(Listed in predicted order of finish)
LAST SEASON: 30-6, 14-4 (2nd ACC)
COACH: Mike Krzyzewski, 884-238 in 33 seasons; 957-297 in 38 overall
PLAYERS TO WATCH: G Quinn Cook, 6-2, jr. (11.7 ppg, 5.3 apg); F Jabari Parker, 6-8, fr. (preseason ACC Rookie of the Year)
NOTABLE: Adding Rodney Hood, a transfer from Mississippi State, is what we call an embarrassment of riches. Early-season tests against Kansas, Michigan and UCLA (plus the preseason NIT) should be fun.
LAST SEASON: 30-10, 11-7 (t-5th Big East)
COACH: Jim Boeheim, 920-314 in 37 seasons; 920-314 in 37 overall
PLAYERS TO WATCH: F C.J. Fair, 6-8, sr. (14.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg); F Rakeem Christmas, 6-9, jr. (5.1 ppg, 1.8 bpg)
NOTABLE: The Orange’s ultimate success could be determined by how well highly touted freshman Tyler Ennis steps into the shoes of point guard Michael Carter-Williams. So will their new leaguemates’ adjustment to Boeheim’s patented 2-3 zone.
3. North Carolina
LAST SEASON: 25-11, 12-6 (3rd ACC)
COACH: Roy Williams, 282-79 in 10 seasons; 700-180 in 25 overall
PLAYERS TO WATCH: F James Michael McAdoo, 6-9, jr. (14.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg); G Marcus Paige, 6-1, so. (8.2 ppg, 4.6 apg)
NOTABLE: The ongoing P.J. Hairston chronicles seem to have a resolution coming soon, stemming from multiple summer run-ins with the law. The Tar Heels are too talented not to creep back toward the 30-win ledger.
LAST SEASON: 23-12, 11-8 (t-4th)
COACH: Tony Bennett, 76-53 in 4 seasons; 145-86 in 7 overall
PLAYERS TO WATCH: G Joe Harris, 6-6, sr. (16.3 ppg, 42.5 percent 3FG); F Akil Mitchell, 6-8, sr. (13.1 ppg, 8.9 rpg)
NOTABLE: The veteran leadership of Harris and Mitchell makes the Cavaliers a tantalizing dark horse in the ACC. Bennett has raised the expectations in Charlottesville.
5. Notre Dame
LAST SEASON: 25-10, 11-7 (t-5th Big East)
COACH: Mike Brey, 285-142 in 13 seasons; 384-194 in 18 overall
PLAYERS TO WATCH: G Jerian Grant, 6-5, sr. (13.3 ppg, 5.5 apg); G Eric Atkins, 6-2, sr. (12.4 ppg, 5.5 apg)
NOTABLE: Grant and Atkins are big on sharing the basketball. Brey teams are good for 20-plus victories, a respectable showing in league standings and an early exit from March Madness pretty much every year.
LAST SEASON: 24-9, 12-6 (t-4th Big East)
COACH: Jamie Dixon, 262-86 in 10 seasons; 262-86 in 10 overall
PLAYERS TO WATCH: G Lamar Patterson, 6-5, sr. (10.0 ppg, 1.2 apg); F Talib Zanna, 6-9, sr. (9.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg)
NOTABLE: Always a difficult defensive task, Pittsburgh plays slow, methodical basketball to irritate opponents. Which works in the winter months, but not so well in March.
LAST SEASON: 25-13, 8-10 (7th ACC)
COACH: Mark Turgeon, 42-28 in 2 seasons; 292-187 in 15 overall
PLAYERS TO WATCH: G/F Dez Wells, 6-5, jr. (13.1 ppg, 3.0 apg); G Nick Faust, 6-6, jr. (9.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg)
NOTABLE: Turgeon was extraordinarily consistent at Texas A&M, and now he’s got the Terrapins on a path toward an NCAA tournament bid. The Terps have to improve their shooting and transition game, though.
