Editor's Note: It's way too early for me to start thinking about basketball season, my disappointment is currently being allocated to the football team but thankfully Matt Coe is on it.
Matt, an ACC hoops junkie, takes a deep dive into every ACC team and lays out his predicted order of finish for 2021. (For the record, Matt had this order done two weeks before the ACC put theirs out. My man is on it.) You can also listen to all of his breakdowns on the Red Solo pod.
ACC Preseason Prediction
The ACC has been sort of trending downhill over the last few years. Legendary Coach K will be the highlight of the season from start to finish, but that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about other teams. To start things off I’ve got 8 teams making the NCAA Tournament. This will be a bounce back season as the ACC has gotten better through the off season. Let’s break down the teams and how they stack up in the conference…
15. Boston College
New Head Coach Earl Grant has his work cut out for him in his very first year coming from College of Charleston. During his 7 years spent there, Grant found some success as posted a 127-89 record. A coach that prides himself on being gritty not pretty, Grant has a tall task in front of him and must find ways to out-tough other teams.
The BC defense is something that will have to be fixed ASAP as opposing offenses made just under half of their shots (49.1%), which ranked 335th nationally. The top player to watch for is College of Charleston transfer Brevin Galloway. The Senior Guard played under new Grant and only appeared in 4 games before suffering a season ending injury. Galloway was voted to the 2020-2021 Preseason All CAA 2nd Team.
The Langford brothers will provide some much-needed play to carry this team to wins. Junior Guard Makai Ashton-Langford (9.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg, and 3.2 apg) is a player that does it all and will most likely have to do it all as the season progresses. Younger brother and Sophomore Guard DeMarr Langford had himself a nice season putting up solid numbers (6.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg). Look for the former top 100 to play lots of minutes and stretch the floor as he saw a lot of time playing the wing position in year one.
Outlook: A team going through an identity change while not obtaining game changing talent. Expect the Eagles to struggle once again as the bottom feeders in the ACC look to climb their way out.
What at the time looked to be an amazing hire has yet to pan out. Head Coach Jeff Capel doesn’t have much to look forward to this season after losing star players Au’Diese Toney (Arkansas) and Xavier Johnson (Indiana) hit the portal and Justin Champagnie declared for the NBA.
The lone returning starter, Ithiel Horton (8.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg) will carry the load as he was their most consistent player. This Panthers team will need multiple players to take massive leaps in their development if they want a shot. Oakland transfer Dan Oladapo can put up points in the interior while rebounding at an excellent rate at 8.8 rpg.
The Panthers will also have to rely on big time JUCO transfer Chris Payton to play the Forward position. Pitt lost a ton of their rebounding in the offseason, but if these two big men can control the boards the Panthers can compete in a few games they shouldn’t. Solid Guard depth, but nothing that jumps off the page.
This Pitt team needs an injection of talent and maybe a new Head Coach if Capel can’t get this train going. In year 4 Capel is sitting at 40-48 and one would have to assume that the seat is at the least extremely warm for the former Duke Assistant Coach.
Outlook: A lot of roster turnover with no key additions will leave Capel and the Panthers fighting for scraps at the bottom. A coach on the potential hot seat must get it right before he gets left behind. Pitt will need a miracle to improve from last year.
13. Wake Forest
Although I really loved the new Head Coach hire Steve Forbes, this is one of those situations that will take some time. It was almost as bad as a first year could’ve been as Forbes and the Demon Deacons posted a 6-16 ACC record. Wake should see a ton of more success and consistency in year two under Forbes.
Daivien Williamson was a player that Forbes brought along from ETSU and immediately made an impact in his first year at Wake Forest. Williamson led the team in scoring last year with 12.9 ppg.
The Guard I am most looking forward to is Sophomore Carter Whitt. Whitt really struggled in his first year with turnovers and his inability to make shots at a consistent rate. The talent is there, but Whitt is raw and needs to be coached up a bit.
A backcourt waiting to prove itself while the frontcourt is rock solid with the awesome trio of Isaiah Mucius, Tariq Ingraham, and Indiana State transfer Jake LaRavia. The 7’0” big man transfer from Colorado, Dallas Walton, will also provide important rebounding and scoring ability.
Outlook: I like the make-up of this team. They have a lot to offer and will be better in year two under Steve Forbes, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This Wake Forest squad could see themselves fighting for the #10 spot towards the end of the season, but that is if everything goes right. Still a lot of work to do, but at least things are looking up for the Deacs.
