captain have settled a lawsuit stemming from his expulsion over sexual misconduct allegations that he denied.

A federal judge in Hartford on Tuesday dismissed Jack Montague’s lawsuit. Details of the agreement were not disclosed. Yale spokesman Thomas Conroy declined to comment.

Lawyers in the case issued a statement saying only that “the parties have resolved the case to their mutual satisfaction.”

Montague sought monetary damages over his February 2016 expulsion. He also sought readmission to Yale, but went on to attend Belmont University in Tennessee.

Montague was expelled after the woman testified before Yale’s Unified Committee on Sexual Misconduct that much of a 2014 sexual encounter with the player was not consensual. No criminal charges were ever brought.

Montague’s lawsuit alleges that the accusations against him were brought by a Title IX officer who coerced the woman to cooperate with the complaint by informing her that Montague had received sensitivity training in another case. His lawyers contend that is a violation of the school’s own confidentiality rules.

That earlier case had involved an argument in which Montague allegedly shoved a folded paper plate down a woman’s top.

Montague also asserted that the woman told Yale that he likely didn’t hear her when she asked him to end the encounter.

Yale’s attorneys have said the woman, identified only as Jane Roe, made it clear that she did not want to have intercourse and that the school and its officials acted appropriately.

Montague also argued that his accuser was allowed to give a lengthy, emotional statement to the committee, while he was denied a similar opportunity.

Because of the expulsion, Montague, a guard, missed the end of his senior season at Yale, which included an Ivy League championship and first ever NCAA Tournament victory for the Bulldogs, a first-round upset of Baylor.

Texas Tech suspends Deshawn Corprew

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Texas Tech suspended Deshawn Corprew from the basketball team after allegations of assault, the athletic department announced on Monday.

A redshirt sophomore who appeared in 37 games last season, the 6-foot-5 Corprew has Title IX allegations against him, which means the school will investigate.

“Once Coach Beard was made aware of Title IX allegations against Deshawn Corprew, the men’s basketball student-athlete was immediately suspended from all team activities, pending a full investigation. Further comment will be withheld until the appropriate time,” A Texas Tech athletics official said in a statement.

Corprew averaged 5.5 points and 3.0 rebounds for the Red Raiders last season as he was a rotation player for the title-game losing team. Expected to receive more minutes with the loss of some key players, including top-ten pick Jarrett Culver, Corprew’s basketball future is unknown at the moment since nothing about these allegations has come out and the investigation is just beginning.

It’s difficult to judge the severity of the allegations and how it will keep Corprew away from the team but Texas Tech will have to figure out some other plans for his spot while he’s away from the team.

Oklahoma State hires brother of top 2020 prospect as assistant coach

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Oklahoma State made a splash on Tuesday afternoon as the Cowboys hired Cannen Cunningham as an assistant coach.

While Cunningham is an up-and-coming young coach who spent last season at Tulane as part of Mike Dunleavy’s staff, his hiring to Oklahoma State is significant because he’s the older brother of five-star Class of 2020 prospect Cade Cunningham.

Cade has spent the spring dominating the Nike EYBL and rising in the national rankings as he’s firmly in the discussion as the No. 1 player in his class after putting up ridiculously efficient numbers across the board. In speaking with NBC Sports at the Pangos All-American Camp earlier this month, Cade noted how much his brother aided in his overall development and improvement. Clearly, the brothers are close when it comes to basketball.

Oklahoma State was already viewed as a heavy participant in Cunningham’s national recruitment. Now that head coach Mike Boynton has made the move to hire Cunningham to a full-time assistant spot, Cannen just gives the Cowboys an additional recruiting advantage when it comes to landing Cade.

Cade Cunningham cut his list to 10 schools earlier this summer as Duke, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Memphis, North Carolina, Oklahoma State, Texas, Virginia and Washington are still involved. It’ll be interesting to see where Cade decides to take official visits and how many of these schools remain in the picture in light of Cannen’s hiring.

ACC Offseason Reset: Bluebloods reload; Louisville’s back; can Virginia repeat?

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The grad transfer market is still in full swing, but for the most part, we know what the meaningful parts for the majority of the teams around the country will be.

