Way Too Early 2014-2015 ACC Men’s Basketball Rankings

Following in the footsteps of the Worldwide Leader, the Confidential thought it would be fun to go ahead and try to project next year’s ACC Men’s Basketball standings. As is always the case, it’s nearly impossible to predict what will happen. Injuries occur, players don’t live up to expectations, teams over perform, but it’s a fun exercise regardless. After all, where else can you be so consistently wrong and still have people follow your every word? You know, besides meteorology.

Prediction vs. Reality

It’s fun to look at last season’s preseason poll from the ACC’s Operation Basketball and compare it to what actually happened because it shows that this year will probably be just as different. The media predictions are on the left, with the actual final result on the right. Differences are in bold-

Predicted Final Standings                   Actual Final Standings          

Duke                                                                  Virginia 

Syracuse                                                          Syracuse

North Carolina                                            Duke

Virginia                                                            North Carolina

Notre Dame                                                   Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh                                                      Clemson

Maryland                                                         Florida State

Boston College                                             NC State

Florida State                                                  Maryland

NC State                                                            Miami

Georgia Tech                                                 Wake Forest

Miami                                                                 Georgia Tech

Wake Forest                                                    Notre Dame

Clemson                                                            Boston College

Virginia Tech                                                 Virginia Tech

That’s pretty astounding. All in all, 13 of the 15 predictions were wrong, giving the media a stunning 13.3% success rate in determining the standings. When looking a little closer, 7 teams exceeded expectations (Virginia, Pittsburgh, Clemson, Florida State, NC State, Miami, Wake Forest), 6 teams failed to meet expectations (Duke, North Carolina, Maryland, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, Boston College) and only two teams (Syracuse and Virginia Tech) met expectations. And we’re certain that Hokie fans aren’t happy about that.

But who could have predicted the ineligibility of Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant, the team’s leading returning scorer? Or the PJ Hairston fiasco that left North Carolina scrambling for outside shots? Boston College’s poor performance cost Coach Steve Donahue his job, while Wake Forest’s Jeff Bzdelik didn’t do enough despite coaching his team to two higher places than expected. But sometimes enough is enough, and sometimes it’s not enough. Virginia Tech’s James Johnson found himself on the market at the end of the season despite ending up exactly where everyone thought amid a difficult rebuilding season (former recruits/players include Louisville star and National Champion Montrezl Harrell, SEC Sixth Man of the Year Dorian Finney-Smith, transfers Maurice Kirby, Robert Brown and Marquis Rankin among others). That’s what makes preseason predictions so fun, especially this far out. Take a few more of the results from Operation Basketball-

Predicted All-ACC Team                        Actual All-ACC Team
C.J. Fair, Syracuse                                           C.J. Fair, Syracuse
Joe Harris, Virginia                                         KJ McDaniels, Clemson
Rodney Hood, Duke                                        Marcus Paige, North Carolina
Jerian Grant, Notre Dame                            TJ Warren, NC State
Jabari Parker, Duke                                         Jabari Parker, Duke

Predicted ACC Player of the Year    Actual ACC Player of the Year
C.J. Fair, Syracuse                                           TJ Warren, NC State

Predicted ACC Rookie of the Year   Actual ACC Rookie of the year
Jabari Parker, Duke                                         Jabari Parker, Duke

Again, there are a LOT of differences here. CJ Fair and Jabari Parker played up to expectations, while KJ McDaniels and TJ Warren led their teams to surprising finishes. The emergence of Marcus Paige was notable as well- many see him as next year’s preseason ACC Player of the Year and it’s hard to disagree. So why do a really early ranking? Why not? If only to highlight the unpredictable nature of the sport. Notable additions of 4 or 5 star players are listed by name and position. Others are mentioned as well.

Way Too Early 2014-2015 Men’s Basketball Rankings

1) North Carolina Tar Heels

Notable Losses- James Michael McAdoo (14.2ppg, 6.8rpg), Leslie McDonald (10.4ppg, 2.0rpg)

Notable Additions- Justin Jackson (ESPN #2 SF), Joel Berry (ESPN #3 PG), Theo Pinson (ESPN #3 SF)

The Rundown- North Carolina is a veteran team once again. Marcus Paige is expected to be a  star and the recruiting class fills important needs. Look for Roy Williams to return to the Final Four once again.

