It's July, and while most of the sports world has come to a dead stop (unless you love regular season MLB!) - here at AT Online we never stop talking college hoops.
Which is why over the next six weeks, we are about to rip off our "Mid-Summer, Unofficial, Power Rankings" for all six of the major conferences.
Now to be clear, these power rankings are again unofficial, and stuff may change between now and the first games in November. But with the NBA Draft deadline behind us, and most of the major transfer portal activity in the rear-view mirror, it's time to look at all these conferences and where they stand heading into the 2022-2023 season.
Then, we went to the Big 12.
Now it's time to look at the ACC, a fascinating conference, where Aaron Torres' preseason No. 1 reigns, and where there is also new blood at the top for both Duke and Louisville.
1. North Carolina Tar Heels
Just one year after making it all the way to the National Championship game, the Tar Heels will enter the 2022-2023 season, as not only the favorite in the ACC, but also one of the top ranked teams in the enter sport. A majority of the key contributors that led the Tar Heels during their magical run will be back including seniors Armando Bacot and Leaky Black, alongside the duo of juniors in the back court with Caleb Love and RJ Davis. Despite Brady Manek being a major loss in the frontcourt, North Carolina did add one of the top transfers in Pete Nance, who led Northwestern in scoring a season ago, and should have a future playing in the NBA. The thing that really stood out about North Carolina’s season a year ago, was that people very easily forget the first few months of the Hubert Davis era in Chapel Hill was very disappointing. The Tar Heels entered last season ranked as the No. 19 team in the country, but suffered three losses before the month of January, with two of them coming in blowout form to Tennessee and Kentucky. Those struggles continued throughout ACC play, when North Carolina lost two games to Wake Forest and Miami in the same week by a combined 50 points. After this stretch, North Carolina finished their season with a 17-4 record in their final 21 games including the postseason. Hubert Davis deserves a lot of credit for getting the locker room to keep believing in him during tough times, which isn't easy for a first year Head Coach that is replacing a legend in Roy Williams. The combination of that mental toughness with elite talent will make North Carolina one of the better teams in the country in 2023 and the clear top dog in the ACC entering the season.
2. Duke Blue Devils
Just one year after Duke’s arch rival North Carolina entered last season losing a coaching legend, the Blue Devils will now experience the same thing, as the Jon Scheyer era begins in Durham. Despite not coaching a game to this point, Scheyer has done about as good of a job anyone could expect so far, as he has already implemented new ideas for the program. Primarily, Scheyer hired former Nike Executive Rachel Baker to take over as General Manager, to help assist with all NIL deals. With Baker working for Nike and even having experience working with one of their top clients in Kevin Durant, there likely won’t be many high school basketball players wearing Nike on the AAU circuit that Duke won’t be able to get. Duke also just set up a home and home with Arizona for November of 2023 and 2024, which is great for the sport and that should be one of the premier matchups of the entire upcoming seasons. Scheyer wasted no time in the year leading up to his first season in the head chair, as Duke brings in the No. 1 ranked recruiting class in the country, headlined by three of the top four ranked freshmen - most notably big man Dereck Lively and wing Dariq Whitehead. In addition, Duke will have some returning experience leading the way with point guard Jeremy Roach, alongside the addition of Illinois transfer Jacob Grandison, who has played in a ton of big games throughout his career, including winning a Big Ten Tournament title on an Illinois team that got a No. 1 seed in the 2021 NCAA Tournament. Duke’s combination of young talent and experience should set them up for another big season, in year one of the Jon Scheyer era.
