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After a banner season, how ACC hoops shapes up for 2020

How does ACC basketball shape up for 2020?

The Duke, Virginia and North Carolina men's basketball teams will look a lot different from the 2018-2019 season. Can the ACC expect as much success in the 2019-2020 season?
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The Duke, Virginia and North Carolina men's basketball teams will look a lot different from the 2018-2019 season. Can the ACC expect as much success in the 2019-2020 season?

The ACC couldn’t have asked for a much better college basketball season.

The league produced the national champion (Virginia), three No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament, five teams in the top 15 of the Ken Pomeroy rankings and 10 first-round picks in the NBA draft.

Now what?

For the most part, the top of the league will be in transition. Virginia, Duke and North Carolina (the aforementioned No. 1 seeds) have to hit the reset button but figure to remain in their usual spots.

Louisville and N.C. State return the most experience while Virginia Tech and Clemson have to go through a major personnel overhaul (in the case of the Hokies, with the league’s only new coach).

There will be a lot of new faces in the ACC next season, mostly freshmen, but there are significant graduate and junior-college transfers from all corners of the map.

A look at the projected starting lineups for every team, in order of predicted finish:

1. Duke

Coach: Mike Krzyzewski, 40th season (1,059-285 at Duke, 1,132-344 overall)

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Duke’s Tre Jones (3) celebrates during the second half of Michigan State’s 68-67 victory over Duke in their NCAA Elite 8 game in Washington, D.C., Sunday, March 31, 2019. Ethan Hyman ehyman@newsobserver.com

Projected lineup

G Tre Jones, so. (9.4 ppg, 5.3 apg)

G Cassius Stanley, fr. (247sports.com HS rank No. 36)

G Alex O’Connell, jr. (4.4 ppg, 1.9 rpg)

F Matthew Hurt, fr. (247 rank No. 11)

F Vernon Carey, fr. (247 rank No. 6)

2019 recap

Record: 32-6 (14-4 ACC)

KenPom: 4 (adjusted offensive efficiency 7, adjusted defensive efficiency 6)

Postseason: ACC champions, 3-1 NCAA tournament (lost to Michigan State)

Gone: G R.J. Barrett (22.6 ppg), F Zion Williamson (22.6 ppg), G Cam Reddish (13.5 ppg)

ACC schedule

Twice: UNC, Wake, BC, Miami, State, VT

Home: FSU, Lou, ND, Pitt

Away: Clem, GT, Syr, UVa

There’s no Zion Williamson or Jayson Tatum in this group but the Blue Devils have a returning leader in point guard Tre Jones and a new talented cast around him. With a better effort from the 3-point line, the Blue Devils will win their first regular-season title since 2010.

The newcomers are important, notably big man Vernon Carey and sharpshooter Matthew Hurt, but this amounts to a bet on Jones. He will have to improve his 3-point shot (26.2 percent) and score more as a sophomore, but there’s no reason to think he can’t.

Central Florida challenged, and slightly embarrassed Jones, by leaving him open in the second-round NCAA tournament matchup. Jones was 1-for-8 from the 3-point line in that epic 77-76 Duke win. It’s telling of Jones’ competitive will that in the next round he went 5-of-7 from the 3-point line and scored 22 points in a 75-73 win over Virginia Tech.

(Also of note: Jones’ best shooting/scoring performance of the season came without Cam Reddish in the lineup.)

As much as Mike Krzyzewski has done for the concept of “positionless” basketball, the Duke icon has always been at his best with distinct parts. Jones and Carey fit traditional molds. The big question is whether Krzyzewski can get the right combination of shooting from Hurt, Alex O’Connell, Joey Baker and Jones? If he does, this Duke group will take advantage of a down year in the league.