That means that it is time to start talking about what is coming instead of what was.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at key personnel changes, the impact of the coaching carousel and the most important storylines heading into the 2019-20 season for each of college basketball’s top seven conferences.

Today, we are talking ACC.

KEY OFFSEASON STORYLINES

VIRGINIA’S TALENT EXODUS: The most interesting team in the ACC heading into the 2019-20 season is the reigning national champions.

That’s because the team that we are going to see come November will look almost nothing like the team we saw walk off the court in Minneapolis in April. De’Andre Hunter shocked no one when he left school for the NBA. There shouldn’t be any surprise that Ty Jerome left school, either. Kyle Guy was the player we all expected would be back in Charlottesville this season, but when you consider that A) he was coming off of the greatest redemption story in the history of the sport, B) two of his very best friends and fellow stars on that title winning team were leaving school, and C) the NBA has never valued the one thing that Guy does at an NBA level more, it isn’t all that shocking that he ended up getting picked late in the second round.

But we’re done with last year at this point. Next year is where things get interesting, because this will be the most difficult job that Tony Bennett has had during this run where UVA has been one of the ACC’s elite. Not only did he lose his top three players, but two of the three left a year earlier than we expected heading into last season. That puts the ‘Hoos in a really tough spot. The only guard on the roster with any kind of playing experience is 5-foot-8 sophomore Kihei Clark, which is not exactly ideal for a program that changed the way that they play last season.

The key is going to end up being the development of Mamadi Diakite and Jay Huff. Both of those guys are extremely long and athletic with three-point range. For my money, Diakite is the guy that needs to take the biggest leap. I think he could end up being one of the best defenders in all of college basketball next season, and if the ‘Hoos are going to live up to their preseason hype, they will need him to make as big of an individual jump as anyone in Bennett’s program has made in his decade at Virginia.

Louisville forward Jordan Nwora (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

CAN LOUISVILLE LIVE UP TO THE HYPE?: Speaking of living up to the hype, it only took Chris Mack a year to get the Cardinals to a place where they are heading into a season as a legitimate national title favorite. Part of it is the newcomers he has coming in — five-star Samuell Williamson headlines a loaded six-man recruiting class while grad transfer Fresh Kimble fills the hole they had at the point — but the biggest reason to be bullish on the ‘Ville this year is who they have returning.

Dwayne Sutton is back. Steve Enoch is back. Malik Williams is back. Those guys are all going to be important, but not quite as important as Jordan Nwora, our way-too-early ACC Player of the Year and a potential All-American. Nwora was one of the most improved players in the country this past season, and I fully expect him to develop into one of the league’s premier scoring threats playing the same role that Trevon Bluiett played for Mack at Xavier.

TOBACCO ROAD RELOAD: Duke lost Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish, among others. North Carolina lost Coby White, Luke Maye, Cam Johnson, Nassir Little and Kenny Williams. There are six top 25 picks in that group, and that doesn’t include Luke Maye, who was an All-American in college.

And, as I’m sure you probably know, both programs reloaded this year. Duke did it via the freshmen, bringing in another loaded class that will be joining Tre Jones in Durham next season. North Carolina did the same — Cole Anthony is going to score a ton of points doing what Coby White did this season — but they also added some experience, bringing in a pair of grad transfers to fill out their roster.

As we have seen in the past, winning is not always easy when your roster is built around freshmen. It will be interesting to see how these groups all come together.

CAN ANYONE OUTSIDE THE BIG FOUR COMPETE?: The top four in the ACC all have very real national title hopes.

I’m not sure there is another team in the league that should be ranked in the top 25. If there is, my guess is that it will be N.C. State. The Wolfpack had some ups-and-downs last year, but they more or less return all of their important pieces from last year, including star guard Markell Johnson. Florida State will be interesting as well, and if there is a sleeper in the league, it is Notre Dame, but more on them in a second.