3. Virginia Cavaliers
In 2022, Tony Bennett’s squad missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013, but the Cavaliers should be in for a bounce back 2023. Despite the disappointing season, Virginia will return each of their top six scorers from a season ago, and remember this is always a program where veterans get better and develop year over year. This should suit the Wahoos’ well in 2023, considering last season was the first go around in the program for guys like Jayden Gardner and Armaan Franklin, who transferred in last offseason. Others, like Reece Beekman and Kadin Shedrick could be in for breakout seasons as well, with both guys showing flashes of greatness at times last season. Beekman is a third year guy (generally when guys break out under Bennett) and Shedrick can also be one of the better big men in the ACC, after averaging 6.9 points and 5.1 rebounds per game in only 20.1 minutes of action per game. Virginia will also add Ohio Transfer Ben Vander Plas, who has scored over 1500 points in his college career and helped lead Ohio to victory over Virginia in the 2021 NCAA Tournament. Fifth year Guard Kihei Clark is also back in the mix, being the only remaining player from the 2019 National Championship squad in Charlottesville and there isn't anything that will happen in the ACC that he hasn’t seen before. With a nice core returning, alongside some breakout candidates, this is historically the time when Tony Bennett’s teams shine brightest, which should be the case for Virginia in 2022-2023.
4. Florida State Seminoles
Similar to Virginia, Florida State had a somewhat disappointing 2022 season, missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016. The Seminoles will also return both of their top scorers in Caleb Mills and Matthew Cleveland, alongside guards in Jalen Warley and Cam’Ron Fletcher, who will both be entering their second season in the program. Despite last season being a disappointment, the freshman class that Leonard Hamilton brought in after losing guys like Scottie Barnes, Balsa Koprvicia and MJ Walker, really provided some bright spots. Both Cleveland and Warley, were two of the main reasons why that optimism was shown and both should be in for an even better Year 2 in Tallahassee. The scary thing is, that Florida State lost another member of that really good Freshman class somewhat unexpectedly in 7’3”unicorn John Butler, who caught the eye of too many NBA executives and decided to not return to school. Instead, Florida State will be relying on a plethora of other options, including one of the top international prospects entering college basketball this season in, 6’11” Freshman Baba Miller, alongside Brown transfer Jaylan Gainey. Having Butler would have made Florida State one of the top candidates to breakout this season, but even without him Florida State should be able to return to the NCAA Tournament and maybe do even more damage once they get there. The Seminoles were the only program alongside Gonzaga and Michigan to make the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament in every year from 2018 to 2021, and it could be sooner rather than later until Leonard Hamilton reaches the Final Four for the first time in his career.
5. Miami Hurricanes
The 2022 Hurricanes were one of college basketball’s feel good stories, with the program making it to their first NCAA Tournament since 2018 under the direction of 72 year old Jim Larranaga. Miami’s success didn’t stop there however, as Miami won three tournament games to get to their first Elite Eight in program history. Despite losing some key pieces, Miami should be right back in the mix for a tournament bid this season, with some major additions. The Hurricanes bring in arguably the best transfer available in former Kansas State Guard Nigel Pack, who was named All-Big 12 first team, after averaging 17.4 points per game last season. Pack should help Miami replace the likes of Charlie Moore and Kameron McGusty, who both were vital in Miami’s success as tremendous ball handlers. Miami had success last season playing a four guard lineup, full of tremendous ball handlers and in the NCAA Tournament, a common theme has been the better guards you have the better chance you have at succeeding. Two of those guards will be returning to school to join Pack in the backcourt, Isaiah Wong and Jordan Miller. Wong found his name in some controversy this offseason, when he threatened to enter the transfer portal after details of Miami’s NIL deals came out, but all things were worked out and Wong should be one of the better players in the ACC. Former George Mason Guard Jordan Miller is also set to return, after being one of Miami’s most important and valuable players a season ago, playing a lot of stretch 4. With former top 60 Freshman Harlan Beverly hopefully back healthy, alongside Arkansas State transfer Norchad Omier in the frontcourt, Miami should play a little more traditional lineup at times, which could be the key for the Hurricanes this season.
6. Virginia Tech Hokies
Mike Young has become one of the more underrated coaches in the country over the past few seasons and has gotten Virginia Tech to each of the last two NCAA Tournaments. Last season was not perfect for the Hokies, as they entered the regular season expected to be a fringe Top 25 on most people's radar. While things didn't work out as planned, they got hot when it mattered, winning the ACC Tournament and making the Big Dance.