2. UNC

Coach: Roy Williams, 17th season (453-133 at UNC, 871-234 overall)

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North Carolina’s Garrison Brooks (15) slams in two during Duke’s 74-73 victory over UNC in the semifinals of the 2019 ACC Tournament in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, March 15, 2019. Ethan Hyman ehyman@newsobserver.com

Projected lineup

G Cole Anthony, fr. (247 rank No. 4)

G x-Christian Keeling, gr. (18.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg)

G Brandon Robinson, sr. (3.4 ppg, 1.6 rpg)

F Garrison Brooks, jr. (7.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg)

F Armando Bacot, fr. (247 rank No. 26)

Note: x-at Charleston Southern

2019 recap

Record: 29-7 (16-2 ACC)

KenPom: 7 (AdjO 8, AdjD 15)

Postseason: 2-1 NCAA tournament (lost to Auburn)

Gone: G Cam Johnson (16.9 ppg), G Coby White (16.1 ppg), F Luke Maye (14.9 ppg)

ACC schedule

Twice: Duke, State, ND, Pitt, UVa, Wake

Home: BC, Clem, GT, Miami

Away: FSU, Lou, Syr, VT

With the addition of freshman forward Armando Bacot, Roy Williams will go back to his preferred style of play. That’s with two bigs, two wings and a lead guard. Has he ever won anything playing that way?

Freshman Cole Anthony is not his dad (former UNLV and NBA bulldog Greg Anthony) or Coby White but he’s the next in line of Williams’ great lead guards.

If Anthony shoots at the same clip he did in the EYBL last summer (he made 38 percent of his 3s in that AAU circuit), the Tar Heels will make a seamless transition from White, who was their main offensive catalyst.

There are question marks on the wing but Williams has options. The ultimate success of the season might depend on the improvement of junior forward Garrison Brooks, who will have to eat up some of Luke Maye’s numbers, and versatile sophomore Leaky Black.

The Heels’ missed a pass-first playmaker like Theo Pinson last season and Black fits that unconventional mold.

3. Virginia

Coach: Tony Bennett, 11th season (254-89 at UVa, 323-122 overall)

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Virginia forward Mamadi Diakite celebrates with fans after the championship game against Texas Tech in the Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament, Monday, April 8, 2019, in Minneapolis. Virginia won 85-77 in overtime. David J. Phillip AP

Projected lineup

G Kihei Clark, so. (4.5 ppg, 2.6 apg)

G Casey Morsell, fr. (247 rank No. 53)

G Tomas Woldetensae, jr. (juco)

F Braxton Key, sr. (5.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg)

F Mamadi Diakite, sr. (7.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg)

2019 recap

Record: 35-3 (16-2 ACC)

KenPom: 1 (AdjO 2, AdjD 5)

Postseason: NCAA champions, 6-0 NCAA tournament

Gone: G Kyle Guy (15.4 ppg), F De’Andre Hunter (15.2 ppg), G Ty Jerome (13.6 ppg)

ACC schedule

Twice: Lou, VT, BC, FSU, UNC, Syr

Home: Clem, Duke, State, ND

Away: GT, Miami, Pitt, Wake

Virginia knew it was going to lose De’Andre Hunter to the NBA draft. If Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy had decided to return for their senior year, the Wahoos had a legit shot at a 20-0 ACC record. Instead, Tony Bennett gets the best kind of “rebuilding” year.

Guards Casey Morsell and Tomas Woldetensae, a 3-point specialist in junior college, are going to have to be quick-learners to fill Jerome and Guy’s shoes. Veteran forwards Braxton Key and Mamadi Diakite can drive the bus while the new backcourt finds its way.

Durham’s Jay Huff, in his fourth year in the program, has a chance to flourish with more available minutes. The Hoos are also bullish on Francisco Caffaro, a 7-footer from Argentina who redshirted last season.

A year after being viscerally motivated by an NCAA tournament failure, the Hoos get a season to play loose and free after winning the NCAA title. Combine a little bit of doubt and motivational fuel with Bennett’s trademark defensive dominance and the Hoos just might win the regular-season title for the fifth time in seven years, even without Jerome and Guy.

4. Louisville

Coach: Chris Mack, second season (20-14 at Louisville, 235-111 overall)

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Louisville’s Jordan Nwora (33) tries to steal the ball from North Carolina’s Luke Maye (32) during the first half of UNC’s game against Louisville in the quarterfinals of the 2019 ACC Tournament in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, March 14, 2019. Ethan Hyman ehyman@newsobserver.com

Projected lineup

G x-Fresh Kimble, gr. (15.6 ppg, 2.8 apg)

G Samuell Williamson, fr. (247 rank No. 18)

F Dwayne Sutton, sr. (10.0 ppg, 6.9 rpg)

F Jordan Nwora, jr. (17.0 ppg, 7.6 rpg)

F Steven Enoch, sr. (9.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg)

Note: x-at St. Joseph’s

2019 recap

Record: 20-14 (10-8 ACC)

KenPom: 23 (AdjO 28, AdjD 24)

Postseason: 0-1 NCAA tournament (lost to Minnesota)

Gone: G Christen Cunningham (10.1 ppg)

ACC schedule

Twice: Pitt, UVa, Clem, FSU, GT, Miami

Home: UNC, Syr, VT, Wake

Away: BC, Duke, State, ND

Louisville was better than expected in Year 1 under Chris Mack. Now another leap is expected of the Cardinals in Year 2. There can be a danger in that extrapolation.

