Conference Catchup: Louisville adds hype, expectations to new-look ACC
Resetting the major college basketball conferences now that the coaching carousel has slowed and transfers are settling in with new teams.
Things are now mostly settled in college basketball. We basically know who will be coaching where. We basically know who will be playing where. So this seems like as good of a time as any to reset everything and get caught up on all of the notable leagues.
That's the idea behind the CBSSports.com Conference Catchups.
We'll post one every other day over a four-week span. We begin today with the ACC, and the American Athletic Conference will follow on Thursday.
FOUR OFFSEASON HEADLINES
1. ACC Tournament going back to the future: At the ACC spring meetings, the league announced that its tournament would move to a Tuesday-to-Saturday format beginning in 2015. It will be the first time since 1981 the tournament's final game will be held on Saturday rather than Sunday afternoon, but John Swofford was quick to note that the first 28 ACC tournaments concluded on Saturday. The league also revealed a new logo and plans to experiment with a 30-second shot clock during exhibition games to pick up the pace of play.
2. Hello Louisville, goodbye Maryland: Unlike the expansion to 15 teams, the addition of Louisville comes out of necessity after Maryland’s departure for the Big Ten. Maryland, a charter member of the league, is the ACC’s first departure since South Carolina’s exit in 1971. There is some sadness in ending a long-running relationship, but those mushy feelings have been squashed by competing multi-million dollar lawsuits. Louisville does not just bring another Hall of Fame coach to the mix, but a .759 winning percentage over the last decade with three final four appearances and a national title. In terms of recent success, the ACC has just upgraded its operating system.
3. Virginia Tech lands one of the best hires of the offseason: Early returns from Blacksburg indicate that new athletic director Whit Babcock has won over fans immediately by convincing Buzz Williams to leave Marquette. Williams took Marquette to five NCAA Tournaments in six seasons. The Hokies, on the other hand, have gone to the tournament just twice since 1986. Wake Forest also drew headlines with the hire of Danny Manning, fresh off a Conference USA title and conference Coach of the Year honors, while new Boston College coach Jim Christian boosted his staff with the addition of Scott Spinelli from Maryland.
4. Graduations, NBA Draft departures move Syracuse back to square one for 2014-15: Syracuse took the sport by storm with its 25-0 start, but those days were quickly forgotten with four losses in six games and an early exit from the ACC Tournament. So while history was made, the storybook season did not have a happy ending and the epilogue was even worse. Freshman point guard Tyler Ennis and forward Jerami Grant opted to join C.J. Fair in the NBA Draft pool, leaving the Orange with very little experience for 2014-15. Freshman point guard Kaleb Joseph will likely be thrust into the starting role and Trevor Cooney must become a more dynamic scorer for next year’s team to avoid the offensive droughts that plagued the Orange down the stretch of the season.
BIG QUESTION THAT REMAINS
Will Virginia continue its trajectory under Tony Bennett and remain a power in the ACC moving forward? Critics have noted that UVA’s league schedule was favorable, but the Wahoos were the only ACC team to advance past the first weekend in the NCAA Tournament and looked like the best team while claiming the title in Greensboro. A backcourt of London Perrantes and Malcolm Brogdon give the team a great chance to contend again in 2014-15 and Tony Bennett is one of the game’s rising coaching stars. If things continue on this current trajectory it may not take 30 years for another ACC title.