2) Duke Blue Devils

Notable Losses- Jabari Parker (19.1ppg, 8.7rpg), Rodney Hood (16.1ppg, 3.9rpg), Seniors Josh Hairston, Tyler Thornton, Andre Dawkins

Notable Additions- Jahlil Okafor (ESPN #1 C), Tyus Jones (ESPN #1 PG), Justise Winslow (ESPN #5 SF), Grayson Allen (ESPN #6 SG)

The Rundown- While Duke is the trendy pick to win the ACC next year, they lose a significant amount of production, leadership and experience. With great coaching and a star recruiting class however, they should contend until the very end. Don’t expect them to lose in the first (sorry, SECOND) round of the NCAAs again.

3) Virginia Cavaliers

Notable Losses- Joe Harris (12.0ppg, 2.9rpg), Akil Mitchell (6.8ppg, 7.0rpg)

Notable Additions- 3 ESPN 3-star recruits

The Rundown- The Cavaliers caught a lot of people by surprise this year, but they won’t do it again. Coach Tony Bennett truly came into his own with his slowdown style and should be able to put together another contender despite important losses.

4) Louisville Cardinals

Notable Losses- Russ Smith (18.2ppg, 3.3rpg), Luke Hancock (12.3ppg, 2.6rpg)

Notable Additions- Quentin Snider (ESPN #5 PG), Chinanu Onuaku (ESPN #9 C), Shaqquan Aaaron (ESPN #10 SF), Anas Osama Mahmoud (ESPN #12 C), Jaylen Johnson (#24 PF)

The Rundown- The return of Montrezl Harrell was a significant factor in the Cardinals’ ranking. That, along with a star recruiting class and world class coaching has Louisville ready for a special season next year, its first in the conference.

5) Syracuse Orange

Notable Losses- CJ Fair (16.5ppg, 6.4rpg), Tyler Ennis (12.9ppg, 5.5apg), Jerami Grant (12.1ppg, 6.8rpg)

Notable Additions- Chris McCullough (ESPN #5 PF), Kaleb Joseph (ESPN #9 PG)

The Rundown- Much like Duke and Louisville, the Orange lose their most important pieces, but make up for it in a small, yet talented class. This Jim Boeheim coached team may be down by their own standards, but won’t be for long.

6) NC State Wolfpack

Notable Losses- TJ Warren (24.9ppg, 7.1rpg), Jordan Vandenburg (4.6ppg, 4.7rpg), *Tyler Lewis (Transferred to Butler, 4.4ppg, 3.8rpg)

Notable Additions- Abdul-Malik Abu (ESPN #7 PF), Caleb Martin (ESPN #16 SF), Cody Martin (ESPN #25 SF), *Trevor Lacey (Alabama Transfer, 11.3ppg, 3.8rpg)

The Rundown- When NC State made the NCAA Tournament this year, many people were surprised in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the red team on Tobacco Road. But their play at the end of the season was a promising preview of the future. ACC Player of the Year TJ Warren is gone, but the team showed a lot of promise as a whole and has the potential for a great season.

7) Pittsburgh Panthers

Notable Losses- Lamar Patterson (17.1ppg, 4.9rpg), Talib Zanna (13.0ppg, 8.6rpg)

Notable Additions- Shaquille Doorson (ESPN #16 C), 5 other players

The Rundown- Sure, Pitt is losing their most dynamic playmaker in Lamar Patterson, but the Panthers return an experienced backcourt and gain an enormous six-man recruiting class that is expected to contribute immediately.

8) Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Notable Losses- Eric Atkins (13.9ppg, 4.9apg), Garrick Sherman (13.5ppg, 7.3rpg)

Notable Additions- *Jerian Grant (Return from academic suspension, 19.0ppg, 6.2apg), Bonzie Colson Jr. (ESPN #28 PF), 2 other players

The Rundown- Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the Fighting Irish’s leading scorer of 2012-2013, Jerian Grant, will return next season. That should provide a huge boost for the team and keep them out of the ACC cellar.

9) Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Notable Losses- Daniel Miller (10.9ppg, 7.8rpg), Trae Golden (13.3ppg, 2.6rpg), Kammeon Holsey (7.5ppg, 5.0rpg), *Solomon Poole (Dismissed, 6.4ppg, 1.1rpg)

Notable Additions- Tadric Jackson (ESPN #15 SG), 2 other players

The Rundown- While Georgia Tech loses a lot, and underwhelmed this past year, there’s hope that a breakout season by big man Robert Carter Jr. could turn the team’s fortunes. If not, look for Coach Brian Gregory’s seat to become very hot.

