The ACC Power Rankings always start with Duke, North Carolina, and Virginia. The ACC is historically one of the best conferences, annually. They are often loaded at the top half and have plenty of depth throughout. Typically, eight to nine teams make it to March Madness. However, this year has the potential to play out differently. Let’s take a look at the ACC Power Rankings.
Power Ranking the ACC
15. Clemson Tigers
The Tigers made significant noise in the NCAA tournament two years ago and then missed it all together last year. They severely lack scoring and playmaking. They will be lead by Aamir Simms, a solid 3 and D option, but by no means a workhorse on the offensive end. Replacing all the veteran talent that left will be a tough task for this team.
Luckily, Brad Brownell always has his team playing tough and aggressive. They will compete nightly on the defensive end and never be a cakewalk. They just do not have the talent to compete in this tough conference.
14. Virginia Tech Hokies
The Hokies are another team dealing with a massive turnaround. Not only did they lose their three best players in Justin Robinson, Kerry Blackshear, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker, but they must replace Buzz Williams who left for Texas A&M. They did make a good hire in Mike Young from Wofford, but he was not left with much talent.
The Hokies will rely on Wabissa Bede and some other role players to navigate through this season. Young should have success at Virginia Tech, but it will be a few years before he can fill out his roster the way he wants it.
13. Boston College Eagles
The Eagles have underachieved the last two years based on their talent level. Two years ago, with Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman, they had some big wins and were set up to make the NCAA Tournament then collapsed. Robinson left and Bowman did not have much solo success last year. Now, both players are gone and their replacement, Wynston Tabbs, suffered a season-ending injury.
This may very well be Jim Christian’s last year in Boston. Boston College should struggle quite a bit and find themselves in the bottom tier of the ACC.
12. Wake Forest Demon Deacons
The Deamon Deacons return Brandon Childress, a great scoring guard with a ton of experience, and Chaundee Brown. They do lose Jaylen Hoard, an early entrant into the NBA draft. They will need legitimate contributions from many underclassmen this year.
Coach Danny Manning should have been fired last year, most likely, but he has a massive buyout so that did not happen. Wake is not much different from Boston College, but Childress is better than anyone on the Eagles, so they fall one slot above. As everyone knows, college basketball comes down to dominant guards.
11. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
The Yellow Jackets return a strong backcourt in Jose Alvarado and Mike Devoe. They have a solid team around them that should be able to compete in the ACC. Josh Pastner has had intermittent success, but this year should go better than other years.
Georgia Tech typically plays in lower-scoring games. To improve to a team that can compete for a tournament seed, they will need to score more consistently. They are the type of team to knock off some of the top tier teams in the league, but also lose some inexcusable games, making them a firm middle of the pack team.
10. Pittsburgh Panthers
The Panthers may be the hardest team to decipher in the ACC. They are in year two of the Jeff Capel era and have some impressive talent. Capel essentially started from scratch and utilized two star freshmen, Xavier Johnson and Trey McGowens. These two should continue to improve and wreak havoc on the ACC. Both can easily compete for First-Team All-ACC.
Pittsburgh should be much better this year, but fans should be slightly reserved. Teams should take them seriously and that may impact their success. They will most likely be just outside the field of 68, but it would not be surprising if they found themselves dancing.
9. Syracuse Orange
The Orange return Elijah Hughes and several bench players but will suffer from the losses of Frank Howard and Tyus Battle. They bring in a relatively deep and talented recruiting class that will play pivotal roles this season. Defense is a major concern as they lack their usual length. Jim Boeheim has even said they may play man to man this year, which is essentially a curse word for him.
Syracuse has been a perennial bubble team for the last five years and that will continue again this year. They will probably hover around the .500 mark in the ACC and will need to rely on a few quality wins to secure their spot in March.
8. Florida State Seminoles
The Seminoles lost their two best players in Mfiondu Kabengele and Terrance Mann. Historically, they are a very deep team with athletes across the board. That is slightly different this year as they are replacing several key pieces they lost to graduation. They will need MJ Walker to play like the five-star he was and have Trent Forrest take another step forward just to have a chance.
Florida State is not going to be as good as years past, but they should find themselves around the 10-seed line come March. Leonard Hamilton works wonders with his teams and that will continue. Fear not Seminole fans, Scottie Barnes will be there in a year to save the day.
