Personally, I don’t like change. I never have. When all this talk of conference realignment was going on a few years ago, I knew I wasn’t going to like what I saw when it was all said and done. In terms of college basketball, realignment destroyed arguably the greatest college basketball conference in history, the Big East. Having said that, realignment also created the newest power conference in college basketball, the ACC.
Over the past year and a half, the Atlantic Coast Conference has added Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Syracuse, and now Louisville (all of whom were in the original Big East conference), while losing only Maryland to the Big Ten. Also, coach Buzz Williams left Marquette of the new Big East to come to Virginia Tech. In the last four years, the ACC has had multiple teams amongst the best in the nation. Of the last four NCAA tournaments Duke, Syracuse, North Carolina, Virginia, Louisville and Pittsburgh have all held the No. 1 seed, while Notre Dame and Miami have been placed at No. 2. But it doesn’t stop there. The Associated Press released their preseason All-American teams about a week ago, and representing the ACC is North Carolina’s Marcus Paige, Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell, and Duke’s top-ranked recruit Jahlil Okafor. If having three players from the Atlantic Coast Conference be first-team preseason All-Americans doesn’t tell you what is to come for this season, then I don’t know what should. Oh, and I forgot to mention, Jahlil Okafor, the No. 1-ranked freshman in his class, is the AP’s preseason Player of the Year. This conference as a whole is very powerful, but the individual teams are what make it so.
This year, Duke brings in one of the best recruiting classes, including top players Tyus Jones, Justice Winslow and the top-ranked player in the country, Jahlil Okafor. But the Blue Devils are also returning key players in Quinn Cook, Rasheed Sulaimon and Marshall Plumlee (yes, the Plumlee name still reigns at Duke). Coach K has always had a prominent offense at Duke, and you can bet it’ll be atop the ACC once again.
Louisville got an early Hanukkah present back in May, when Montrezl Harrell decided to return for his junior year (as a diehard L-Ville fan, I was jubilant to hear this). Also, Terry Rozier has had much hype this offseason, as most expect him to breakout and potentially declare for the NBA draft. Last season, the ACC was a very slow-paced conference. Louisville has always been known to play fast basketball and has one of the best defenses in the country, so you can expect them to capitalize on the slow movement in conference play.
North Carolina has a preseason All-American in guard Marcus Paige. He had an almost unpredictable breakout season last year. Paige was asked to step up with P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald being suspended. He ended up more than doubling his scoring average while also increasing his field goal percentage by almost .1 percent. But UNC isn’t just relying on Paige. They are also returning J.P. Tokoto, high-flyer Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks, who has lost about 50 pounds since arriving in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels were also able to snag up five-star forwards Theo Pinson and Justin Jackson.
These are only three teams that will be competing for the top spot in the ACC this year, but as you can tell, there is a lot of depth in this conference. By just looking at the ACC rosters, it’s fair to say that there will be at least six teams representing Atlantic Coast in the big dance. With the old Big East pretty much dissolved, the ACC is set up to take over college basketball.
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