This year’s ACC is a 2-team race; or is it?

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Photo cred - Keeping it Heel

UNC’s redemption tour begins as the Tar Heels open the AP Preseason Poll at No. 1

Jason Williams and Patrick Schmitz

As the 2022-23 men’s college basketball season draws closer, Saxon Scribe’s experts are predicting the order of finish for the nation’s top conferences. Having already looked at the Big Ten, our focus now shifts to the ACC. 

Things have been rough for the ACC as of late, especially last year despite having two teams in the Final Four. The question still remains this season whether the league will be able to get more than two teams in the NCAA Tournament. 

There are many storylines to follow for the 2022-23 season besides the two big schools, including both Miami and Wake Forest going from the bottom of the ACC to the top half. So without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the ACC’s top players and teams.

Find more preseason analysis here.


ACC Player of the Year prediction:

Armando Bacot – C – North Carolina 

Let us begin with some numbers shall we? Bacot averaged a career-high 16.3 points, a career-high 13.1 rebounds, and a career-high 1.7 blocks last season while leading the Tar Heels to the National Championship in last year’s NCAA Tournament. His presence should allow the Tar Heels to dominate opponents in the paint and possibly make a return to the National Championship.

Additional players to watch this season:

Dereck Lively II – C – Duke

The No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2022, per 247Sports, sizing up as a 7-foot-1 rim-protector who could be a projected lottery pick, will be key for Duke this season as Jon Scheyer plans to have an aggressive defensive approach. 

Isaiah Wong – G – Miami

Wong is the leading returning scorer for a Miami team who made a surprising Elite Eight run in the NCAA Tournament a year ago. His presence will be key for the Hurricanes who despite having holes to fill, will be more than capable of making another deep run in the NCAA Tournament if they’re disciplined.


Saxon Scribe predicted order of finish in the ACC

1 – North Carolina

North Carolina is coming off of an incredible season and is not about to slow down. Four out of their five starters from last year are returning and they are getting Northwestern transfer, Pete Nance, to make up for the loss of Brady Manek. All-American Armando Bacot is looking to have a monster season and to lead this team to an ACC championship, but Duke might have something to do about that. – Patrick Schmitz

2 – Duke

The Jon Scheyer era begins at Duke and the Blue Devils will welcome 11 newcomers, including seven freshmen that comprise the nation’s No. 1-ranked recruiting class. Scheyer will have to deal with the injury of freshman forward Dariq Whitehead, who will be sidelined for an undetermined amount of time to repair a fracture in his right foot. Oh, and before I forget, third-year guard Jeremy Roach is back to provide leadership for the newcomers. – Jason Williams

3 – Virginia

Something Tony Bennett wanted to improve on from last season was their perimeter shooting. The ‘Hoos made just 32.3% of its long balls last year, and at their annual Blue-White scrimmage this October, Virginia combined to shoot 15-32 (46.8%). This showed a sign of the impact of Isaac McKneely (3-7), Isaac Traudlt (4-5), and Ben Vander (3-4) joining the team. This number could’ve been a lot higher for McKneely and Traudt especially if not so many threes were in-and-outs. An improved perimeter shooting from the Cavaliers could mean posing a threat to both North Carolina and Duke atop the conference. – Williams

4 – Florida State

Florida State was unusually bad last season while battling multiple injuries from the start of the season to the ACC Tournament. If the Seminoles are able to stay healthy, the talent Leonard Hamilton has is in a very good position to succeed. With the return of Cameron Mills and Matthew Cleveland, Hamilton should be able to send his Seminoles back to the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time in a six-tournament span. – Williams

5 – Miami (FL.) (no consensus)

Miami’s surprising Elite Eight in last year’s NCAA Tournament is the deepest Jim Larranaga has taken the Hurricanes in the bracket. Miami will have to replace two of its top three scorers, Kameron McGusty and Charlie Moore, but the return of Isaiah Wong and the addition of Kansas State transfer Nijel Pack should be enough to fill in those loose holes and maybe be enough to send Miami back to the dance. – Williams

6 – Notre Dame (no consensus)

Notre Dame is looking to have a big year after making it to the second round of the NCAA tournament. They are bringing back three of their top five scorers, but lose standout Freshman Blake Wesley to the NBA. To replace him Notre Dame is bringing in the twenty-first-ranked recruit, J.J. Starling. Mike Brey is looking to do big things for this team after snapping his 4 season drought of appearances at the Big Dance. – Schmitz

