The ACC may not have the depth that it possessed in 2016-17, but the conference is still considered the class of college basketball.
What players are expected to make a leap during this upcoming campaign? Here are the top 10 talents to look out for:
10. Clemson junior forward Elijah Thomas
In only 17 minutes per game, Thomas averaged 7.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks for a Clemson team that made the NIT in 2016-17. The forward is a former four-star recruit who was ranked in the top 35 of ESPN’s top 100 for the class of 2015. With Jaron Blossomgame off to the NBA, Thomas should get more touches and shot attempts down low.
9. NC State sophomore guard Markell Johnson
Dennis Smith Jr. is now playing for the Dallas Mavericks, which means his backup last season, Johnson, will start and play a hefty role for the Wolfpack. Johnson has the speed, quickness and talent (top 50 recruit in 2016), but will need to improve his jump shot and free throw shooting to make that next step.
8. Syracuse redshirt freshman forward Matthew Moyer
Moyer, a four-star 6’8″ forward in the class of 2016, redshirted last campaign because of foot issues, however, if Syracuse is going to be relevant in the ACC, they need someone to step up alongside Tyus Battle. Moyer is long, active, athletic and has plenty of skill to be a mismatch at the four position.
7. Duke sophomore forward Marques Bolden
Bolden was highly touted out of high school as a five-star, top 20 recruit who was expected to have an instant impact with the Duke Blue Devils. Instead, Bolden battled injuries and looked lost at times on the court, averaging just 1.5 points per game. With Wendell Carter Jr., Marvin Bagley III, Jordan Tucker and Javin DeLaurier also projected to have roles up front, Bolden will have to impact games on the glass to stay in the lineup on a consistent basis.
6. Florida State sophomore guard Terance Mann
With Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac making their departures, Mann is the leading returning scorer for the Noles. The 6’6″ guard from Lowell, MA has defensive versatility and averaged 8.4 points on an incredibly efficient 58 percent shooting last season.
5. Virginia redshirt sophomore forward De’Andre Hunter
After redshirting in 2016-17, Hunter is capable of providing the Cavaliers with more scoring at the forward positions. The 6’7″ Philadelphia, PA native can play the three or the four due to his length and ability to shoot over the top of the defense. With a soft touch from the mid-range and solid ball handling skills for his size, Hunter and fellow redshirt freshman Jay Huff will give UVA a completely different dimension.
4. Miami sophomore forward Dewan Huell
Miami is expected to be a top 15 team for the majority of this season because of their backcourt that consists of Lonnie Walker, Ja’Quan Newton and Bruce Brown. But the ‘Canes will need more consistent play on the interior with Kamari Murphy graduating. Huell averaged only 5.8 points and 3.1 rebounds per game last year, but played only 17.4 minutes. As a former five-star recruit, Huell is ready to make a leap by running the floor, finishing above the rim and using his soft touch inside the paint to his advantage.
3. Louisville sophomore guard V.J. King
King’s overall stats last season weren’t very impressive — 5.5 points, 2.1 rebounds, 0.5 assists in 13.5 minutes per game — but he shot the ball efficiently (43 percent overall and 42 from three) and closed out the year by showing great progress on offense. In early February, King scored 35 points in a two-game stretch against Boston College and Virginia. That scoring prowess should carry over with Donovan Mitchell now playing for the Utah Jazz in the NBA.
2. Notre Dame sophomore guard Temple Gibbs
Gibbs was thrown into the fire in a second round NCAA Tournament matchup against West Virginia (one of the most aggressive defensive teams in college hoops) and looked a bit star struck. Gibbs, a former four-star recruit, will likely split the ball-handling duties with returning senior Matt Farrell and could increase his 32 percent shooting from three by playing off-the-ball more often.
1. Louisville junior forward Deng Adel
Even with all the distractions at Louisville, the Cardinals are going to open up the 2017-18 season as a top 15 team. They have several breakout candidates, but none are bigger than Adel. The 6’7″ forward has the length, athleticism and scoring mentality to become one of the stars of the ACC this year. Adel will average more than the 12.1 points per game he put up last season as he is going to be the Cardinals’ go-to talent on the offensive end of the floor. He is also a versatile perimeter defender with the toughness to lock down the best wing on the opposing team.