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Editor’s Note: In part two of a four-part series, Jacob Dennis previews the upcoming basketball seasons for Boston College, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Notre Dame.
The 2015-16 ACC Basketball season is finally upon us, and the ACC Digital Network prepares you for the upcoming season with our “College Hoops Tip-Off Preview” series.
BOSTON COLLEGE EAGLES: 2014-15 Record: 13-19 (4-14 ACC)
Boston College will look distinctly different in the upcoming season than many fans are used to, as the graduation of All-ACC star Olivier Hanlan, coupled with the arrival of seven freshman and a graduate transfer, means the Eagles will likely need time to establish an identity. Jim Christian’s team won’t have much time to do it, either, as the team will play just five games before a Nov. 26 matchup with perennial power Michigan State in the Wooden Classic.
The Eagles’ top four scorers from a season ago are gone, leaving senior Dennis Clifford as one of the only players with experience playing under Christian. Eli Carter, a graduate transfer from the University of Florida, appears to be the leading candidate to replace Hanlan’s scoring production, and he’s already made a great first impression on BC fans.
In the Eagles’ exhibition game on Nov. 5 in Conte Forum against Division II Bentley, Carter poured in 33 points to help BC stave off an upset bid. Still, the team struggled to rebound the ball and didn’t receive many points from players not named Carter. But early-season difficulties are to be expected from a team with so many new faces.
A youthful Boston College team probably won’t find the win column very often this season in the toughest conference in America, but the freshman class of seven brought in by Christian is really solid. The Eagles have a ton of potential going forward both this season and in the future. Don’t be surprised to see BC pull an upset or two as the season rolls along.
CLEMSON TIGERS: 2014-15 Record: 16-15 (8-10 ACC)
Jaron Blossomgame led Clemson in both scoring and rebounding a season ago, and he’s poised to have an even better season for the Tigers this year as a junior. That’s a scary proposition for other ACC schools. Blossomgame averaged nearly a double-double per game as a sophomore, and he’ll be needed to produce similar numbers this season for a team that lost two veteran guards in Damarcus Harrison and Rod Hall.
Avry Holmes, a guard transfer from the University of San Francisco, could be a name that becomes well-known sooner rather than later for the Tigers. Holmes sat out the entire 2014-15 season per NCAA rules, but is now ready to contribute to a backcourt that doesn’t have many returning players.
The return of Blossomgame shouldn’t be understated, though. With his presence, Clemson head coach Brad Brownell will have his leading scorer from the previous season back for the first time in his six seasons in charge of the Tigers.
The added eligibility of Holmes and the addition of freshman guard Ty Hudson should more than offset the loss of a veteran backcourt. Clemson also adds junior college center transfer Legend Robertin to the mix, giving Brownell solid depth at the position with senior Landry Nnoko returning.
GEORGIA TECH YELLOW JACKETS: 2014-15 Record: 12-19 (3-15 ACC)
Another offseason, another high-profile group of transfers headed to Atlanta to play for Georgia Tech head coach Brian Gregory. After landing former Maryland star Charles Mitchell prior to the 2014-15 season, the Yellow Jackets will see the likes of Adam Smith and James White suit up in white and gold this year as Tech attempts to re-establish itself as a contender in the ACC.
Smith, the leading scorer for Virginia Tech a season ago, and White, the leading rebounder at Arkansas State in ’14-’15, should help rejuvenate a Georgia Tech team that was much more competitive last season than its record indicates. The Jackets lost 11 games by five points or less in 2014-15, and the inability to score from the perimeter was a main reason why. The addition of Smith, however, should significantly improve Tech in that department.
The Virginia Tech transfer shot 42.4 percent from distance last season and will immediately step in as Brian Gregory’s go-to scoring option from the outside. His addition, coupled with a much-improved Tadric Jackson, will likely change the looks Tech sees offensively, as teams will have to do more than pack the paint to limit the Jackets’ nightly point totals. Additionally, a healthy Marcus Georges-Hunt, a player who has the ability to single-handedly take over games, should be ready to end his GT career on a high note after a broken foot shortened his junior year. [Watch more here]
NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH: 2014-15 Record: 32-6 (14-4 ACC) – 2015 ACC Tournament Champions
Last season the Irish were close. So close, in fact, that had a Jerian Grant corner three fallen with no time left, Mike Brey and company would’ve ousted unbeaten Kentucky to earn a spot in the Final Four. The graduation of Grant and Pat Connaughton has some doubting that the Irish are capable of another deep postseason run, but a solid nucleus of returning players will give the team a legitimate chance to defend its ACC title.
Notre Dame returns six of its leading eight scorers, led by Zach Auguste and Demetrius Jackson, and the team will have a significant amount of time to establish an identity before facing a quality opponent. The Irish’s first five games of the season will be at home against the likes of St. Francis (Ill.), Caldwell, St. Francis (Pa.), Milwaukee and UMass-Lowell, and the team likely won’t have a serious test until the second round of the Advocare Invitational against Dayton or Iowa.
Steve Vasturia, one of Notre Dame’s three returning starters, figures to play a Connaughton-like role in the offense, as the 6-foot-5 junior guard can stretch the floor with his 3-point shooting ability but is also a viable rebounding threat. Vasturia averaged 10.1 points and 3.0 rebounds per game last season for the Irish.
The addition of freshman Rex Pflueger, a perfect fit for Notre Dame’s offense, could also be a major factor in the Irish’s quest to repeat as ACC champions. The 6-foot-6 Pflueger has been noted for his vertical leaping ability, something fans hope to see in Purcell Pavilion in a matter of days.