The Cards were the definition of a “house money” team last year. Coming off of the clumsy transition from a hall-of-fame coach (Rick Pitino) to an interim coach (David Padgett), they had nothing to lose last year and they played that way.

Mack, an old ACC soul, showed why he excelled for so long at Xavier. He quickly galvanized an unproven group of mismatched parts into an NCAA team. The return of forward Jordan Nwora is huge and their bigs will be a handful again.

The backcourt of Fresh Kimble, a grad transfer from St. Joseph’s, and Samuell Williamson, the top player in a stacked recruiting class, will have to learn on the go.

It wasn’t easy what Mack did last year but going from average to good is a lot easier than the leap from good to great.

5. N.C. State

Coach: Kevin Keatts, third season (45-24 at N.C. State, 117-52 overall)

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N.C. State’s Markell Johnson (11) drives to the basket past Wake Forest’s Chaundee Brown (23) during the first half of N.C. State’s game against Wake Forest at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C., Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019. Ethan Hyman ehyman@newsobserver.com

Projected lineup

G Markell Johnson, sr. (12.6 ppg, 4.2 apg)

G Braxton Beverly, jr. (9.4 ppg, 2.5 apg)

G C.J. Bryce, sr. (11.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg)

F x-Pat Andree, gr. (12.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg)

F D.J. Funderburk, jr. (8.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg)

Note: x-at Lehigh

2019 recap

Record: 24-12 (9-9 ACC)

KenPom: 41 (AdjO 34, AdjD 62)

Postseason: 2-1 NIT (lost to Lipscomb)

Gone: F Torin Dorn (14.0 ppg)

ACC schedule

Twice: UNC, Wake, Clem, Duke, GT, Miami

Home: FSU, Lou, ND, Pitt

Away: BC, Syr, UVa, VT

It looks like the top of the ACC will take a step back to N.C. State. Now will the Wolfpack, which returns six of its top seven scorers, take a step up? That’s the challenge for coach Kevin Keatts in Year 3 after a solid 9-9 ACC finish and NIT run last season.

N.C. State dominated a soft early schedule and then lost momentum when guard Markell Johnson got hurt in the third ACC game of the season. After a flirtation with the NBA, Johnson is back in the fold. N.C. State needs the best version of Johnson, the one that finished the season, on a consistent basis.

Forward D.J. Funderburk has to make a leap. He showed flashes of potential last year but the Wolfpack needs the slender big man with the soft touch to deliver regularly.

The Wolfpack basically beat the teams it was supposed to (save for Wake Forest) and lost to the ones it was supposed to (save for Auburn). It has to pick off the teams at the top of the league to get where it wants to be this year.

6. Florida State

Coach: Leonard Hamilton, 18th season (354-216 at FSU, 554-426 overall)

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Florida State guard M.J. Walker (23) goes up to shoot in front of LSU guard Ja’vonte Smart (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Nov. 23, 2018, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Phelan M. Ebenhack AP

Projected lineup

G Trent Forrest, sr. (9.3 ppg, 3.7 apg)

G M.J. Walker, jr. (7.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg)

G Devin Vassell, so. (7.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg)

F RaiQuan Gray, so. (3.9 ppg, 2.3 rpg)

F x-Dominik Olejniczak, gr. (5.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg)

Note: x-at Ole Miss

2019 recap

Record: 29-8 (13-5 ACC)

KenPom: 14 (AdjO 36, AdjD 10)

Postseason: 2-1 NCAA tournament (lost to Gonzaga)

Gone: F Mfiondu Kabengele (13.2 ppg), G Terance Mann (11.4 ppg)

ACC schedule

Twice: Clem, Miami, Lou, ND, Pitt, UVa

Home: BC, GT, UNC, Syr

Away: Duke, State, VT, Wake

The cast changes but the show goes on for the ageless Leonard Hamilton. FSU will be big, deep and athletic again.

