Aaron Beard of the Associated Press
During Jon Scheyer’s first season at Duke, the team worked towards winning another Atlantic Coast Conference title. However, it was Miami who ultimately emerged victorious in March, securing their first trip to the Final Four.
The 2023-24 season will see the ACC headliners, with the highly ranked Blue Devils expected to compete for a national championship and the Hurricanes, ranked 13th, aiming for their third consecutive successful postseason.
Duke’s strategy involves utilizing Kyle Filipowski, who was named a preseason Associated Press All-American, as well as Tyrese Proctor, a promising NBA draft prospect, and four other returning starters. Additionally, their strong recruiting efforts have resulted in another top-notch incoming class. In his first full season as head coach, Jon Scheyer, who succeeded Mike Krzyzewski, led Duke to their 22nd ACC Tournament championship, but unfortunately, they were defeated by Tennessee in the NCAA Tournament’s second round.
“Our team has a solid foundation of returning players,” Scheyer stated. “Our incoming freshmen have shown great potential and will be valuable assets on the court. We must work on defining everyone’s roles moving forward.”
The ACC championship journey involved defeating the Hurricanes in the semifinals. Despite this, the Hurricanes surprised everyone by making it to the Elite Eight in 2022 and advancing to the final weekend of college basketball. Three starters from that team, including guard Nijel Pack (13.6 points), forward Norchad Omier (13.1 points, 10.0 rebounds), and guard Wooga Poplar, will be returning this season.
Coach Jim Larrañaga expressed that the team still has room for improvement in their defensive skills and rebounding abilities in order to be able to compete against top teams in the league and across the nation. He commended his staff for effectively communicating what needs to be done to reach their goals, but ultimately it will be the players’ responsibility to put in the effort and improve in these areas.
UNC’S NEXT ACT
The state of North Carolina is relying on a complete overhaul of their roster during the offseason in order to prevent a repeat of last year’s troubles.
In 2022, the Tar Heels were ranked first in the preseason AP poll due to their surprising journey to the NCAA championship game. However, they were also the first team to hold the top spot in the preseason poll and not make it to the NCAA Tournament since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
They are the only other team ranked in the preseason AP Top 25 at number 19 in the league. They have acquired five transfers and seven new players.
“We still need to determine our preferences and dislikes,” stated Armando Bacot, a preseason AP All-American and key player on the team. “However, I believe that all of our teammates have a positive attitude, which will make building cohesion easier compared to other teams.”
Virginia is in search of a replacement for their floor leader following the departure of Kihei Clark.
Clark had been a starter going back to the Cavaliers’ run to the 2019 NCAA championship, ending a five-year career as the program’s career leader in assists (718), wins (122), starts (141) and games (161).
Only one player, guard Reece Beekman, from the Cavaliers’ previous season will be returning. Beekman has demonstrated a talent for delivering in crucial moments. Additionally, Virginia has acquired point guard Dante Harris from Georgetown as a transfer. Harris joined the team in the middle of last season and had an average of 11.9 points in 2021-22.
In the mid-2010s, coaches in the league advocated for it to become a 10-bid league for the NCAA Tournament following expansion to 15 teams. However, more recently, the league has been moving in the wrong direction.
Over the course of five years, the league received nine bids twice (in 2017 and 2018), had three top-seeded teams in one tournament (in 2019), and saw three different teams win the championship (Duke in 2015, UNC in 2017, and Virginia in an additional year).
However, over the past two seasons, the ACC has only received five invitations each year. One positive aspect is that during this time, Miami has had a successful two-year streak and there was a Duke-UNC game in the Final Four in 2022. Additionally, Pittsburgh and North Carolina State ended their long droughts last year in 2016 and 2018, respectively.
In 2017, the ACC had four renowned coaches on the sidelines: Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Jim Boeheim, and Rick Pitino. However, for the first time in two decades, there will not be a Hall of Fame coach representing the league.
Pitino was fired in the fall due to the repercussions of a federal investigation into corruption in the sport. He has since joined St. John’s. Williams retired in April 2021, with Krzyzewski following a year later and Boeheim retiring last season.
There are three new coaches in the league, with Adrian Autry, a former Syracuse player and assistant, taking over after Boeheim’s 47 years. Micah Shrewsberry left Penn State to become the new coach at Notre Dame, replacing Mike Brey, who had been with the Fighting Irish for 22 seasons.
Damon Stoudamire, a former NBA player and assistant coach, has replaced Josh Pastner at Georgia Tech.