Head Coach Brad Brownell and the Clemson Tigers will be hitting the reset button as several major key contributors and role players transfer out of the program. The heart and soul of this team Aamir Simms is gone after leading the Tigers in points (13.4), rebounding (6.4), total assists (65).
Replacing Clyde Trapp and John Newman III will be troubling as both were solid offensive options. Clemson saw a lot of success last year, but it all came to a screeching halt after getting bumped in the first round of the ACC Tournament by Miami and to Rutgers in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Clemson has a few solid pieces on this roster including Nick Honor, Al-Amir Dawes, and PJ Hall. All three will have to step up offensively if this team wants a shot back at the big dance.
Overall, the offense won’t be inspiring, but you have to respect this teams 3-point shooting as they return four of their top six 3-point shooters from last season. Senior Forward Hunter Tyson led the way with an incredible 43.1% form beyond the arc. Brownell is a defensive minded coach and always will be. Clemson was 2nd in the ACC last season in scoring defense.
Outlook: Expect this Clemson team to compete hard every night. If transfers Naz Bohannon and David Collins meet expectations watch out for Clemson as they could shock some teams throughout the season. The outcome for this team is all over the place as they lack explosive talent but have nice pieces to keep them in games. Replacing Simms will be key all season long. A couple players have breakout potential, but anything more than a top 4 seed in the NIT seems a bit out of reach in my opinion.
If anything, Miami might be one of the most fun teams to watch this season. Led by breakout star and potential All ACC 1st Team Isaiah Wong, this Hurricane backcourt could be electric. Wong averaged 17.1 points per game last season and singlehandedly kept Miami in games they had no business being in.
I expect the same type of output going into this year, but with a little bit more help from George Mason transfer Jordan Miller and DePaul transfer Charlie Moore. Both can put up points in a hurry and will have to in order to take some of the load off of Wong’s back. Jim Larranaga did a great job boosting this backcourt after returning Kameron McGusty who started last year and averaged double digit scoring.
The 3-point shooting will have to step up. Only averaging 29.5% was the ACC’s worst and 321st nationally. It is a deep backcourt oozing with breakout potential, but the frontcourt is where this team falls apart. I like the returning Sophomore Forward Anthony Walker, but there isn’t much left to be desired after that. The Hurricanes are not a good rebounding team, and I don’t really see a lot of star potential with their current options.
Outlook: This team will go as far as Isaiah Wong takes them. A player that can light it up and may be such a threat scoring the ball it will put Miami in moments to win. This backcourt could help tremendously, but I cannot trust the down low presence, or lack thereof, on this current roster. Big body teams like FSU, UNC, and Duke will have their way in the paint. I like Miami to be an exciting team, but not a good one. If Isaiah Wong is playing turn the channel and enjoy watching one of the best scorers in the ACC.
10. Georgia Tech
Usually after winning an ACC title most people would start to take you more serious. This is hard to do as the Yellow Jackets lose both ACC Player of the Year in Moses Wright and Defensive Player of the Year Jose Alvarado. It will be interesting to see how Head Coach Josh Pastner responds after exceeding expectations last season.
Lookout for returning starter and potential All ACC caliber player Michael Devoe. Devoe will be the backbone of this team as he averaged right at 15 points per game and is effective on or off the ball. I like what newcomer Mississippi State transfer Deivon Smith brings to the table to help this backcourt with his lightning quick speed.
Throw in Top-100 players Miles Kelly and Dallas Coleman this Georgia Tech team has some serious size and depth at the guard position. I expect returning point guard Bubba Parham to man the point position but must cut down on turnovers. The Yellow Jackets were a horrible rebounding team but made up for it by hitting shots efficiently and turning teams over at a ridiculously high rate.
The roster does not have a bonafide Center, but that doesn’t mean players can’t step up. I like the return of Jordan Usher, but do not expect him to provide the type of minutes Moses Wright did last year.
Outlook: This team returns some core pieces and adds the necessary help in the backcourt to have expectations relatively high. Georgia Tech will be in that fringe bubble team area all season long as NCAA Tournament hopes are still reachable with this roster. Pastner struck magic last season, but can he sustain it with a bounce back season? If Pastner can get someone to step up and play vital minutes at Center, I could easily see Georgia Tech repeating some success from last year and returning to the big dance.
Stay tuned for 9 - 1