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Editor’s Note: In part three of a four-part series, Patrick O’Brien previews the upcoming basketball seasons for Duke, Florida State, NC State and Syracuse below.
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.
Duke Blue Devils
The Duke Blue Devils return after taking home the National Championship last season, but this team will certainly look different from last year. That doesn’t mean Coach Mike Krzyzewski won’t have the necessary talent to make yet another run at his sixth national title.
Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee are the two leaders that will inevitably provide veteran leadership for this Duke team. Freshman center, Chase Jeter, will have his chance to come in and compete, earn his time on the court, and contribute down in the paint.
With the loss of Quinn Cook, Tyus Jones and Justice Winslow, the Blue Devils will look a little different in the backcourt with a bevy of newcomers hoping to become key factors this season. Derryck Thornton will be relied on to take over the duties at point guard, while Grayson Allen, Matt Jones and Luke Kennard will be depended upon their shooting capabilities at the guard position. Furthermore, freshman sensation, Brandon Ingram (who was voted preseason ACC Freshman of the Year) will be depended upon to produce and potentially become Duke’s go-to guy this season.
Coach K’s squad returns key veterans in important spots, while also maintaining young talent. Duke could be in line to make yet another championship run behind Hall of Fame coach, Mike Krzyzewski.
Duke was picked to finish third in the ACC, behind North Carolina and Virginia.
Florida State Seminoles
Several key parts return for FSU head coach, Leonard Hamilton, as he might have one of his best teams in recent years. Florida State not only has one of the top players returning in Xavier Rathan-Mayes, but the Noles also have an incoming freshmen class that could have a huge impact on this team. This team believes that they can continue their dominance on the defense end this season, as they look to end a three year skid from the NCAA Tournament.
Xavier Rathan-Mayes returns as the leading scorer and could be a major contendor for ACC Player of the Year, if he develops into the guard many people think he could be. The Noles also return players like Montay Brandon and Devon Bookert, while adding three Top-100 guards in their 2015 recruiting class. One freshman, Dwyane Bacon, led the nation in scoring last year at the high school level for Oak Hill and Seminole fans hope that he can bring that same mentality early on this season. Also watch out for 4-star guard Malik Beasley and Terrence Mann, both who could become contributors as well.
Scoring down low has been a struggle in the past few seasons for the Seminoles. However, there will be no question about defense and size, as Florida State returns 7’1 Michael Ojo and 7’3 Boris Bojanovsky on the block. Those two players will be the go-to guys down in the post this season on both ends, as they have spent time in the gym working on their offensive game while also providing a shot blocking presence. Other plays like Jarquez Smith and Phil Cofer should also provide positive minutes this season for the Seminoles.
NC State Wolfpack
NC State looks to continue its stellar run under head coach, Mark Gottfried, as the Wolfpack have made four straight NCAA Tournaments. Coach Gottfried’s squad lost some key pieces from last season including Travor Lacy, Ralston Turner and Kyle Washington, but the Pack should have one of the best frontcourts in the conference.
BeeJay Anya has slimmed down, Abdul-Malik Abu averaged 6.4 points per game last year and Lennard Freeman has been a key piece for NC State, all of whom have produced consistency in the paint. These three players should be the focal point for this team this year and could be one of the top frontcourts in the ACC if each player can carve out a bigger role.
This is where NC State has a few question marks, but one position the Wolfpack have clamped down on is at point guard. Anthony “Cat” Barber will lead the team and could possibly be their leading scorer this season. Barber averaged over 12 points per game and 3.7 assists, both stat lines that could climb this season. Who will step up alongside Barber and become the second-leading scoring threat on the perimeter?
NC State will have junior guard Terry Henderson, who transferred from West Virginia and the Martin twins in Caleb and Cody. Incoming freshmen, Maverick Rowan and Shaun Kirk, could provide a surprising spark. Henderson could be the outside threat this season after averaging 11.7 points per game at West Virginia and shot 37.6 percent from behind the arc. Rowan could also be a threat from the outside, while Caleb and Cody Martin continue to grow into their own scoring roles.
The Orange return a good amount of talent this year, while adding a few gifted freshmen.
In the frontcourt, Syracuse is depending upon DaJuan Coleman, who hasn’t played since January 2014. Coleman is a 6’9 bruiser down low that can clear out space and certainly become one of the top rebounders in the country, when healthy. Behind him, they will have sophomore Chinonso Obokoh, Tyler Roberson, Tyler Lydon (freshman) and Moustapha Diagne (freshman). Roberson started 19 games last season, averaging 8.3 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per game; he will be another huge asset for the Orange down low in the paint.
The backcourt this season has several weapons and only added more with the 2015 recruiting class. Trevor Cooney is the team’s leading returning scorer, averaging 13.4 points per game and is a sharp shooter from the outside. Combine that with Michael Gbinijie (12.7 ppg), Kaleb Joseph (5.9 ppg), and incoming freshman Malachi Richardson, the Orange have quite a few options this season to score the ball.
If they can stay healthy, this could be a dangerous team in the ACC, as they were picked to finish ninth in the conference.