Despite losing some key contributors from last year's team including leading scorer Keve Aluma, the Hokies do have a nice returning core. Everyone will remember Virginia Tech’s magical ACC Tournament run, but that doesn’t happen without the likes of Darius Maddox hitting a miraculous three at the buzzer to lift the Hokies over Clemson in their opening game of the ACC Tournament. Maddox only averaged 6.4 points per game last season, but really came on towards the back end, playing 20+ minutes in each of Virginia Tech’s ACC and NCAA Tournament games, coming on in a big way with 20 points in the Hokies ACC Tournament victory over North Carolina. In addition, sharpshooter Hunter Cattor, who originally committed to play for Mike Young at Wofford, will be entering his fourth season in Blacksburg, shooting over 40 percent from three in each one. Cattoor will be in for a somewhat different role this season, as one of the go-to scorers on this Virginia Tech team. While that may sound like a concern, Cattoor looked more than suited for it in the Hokies ACC Tournament title game victory when he dropped 31 points to help take down Duke. Mike Young has a record of 54-36 since arriving in Blacksburg, having the program ahead of schedule, which should continue this season.
7. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The 2022 season marked the first NCAA Tournament appearance for Notre Dame since 2017, and the Irish not only got there, but also advanced. The Irish actually won two games, beating Rutgers in a play-in game, before knocking off Alabama in the Round of 64. That Irish team was led by a bunch of older players, trying to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in their careers. After accomplishing that goal, a majority of that same team is back, which serves the Irish well. Notre Dame will return four of their top seven scorers from a year ago, and the determining factor for this Irish team will be just how much will theyl miss the guys lost? Blake Wesley came out of absolute nowhere last season and played so well that he turned himself into a first round pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. In addition, Notre Dame will be losing a very productive big man in Paul Atkinson and their lead ball handler in Prentiss Hubb. This might seem like a lot, but Notre Dame will be returning Dane Goodwin, who should be in for a monster season after being one of the most consistent players in the ACC a season ago, averaging 13.6 points per game, while shooting 45.8 percent from three-point range. The Irish will also return veteran guard Cormac Ryan, who has been playing college basketball since 2018, and played the best stretch of basketball in his career to close out last season. The 23-year-old sharpshooter had some big games late in the season, including dropping 20 points in Notre Dame’s ACC Tournament loss to Virginia Tech and 29 in Notre Dame’s opening NCAA Tournament game against Alabama. Having these two key contributors in the backcourt alongside five-star freshman JJ Starling in the backcourt, could make Notre Dame one of the better but slightly under the radar teams in the ACC.
8. Wake Forest Demon Deacons
There weren't many stories in college basketball last season better than Steve Forbes and the job he did at Wake Forest. Forbes took home ACC Coach of the Year Honors, while leading the Demon Deacons to their first winning season since 2017. Wake Forest was a team
that caught some bad breaks in a bad ACC, as they were one or two big wins away from hearing their names called on Selection Sunday. There also wasn’t a program that had more success in the transfer portal last season than Wake. Steve Forbes found Alondes Williams, who averaged 6.7 points in only 18.7 minutes per game at Oklahoma, alongside Indiana State transfer Jake LaRavia, who was the second leading scorer for a decent to mediocre Sycamore team and turned them into his go to guys. LaRavia played his way into becoming a first round pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, while Williams won ACC Player of the Year. This season, Forbes will have to press some similar buttons, as there will be a lot of production that has to be replaced after losing both of those key players. Davien Williamson should be ready to take the reins leading the way, entering his third year in the program, alongside another ball handler in Tyree Applebee that transferred in from Florida. Both Applebee and Williamson should provide Wake with good ball handling ability, and with Damari Monsanto on the wing as a major breakout candidate, Steve Forbes can really have something cooking. Wake also brings in transfers from the mid major ranks in Andrew Carc (Delaware) and Jao Ituka (Marist), hoping to find some similar success in the portal, as last season. This Wake roster might not necessarily be as talented as a season ago, but there are few coaches in the ACC that I’d rather have running my program right now than Steve Forbes and it is hard to bet against that guy after everything we saw last season.