M.J. Walker will have to step up his scoring game but the junior guard is capable. Among the new backcourt parts, freshman wing Patrick Williams will be a headache.

The frontcourt, as usual, is crowded. Three more 7-footers are en route, plus Malik Osborne, a 6-9, 250-pound transfer from Rice.

The Noles also catch a bit of a scheduling break, with only one-off games with Duke and Carolina. A third straight Sweet 16 spot might not be in the cards but Hamilton will have the Noles back in the NCAA tournament for a fourth straight year.

7. Georgia Tech

Coach: Josh Pastner, fourth season (48-53 at GT, 215-126 overall)

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Georgia Tech’s James Banks III (1) scores while being fouled by N.C. State’s Devon Daniels (24) in the final seconds of Georgia Tech 63-61 victory over N.C. State at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C., Wednesday, March, 6, 2019. Ethan Hyman ehyman@newsobserver.com

Projected lineup

G Jose Alvarado, jr. (12.5 ppg, 3.4 apg)

G Michael Devoe, so. (9.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg)

G x-Jordan Usher, jr. (8.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg)

F Moses Wright, jr. (6.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg)

F James Banks, sr. (10.5 ppg, 7.7 rpg)

Note: x-at USC

2019 recap

Record: 14-18 (6-12 ACC)

KenPom: 115 (AdjO 228, AdjD 43)

Postseason: none

Gone: G Brandon Alston (7.0 ppg)

ACC schedule

Twice: Clem, ND, Lou, State, Pitt, Syr

Home: Duke, Miami, UVa, VT

Away: BC, FSU, UNC, Wake

Here’s your “surprise” team. Jose Alvarado and James Banks are a legit point guard/big combo. The Yellow Jackets just need help in between.

(Let’s pause here to note the immediate eligibility of Banks, a transfer from Texas, was a gift from the NCAA last season and worth at least four ACC wins.)

Sophomore guard Michael Devoe made nearly 40 percent of his 3s and showed some real promise, as did Raleigh’s Moses Wright. The success of the season might hinge on wing Jordan Usher, a transfer from USC.

It’s an advantage that the Jackets avoid Duke, Carolina and Virginia in the home-and-home ACC set.

Josh Pastner won 31 games in his fourth season at Memphis. This is Year 4 for him in Atlanta. With Banks in the middle of that funky zone, the Jackets are handful on defense. If they are just marginal on offense, they’ll make their first NCAA tournament trip since 2010.

8. Syracuse

Coach: Jim Boeheim, 44th season (946-385 at Syracuse and overall)

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Syracuse forward Elijah Hughes (33) shoots as Baylor guard King McClure (3) defends during the first half of a first-round game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament Thursday, March 21, 2019, in Salt Lake City. Rick Bowmer AP

Projected lineup

G Jalen Carey, so. (3.5 ppg, 1.6 rpg)

G Buddy Boeheim, so. (6.8 ppg, 1.6 rpg)

G Elijah Hughes, sr. (13.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg)

F Quincy Guerrier, fr. (247 rank No. 117)

F Marek Dolezaj, jr. (4.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg)

2019 recap

Record: 20-14 (10-8 ACC)

KenPom: 39 (AdjO 59, AdjD 30)

Postseason: 0-1 NCAA tournament (lost to Baylor)

Gone: G Tyus Battle (17.2 ppg), F Oshae Brissett (12.4 ppg), G Frank Howard (8.9 ppg)

ACC schedule

Twice: BC, Pitt, GT, ND, UVa, VT

Home: Duke, UNC, State, Wake

Away: Clem, FSU, Lou, Miami

Syracuse joined the ACC in 2014 and promptly went 14-4 in league play and finished second. Since then, the Orange have gone 9-9 (seventh place), 9-9 (ninth), 10-8 (eighth), 8-10 (11th) and 10-8 (sixth).

This is the new reality of Syracuse basketball in the ACC. They’re a Bon Jovi kind of team — they’re living on a prayer and hoping when they get into the NCAA tournament they’ll draw a team (or two) who can’t solve a zone.