NBA DRAFT REPORT
- Could’ve gone and did: Tyler Ennis (Syracuse), Jerami Grant (Syracuse), Rodney Hood (Duke), James Michael McAdoo (North Carolina), KJ McDaniels (Clemson), Jabari Parker (Duke), TJ Warren (NC State)
- Could’ve gone but stayed: Olivier Hanlan (Boston College), Montrezl Harrell (Louisville), Chris Jones (Louisville), Marcus Paige (North Carolina), Rasheed Sulaimon (Duke)
- Coming: Seth Allen (Maryland to Virginia Tech), Dimitri Batten (ODU to Boston College), Demarco Cox (Ole Miss to Georgia Tech), Josh Heath (USF to Georgia Tech), Avry Holmes (San Francisco to Clemson), Darius Leonard (Campbell to Wake Forest), Sean Obi (Rice to Duke), Darius Thompson (Tennessee to Virginia)
- Going: Ryan Anderson (Boston College to Arizona), Cameron Biedsheid (Notre Dame to Missouri), Robert Carter Jr. (Georgia Tech to TBD), Devin Coleman (Clemson to Temple), Adonis Filer (Clemson to TBD), Teven Jones (Virginia to TBD), James Kelly (Miami to Marshall), Maurice Kirby (Virginia Tech to Coffeyville CC), Tyler Lewis (NC State to Butler), Arnaud-William Adala Moto (Wake Forest to Towson), Alex Murphy (Duke to Florida), Solomon Poole (Georgia Tech to TBD), Joe Rahon (Boston College to Saint Mary's), Marquis Rankin (Virginia Tech to TBD), Trevor Thompson (Virginia Tech to Ohio State), Kevin Ware (Louisville to Georgia State)
TEAM COMMENTARY IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
Boston College : Hanlan’s return and the hire of Scott Spinelli give new head coach Jim Christian a few positives after the loss of Ryan Anderson.
Clemson : Clemson is investing in its up-tempo football and defensively-minded basketball, giving Brad Brownell a new six-year, $10.6 million deal.
Duke : Young talent is the focus again with Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones. If the pieces fit with Sulaimon and Cook, Duke is eyeing another banner.
Florida State : 6-5 guard Aaron Thomas broke late and led FSU to the NIT semifinals. No longer just a defensive weapon, he needs to be a star in 2014-15.
Georgia Tech : Losing Robert Carter Jr. is a big setback for Brian Gregory; entering his fourth season with no tourney appearances and a 16-36 ACC record.
Louisville : With Chris Jones and Montrezl Harrell back, the Cards will take the ACC by storm and hope for a fourth straight 30+ win season.
Miami : It’s a brand new team, but Miami is getting some attention as a team to watch, thanks to transfers Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan.
North Carolina : Roy Williams welcomes back Marcus Paige and an elite crew of freshman. Kennedy Meeks could be the X-factor in terms of ACC title contention.
North Carolina State : Speedy point guard Cat Barber is poised for a breakout and transfer Trevor Lacey hope to take NC State to a fourth straight NCAA Tournament.
Notre Dame : Star guard Jerian Grant is on track to return to school on June 15 after an academic issue. His return gives the Irish a mulligan in ACC play.
Pittsburgh : Pitt loses Lamar Patterson and Zanna, but the James Robinson-Cameron Wright backcourt will anchor what should be another tournament team.
Syracuse : Kaleb Joseph has big shoes to fill after Ennis’ exit. Syracuse will not dominate early like 2013-14 but should be tournament ready by March.
Virginia : Justin Anderson and Anthony Gill will take on bigger roles along with London Perrantes. All reasons to have UVA contending again in 2014-15.
Virginia Tech : Transfer guard Seth Allen will sit out next season, but consider his decision as the beginning of a new era under Buzz Williams.
Wake Forest : Danny Manning has star power that has been missing on the sidelines (and on the recruiting trail) in Winston-Salem.
EARLY GUESS AT THE TOP 5 IN THE LEAGUE
- North Carolina
EARLY GUESS AT THE ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM
- F: Montrezl Harrell, Louisville
- F: Jahlil Okafor, Duke
- F: Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke
- G: Marcus Paige, UNC
- G: London Perrantes, Virginia
Final Thought: The ACC did not reign over the rest of college basketball like some assumed when Coack K predicted that the newly expanded league would “be the best conference in the history of the game.” Now that the ACC has added Louisville, and Rick Pitino, there will be a chance to revisit many of the same superconference talking points from a year ago. The ACC does have multiple Hall of Famers roaming the sidelines, but the league will be judged year-in and year-out based on its representation in the NCAA Tournament and the number of legitimate title contenders. Last season, the ACC sent five of 15 teams in the big dance -- as many teams as the Big Ten and less than the 10-team Big 12 -- and only Virginia made it out of the first weekend.
The ACC doesn’t need to be a 10-bid league to meet expectations, but the middle of the conference needs to be stronger to avoid criticism from the rest of the country. Virginia’s resurgence under Tony Bennett helps, but there are a few more seats at the table up for grabs as the pecking order resets in the new-look ACC.
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