ARE THERE SANCTIONS COMING FOR ANYONE IN THE LEAGUE?: The FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball has come to a close, but the NCAA’s is just starting to ramp up. A number of programs are expected to get hit with a Notice of Allegations stemming from what came to light in the last two years, and a number of programs in the league — Louisville, N.C. State, Duke, North Carolina, etc. — were either directly or tangentially linked to things that were reported by media outlets or came up during the trial itself.

How many of the teams in the ACC have something to worry about?

Tre Jones (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

WHO’S GONE

  • ZION and RJ, Duke: The most entertaining duo in college basketball shocked absolutely not one when they left school for the NBA. Thanks for the pageviews, fellas.
  • VIRGINIA’S BIG THREE: The Cavaliers turned the most embarrassing loss in NCAA tournament history into one of the greatest redemption stories in all of sports. If Virginia is going to remain among the ACC’s elite, Mamadi Diakite is going to have to be a star.
  • UNC’S BIG FOUR: The Tar Heels are going to look very different next season, as their five-best players are all playing for checks these days.
  • BUZZ WILLIAMS and KERRY BLACKSHEAR, Virginia Tech: It took Buzz five years to get Virginia Tech to the point that they were good enough to come with one possession of getting to the Elite Eight, and that’s all it took for him to get back to Texas. Williams is now at Texas A&M, and while both Justin Robinson and Nickeil Alexander-Walker left, as expected, the one relative surprise was that Kerry Blackshear followed them as well. Blackshear is the most sought-after grad transfer in college basketball and will likely head into next season as a preseason All-American. We just don’t know who he will be playing for yet.
  • MFIONDU KABENGELE, Florida State: He spent the season coming off of the bench for the Seminoles, but his loss will hurt as much as any in the league. Kabengele was quietly the force that allowed Florida State to be able to matchup with anyone and everyone in college basketball last season.

WHO’S BACK

  • TRE JONES, Duke: Jones was the one freshmen from last year’s recruiting class to return to Duke. A defensive pest that spent much of the year banged up, Jones will have a full offseason to develop his offensive repertoire. He’s only going to be a sophomore, but he’s exactly the kind of “veteran” leader a young Duke team will need.
  • JORDAN NWORA, Louisville: We wrote about Nwora earlier, but his decision to return to Louisville was as impactful as any early entry decision. He’ll be an All-American caliber player and the star that the Cardinals, as a preseason top ten team, can lean on.
  • MAMADI DIAKITE, Virginia: Is this the year Diakite makes the leap to being elite? I’m betting that it is, and I fully expect him to make the biggest year over year improvement that we’ve seen out of anyone in Bennett’s Virginia tenure.
  • N.C. STATE: The biggest name to know is Markell Johnson, but with seven of their top nine returning and a couple talented transfers enrolling, the Wolfpack are probably the best of the rest.
  • CHRIS LYKES, Miami: There may not be a more entertaining player in college basketball than the 5-foot-7 Lykes, who averaged 16.2 points last season.
  • JOHN MOONEY, Notre Dame: The Irish bring back one of the best 1-2 punches in college basketball in Temple Gibbs and John Mooney, something that will be bolstered by a talented five-man sophomore class that should be ready to contribute more this season than they did last season.

WHO’S COMING

  • DUKE’S FRESHMEN: Vernon Carey Jr. is probably the biggest name to know, but Matthew hurt may be the most important. He’s precisely the kind of big, floor-spacing four that the Blue Devils were missing last season. Wendell Moore Jr. could end up being a one-and-done as well, and Cassius Stanley is going to posterize at least three unsuspecting defenders this year. Book it.
  • COLE ANTHONY, North Carolina: Anthony has a shot to end up being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, and playing for UNC is probably the best way for him to showcase his ability to create offense. He plays the same way that Coby White did, only he’s super-charged athletically. I think it’s a good bet that Anthony ends up leading the ACC in scoring.
  • JOE GIRARD III, Syracuse: Girard is one of the most prolific scorers in New York State high school history. What kind of offense will he be able to produce for the Orange?