They’ll be helped by one of the softer conference schedules (single games with Duke, Carolina and Louisville) but with the early exits of Tyus Battle and Oshae Brissett, the Orange are stuck in the same middle-of-the-road rut this season.

9. Notre Dame

Coach: Mike Brey, 20th season (412-205 at ND, 511-257 overall)

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Notre Dame’s Rex Pflueger (0) goes to the basket against Purdue’s Sasha Stefanovic during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018, in Indianapolis. Darron Cummings AP

Projected lineup

G Prentiss Hubb, so. (8.1 ppg, 4.0 apg)

G T.J. Gibbs, sr. (13.4 ppg, 3.4 apg)

G Rex Pflueger, sr. (8.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg)

F Nate Laszewski, so. (6.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg)

F John Mooney, sr. (14.1 ppg, 11.2 rpg)

2019 recap

Record: 14-19 (3-15 ACC)

KenPom: 97 (AdjO 105, AdjD 107)

Postseason: none

Gone: G D.J. Harvey (10.7 ppg)

ACC schedule

Twice: BC, GT, FSU, UNC, Syr, Wake

Home: Lou, Miami, Pitt, VT

Away: Clem, Duke, State, UVa

Where Notre Dame ranked in adjusted offensive efficiency, its first five years as an ACC member: No. 32 (2018), 18 (2017), 9 (2016), 2 (2015) and 40 (2014).

Last year, the Fighting Irish sunk to a very un-Mike-Brey-like No. 105. Injuries were certainly part of the problem.

Notre Dame’s best win came on Dec. 15, 88-80 over Purdue with 10 assists from Rex Pflueger. The utility guard tore the ACL in his left knee in that game. The Irish were 7-3 after that neutral-site win and then went 7-16 the rest of the way.

But it’s over-simplistic to pin the freefall on Pflueger’s absence. Brey’s trademark has been a free-flowing offense, reliant on spacing and a strong lead guard.

Brey’s best teams were always in the right spot and always made the extra pass. Their offense was so fluid, so good, they could get away with their defensive deficiencies.

A fully-recovered Pflueger (who was granted a medical redshirt) and a sophomore jump from Nate Laszewski give Notre Dame its best chance to get back to that formula. T.J. Gibbs has to find more Demetrius Jackson and Jerian Grant in his game, too.

10. Miami

Coach: Jim Larranaga, ninth season (175-97 at Miami, 645-431 overall)

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Miami’s Chris Lykes (0) drives to the basket against Virginia Tech during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, March 13, 2019. Nell Redmond AP

Projected lineup

G Chris Lykes, jr. (16.2 ppg, 3.2 apg)

G x-Kam McGusty, jr. (8.0 ppg, 1.9 rpg)

G Harlond Beverly, fr. (247 rank No. 51)

F y-Keith Stone, gr. (6.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg)

F Deng Gak, so. (2.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg)

Note: at Oklahoma in 2017-18, y-at Florida

2019 recap

Record: 14-18 (5-13 ACC)

KenPom: 75 (AdjO 75, AdjD 68)

Postseason: none

Gone: F Anthony Lawrence (12.6 ppg), F Ebuka Izundu (10.9 ppg)

ACC schedule

Twice: FSU, VT, Duke, Lou, State, Pitt

Home: BC, Syr, UVa, Wake

Away: Clem, GT, UNC, ND

Little went right for Miami last year. Short on bodies and talent, Jim Larranaga suffered his first losing season as a head coach since his first season at George Mason in 1998.

Not all was lost. Spunky guard Chris Lykes proved at 5-7 he can score at will in the ACC. He nearly doubled his scoring average from his freshman season.

The trick is getting Lykes more help. Oklahoma transfer Kam McGusty, who sat out last season, can score and shoot the 3. Keith Stone, a grad transfer from Florida, adds some size (6-8, 253 pounds) and experience. Harlond Beverly and Isaiah Wong are a pair of top-75 recruits in the backcourt.

A waiver from the NCAA for Cincinnati transfer Nysier Brooks would be a bonus but Larranaga will piece it together and get the program back on track.

