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Welcome to the inaugural ACC Basketball Power Rankings. Each of our three writers, Seattle Hoo, Kendall, and StLouHoo, will submit ballots ranking the programs 1-15, and the sum total used to serve as the publication's official weekly ranking.
For this first edition, we've chosen to present the conference in tiers. With the Louisville upheaval, there's no clear-cut top team in the league this year. Strong teams, sure, but no one that we deem as "complete" in the sense that the 2016-17 Carolina team, or the 2014-15 Virginia team was. Some teams are thin. Others are inexperienced. Many teams lack reliable post options.
So while there was very little we three voters agreed on at the top of the order, we did notice tiers appearing, the teams stratifying at certain points. We feel confident that these tiers represent an accurate power ranking of the conference as of today.
Where did we find concurrence? We all picked Louisville 6th, a universal acknowledgement that given their scandal, they should temporarily sit just outside the top tier. And also Pitt is going to be terrible.
Note: this is a power ranking, not an order of predicted finish. This is based on a hypothetical of teams going head-to-head, and doesn't go so far as to factor in schedule imbalances. We'll save that for another day.
So without further delay:
Tier 1: The NCAA Tournament Locks
Yes, we're that bullish on our roster this year. This team has an enviable mix of steady, high character veterans and confident, high ceiling underclassmen. Gone are inefficient role players who were impeding the development of future stars Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy, De'Andre Hunter, and Jay Huff. We expect them to shine with the reins loosened.
Everyone's Top 5 darling this year, the Blue Devils will be the youngest, least experienced squad in K's history. Grayson Allen is going to be asked to play the role of mentor to two underused sophomores and six 4- and 5-star freshmen. We were prepared to knock them down a few pegs this year before the late commitment of future Top 5 pick Marvin Bagley.
T-3) Notre Dame
Notre Dame will return to the NCAA tournament this year riding the production of the ACC's best senior duo, PG Matt Ferrell and F Bonzie Colson. After that, though, they're extremely questionable in the post, and are relying on high potential but unproven options on the wing, Rex Pfleuger, TJ Gibbs, and 5-star freshman DJ Harvey.
Miami looks great on paper, with a veteran point guard (Ja'Quan Newton), five star wings (Bruce Brown and Lonnie Walker), and a collection of blue chip big men from whom capable starters should emerge. But there's an alarming lack of 3 point shooting on this squad that we think limits the Canes' upside. I also worry about post athleticism, there are a lot of old school centers on that squad.
5) North Carolina
The defending champs lost the bulk of their post presence over the offseason, and we're uncertain how ready Luke Maye and the freshmen will be to pick up the slack. Carolina will probably go with a smaller lineup this year, with star transfer Cam Johnson playing wing-4. Joel Berry is the ACC's best point guard, however, and will single-handedly carry the Tar Heels into the Top 25 if he has to.
Tier 2: The Scandal-Ridden Question Mark
Before Rick Pitino was fired for allegedly bribing Brian Bowen, we had Louisville at the top of this list. There's still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the program, but as of now this is still a team that's going to run out a veteran point guard (Quentin Snyder), an all-ACC level wing (Deng Adel), and an elite rim protecting center (Anas Mahmoud), with quality role players and reserves supporting them. They have the talent to beat anyone, but the circus is going to lead them to struggle against better teams, especially away from home.
Tier 3: The Bubble
7) Georgia Tech
The Yellow Jackets have two all-ACC level players in high scoring wing Josh Okogie and the ACC's best center Ben Lammers. Their ceiling centers on the ability of former role players like guard Tadric Jackson to elevate their play to support them. They'll be a hard out at home, but likely to struggle on the road again this year.
8) North Carolina State
Despite the usual chaos that surrounds coaching changes, Kevin Keatts has inherited and assembled some nice pieces. Abdul Malik-Abu and Omer Yurtseven may be the best front court in the ACC. The ability of grad transfer guards Sam Hunt (NC A&T) and Al Freeman (Baylor) to be ACC-level players will dictate whether State can surprise this year.
9) Wake Forest
There are few more proven starting guard duos in the ACC than Keyshawn Woods and Bryant Crawford, who combined for 29 points and 9 assists a game last year. They were stung, however, with the early pro declarations of the starting big men John Collins and Dinos Mitoglou. The Deacons will need new post threats to emerge to be multi-dimensional enough to make it back to the Dance.
10) Virginia Tech
Entering this summer as the ACC's biggest darling, the Hokies suffered a devastating pair of late-summer losses with the season-ending injury to sniper forward Ty Outlaw and transfer of big man Khadim Sy. VT has an effective rotation of 8 players now, only 3 of whom played in their tournament game last year. The ability of Kerry Blackshear, coming off a missed injury year, to eat up 25 minutes a night in the paint will be important to lend balance to their talented back court rotation.
Tier 4: Playing for the NIT
Syracuse will have exactly two proven college players on its roster this year, sophomore wing Tyus Battle and grad transfer PG Geno Thorpe. We like combo forward Matthew Moyer coming off his redshirt year, but it's highly questionable how much positive contribution they'll get from their four true freshmen, none consensus Top-100.
T-11) Boston College
Boston College begins its climb back towards relevancy this year with it's underappreciated back court of Ky Bowman, Jerome Robinson, and Jordan Chatman. Depth and post talent likely limit their ceiling, but it should be considered a nice step forward for Jim Christian's crew to make the NIT this year, especially with only one senior on the roster.
13) Florida State
The Seminoles lose a lot of production from last year's squad with three pro declarations. They return a number of former 4-star guards and wings who may be ready to step into lead roles, and add five-star hired gun freshman MJ Walker, but Leonard Hamilton has underachieved with talented rosters multiple times in recent years. We envision poor discipline and execution turning this into a hard return to reality in Tallahassee.
Clemson begins the post-Blossomgame era with a couple of nice players, we're high on the upside of forward Elijah Thomas, but seemingly lacking in depth and talent at key positions. They'll score a couple of wins at home, but this isn't the year the Tigers break out of their NIT funk.
The consensus worst team in the ACC this year, Pitt returns absolutely no one of consequence from last year's 2nd worst ACC squad. Second year coach Kevin Stallings ran off virtually his entire roster in the offseason, replacing them with a cobbled-together crew of 10 new grad transfers, JUCOs, and true freshmen.