7. Miami Hurricanes
The Hurricanes were awful last year due to their lack of depth and ludicrous NCAA violations. They return their best player in Chris Lykes and will add some much-needed depth this year in transfers Kameron McGusty and Keith Stone. These three alone should wipe away the failures from last year.
Miami should return to the NCAA tournament this year around the seven-line. They will win their fair share of big games and should have the typical above average ACC resume.
6. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The Fighting Irish were bad for the first time in a while last year. The majority of their lack of success was due to injuries. When fully healthy, they started the year 5-1, but then Rex Pflueger went down. They return Pflueger, TJ Gibbs, and John Mooney which will lead to significant increases in wins.
Notre Dame should look like the teams of old that are difficult to beat and firmly planted in the middle of the pack of the ACC. Mike Brey will have this team back in the NCAA Tournament again, barring any significant injuries.
5. North Carolina State Wolfpack
NC State finds itself ranked highly due to Markell Johnson. He is one of the most underrated guards in the nation and has a chance to be an All-American. NC State has improved under Kevin Keatts and that should continue. They need consistent shooting from Braxton Beverly because when they lose it is due to ineptitude to score.
Last year, they had some struggles scoring the ball consistently but with additional experience in the Keatts system that should improve. Their major concern will be the lack of size and frontcourt depth.
4. Virginia Cavaliers
The Hoos lost more than usual last year. They have to replace Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, and De’Andre Hunter. Luckily, UVA fans will be significantly happier coming off a national championship. If you are not a believer in Tony Bennett yet, you are a hater.
All that being said, this feels like a gap year for the Cavaliers. They still have the services of Mamadi Diakite, Kihei Clark, Braxton Key, and Jay Huff. They also bring in a very solid recruiting class that will help refuel the Cavalier engine. The reason UVA is fourth in these rankings is all about the program and culture they built. They have also entirely dominated the league in the regular season for the last two years. Virginia finds themselves ranked eleventh in the preseason top 25.
3. North Carolina Tar Heels
Coming off a disappointing Sweet 16 loss in March, the Tar Heels will have the tough task of replacing nearly all of their scoring and filling a depleted roster. Finding the next Luke Maye, Coby White, and Cameron Johnson will be no easy task. They do add two graduate transfers that can fill up the stat sheet.
This year seems like more of a gap year for UNC. Expect Cole Anthony to go crazy and the team to follow along as best as possible, somewhat like Trae Young and Oklahoma. UNC will be near the four seed line come March, so they are more than capable of contending. The Tar Heels find themselves ranked ninth in the preseason top 25.
2. Duke Blue Devils
The Blue Devils return Tre Jones from last year’s talented freshmen core but must replace three top ten draft picks. While Duke does not have the superstar potential of last year’s team, they may have a team that fits together better than last year. The incoming freshmen all possess skills that mesh together well and they will be lead by a dominant frontcourt duo in Vernon Carey Jr. and Matthew Hurt.
There are major concerns on the defensive end for the Blue Devils, but their offense may be able to carry the load. Duke has not won the ACC regular-season title since 2010 and the injury bug has certainly bitten the team annually. Duke will certainly contend this year, but they will just miss out on the top spot. According to the preseason rankings, Duke is the fourth-ranked team in the nation.
1. Louisville Cardinals
The surprise of 2018-29 was the Louisville Cardinals. In Chris Mack’s first year, Louisville drastically outperformed expectations and will look to live up to this year’s lofty expectations. Once again, the team will be lead by Jordan Nwora, but this year they will have significantly more firepower.
Louisville will certainly be improved and they will be a part of the top tier of the conference. This season specifically, anyone in the top tier can certainly win the league. Louisville’s depth and experience will place them just ahead of Duke. The current preseason rankings have Louisville ranked fifth in the nation, just behind the Blue Devils.
What Does it all Mean?
Overall, the ACC is down compared to years past. The top teams are not as strong as they usually are. The rest of the conference has shifted from last year and young teams rose to the middle of the pack. This is shaping up to be a carnivorous season for the league where maybe only seven teams reach the big dance, compared to the typical eight or nine. Either way, when March starts, there will be at least one ACC team heavily picked to win it all.