WAY-TOO-EARLY ALL-ACC TEAM

JORDAN NWORA, Louisville (ACC PLAYER OF THE YEAR)
COLE ANTHONY, North Carolina
MAMADI DIAKITE, Virginia
JOHN MOONEY, Notre Dame
VERNON CAREY, Duke

Cole Anthony, Jon Lopez/Nike

WAY-TOO-EARLY POWER RANKINGS

1. DUKE: Last year, Duke was the most talented team in college basketball, but the talent did not fit together as well as it could have. They had too many guys that all do the same things — drive to the rim, finish at the bucket — and not enough guys to do the thing that would create space — i.e. shoot the ball. Shooting could still end up being an issue this season with Jones at the point, but the way Duke’s pieces fit together this year works better.

2. LOUISVILLE: I’m all-in on the Cardinals this season with Jordan Nwora coming back. He’s the perfect big wing for Chris Mack’s offense, and they have a talented recruiting class that will fill the holes in their roster. It only took a year for Mack to get Louisville to the point of contending.

3. VIRGINIA: I’m higher on Virginia than the consensus opinion, and that’s because I think that Bennett is going to find a way to develop the guys in his program the way he needs to. I’ve mentioned Diakite and Huff already in this column, but I also think that Braxton Key will make a big jump this year.

4. NORTH CAROLINA: Cole Anthony is going to get all the attention for the freshmen, and I do think that the Tar Heels have a pair of grad transfers in Justin Pierce and Christian Keeling that will play important roles, but we should not overlook the addition of Armando Bacot. He is the perfect big man to play in Roy Williams’ system, and even with a trio of juniors in front of him, I think that he’ll be an impact player as a freshmen.

5. N.C. STATE: The Wolfpack are going to have to replace the production of Torin Dorn, but there are some pieces on this roster — namely C.J. Bryce, Devon Daniels and Jericole Hellems — that I think can take a step forward this year.

6. FLORIDA STATE: The Seminoles are going to have a number of pieces that they need to replace — namely Terance Mann and Mfiondu Kabengele — but this was a team that went 12-deep at times last year, with a huge recruiting class coming in and a couple of pieces — Trent Forrest and M.J. Walker, specifically — that have yet to really hit their ceiling.

7. NOTRE DAME: John Mooney and Temple Gibbs are the big names, but the players that will be really interesting to monitor this season will be Prentiss Hubb, Dane Goodwin and Nate Laszewski. What kind of leap to they take as sophomores?

8. CLEMSON: The Tigers lose a ton this offseason, with four of their five starters graduating. Aamir Simms didn’t quite take the leap that we expected him to take, but with a pair of grad transfers coming in — Curran Scott from Tulsa and Tevin Mack from Alabama — there should be some backcourt reinforcements.

9. MIAMI: Chris Lykes will be back and ready to do the things he did that made him one of the most entertaining players in college basketball last season, but one of the keys for the Hurricanes will be Oklahoma transfer Kameron McGusty. Can he come in and be a secondary scorer for Jim Larrañaga?

10. SYRACUSE: The Orange lose Tyus Battle, Oshae Brissett, Frank Howard and Paschal Chukwu. That’s a lot of talent to replace. With the likes of Jalen Carey, Buddy Boeheim, Joe Girard and Elijah Hughes on the roster this season, I expect the Orange to be better offensively than they have in the recent past.

11. VIRGINIA TECH: Replacing Buzz Williams is not going to be easy for Mike Young to do, especially when it comes at a time where he is going to have to replace Justin Robinson, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kerry Blackshear, too.

12. GEORGIA TECH: I loved Jose Alvarado in high school, and with James Banks coming back, the Yellow Jackets return a sneaky-good 1-2 punch and four of their top five scorers. That said, the cellar in the ACC in a long way from the middle of the pack.

13. BOSTON COLLEGE: The Eagles, who went 5-13 in the ACC last season, replaced Ky Bowman with Derryck Thornton. That’s suboptimal.

14. PITT: I’m going to need to see it to believe it with the Panthers. After starting ACC play 2-2 with wins over Louisville and Florida State last year, Pitt reeled off 13 straight conference losses.

15. WAKE FOREST: Danny Manning is in his sixth season at Wake Forest. He’s won more than five ACC games in a season just once, and he is coming off of a year where the Demon Deacons finished 11-20 overall.