Here's our capsule preview of Atlantic Coast Conference basketball action, but before we do that, we will look at the odds at BetUS Sportsbook on each of the teams, keeping in mind that the team that is the highest seed for the conference tourney will be the one that wins for the purposes of payoff.
BetUS Sportsbook Futures Odds:
To Win ACC Championship
- Boston College +2000
- Clemson +800
- Duke +250
- Florida State +1200
- Georgia Tech +500
- Maryland +800
- Miami +3000
- North Carolina +175
- NC State +3000
- Virginia +2000
- Virginia Tech +1200
- Wake Forest +1500
I see four legitimate challengers for the regular season conference championship (although you never know what can happen in a year-end conference tournament) and here they are:
NORTH CAROLINA (+175) has lost its top four scorers, and when Tyler Hansbrough, Danny Green, Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington disappear from your program, that is normally cause for concern. Not that it isn't, but Roy Williams just reloads. He's got people left over from last season, like Deon Thompson (10.6 ppg), Ed Davis (6.6 rpg as a freshman) and Larry Drew, who will now have to fill Lawson's shoes at the point guard spot.
Swingman Marcus Ginyard also returns after sitting out last season with an injury. The Tar Heels also have a natural recruiting advantage over other teams, and Williams was able to reach out and grab slender 6'10" forward John Henson, considered to be one of the best available players in the country, who should play significant minutes immediately. Drew, Davis and Tyler Zeller were big-time recruits last season who will play bigger roles. There is not nearly as much experience on this team as there was last year, but this group will make it to the Sweet 16 on talent alone. Where they go from there might be determined by how good a coach Williams really is.
GEORGIA TECH (+500) comes to the table loaded, and could take dead aim at North Carolina and Duke in this conference, and that is a lot to say about a team that finished last year with a 12-19 record.
The Yellow Jackets has one of the nation's best big men in Gani Lawal (15.1 ppg, 9.5 rpg) and this year Tech added a gem alongside him in Derrick Favors, a 6'10" forward who's going to get enough playing time to be the most accomplished freshman in the ACC. Mfon Udofia, from nearby Stone Mountain, comes in as a freshman as a guy who has a pretty good chance of handling the ball the most, and that could be good news for 6'5" Iman Shumpert, who is mostly a shooter. What Georgia Tech is looking for is a contribution from De'Andre Bell, who was supposed to be a starter last season but missed the entire campaign with a back injury.
DUKE (+250) usually gets along with outside shooting and a running game, but this year, for a change, has some useful size on its roster. The Blue Devils brought in freshmen Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee, who join some of the holdover inside people, including Lance Thomas, Brian Zoubek, Olek Czyz and Miles Plumlee (Mason's brother) to give Duke more of an inside-outside thing going.
Still, this team is going nowhere without big seasons from guard Jon Scheyer (14.9 ppg) and small forward Kyle Singler (16.5 ppg), who will play more on the perimeter this season. Even with the recent infusion, I don't know that Duke has overwhelming talent, especially in the backcourt, and we all know that without overwhelming talent, Coach K has never been able to do much on a national level.
MARYLAND (+800) was the center of some controversy last year, with coach Gary Williams under quite a bit of fire. At one time or another, everybody, it seems, wanted to fire him, but Williams was finally able to get things together, reaching the NCAA's with his team, where they beat California and lost to Memphis.
Williams and Terps fans were incredibly relieved to see that Greivis Vasquez, one of the better all-around guards in the country and a big guard at that, decided to return to school for his senior season, giving the Terps a real leader., With Eric Hayes, Adrian Bowie and Sean Mosley, this is a team that is guard-heavy; that is, unless they can get some very significant contributions from freshmen Jordan Williams and James Padgett. If they're not heard from in a big way, this team will hurt itself on the boards.
Now say hello to the others:
BOSTON COLLEGE (+2000) will shift its emphasis from perimeter scoring to more of an inside game with the departure of Tyrese Rice, but they must take care of the ball, and who is going to do that?
CLEMSON (+800) gets hurt by the loss of Terrence Oglesby, who was someone that stretched out the defense with his three-point bombing. They've got a pretty good recruiting class coming in, though, and it's headed by bulky Devin Booker, brother of the Tigers' best inside player, Trevor Booker.
FLORIDA STATE (+1200) is always going to be a potential pain in the neck to play, as long as Leonard Hamilton is at the helm. That's because they play defense, and they have one of the league's best big men in Solomon Alabi. Losing Toney Douglas to the NBA was a double blow though, because he was not only far and away the Seminoles' best scorer but also the defensive player of the year in the ACC.
MIAMI (+3000) lost sharp-shooting guard Jack McClinton, which was huge. The Hurricanes will have a whole new backcourt with prized freshman Durand Scott and Villanova transfer Malcolm Grant.
NORTH CAROLINA STATE (+3000) doesn't play enough defense to compete with the big boys here. It looks like a trip tot he NIT is in the offing.
VIRGINIA (+2000) is a place where there could be a surprise. The Cavaliers return a lot of experience, and new coach Tony Bennett could shake up things quite a bit with his more deliberate, low-turnover, defense-oriented style. How quickly can his team adapt?
VIRGINIA TECH (+1200) suffers from the loss of AJ Vassallo. Malcolm Delaney (18.1 ppg last year) returns for coach Seth Greenberg, as does Jeff Allen, a talented inside scorer. Now who else can put it in the hoop?
WAKE FOREST (+1500) was rated #1 in the country at one point last season, but dropped quickly, lost to Cleveland State in the NCAA's and watched as James Johnson and Jeff Teague left town. Because they have a nice leftover from last year's freshman class (namely forward Al-Farouq Aminu and center Tony Woods) they can hang in there, and should be in the running for one of the conference's NCAA bids.