Too Early 2022 ACC Basketball Power Rankings
All hail the NCAA Tournament. The marquee sporting event of every year (in my opinion) reminded everyone that it is basketball players, and not athletes, who fuel success in the college game. Watching the dumpster fire that was the SEC’s tournament run, where five of the six teams selected from the league didn’t advance past the second round, warmed my heart. Especially jovial moments included double digit seed Miami’s win over Auburn, as well as #11 Notre Dame overcoming #6 Alabama. Meanwhile, the ACC sent three of its five tournament bids all the way to the Elite Eight, with Duke and North Carolina both making the Final Four. Oh, and Arkansas, the only SEC team to make it past the second round, lost by nine points to Duke in the Elite Eight.
Hopefully, the most storied basketball league in college basketball has regained the respect it deserves and is once again regarded as the best conference in the land. With that out of the way, let’s take a look at my ACC Basketball Power Rankings five months before the season begins.
Tier 1: National Championship Contenders
1. UNC– Not only are Armando Bacot, Caleb Love, and R.J. Davis returning, but Hubert Davis reeled in the third highest-rated recruiting class in the ACC and 18th best in the nation. It features three top-100 recruits including 6’3 point guard Seth Trimble who should alleviate some of the pressure off of Davis and Love. Though, I might have chosen this team to win the ACC regardless of their freshmen due to the returning core of players who reached the National Championship last year. Hubert Davis has made a believer out of me.
2. Virginia– A Tony Bennett team bringing back all five starters, with a top-15 recruiting class, and adding a transfer who averaged nearly 15 points a game? Sign me up!
3. Duke– Jon Scheyer really has his work cut out for him in his first year as head coach (insert eye-roll emoji). In reality, this is one of the most talented groups of freshmen in Durham since 2018 when Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, and Cam Reddish came to town. I only put them this low because of their new coach and the possible hiccups the team might experience as these highly touted youngsters learn to gel. By years end, however, Scheyer could be clutching a severed net in his hand and it would surprise no one.
Tier 2: NCAA Tournament Hopefuls
4. Notre Dame– Is Mike Brey trying to make Notre Dame the Golden State of college basketball? Last year they proved that small ball can win in both the ACC, where they finished third, and the National Tournament, where they beat both Rutgers (in the play-in) and Alabama (Roll Over Tide). Now they have added a 37% shooter from three last season in Marcus Hammond through the transfer portal, to go along with the 19th best recruiting class in the country. By the way, the crown jewel of that class is 6’4 point guard JJ Starling who profiles as an electric scorer at this level. Can the Fighting Irish outshoot their competition?
5. Miami– Jim Larranaga’s squad silenced the doubters last season with a deep tournament run. I personally watched Isaiah Wong have his way with the Demon Deacons when Miami came to Winston-Salem last year. When he’s on, that dude is unstoppable. The team also added some nice transfers and a top-25 recruiting class. Don’t sleep on these guys again.
6. Wake Forest– Can Steve Forbes work his magic again? Wake is losing its top two players as Alondes Williams graduated and Jake LaRavia has entered the NBA draft. That is an incredibly tough duo to replace, but if anyone has proved their mettle with transfers it’s Forbes. Although the recruiting class doesn’t look great next to most of the other teams in this conference, the team is adding four intriguing transfers to the mix. Most of he noise is surrounding Tyree Appleby, but I want to see what former Marist guard Jao Ituka can do against better competition. He averaged over 15 points in only 22 minutes as a freshman which seems promising.
Tier 3: Could Go Either Way
7. Virginia Tech– Tough team to figure out. I had the hardest time placing them in my ACC Basketball Power Rankings. They got out of the gates slow last year after everyone projected them to be good, but finished strong in the ACC tournament. Justyn Mutts’ return is huge for them. Middle of the pack recruiting class in the ACC without very exciting transfers. Mike Young is hoping he sees the version of his team that appeared in the latter half of the year.
8. Florida State– Leonard Hamilton endured one of his worst seasons in recent memory last year. A 10-10 mark in ACC play isn’t terrible but doesn’t meet his lofty standards. Also, I believe that team played worse than their record indicates. They lost by over 40 points to Syracuse as the higher seed in the first round of the ACC tournament. Not exactly ending your season on a high note. However, Hamilton has a long, deep, and athletic team who should bounce back.
9. Clemson– The starting five is strong, especially with P.J. Hall leading the way. However, they don’t have much top tier talent beyond Hall. Their balance is good, but the Tigers’ ceiling is limited.
Tier 4: Maybe… If Everything Goes Right
10. Boston College– The Eagles are bringing back most of their starting lineup and that experience will be a big boost. I really like Boston College’s back court. Jaeden Zackery will surprise a lot of people with a great sophomore season alongside Mackai Ashton Langford and DeMarr Langford. However, an underwhelming frontcourt and somewhat sketchy spacing will hold this team back.
11. Syracuse– How surprising is it that Syracuse lay claim to the 4th best-recruiting class in the ACC? Not what I was expecting, and good for the program, however, this team does not have the experience necessary to compete. Yes, they have Joe Girard and Jesse Edwards coming back, but Edwards can never seem to stay out of foul trouble. As for Girard… let’s just say relying on him to produce consistently on offensive does not seem like a recipe for success.
Tier 5: Better Luck Next Year
12. Louisville– It’s most likely going to be a tough season for the Cardinals. Their leading scorer last season averaged just 9.6 points. The incoming recruits aren’t going to move the needle. Even if transfer Brandon Huntley-Hatfield lives up to his five-star pedigree I can’t see this team moving out of the ACC’s basement.
13. NC State– I think this will be an unpopular opinion. However, I am prepared to defend keeping the ACC’s last-place finisher in 2021 at the bottom of the conference. Dereon Seabron isn’t coming back. He said he’s staying in the draft. That’s a blow. He led the team in points, assists, and rebounds! and steals last season. It seems like a big issue that nobody outside of a 180-pound guard averaged more than 4.6 rebounds a game. I am also not a believer in Terquavion Smith. Yes, he averaged over 16 points as a freshman, but a 39.8/36.9/69.8 shooting line screams stat collector, not winner. Perhaps he will prove me wrong and lead NC State to a middle-of-the-pack finish, but I’d bet against it.
14. Georgia Tech– It is tough to have any confidence in a program that doesn’t have a single recruit committed for 2022. Michael Devoe is gone. So is Jordan Usher. That’s over 32 points a game they have to replace. I doubt Josh Pastner is going to be able to replace their production with the transfers they got. Outlook not good.
Tier 6: Garbage
15. Pitt– Sorry, not sorry Pitt fans. Your basketball team sucking is karmic retribution for Kenny Pickett taking a fake knee in the ACC Championship Game. It is beyond sad that an ACC basketball team does not have a single incoming recruit with a star to their name.
Thanks for reading my ACC Basketball Power Rankings!