9. Syracuse Orange
Jim Boeheim is back for his 47th year as the Syracuse head coach, and he’ll be looking to lead Orange back to the NCAA Tournament after missing postseason play in 2022. This will be the first season since 2018 that there will not be a Boeheim son on the bench for Syracuse, as leading scorer Buddy is off to the NBA and Jimmy decided not to exercise his final season of eligibility. Syracuse will return upstate New York native Joe Girardi, who bounced back nicely last season after a disappointing 2021. Girard will be Syracuse’s top returning scorer from a season ago, after averaging 13.8 points per game, while shooting a career high 40.3 percent from three-point range. Syracuse will also be bringing in dynamic freshman Guard Judah Mintz, who should have a pretty big role on this team as a scoring guard alongside Girard. With veteran Guard Symir Torrence returning for his second year in the program, that should be the primary trio of guards playing the majority of the minutes for a Syracuse team that historically hasn’t had much depth in recent years.
The key to how good Syracuse will be relies in the frontcourt however, as sophomore Benny Williams will hope to make a jump after a disappointing Freshman season. Williams was ranked as the No. 32 freshman in 247 Sports Top 100 players in the high school class of 2021, but only averaged 1.9 points in 10.8 minutes per game. There have been many players in the Boeheim era that struggled as freshmen, but really got things going with another year in the system and more experience, and Williams certainly hopes to fit into the category. Syracuse also lost Jesse Edwards for the season on February 8th and it will be huge to have him back healthy on the floor. The 6’11” Forward from Amsterdam, broke out last season as a junior, averaging 12 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game. If Edwards doesn't get hurt, there is a legitimate argument that he was the most improved player in the ACC after only averaging 1.9 points per game in 2021. Despite the loss of the Boeheim kids, this is looking like a very similar Syracuse roster to years past, that could play in the NCAA Tournament depending on how things break. The big picture question remains, how much longer will Coach Boeheim be on the sidelines, with Syracuse being a consistent bubble team in recent years and not being ranked in the Top 25 after the month of January since 2014.
10. Boston College Eagles
Earl Grant’s team caught a lot of people’s attention last March at the ACC Tournament, when the Eagles blew out Pittsburgh, beat a Wake Forest team that was fighting for their NCAA hopes, and lost on a buzzer beater to the same Miami team that went all the way to the Elite 8. Entering his second year, Grant’s team will return five of their top seven scorers from a season ago. This includes leading scorer Makai Ashton- Langford alongside his brother DeMarr in the backcourt. DeMarr was Boston College’s go-to scorer throughout that miraculous ACC Tournament run, which included him scoring 19 points in Boston College’s shocking victory over Wake Forest. Mississippi State transfer Quenten Post will also return to school after a solid first season in Chestnut Hill, and he is another guy that has people excited after some great performances in the ACC Tournament. Post scored in double digits in each of Boston College’s three games in the event, and it looked like things were finally clicking for the big man also from Amsterdam just like Syracuse’s Jesse Edwards. Boston College certainly wasn’t very good a season ago, but typically when that is the case you want to see improvements by season's end, especially when it is a coach's first year trying to rebuild a tough situation. Teams like Wake Forest and Miami will tell you just how annoying it was to play Boston College during the ACC Tournament, and a majority of those players along with the head coach will be returning to school. With guys like Jaeden Zackery and T.J Bickerstaff also returning in the backcourt, Grant has a nice core group of players returning to school for their second year in the program which has historically led to success for a lot of other programs. The Eagles will also add a Division II transfer in CJ Penha Jr., who should help score the ball in the backcourt. Boston College basketball has not made the NCAA Tournament since 2009, which is the third longest drought in the Power 6 behind only DePaul and Washington State. Earl Grant does seem like he could be the guy to break that trend after building some momentum at the end of his first season.
