Now that college basketball is nuzzling into the middle of its offseason, we're addressing what has happened in the seven major conferences since early April. We started with the American and we're on to the ACC. Five more are on the way.
The ACC was the nation's deepest conference last season. That may not be the case in 2017-18. The top of the league will be a tick below what it was last season, the middle a bit softer, and the bottom about the same. There is a lot to recap from the past three months and more to look forward to come the fall. The ACC is always entertaining -- and it's coming off a landmark NBA Draft.
Let's look at the changes the league's gone through since the day after UNC cut down the nets.
Biggest names returning
- Grayson Allen, Duke
- Joel Berry II and Theo Pinson, UNC
- Quentin Snider and Deng Adel, Louisville
- Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell, Notre Dame
- Kyle Guy, Virginia
- Bruce Brown and Dewan Huell, Miami
The ACC always has a reliable batch of standout players, but there's an undeniable talent drain, as you'll see below. The incoming freshman class isn't as talented as last year's -- a nationwide trend for 2017-18. Still, there could have been 10 more players on the list above, and Allen is a universe apart from everyone else. There's no one remotely as famous or recognizable in the sport as him.
Impact players who left
- Justin Jackson, Kennedy Meeks, Tony Bradley and Isaiah Hicks, UNC
- Jayson Tatum, Luke Kennard and Amile Jefferson, Duke
- Donovan Mitchell, Louisville
- Jonathan Isaac, Dwayne Bacon and Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Florida State
- Steve Vasturia and V.J. Beachem, Notre Dame
- Andrew White and Tyler Lydon, Syracuse
- Dennis Smith Jr., NC State
- John Collins, Wake Forest
- London Perrantes, Virginia
- Zach LeDay, Virginia Tech
- Jamel Artis, Pitt
Whether they went in the NBA Draft or graduated, a lot of fun players left the conference, and no program will be hit harder than Florida State, while no program figures to get better, despite the losses, than Duke.
Kevin Keatts, NC State: In a 15-team league, it's unusual to start a new season with only one new coach. The former UNC Wilmington coach takes over for Mark Gottfried, who was fired in February (but coached out the remainder of the season). Keatts, 44, is no stranger to the ACC, with previous experience as a Louisville assistant (2011-14).
Three biggest ACC headlines of the 2017 offseason:
- Louisville's 2013 banner hangs in the balance: It's the biggest news in the sport. In mid-June, we learned how seriously the NCAA's Committee on Infractions is taking the escort scandal that has hovered over Louisville the past 20 months. Rick Pitino is likely going to have to sit five ACC games next season. Louisville may have to pay back millions made off NCAA Tournament victories that could be wiped from the records. Included is the 2013 national title (plus the 2012 Final Four). Louisville is appealing much of the NCAA's findings and sanctions. There will be more to come this fall. Here's a breakdown of the potential fallout. There is no 2018 postseason ban on the table. The Cards will be NCAA Tournament-good, and should be make the Big Dance.
- Grayson Allen returns to Duke: Allen had a tumultuous season with well-chronicled suspensions for tripping. Because of that, and the fact he potentially could have been a second-round pick, returning for another season may have seemed daunting. A lot of people weren't expecting Allen back. Whether it's good for college basketball is a complex question. What we do know is Allen is an All-America candidate. Should he stay out of trouble and lead Duke to a very good record while regularly posting 20-point games, it will be tremendous for college hoops.
- Cam Johnson's saga ends with him transferring from Pitt to UNC: Johnson wanted to transfer after graduating in three years, only to be hindered by his school. The PR onslaught against Pitt came over a month's time. Eventually, the school allowed Johnson to play where he wanted: at North Carolina. Once again, a coach/program holds transfer restrictions on a player before succumbing to pressure.
|Jim Larranaga has done it once before. The Hurricanes won the ACC's regular season title in 2013, beating second-place Duke and third-place North Carolina. That will be repeated next season. Miami has the league's best combination of talent and experience. Brown could be among the nation's top 10 players. Freshman Lonnie Walker figures to make an immediate impact.|
|Roy Williams wasn't expecting to lose big man Bradley to the NBA, which hurts the Heels. Still, UNC is No. 2 because it landed Johnson, who will be critical to UNC's offense. The Tar Heels won't be as big as a year ago, but 13 league wins is doable. Berry II figures to be one nation's top three point guards.|
|Weird dichotomy, but fun potential. You've got Allen, a senior, then a bunch of newbies. Marques Bolden barely qualifies as a returning player; he took 35 shots in 24 games last season. There will be a Kentucky-like reliance on a freshman class ranked No. 2 in the country and led by point guard Trevon Duval, who may be a top-five pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.|
|Losing Mitchell to the draft hurts a lot. With him, Louisville figured to be a national-title contender. The Cards will miss his dynamic ability and athleticism. There's still enough coming back to get Louisville to the Sweet 16.|
|The Fighting Irish return a highly valuable player: Bonzie Colson. In concert with Matt Farrell, they should put Mike Brey's team well above .500. Colson could put up huge numbers, and even though there's still a ton of talent in this league, he's a candidate to be league player of the year.|
|We're still in Big Dance bid territory, and you should expect Buzz Williams to take advantage of a softer middle of the ACC next season. Virginia Tech loses Zach LeDay and Seth Allen, but everyone else is back -- and Chris Clarke will make one of the biggest jumps|
|The Cavaliers lost point guard Perrantes; Nigel Johnson steps in as his replacement. Kyle Guy will need to make a leap into being the man for UVa to make the NCAAs.|
|We'll buy the Bees after a better-than-expected 2016-17. Ben Lammers will have a chance to be an NBA player, but made the right call coming back. Josh Pastner's team should expect to get to 20 wins again.|
|With John Collins gone for the NBA after his sophomore season leaves Wake to replace his production and presence, which is unlikely. But Bryant Crawford should be able to lead this team to a similar finish as last season.|
|Last season was a disaster in parts, but Omer Yurtseven is back, and if he can find his role and touch, NC State will have a shot at knocking off top-five teams in the league.|
|Clemson opted to keep Brad Brownell as coach. If Clemson doesn't make the NCAAs this season, a coaching change seems likely. Brownell is entering year No. 8 and has made the tournament once, in his first season.|
|It has been a very long time since Syracuse was this young. Plus, Mike Hopkins left as Jim Boeheim's premier assistant to coach at Washington. This could be a growing pains season.|
|There's some new talent coming in -- FSU's class ranks 11th in the 247 Sports composite -- but Leonard Hamilton doesn't have the experience, size or shooting to get above .500 in ACC play.|
|Jim Christian may be in need of a very big season to keep his job. Coaches in the league may say BC has a shot to finish 10th in the conference. Jerome Robinson, a junior shooting guard, has the potential to average 20 points.|
|Likely the consensus pick to finish last. Pitt had three good players last season -- Artis, Johnson and Michael Young -- yet won only four ACC games. All those guys are gone.|