The best basketball conference in the nation (don’t let anyone tell you otherwise) is coming off a strong year, with a national championship, a #1 overall pick, and 3 of the top 10 recruiting classes. But that’s all in the past now: here’s a look at how the Atlantic Coast Conference will shake out this coming season.
Virginia doesn’t crack fifteen conference wins
Though they cut down the nets in Minneapolis this past season, Virginia is in rebuild mode. Tony Bennett remains one of the best coaches in college basketball and as handsome as ever, but there were major departures this offseason. With new faces and plenty of holes to fill, it might take the Cavaliers’ a few games to figure out which lineup works best. I expect them to have some postseason success, but don’t be surprised if it takes Bennett and co drop a few conference games before they get in their groove.
The ACC sends just four teams to March Madness
The big dance was full of ACC teams in 2019, with 7 of the conference’s 15 teams appearing in March Madness. Look for that number to drop dramatically in 2020. Duke, UNC, UVa, and Louisville are locks, but outside of those 4 it’s hard to see a path for the other ACC teams to get at-large bids. Wake Forest, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Boston College, Georgia Tech, and Miami are all goddamn awful; Clemson, Florida State, and Syracuse each lost basically their entire starting lineup; NC State lost their only reliable scorer and their best recruit; and Virginia Tech lost their head coach and one of the best players in the country. Don’t hold your breath for a usual ACC-stuffed bracket.
Virginia Tech finishes bottom-five in the conference
Buzz Williams giveth, and Buzz Williams taketh away. The perennially sweaty coach brought the Hokies up from the depths of the ACC to three consecutive tournament appearances, culminating in a Sweet 16 berth this year… then bolted to Texas A&M. Then, just to kick Virginia Tech fans while they were down, Kerry Blackshear – one of the best players in the country – headed south to Florida. Virginia Tech is in the midst of a full rebuild, and it might just be bad enough for them to tumble past the likes of Clemson and Georgia Tech into the third tier of the ACC.
Louisville wins the ACC regular-season title
I wrote about this in “2019-2020 College Basketball Bold Predictions,” but the more I think about this the less bold it seems. Louisville lost virtually nobody to the draft, graduation, or the transfer portal and filled major positions of need with a top-tier transfer guard and top-tier recruits. Add those to Jordan Nwora returning for his junior year – a move that makes absolutely no sense but is a God-given gift to this squad – and the Cardinals are poised to control the ACC.
…but doesn’t win the ACC tournament
Since joining the ACC, the Cardinals haven’t made it past the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament. This year’s team feels special, but winning the conference championship feels like a bit of an uphill battle given that the tournament will be hosted in Greensboro, North Carolina, a short drive from Duke, UNC, and UVa. Louisville will certainly have a shot, but with whatexpects to be an unfavorable crowd (read: douchebag Blue Devil fans) it’s easy to see them exiting early and taking a bit of a break before March Madness.
…and manages to fantastically blow a home conference game
The KFC Yum! Center is known for two things: the worst arena name in the nation and inexplicably blown leads. Two seasons ago, Louisville was up 4 on Virginia with 1 second on the clock and lost after Deng Adel illegally ran the baseline and De’Andre Hunter banked in a buzzer-beating 3-pointer; last season, they led Duke by 23 before collectively shitting themselves against the press in the final 6 minutes. The Cardinals will be a great team this year, but you can guarantee they’ll have a mind-boggling home loss at some point.
Zion Williamson is mentioned in every single ACC Network broadcast
ESPN spent the entire 2018-2019 college basketball season fondling Zion’s balls and violently orgasming every time he dunked. Now, with the former Duke superstar headed to the NBA, expect ESPN to do what everyone does post-breakup: incessantly bring up their ex. It could be a Pitt-Notre Dame game, but the ESPN color commentators will find a way to shoehorn Zion’s name into the conversation. Don’t be surprised if they send a few late-night “you up?” texts his way as well.