8. Boston College
LAST SEASON: 16-17, 7-11 (8th)
COACH: Steve Donahue, 46-52 in 3 seasons; 192-190 in 13 overall
PLAYERS TO WATCH: G Olivier Hanlan, 6-4, so. (15.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg); F Ryan Anderson, 6-9, jr. (14.9 ppg, 8.0 rpg)
NOTABLE: Four returning starters back, and with them 96 percent of BC’s scoring from last season. Expect the Eagles to relocate the north side of .500 in ACC games.
9. Florida State
LAST SEASON: 18-16, 9-9 (6th)
COACH: Leonard Hamilton, 219-143 in 11 seasons; 419-353 in 25 overall
PLAYERS TO WATCH: F Okaro White, 6-8, sr. (12.4 ppg, 51% FG); C Kiel Turpin, 7-0, sr. (5.4 ppg, 1.3 bpg)
NOTABLE: A rare rough year for the Seminoles, missing the Big Dance for the first time in five years. Like BC, Florida State has four returning starters who look to fix that.
10. N.C. State
LAST SEASON: 24-11, 11-7 (t-4th)
COACH: Mark Gottfried, 48-24 in 2 seasons; 326-179 in 16 overall
PLAYERS TO WATCH: F T.J. Warren, 6-8, so. (12.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg); G Tyler Lewis, 5-11, sr. (3.5 ppg, 85.9% FT)
NOTABLE: Hope they enjoyed last year’s ride in Raleigh. Warren’s the only returning starter and the bench was gutted as well, so it will be an uphill climb back to the league’s elite.
11. Georgia Tech
LAST SEASON: 16-15, 6-12 (t-9th)
COACH: Brian Gregory, 27-35 in 2 seasons; 199-129 in 10 overall
PLAYERS TO WATCH: G Marcus George-Hunt, 6-5, so. (10.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg); C Daniel Miller, 6-11, sr. (8.4 ppg, 2.1 bpg)
NOTABLE: Primarily a homegrown squad — 16 of the 20 rostered players hail from the Peach State — Tech is looking for more offense. Gregory is yet to click since coming south from Dayton.
LAST SEASON: 29-7, 15-3 (1st)
COACH: Jim Larrañaga, 49-20 in 2 seasons; 519-354 in 29 overall
PLAYERS TO WATCH: G Rion Brown, 6-6, sr. (6.4 ppg); G Garrius Adams, 6-6, gr. (medical redshirt last year)
NOTABLE: You lose your top six scorers and don’t have any plan to replace them immediately, a steep drop is expected. Fifteen ACC wins last year; 15 overall wins this year would be acceptable.
13. Wake Forest
LAST SEASON: 13-18, 6-12 (t-9th)
COACH: Jeff Bzdelik, 34-60 in 3 seasons; 145-165 in 10 overall
PLAYERS TO WATCH: F Travis McKie, 6-7, sr. (13.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg); F Devin Thomas, 6-9, so. (9.1 ppg, 7.5 rpg)
NOTABLE: McKie (1,334 points, 680 rebounds, 94 starts) is the leading active returning scorer, rebounder and starter in the conference. Bzdelik’s career numbers don’t show it, but Wake can be a tough out on any given night.
LAST SEASON: 13-18, 5-13 (11th)
COACH: Brad Brownell, 51-45 in 3 seasons; 218-130 in 11 overall
PLAYERS TO WATCH: F K.J. McDaniels, 6-6, jr. (10.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg); G Jordan Roper, 5-11, so. (7.9 ppg, 1.2 spg)
NOTABLE: Not a single senior on the team means “good guys” like McDaniels, Roper and Rod Hall are going to have to get mean. Establishing an alpha dog is critical to long-term success.
15. Virginia Tech
LAST SEASON: 13-19, 4-14 (12th)
COACH: James Johnson, 13-19 in 1 season; 13-19 in 1 overall
PLAYERS TO WATCH: F Jarell Eddie, 6-7, sr. (12.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg); F Cadarian Raines, 6-9, sr. (6.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg)
NOTABLE: Since Erick Green isn’t around to hoist 17 shots per game any more, it’s on the rest of the Hokies to understand it’s time for them to play. Johnson, the brief Clemson assistant, matches wits with Brownell in Blacksburg Jan. 15.
— Aaron Brenner
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