10) Virginia Tech Hokies

Notable Losses- Jarell Eddie (13.3ppg, 5.4rpg) Cadarian Raines (5.2ppg, 3.2rpg), *Marquis Rankin (Left for Personal Reasons), *Trevor Thompson (Transferred to Ohio State, 5.0ppg, 4.7rpg), *Maurice Kirby (Transferred to Coffeyville Community College, KS)

Notable Additions- Coach Buzz Williams (2013 Big East Regular Season Championship, 1 Elite Eight), Ahmed Hill (ESPN #13 SG), Justin Bibbs (ESPN #14 SG), Jalen Hudson (ESPN #19 SG), one other player

The Rundown- Surprised to see the Hokies moving up? Don’t be. The biggest coaching surprise of the off-season came when Buzz Williams left a stable Marquette program to head to Blacksburg. It’s an incredible feat for Virginia Tech, and it’s already paid dividends as he’s taken some of his recruits with him. The Hokies are still in the mix for some of James Johnson’s recruits that decommitted as well.

11) Florida State Seminoles

Notable Losses-Okaro White (13.6ppg, 6.8rpg), Ian Miller (13.7ppg, 2.8apg), Robert Gilchrist (3.0ppg, 1.8rpg)

Notable Additions- 4 mostly post-grad/junior college players

The Rundown- Coach Leonard Hamilton loses some of his most important players from the past few years, but brings in another crop of mostly junior college recruits. As always, expect them to exceed expectations.

12) Clemson Tigers

Notable Losses- KJ McDaniels (17.1ppg, 7.1rpg)

Notable Additions- 1 ESPN 3-star recruit, one other player

The Rundown- Clemson was a hard team to place. They lose their best player in All-ACC selection KJ McDaniels, but at the same time that’s it. They don’t lose anyone else. Since the Tigers were better than expected this year, they’re getting the benefit of the doubt this time around. McDaniels’ production will be hard to replace though.

13) Miami Hurricanes

Notable Losses- Rion Brown (15.5ppg, 5.8rpg), Garrius Adams (10.2ppg, 4.8rpg), Donnavan Kirk (7.5ppg, 5.0rpg), Erik Swoope (5.0ppg, 2.7rpg)

Notable Additions- Ja’Quan Newton (ESPN #12 PG), 2 ESPN 3-star recruits, 1 junior college player

The Rundown- Last year, Miami saw a significant exodus in the graduation of almost all of their top-7 players. This year, they lose a lot, but not quite as much. That should help Coach Jim Larranaga as he seeks to continue to build a basketball culture in famously apathetic Miami.

14) Wake Forest Demon Deacons (UPDATED)

Notable Losses- Travis McKie (10.7ppg, 4.1rpg), Coron Williams (10.2ppg, 2.2rpg), *Arnaud-William Adala Moto (Transferring, 6.9ppg, 5.2rpg)

Notable Additions- Coach Danny Manning (2013 CUSA Regular Season/Tournament Champion), *1 ESPN three-star recruit, one other player- *UPDATE- Top recruit Shelton Mitchell was granted a release from his letter of intent on 4/30/14

The Rundown- New Coach Danny Manning has his work cut out for him at Tobacco Road’s most turbulent school. Still, after two successful seasons at Tulsa, and a decorated college and NBA career, it’s hard to doubt his pedigree as he returns back to his old high school stomping grounds in North Carolina’s Piedmont Triad region.

15) Boston College Eagles

Notable Losses- *Ryan Anderson (Transferring, 14.3ppg, 7.3rpg), *Joe Rahon (Transferring to St. Mary’s, 9.0ppg, 3.4rpg)

Notable Additions- Coach Jim Christian (2 MAC Tournament Championships, 2 MAC Coach of the Year Awards)

The Rundown- Probably most notable of all is the rebuilding job that new Coach Jim Christian has ahead of him. Not only did the Eagles woefully under perform last year, but they’re also losing Ryan Anderson, their second leading scorer. Christian is a good coach, but don’t expect much in his first year.

And that’s that. Now that the NBA’s deadline for underclassmen early entry has passed, we’re left with the type of unpredictable drama that can make or break a season. What do you think? Do you agree, or disagree with the rankings? Would you place your team higher, or lower? Let us know in the replies!

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