11. Louisville Cardinals
There aren’t many teams in college basketball which went through more changes this offseason than Louisville. The Cardinals hired a new head coach in Kenny Payne and also will lose eight of their top ten scorers from a season ago. Many people expected Kenny Payne to add a little more after losing so many guys, especially when Louisville was rumored to be in the Emoni Bates sweepstakes, but regardless, Cardinals fans are excited to move on from the absolute nightmare that last season was.
Despite not returning many pieces from last year's team, Louisville does bring back a guard in El Ellis, who averaged 8.7 points per game, while shooting 36 percent from three and showed nice athleticism and has the ability to get to the basket. Ellis should shine this season with the ball primarily in his hands and will assuredly be the primary playmaker for this Louisville team. In addition, the Cardinals brought in Tennessee transfer Brandon Huntley- Hatfield, who was a top 30 recruit out of high school but couldn’t find a consistent role as a Freshman at Tennessee. The other key piece for Louisville will be Jae’Lyn Withers, who was expected to do big things as a sophomore after a very promising freshman year. Instead, things went in the opposite way, as Withers went from averaging 10 points as a freshman to only 5.8 as a sophomore with his minutes per game decreasing as well. One of Payne’s top priorities heading into his first season, should be getting Withers back on track and finding the guy that played so well as a freshman. Louisville is one of the best jobs in college basketball, with all of the resources to succeed and with that, there is no reason why Kenny Payne can’t be the guy to turn things around, starting with a better attitude and aura around the program in 2022-2023.
12. NC State Wolfpack
The overall level of talent on this team says that NC. State should finish better than 12th in the ACC, but you can throw that theory out the window after last season. The Wolfpack had two of the best players in the conference with Dereon Seabron and Terquavion Smith leading the way, and NC State finished with an 11-21 overall record, which was their worst since the final season of the Mark Gotfried era in 2017. Kevin Keatts seat is really starting to heat up, as he enters his sixth season in charge, without a single trip to the NCAA Tournament since Year 1. Thankfully for Keatts however, Smith opted to return to school, even after tearing up the NBA Draft Combine and being a likely first round pick in the draft. Smith has the potential to be a lottery pick or even go top 10 in next year's draft, as a freak athlete who can score the ball and also play defense. Losing the production of Seabron will hurt, but NC. State did bring in some reinforcements, including Ole Miss transfer Jarkel Joiner, who led the Rebels in scoring a season ago. In addition, the Wolfpack add guys like Jack Clark and D.J Burns Jr from the mid major ranks, to go along with returning players like Casey Morsell and Ebenezer Dowuona Jr. With a young player in Ernest Ross Jr. back healthy and ready to emerge in the frontcourt as well, there is no reason why NC State can’t be significantly better than they were a season ago. The pressure is really on Kevin Keatts for a bounce back season in Raleigh.
13. Pittsburgh Panthers
The end of the 2022 season really felt like rock bottom for the Pitt program, after their season ended in embarrassing fashion with a blowout loss to Boston College to open the ACC Tournament. Pitt has not made the NCAA Tournament since Jaime Dixon left in 2016, and they have had a really tough time keeping their best players from transferring - with guys like Trey McGowens (Nebraska), Au'Diese Toney (Arkansas) and Xavier Johnson (Indiana) all finding new homes and thriving (mostly on winning teams). In a similar way to Kevin Keatts at NC State, Jeff Capel needs a big season in the worst of ways, in order to prove he’s still the right guy for the job. The Panthers do have one of the more under the radar players in the country, and a guy to play through in big man John Hughley III. After only playing in seven games as a freshman in 2021, the 6’9” big man stepped up big as a sophomore, averaging 14.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. The problem was that he didn’t have much help and Pitt really struggled to guard on the defensive end of the floor. Pitt made some major additions in the transfer portal this offseason including former Colgate guard Nelly Cummings, who has helped the Raiders get to each of the last pair of NCAA Tournaments and almost pull upsets along the way. Furthermore, Pitt adds Marquette transfer Greg Elliott, who was one of the better shooters in the Big East last season and former Iowa State wing Blake Hinson, who has sat out each of the last two seasons. Pitt even got a late odd high school commit in Dior Johnson, who was once regarded as one of the top players in high school players in the country, and should see a role on this Pitt team. With the Panthers not seeing much success so far in the Jeff Capel era, this season will be vital to the future of the program, and the Panthers need a successful season after not winning more than 20 games since Dixon’s final season in 2016.
