CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski is again coaching the team picked to win the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The Hall of Famer knows it’s going to be a lot tougher to live up to the preseason prediction with the addition of Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame to the ACC.
While the Blue Devils are the preseason favorite for the first time in three years, the league is adding an Orange program that features Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim and preseason ACC player of the year C.J. Fair. The ACC is also adding a pair of perennial NCAA tournament teams that left the reconfigured Big East to form what ACC coaches are quick to tout as the nation’s best league.
We’re going to see much more than Duke and Carolina showcased in this league with all of these new additions, Krzyzewski said Wednesday.
The Blue Devils earned 50 of 54 first-place votes from media members at the league’s ACC Operation Basketball media day. Syracuse was picked second and earned three first-place votes, while North Carolina was picked third and earned the last one.
All three new arrivals were picked to finish the top half of the 15-team league, with the Irish picked fifth and the Panthers picked sixth.
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey knows plenty about the tradition of Duke and UNC after eight years as an assistant to Krzyzewski, but he said the ACC is about to turn into more than just a two-team race.
Duke and Carolina is always going to be Duke and Carolina in this league. I can say that, Brey said. I lived it, been there, done that. ... But you know what? With what’s coming into this league and what’s brewing, I think you have a lot of programs really trending up.
It marked the 10th time in 17 years that the Blue Devils were picked to finish first in the league, though the first since before the 2010-11 season following Krzyzewski’s fourth national championship. This year’s team returns starters Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon from a 30-win team that reached an NCAA regional final before falling to eventual champion Louisville, which joins the ACC next season.
Those two will join with highly touted freshman Jabari Parker, picked as the league’s rookie of the year, and Mississippi State sophomore transfer Rodney Hood to form Duke’s core.
Both Parker and Hood were picked to the preseason all-ACC team, joining Fair, Virginia senior guard Joe Harris and Notre Dame senior guard Jerian Grant on the five-man squad.
Fair, a 6-foot-8 senior, was the top scorer at nearly 15 points per game for the Orange, who reached the Final Four last year.
With this year’s changes, the ACC will now have three of the five winningest programs in NCAA history with UNC (2,090 wins), Duke (2,001) and Syracuse (1,874) along with three of the five active Naismith Hall of Fame coaches in Krzyzewski, Boeheim and UNC’s Roy Williams.
Virginia was picked fourth, followed by Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Maryland, Boston College, Florida State, North Carolina State, Georgia Tech, reigning champion Miami, Wake Forest, Clemson and Virginia Tech. This will be Maryland’s final year in the league before leaving for the Big Ten.