11. Boston College

Coach: Jim Christian, sixth season (62-100 at BC, 304-254 overall)

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Duke guard Derryck Thornton (12) reacts after a Duke basket during the Blue Devils’ victory over Louisville at Cameron Indoor Stadium Monday, February 8, 2016. Chuck Liddy cliddy@newsobserver.com

Projected lineup

G x-Derryck Thornton, gr. (7.7 ppg, 4.3 apg)

G Wynston Tabbs, so. (13.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg)

F Jairus Hamilton, so. (6.0 ppg, 2.1 rpg)

F Steffon Mitchell, jr. (4.6 ppg, 7.9 rpg)

F Nik Popovic, sr. (14.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg)

Note: x-at USC

2019 recap

Record: 14-17 (5-13 ACC)

KenPom: 127 (AdjO 119, AdjD 138)

Postseason: none

Gone: G Ky Bowman (19.0 ppg), G Jordan Chatman (13.2 ppg)

ACC schedule

Twice: ND, Syr, Duke, UVa, VT, Wake

Home: Clem, GT, Lou, State

Away: FSU, Miami, UNC, Pitt

The Eagles have to figure out a way to improve defensively. Their highest adjusted defensive efficiency ranking in five years under Jim Christian is No. 100.

They also have to figure out how to get better without their best player. Ky Bowman led them in scoring, assists (4.0), steals (1.4) and was second in rebounding (7.5).

Derryck Thornton gets a second chance in the ACC, after starting his career at Duke and a detour through Pac-12 at USC. The combination of Thornton and sophomore guard Wynston Tabbs gives Christian a capable backcourt.

Christian’s two best players (Bowman and Jerome Robinson) were from North Carolina. He needs Charlotte’s Jarius Hamilton to continue that trend with a big sophomore season.

12. Wake Forest

Coach: Danny Manning, sixth season (65-93 at Wake, 103-122 overall)

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Wake Forest head coach Danny Manning, right, talks with Brandon Childress, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Miami in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, March 12, 2019. Chuck Burton AP

Projected lineup

G Brandon Childress, sr. (14.7 ppg, 4.0 apg

G x-Andrien White, sr. (15.0 ppg, 4.8 rpg)

G Chaundee Brown, jr. (11.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg)

F Isaiah Mucius, so. (6.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg)

F Olivier Sarr, jr. (6.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg)

Note: x-at Charlotte in 2017-18

2019 recap

Record: 11-19 (4-14 ACC)

KenPom: 174 (AdjO 175, AdjD 186)

Postseason: none

Gone: F Jaylen Hoard (13.1 ppg)

ACC schedule

Twice: Duke, State, BC, Clem, UNC, ND

Home: FSU, GT, UVa, VT

Away: Lou, Miami, Pitt, Syr

Danny Manning has been better at developing players than winning games at Wake Forest. He didn’t have a good year on either front. The Demon Deacons lost 11 games by at least 15 points. Their best player, Jaylen Hoard, left for the NBA and went undrafted.

With a more palatable buyout (reportedly $18 million), Manning almost certainly would have been gone after last year’s disaster. Alas, Wake couldn’t afford to hit the restart button, so Manning is back for a sixth season.

Unfortunately for the players, every game is going to be turned into a referendum on Manning’s future. Very few teams, college or pro, have success in pressure-cooker seasons like that.

Throw in what could turn out to be the most difficult ACC schedule (they get Duke and Carolina twice) and you can only hope against hope if you’re a Wake fan.

13. Pittsburgh

Coach: Jeff Capel, 2nd season (14-19 at Pitt, 189-129 overall)

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Pittsburgh’s Xavier Johnson (1) drives to the basket against Boston College’s Steffon Mitchell (41) and Nik Popovic during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Atlantic Coast Conference men’s tournament in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, March 12, 2019. Nell Redmond AP

Projected lineup

G Xavier Johnson, so. (15.5 ppg, 4.5 apg)

G Trey McGowans, so. (11.6 ppg, 3.2 rpg)

G Ryan Murphy, jr. (juco)

G Au’Diese Toney, so. (7.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg)

F Terrell Brown, jr. (5.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg)

2019 recap

Record: 14-19 (3-15 ACC)

KenPom: 101 (AdjO 168, AdjD 70)

Postseason: none

Gone: F Jared Wilson-Frame (12.7 ppg)

ACC schedule

Twice: Lou, Syr, FSU, GT, Miami, UNC

Home: BC, Clem, UVa, Wake

Away: Duke, State, ND, VT

Jeff Capel won an ACC game and found two good guards in his first season at Pitt. That was progress in Year 1, and admittedly a low bar to clear, but give the former Duke assistant credit for getting the Panthers back on track.

