Previewing the bottom half of ACC basketball

Though improving since last year, Wake Forest still represents the back-end of the ACC


Christian Odjakjian, Staff Writer

15. Boston College

Jim Christian is out and Earl Grant is in as head coach for the Eagles, but that switch won’t keep this team from being the worst in the ACC. Arguably, the four best players in the program from last year (Wynston Tabbs, Jay Heath, C.J. Felder and Rich Kelly) all are no longer with the team. Boston College is now led by Makai Ashton-Langford, the only returning starter, and guard Brevin Galloway, who followed his coach from the College of Charleston up to Boston. Anything other than a bottom-two ACC finish would be a win for this struggling program.

14. Pittsburgh

Jeff Capel’s Panthers lost 51.8 PPG of scoring from last season, including First Team All-ACC selection Justin Champagnie. Xavier Johnson and Au’Diese Toney are two other key starters from last year’s team that have moved on. Nike Sibande is an intriguing player who will look to build off his strong end to last year’s campaign, and Jamarius Burton will be an instant impact transfer from Texas Tech. This team is too inexperienced and devoid of talent compared to the rest of the conference to win more than a few ACC games.

13. Wake Forest

The Deacs have a chance to be much more competitive in year two under Steve Forbes, but a lot will be asked of their young talent and transfers. The Forbes rebuild is promising, but expectations still need to be tempered. This roster boasts more three-point shooting and depth than those of recent years, and if the players buy into the Forbes culture, this team can be competitive.

If Wake places 11th or better in the conference, it should be considered a great step in the right direction. Look for Davien Williamson, Indiana State transfer Jake LaRavia and Oklahoma transfer Alondes Williams to lead the way for this group.

12. Miami

Miami has fallen off a bit in recent years, but it’s never a good idea to count out a team coached by Jim Larranaga. It will be an uphill climb for this team to make noise in the ACC with the losses of Chris Lykes, Elijah Olaniyi, Earl Timberlake and Nysier Brooks. The Hurricanes do boast a strong backcourt led by Isaiah Wong, who should be an All-Conference caliber player. Other key pieces include veteran guard Kameron McGusty and DePaul transfer Charlie Moore. This team could very well be potent offensively, but defense will likely be a struggle.

11. Georgia Tech

The Yellow Jackets put together an impressive run in March, winning the ACC tournament and making the NCAA Tournament as a No. 9 seed. ACC player of the year Moses Wright tested positive for COVID-19 and wasn’t able to play in their first-round loss against Loyola Chicago. Both Wright and tough-as-nails point guard Jose Alvorado have moved on to play professionally. The experienced wing trio of Michael Devoe, Jordan Usher and Bubba Parham are all back and provide some continuity for this team. Watch out for Dallan Coleman, a talented incoming freshman who should provide offensive firepower. Still, a return to the NCAA tournament this season might be too much to ask of Josh Pastner’s squad.

10. Syracuse

It’s always hard to doubt a Jim Boeheim-coached team. The family business is booming up in New York — not only is leading scorer and lights-out shooter Buddy Boeheim returning, but his brother Jimmy is transferring in from Cornell. Joseph Girard is back and should be Buddy’s sidekick, and veteran shooter Cole Swider comes from Villanova. However, this team loses a lot of its defensive capabilities with the departures of Marek Dolezaj, Quincy Guerrier and Kardary Richmond. The 2-3 zone and the two Boeheim’s will keep this team in contention, but the Orange will likely fall on the wrong side of the bubble this time around.

9. Clemson

The Tigers suffered one big loss in Aamir Simms, a gritty interior player who served as an anchor on both sides of the court. The strength of this team will be their backcourt, which boasts veteran returnees in Al-Amir Dawes, Nick Honor and Hunter Tyson. A sneaky addition to this squad is guard David Collins, a fifth-year transfer student from South Florida who has scored in double figures in four straight seasons. Another graduate transfer, Naz Bohannon from Youngstown State, earned All-Horizon League honors last year. For Clemson to be a real force in the conference, they’ll need a frontcourt presence to emerge, and sophomore P.J. Hall could lead the charge.