(Listed in predicted order of finish)
LAST SEASON: 26-12, 11-7 (fifth)
COACH: Roy Williams, 332-101 in 13 seasons at UNC
PLAYERS TO WATCH: G Marcus Paige, 6-2, sr. (14.1 ppg, 4.5 apg); F Brice Johnson, 6-10, sr. (12.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg)
NOTABLE: The leadership of Paige and Johnson, plus a strong supporting cast led by beefy forward Kennedy Meeks and versatile swingman Justin Jackson, have the Tar Heels atop the polls to start the season.
LAST SEASON: 30-4, 16-2 (ACC regular season champion)
COACH: Tony Bennett, 136-64 in seven seasons at Virginia
PLAYERS TO WATCH: G Malcolm Brogdon, 6-5, sr. (14.0 ppg, 2.4 apg); F Anthony Gill, 6-8, sr. (11.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg)
NOTABLE: It remains to be seen how much the loss of Justin Anderson sets back the Cavaliers, but Bennett has proven he belongs among Coach K, Williams, Boeheim and Pitino with back-to-back regular-season titles.
LAST SEASON: 35-4, 15-3 (second; NCAA champion)
COACH: Mike Krzyzewski, 945-251 in 36 seasons at Duke
PLAYERS TO WATCH: F Amile Jefferson, 6-9, sr. (6.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg); F Brandon Ingram, 6-9, fr. (ACC Preseason Freshman of the Year)
NOTABLE: How quickly Coach K cam reload after losing Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones to the NBA hinges on the beanpole Ingram (6-9, 190.)
LAST SEASON: 32-6, 14-4 (third; ACC tournament champion)
COACH: Mike Brey, 332-165 in 16 seasons at ND
PLAYERS TO WATCH: F Zach Auguste, 6-10, sr. (11.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg); G Demetrius Jackson, 6-1, jr. (11.3 ppg, 3.1 apg)
NOTABLE: The Fighting Irish stormed to an ACC tournament trophy and pushed Kentucky to the brink in the Elite Eight, but Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton are not easily replaced.
LAST SEASON: 25-13, 10-8 (T-sixth)
COACH: Jim Larranaga, 91-49 in five seasons at Miami
PLAYERS TO WATCH: G Sheldon McClellan, 6-5, sr. (14.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg); F Tonye Jekiri, 7-0, sr. (8.6 ppg, 9.9 rpg)
NOTABLE: A high-scoring set of guards, and Jekiri’s inside presence, could have Miami contending for its second ACC championship in four years.
LAST SEASON: 17-16, 8-10 (T-ninth)
COACH: Leonard Hamilton, 236-173 in 14 seasons at FSU
PLAYERS TO WATCH: G Xavier Rathan-Mayes, 6-4, soph. (14.9 rpg, 4.3 apg); G Montay Brandon, 6-8, sr. (11.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg)
NOTABLE: About half the league returns four starters, but the Seminoles are the ACC’s lone squad with its entire starting five back on the floor, hence the lofty expectations.
LAST SEASON: 27-9, 12-6 (fourth)
COACH: Rick Pitino, 362-126 in 15 seasons at Louisville
PLAYERS TO WATCH: C Chinanu Onuaku, 6-10, soph. (3.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg); F Deng Adel, 6-7, fr.
NOTABLE: Unfortunately, basketball will not be the main storyline in Louisville for the time being. The school’s escorts scandal under Rick Pitino has commanded headlines.
LAST SEASON: 22-14, 10-8 (T-sixth)
COACH: Mark Gottfried, 92-52 in five seasons at N.C. State
PLAYERS TO WATCH: G Anthony Barber, 6-2, jr. (12.1 ppg, 3.7 apg); F Abdul-Malik Abu, 6-9, soph. (6.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg)
NOTABLE: Trevor Lacey surpisingly took off for the NBA, but the Wolfpack still have “Cat” Barber as it pursues a fifth straight trip to the NCAAs — a streak exceeded in the ACC only by Duke, Louisville and UNC.
LAST SEASON: 18-13, 9-9 (eighth)
COACH: Jim Boeheim, 966-333 in 40 seasons at Syracuse
PLAYERS TO WATCH: G Michael Gbinije, 6-7, sr. (12.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg); G Trevor Cooney, 6-4, sr. (13.4 ppg, 2.2 apg)
NOTABLE: As Jim Boeheim nears the end, the Orange are again postseason-eligible but lost the conference’s premier frontman (this side of Jahlil Okafor) in Rakeem Christmas.
LAST SEASON: 19-15, 8-10 (T-ninth)
COACH: Jamie Dixon, 307-111 in 13 seasons at Pitt
PLAYERS TO WATCH: F Jamel Artis, 6-7, jr. (13.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg); F Michael Young, 6-9, jr. (13.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg)
NOTABLE: After making eight straight NCAA tournament berths, Dixon’s program has missed the dance twice in the past four years.
LAST SEASON: 13-19, 5-13 (12th)
COACH: Danny Manning, 13-19 in two seasons at Wake
PLAYERS TO WATCH: G Codi Miller-McIntyre, 6-3, sr. (14.5 ppg, 4.3 apg); F Devin Thomas, 6-9, sr. (12.0 ppg, 8.8 rpg)
NOTABLE: It felt like a matter of time before Manning, who knows a thing or two about winning, restored the Demon Deacons as a tough out, and he’s now armed with experienced, good players.
LAST SEASON: 16-15, 8-10 (T-ninth)
COACH: Brad Brownell, 90-73 in six seasons at Clemson
PLAYERS TO WATCH: F Jaron Blossomgame, 6-7, jr. (13.1 ppg, 8.2 rpg); F Donte Grantham, 6-8, soph. (8.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg)
NOTABLE: The Tigers have skill and experience in the frontcourt, but they need transfer Avry Holmes (San Francisco) to improve the production from point guard.
LAST SEASON: 12-19, 3-15 (14th)
COACH: Brian Gregory, 55-71 in five seasons at GT
PLAYERS TO WATCH: G Marcus Georges-Hunt, 6-5, sr. (13.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg); F Charles Mitchell, 6-8, sr. (9.8 ppg, 7.0 rpg)
NOTABLE: Mitchell’s elevation to the starting lineup and a couple of promising transfers from Arizona (Nick Jacobs) and Virginia Tech (Adam Smith) give the Yellow Jackets hope.
LAST SEASON: 11-22, 2-16 (15th)
COACH: Buzz Williams, 11-22 in two seasons at VT
PLAYERS TO WATCH: G Justin Bibbs, 6-5, soph. (11.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg); G Devin Wilson, 6-4, jr. (6.5 ppg, 4.2 apg)
NOTABLE: Williams has put the “buzz” back in basketball in Charlottesville, but his talent pool isn’t what it was at Marquette.
LAST SEASON: 13-19, 4-14 (13th)
COACH: Jim Christian, 13-19 in two seasons at BC
PLAYERS TO WATCH: C Dennis Clifford, 7-0, sr. (6.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg); F Garland Owens, 6-5, jr. (3.4 ppg, 2.0 rpg)
NOTABLE: Losing the league’s leading scorer, Olivier Hanlan, doesn’t bode well for a roster with eight freshmen.
— Aaron Brenner