The trick now is to build off of the early returns from guards Xavier Johnson and Trey McGowans. That might be difficult in Year 2.

A four-guard lineup might be Capel’s best move. Well-traveled transfer Ryan Muprhy, who started his career at Charlotte, could offer a boost from the 3-point line and the addition of big-bodied forward Eric Hamilton, a grad transfer from UNCG, gives Capel some flexibility.

The development of junior big man Terrell Brown will determine how far Capel can push his second team.

14. Clemson

Coach: Brad Brownell, 10th season (169-127 at Clemson, 336-212 overall)

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Clemson head coach Brad Brownell yells to his players during an NCAA college basketball game against Notre Dame Wednesday, March 6, 2019, in South Bend, Ind. Clemson won 64-62. Robert Franklin AP

Projected lineup

G x-Curran Scott, gr. (8.9 ppg, 1.1 apg)

G Clyde Trapp, jr. (6.0 ppg, 3.4 rpg)

G y-Tevin Mack, gr. (9.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg)

F Aamir Simms, jr. (8.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg)

F Trey Jemison, so. (0.4 ppg, 0.8 rpg)

Note: x-at Tulsa, y-at Alabama

2019 recap

Record: 20-14 (9-9 ACC)

KenPom: 36 (AdjO 106, AdjD 14)

Postseason: 1-1 NIT (lost to Wichita State)

Gone: G Marcquise Reed (19.4 ppg), F Elijah Thomas (13.0 ppg), G Shelton Mitchell (11.5 ppg)

ACC schedule

Twice: FSU, GT, Lou, State, VT, Wake

Home: Duke, Miami, ND, Syr

Away: BC, UNC, Pitt, UVa

It’s hard to say where Brad Brownell took a wrong turn but there’s not a lot to Clemson’s roster. Forward Aamir Simms and backup guard Clyde Trapp are the only regulars back from a 7-man rotation.

Brownell, who is no stranger to the transfer route, tried to fill in the gaps with a grad transfer from Tulsa (Curran Scott) and another from Alabama (Tevin Mack). Those Band-Aids might help but how much?

The success of Clemson’s football program has bought Brownell all kinds of leeway (he has been to the NCAA tournament twice in nine years) but this season could get ugly.

15. Virginia Tech

Coach: Mike Young, first season (299-244 overall)

Mike-Young-Wofford.JPG
Wofford head coach Mike Young led his team to a second consecutive NCAA tournament berth out of the Southern Conference in 2015. He’ll be a hot coaching candidate in the offseason, and is someone the Charlotte 49ers could consider. Rainier Ehrhardt AP

Projected lineup

G Jalen Cone, fr. (247 rank No. 101)

G Nahiem Alleyne, fr. (247 rank No. 278)

F Landers Nolley, so.

F P.J. Horne, jr. (3.3 ppg, 2.2 rpg)

F John Ojiako, fr. (247 rank No. 236)

2019 recap

Record: 26-9 (12-6 ACC)

KenPom: 13 (AdjO 11, AdjD 20)

Postseason: 2-1 NCAA tournament (lost to Duke)

Gone: G Nickeil Alexander-Walker (16.2 ppg), F Kerry Blackshear (14.9 ppg), G Justin Robinson (13.5 ppg)

ACC schedule

Twice: Miami, UVa, BC, Clem, Duke, Syr

Home: FSU, UNC, State, Pitt.

Away: GT, Lou, ND, Wake

There’s no doubt Buzz Williams quickly turned Virginia Tech into a winner. The Hokies won nine games the year before Williams took over. He went to the NCAA tournament three years in a row (which had never been done in school history), won 26 games last year and reached the Sweet 16.

It’s also fair to wonder what Williams actually built in his five seasons. The situation Mike Young walks into isn’t all that different from what Williams inherited in 2015.

Williams didn’t leave Young with much of a roster. Even Clemson’s meager group is a cornucopia of talent by comparison. Sophomore forward Landers Nolley, who was academically ineligible last season, is probably the best of the returning lot.

Young rallied to add three probable starters in the freshmen recruiting class, headlined by guard Jalen Cone. Unless Young can sneak his 2019 Wofford starting lineup into the ACC, this is going to be a long honeymoon year for him and the Hokies.

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