7 – Virginia Tech

Mike Young has coached in each of the past three NCAA Tournaments; first at Wofford, then at Virginia Tech, where he guided the Hokies to an ACC Tournament title. So I think it’s safe to say Mike Young has some NCAA Tournament experience. Despite departures from Virginia Tech’s leading scorer Keve Aluma, Justin Mutts is back including the addition of Wright State transfer Grant Basile. Here’s my way-too-early prediction for the Hookies: Mike Young will be headed to his fourth NCAA Tournament appearance as a coach this March. – Williams

8 – Syracuse (no consensus)

For the first time in his career, Jim Boeheim is coming off a losing season (16-17, 9-11 ACC). Three of the top four scorers from last season’s team are gone, among them are both Buddy and Jimmy Boeheim. We don’t know what the ceiling is for this team, but it should do better than last year’s 16-17 campaign. At a minimum, this is going to be a sneaky dangerous team. If things go very well, Syracuse could have a wonderful year and provide Boeheim an opportunity to go out with a bang if he so chooses, as he will be turning 78 in November. – Williams

9 –  Wake Forest

Steve Forbes and company nearly missed out on an appearance in the NCAA Tournament last season despite breakout seasons by Alondes Williams and Jake LaRavia, who combined to average 33.1 points, 13.0 rebounds, and 8.9 assists per game. Now with Williams and LaRavia gone, things will be tough for the Demon Deacons. – Schmitz

10 – NC State

After going 4-13 in the ACC, and missing the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight time last season, NC State doesn’t have enough talent or firepower to boost them to the big dance. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kevin Keatts is on the hot seat if the Wolfpack misses the Tournament for the fifth consecutive year. – Schmitz 

11 – Clemson (no consensus)

Like NC State’s Keatts, Clemson Coach Brad Brownell is on the hot seat. Brownell has only made three NCAA Tournament appearances in 12 seasons and it’s hard to believe seeing the Tigers in the big dance after four of their top seven scorers from last year have departed. – Schmitz

12 – Boston College (no consensus)

The Eagles are returning four starters from last year’s squad which is led by Makai Ashton-Langford and Jaeden Zackery. It’s difficult to imagine seeing Boston College making an appearance in this year’s NCAA Tournament with the limited amount of core guys they have on their roster Earl Grant can go to, despite winning six ACC games and finishing 11th in the conference a year ago. – Schmitz

13 – Louisville (no consensus)

Kenny Payne knows this roster isn’t built to win at a notable level. Eli Ellis is their top returning scorer from last season and is also a solid backcourt player, but there just isn’t enough talent to build around him. Louisville will face adversity this season, oh wait they already have, they lost to a Divison II team (Lenior-Rhyne 57-47) in a scrimmage last week. My question is, how much until they fully collapse? – Schmitz

14 – Pittsburgh (no consensus)

In four years under Jeff Capel, former top Duke assistant under the legendary Coach K, Pitt has finished 14th, 13th, 12th, and 11th. Barring a surprise, we’ll be seeing more of the same from this team. The Panthers are most likely to be without Dior Johnson, a top-55 prospect from the Class of 2022 who was arrested in mid-October. If we see the same from Pitt that we’ve seen the past four seasons, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Capel on the hot seat. – Williams

15 – Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech looks to be back at the bottom of the ACC after finishing 14th last season. Josh Pastner has made one NCAA tournament in his six seasons with Georgia Tech and he could be out after his seventh. – Schmitz


Most overrated teamFlorida State

I have high hopes for this year’s Seminoles squad, but my only worry is how FSU will fare if injuries become an issue again. On the bright side, with the return of Cameron Mills and Matthew Cleveland, I have a strong feeling Leonard Hamilton should be able to send his Seminoles back to the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time in a six-tournament span. – Schmitz

Most underrated team: Syracuse Orange

The fact that Syracuse is returning its top four scorers from a season ago, among them being Buddy and Jimmy Boeheim, I truly feel this team can be a sneaky dangerous squad in the ACC this season. And wouldn’t the Orange want to provide coach Jim Boeheim an opportunity to go out with a bang if he so chooses, as he turns 78 in November? – Williams


Saxon Scribe ACC expert picks:

ORDER WILLIAMS SCHMITZ
1 North Carolina Duke
2 Duke North Carolina 
3 Virginia Virginia
4 Florida State Miami (FL.)
5 Miami (FL.) Notre Dame
6 Notre Dame Florida State
7 Virginia Tech Syracuse
8 Syracuse Virginia Tech
9 Wake Forest Wake Forest
10 NC State Clemson
11 Clemson Boston College
12 Boston College NC State
13 Louisville Pittsburgh
14 Pittsburgh Louisville
15 Georgia Tech Georgia Tech
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