The ACC is projected to be weaker than usual this year. North Carolina and Duke appear to be the only sure things, and Boston College and Wake Forest could be historically bad teams. A clear third may be Florida State, but after that it gets fuzzy. It is very difficult to predict the middle of the pack, as a bunch of teams are question marks. Apparently trending toward the top of that group are Miami and Virginia, while Maryland and Georgia Tech look to be near the bottom. Still, it's anyone's guess at this point.
Predicted order of finish and outlook for each team:
Key Returning Players: Harrison Barnes, John Henson, Tyler Zeller, Kendall Marshall, Dexter Strickland, Reggie Bullock, Leslie McDonald
Key Losses: Justin Knox
Notable Newcomers: James McAdoo, PJ Hairston
Outlook: Final Four or bust. The Heels are loaded. The only potential issue is point guard production when Marshall is out.
Key Returning Players: Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly, Mason Plumlee, Miles Plumlee, Andre Dawkins, Tyler Thornton
Key Losses: Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler, Kyrie Irving
Notable Newcomers: Austin Rivers, Quinn Cook, Alex Murphy, Marhsall Plumlee
Outlook: Duke has the depth and talent to have another great season. A Final Four is a possibility, as usual.
3. Florida State
Key Returning Players: Michael Snaer, Bernard James, Deividas Dulkas, Ian Miller, Okaro White
Key Losses: Chris Singleton, Derwin Kitchen
Notable Newcomers: Antwan Space
Outlook: The Seminoles lost their best offensive player (Kitchen) and best overall player (Singleton), but return the rest of a deep roster. Defensively, they should be stellar, but they will likely struggle on offense again this season.
Key Returning Players: Mike Scott, Joe Harris, K.T. Harrell, Sammy Zeglinski, Assane Sene, Jontel Evans
Key Losses: Mustapha Farrakhan
Notable Newcomers: Malcolm Brogdon
Outlook: The well-coached Cavs get their top player, Mike Scott, back from injury. In an ACC full of questions, Virginia appears to be on solid footing. However, UVA doesn't appear to have a big time scorer outside of Mike Scott. UVA will be solid defensively, and should get solid guard play. They need Sene or Akil Mitchell to have a breakout year.
Key Returning Players: Malcolm Grant, Durand Scott, Reggie Johnson (out several weeks due to injury), Garrius Adams
Key Losses: Julian Gamble (injury)
Notable Newcomers: None
Outlook: One thing Frank Haith did well was recruit, so new coach Jim Larranaga has plenty of talent this season- at least in the backcourt. Interior play will be an issue until Reggie Johnson returns from injury. Frontcourt depth is a potential problem.
6. NC State
Key Returning Players: Lorenzo Brown, Calvin Leslie, Scott Wood, Richard Howell, C.J. Williams
Key Losses: Tracy Smith, Javi Gonzalez, Ryan Harrow
Notable Newcomers: Alex Johnson, Tyler Harris, Thomas de Thaey
Outlook: As I did last year, I like State's roster more than many in the ACC. How quickly can this team develop and adapt to Coach Gottfried's new system? Will there be greater effort and endurance?
*I'll have a more extensive post on State's outlook prior to the opener next week.*
7. Virginia Tech
Key Returning Players: Erick Green, Dorenzo Hudson, Victor Davila, Jarell Eddie
Key Losses: Malcolm Delaney, Jeff Allen, J.T. Thompson (injury), Terrell Bell
Notable Newcomers: Dorian Finney-Smith, C.J. Barksdale, Marquis Rankin, Robert Brown
Outlook: Virginia Tech is in rebuilding mode having lost the core of its team. The Hokies welcome a fantastic crop of freshmen and could be pretty good by the end of the season. If Green can hold his own at point guard and Hudson returns to pre-injury form, the Hokies could exceed expectations.
Key Returning Players: Andre Young, Tanner Smith, Milton Jennings, Devin Booker
Key Losses: Demontez Stitt, Jerai Grant
Notable Newcomers: Bernard Sullivan
Outlook: The Tigers lost their leader and best perimeter scorer, Demontez Stitt, and their best big man, Jerai Grant. Expect Devin Booker to have a big year. Clemson will have to find a way to get production from the backcourt in order to repeat the success of Brad Brownell's first season.
Key Returning Players: Terrell Stoglin, Pe'Shon Howard, Sean Mosley, James Padgett
Key Losses: Jordan Williams, Cliff Tucker, Dino Gregory, Adrian Bowie
Notable Newcomers: Nick Faust, Alex Len
Outlook: New coach Mark Turgeon has the challenge of rebuilding a roster that lost a great deal of production from 2010-11. The Terps will have to find some production from the post and have high hopes that Alex Len can fill that role. He will miss the first ten games as a penalty, and Howard will miss some time due to injury.
10. Georgia Tech
Key Returning Players: Glen Rice Jr., Mfon Udofia, Jason Morris, Daniel Miller
Key Losses: Iman Shumpert, Brian Oliver, Maurice Miller
Notable Newcomers: Julian Royal
Outlook: Brian Gregory has huge rebuilding job as the Jackets have very little returning production on its frontline. To make matters worse, Tech lost three of its top five scorers, including its best point guard and distributor, Shumpert.
11. Wake Forest
Key Returning Players: Travis McKie, C.J. Harris, Ty Walker, Tony Chennault
Key Losses: J.T. Terrell, Gary Clark, Ari Stewart
Notable Newcomers: None
Outlook: Wake could be worse in 2011-12 than in 2010-11. The Deacs have very little depth, having suffered some unexpected attrition as second-leading scorer J.T. Terrell left the program. On the other hand that could end up being a good thing for chemistry. Top scorer and rebounder Travis McKie is back, and C.J. Harris can be a productive player. Don't be surprised to see Wake finish ahead of Georgia Tech.
12. Boston College
Key Returning Players: Danny Rubin, Gabriel Moton
Key Losses: Reggie Jackson, Joe Trapani, Cori Raji, Biko Paris, Josh Southern
Notable Newcomers: BC added seven recruits, but none are highly rated.
Outlook: The Eagles entire starting five from last season is gone, and BC hasn't recruiting very well in recent years. The top two returning scorers combined to average 6.6 points per game in 2010-11. In a normal ACC season, two ACC wins from this team would take a miracle. However, the ACC looks incredibly weak this year, so a few wins aren't out of the question.