14. Clemson Tigers
Clemson recently received the brutal news that their leading scorer from a season ago, PJ Hall, suffered a patella injury, and will undergo surgery. There is no timetable for a return. With the Tigers only returning five of their top nine leading scorers from last year's team that missed the NCAA Tournament, this is a devastating blow. After not seeing a consistent role as a Freshman, Hall broke out last season, averaging 15.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. The Tigers were set on using the big, versatile front court of Hall alongside Hunter Tyson, who similar to Hall has good size and can shoot the three ball. If Hall were to be out for an extended period of time, Clemson only brings back Tyson alongside Guards Alex Hemenway and Chase Hunter, who averaged a combined 11.9 points per game last season. Despite also bringing in Brevin Galloway from Boston College and four solid Freshman to make up the 11th ranked class in the ACC, Clemson is going to need Hall in the worst way if they want to be a productive team.
Head Coach Brad Brownell will be entering his 13th season on the job and has still yet to put together a consistent stretch of winning. Clemson has not made back-to-back NCAA Tournaments under Brownell’s watch, and after having a nice surprising 2021 season, the Tigers took another step back last season finishing 10th in the ACC. Not like it was unexpected, but Clemson feels like a program that needs a fresh voice to inject some energy into the program. Guards like Nick Honor and Al Amir- Dawes, who were key members to the 2021 team that made the NCAA Tournament decided to transfer this offseason, leaving the Tigers roster somewhat underwhelming. That 2021 team was only the third time in Brownell’s previous 12 seasons that Clemson has made the NCAA Tournament. Following Brownell leading Clemson to the Sweet 16 in 2018 for the first time under his watch, he agreed to a contract extension through 2024, which Clemson could be regretting right about now. Despite basketball not being the No. 1 priority in the athletic program, there aren't many Power 6 destinations where someone can only make three NCAA Tournaments in 12 years and continue to hold the job. Like many other coaches leading teams towards the bottom of these rankings, a big year could be needed in order to fulfill the hopes of Tigers fans.
15. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Just a year and change after winning their first ACC Tournament since 1993 and making the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010, the seat may be warming for Josh Pastner. The Yellow Jackets were picked to finish 10th in the ACC, but instead finished in 14th with an overall record of 5-15. Georgia Tech will be losing two of their leading scorers from last year's team in Mike DeVoe and Jordan Usher, two guys who were also key members to the aforementioned 2021 ACC Tournament title team. Georgia Tech added some key transfers including former Auburn Tigers Javon Franklin, who had a really nice season at South Alabama a year ago, plus Gardner Webb transfer Lance Terry who can provide some much-needed scoring. However, things could be looking bleak for the Yellow Jackets without DeVoe and Usher, who were the only two Yellow Jackets that averaged more than 8 points per game last season, and even if Kyle Sturdivant, and other returnees Deebo Coleman, and Deivon Smith all increase their production, there are still plenty of concerns. The frontcourt still remains a large weakness, with just Rodney Howard and Jordan Meka up front and Georgia Tech is going to need a breakout player or two if they have any hopes of success for this season. Pastner will be entering his seventh season in charge at Georgia Tech, and he only has one NCAA Tournament appearance in that span, despite winning ACC Coach of the Year in 2017. Pastner could join the group of ACC coaches that may need a successful season to stay at their current destination for the long term.
Follow Zac Krull on Twitter - @ZacKrull_