After a disappointing 2016-17 season where the Syracuse Orange missed the NCAA Tournament and were upset in the second round of the NIT, TNIAAM takes a look ahead to next winter and what the country’s best league will bring.
Can the Orange bounce back and return to the NCAA tournament or will there be disappointment again in Central New York?
Here is my way-too-early ACC power rankings for next season:
The Cardinals, in my opinion, will come in as the ACC’s No. 1 team next season — at least in the preseason rankings. Depending on who leaves and who stays, this team has a chance to be scary. Donovan Mitchell, Deng Adel and Jaylen Johnson could bring Rick Pitino another title — but again, that’s if they return.
Duke is losing a lot, but they’re bringing a lot in, too. They have two Top 10 recruits coming in, and have a chance to land Mo Bamba and Trevon Duval — two more elite prospects. Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard and Frank Jackson are all undecided on returning next season, but if they do — Duke will be right up there with Louisville.
3. Notre Dame
There’s nothing sexy about Notre Dame other than they just play hard and win. Bonzie Colson is still up in the air on whether he’ll return, and the Irish return a ton. Mike Brey will have this team ready to go again next season. They’re poised to make a big run.
The Hurricanes are very appealing next season. They’ll return Ja’Quan Newton and Bruce Brown, and will bring in one of the nation’s best players in Lonnie Walker. Vasiljevic is a solid shooter, as well, which provides another scorer for the ‘Canes. You have to like UM next season.
5. North Carolina
The Tar Heels are coming off of a national title, but will lose Hicks, Britt and Kennedy Meeks to graduation. Justin Jackson is likely to head pro, and Joel Berry and Theo Pinson are undecided. Their recruiting class isn’t great, but UNC is still a top program in the ACC.
UVA has had a rough offseason thus far. The Cavaliers have lost Austin Nichols and Darius Thompson (transfer/dismissal), as well as London Perrantes to graduation. I’m high on Kyle Guy, who I believe will be a big-time scorer for coach Bennett. Ty Jerome and Jack Salt will also be back. The recruiting class - just one prospect - isn’t great, but UVA’s defense will always keep them in games. With Tony Bennett on the sidelines, they’ve always got a shot.
7. Virginia Tech
Buzz Williams did an unbelievable job with the Hokies this past season, and I expect it to continue into next year. VT and UVA were hard to place in this way-too-early ranking for me, but I decided to go with the Cavaliers over the Hokies. They’ll miss Seth Allen, but they have a solid class coming in next season and a lot of returners.
8. Wake Forest
I love what Danny Manning is doing at Wake Forest, even though Syracuse should’ve made the tournament over them, IMO. A lot of Wake’s future success depends on John Collins, who is testing the NBA waters. What he does will determine how good Wake can be next season. Either way, they’ll be solid — Collins would just be icing on the cake.
9. Georgia Tech
Josh Okogie is coming back next season, and Ben Lammers will continue to improve for Josh Pastner’s team. Georgia Tech is a program on the rise, and next year will be no different.
I hate to say this, but I just don’t think Syracuse will be all that great in the ACC next season. I hope I’m wrong, but my thought is this year’s team will be better than next year’s team — and with everyone getting better and SU losing more than it’s bringing in — it’s hard to believe SU can finish better than 10th. I don’t know who can score other than Taurean and Tyus, and if either (or both) have an off night — it’ll be hard for SU to win games.
11. NC State
State lost arguably the league’s best point guard in Dennis Smith Jr. and forward Omer Yertseven is testing the NBA waters. However, Maverick Rowan and Abu will be back, along with prospect Lavar Batts, a Top 100 guard. They’ll be right in the middle of the pack next season under near head coach Kevin Keatts.
12. Florida State
FSU is losing a ton and it seemed like the program was shooting for last year to make its run — and Xavier ended that dream in the NCAA Tournament. The Noles will be competitive, but it’s hard to expect a lot when you lose as much as they are. I like coach Hamilton a lot, but it’ll be hard to be great with the roster he’s got next year.
The Tigers lose their two best players in Jaron Blossomgame and Avry Holmes. It’s the ACC - and everyone is competitive - but I don’t see a ton from Clemson next season.
I know the Panthers always play Syracuse tough, but they’re losing a ton. Jeter, Artis, Jones and Cam Johnson, among others, are leaving. Kevin Stallings has a lot of work ahead of him. It’ll be a down year for Pitt.
15. Boston College
Should be another long year for BC.
What about you guys? Who do you like next year in the ACC? Any sleepers?