Thursday October 15th, 2015

With the start of college basketball season less than a month away, we're previewing each team in nine conferences. Using a statistical projection system developed by economist Dan Hanner and SI's Luke Winn, which is now in its second season, we've forecast the conference standings and the top seven scorers from each team. Next up is the conference of the defending national champion Duke Blue Devils, the ACC:

Coach of the year: Leonard Hamilton, Florida State

Let’s be honest: It probably should be Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, who somehow hasn’t won this award since 1999-2000. But the talent that Coach K has again will overshadow his dexterity in creating a cohesive group. So Hamilton will benefit, as Coach of the Year honors often go to leaders of teams that make a jump. The Seminoles return their top six scorers and welcome in a ballyhooed recruiting class led by five-star wing Dwayne Bacon, who should bolster an already potent perimeter group. And a schedule featuring only one regular-season meeting apiece with Duke, North Carolina and Virginia sets up the Seminoles to push into the top half of the league. The school’s first NCAA tournament berth in four years would cinch the deal.

Player of the year: Marcus Paige, North Carolina

It’s less a Lifetime Achievement Award than an acknowledgement that a cavalcade of injuries—hip issues, some plantar fasciitis, bone spurs in his ankle that prompted off-season surgery—contributed to the dip in Paige’s production as a junior. (He went from 17.5 ppg and 44% shooting as a sophomore to 14.1 ppg and 41.3% shooting last year). If the wear-and-tear of a long college career creates more health problems, then all bets are off. If Paige is healthy, then he should thrive with a more mature, productive supporting cast while receiving the credit for leading the Tar Heels back into the national title picture.

Freshman of the year: Brandon Ingram, Duke

The consensus top-five recruit is 6'8" with a 7'4" wingspan and has added 23 pounds since he arrived in Durham. Blue Devils coaches believe Ingram has the shooting, driving and ball-handling skills to slot in everywhere offensively except center. “He’s really unique,” Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel said. “I think Coach K has done unique better than anyone.” Unlike last year, and especially early last year, Duke won’t run its sets through big men as much. That should play to Ingram’s strength of attacking from the perimeter and enable him to put up big numbers.

Projected conference race

conference rank team projected Conf. record last year's Conf. record
1 North Carolina 13-5 11-7
2 Duke 13-5 15-3
3 Virginia 13-5 16-2
4 Louisville 10-8 12-6
5 Notre Dame 10-8 14-4
6 Miami (Fla.) 10-8 10-8
7 Florida State 9-9 8-10
8 N.C. State 9-9 10-8
9 Syracuse 9-9 9-9
10 Pittsburgh 9-9 8-10
11 Clemson 7-11 8-10
12 Georgia Tech 7-11 3-15
13 Wake Forest 7-11 5-13
14 Virginia Tech 6-12 2-16
15 Boston College 3-15 4-14

Each team’s outlook in about 68 words

North Carolina
SI/Hanner Projected 2015-16 stats
Name Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg POSS MINS
Marcus Paige PG 14.3 3.6 4.6 120.2 20% 82%
Brice Johnson PF 13.8 8.6 1.1 116.7 23% 65%
Justin Jackson SF 13.4 5.2 2.3 118.3 20% 78%
Kennedy Meeks PF/C 12.3 8.2 1.2 115.9 23% 62%
Isaiah Hicks PF 10.0 4.8 0.6 110.9 21% 56%
Nate Britt PG 6.7 1.7 2.0 110.3 19% 46%
Joel Berry PG 6.1 1.5 2.0 113.9 17% 44%

Perhaps the Tar Heels weren’t as bad defensively last year as it seemed; they ranked 51st in adjusted defensive efficiency, per kenpom.com, which was three spots better than national runner-up Wisconsin. But even a minor uptick would make a major difference. Many believed Theo Pinson (merely 12.5 minutes per game as a freshman) has the capacity to be a shut-down guy. Now would be a time to prove it.

Duke
SI/Hanner Projected 2015-16 stats
Name Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg POSS MINS
Grayson Allen SG 16.4 4.0 1.7 119.7 23% 78%
Brandon Ingram G/F 15.6 6.9 1.6 114.7 24% 78%
Derryck Thornton PG 11.9 3.9 4.1 109.4 22% 75%
Amile Jefferson PF 10.2 8.6 1.3 126.2 18% 72%
Matt Jones SG 9.5 3.4 1.3 116.5 17% 69%
Chase Jeter PF/C 7.9 4.8 0.6 109.4 22% 46%
Marshall Plumlee C 5.3 5.0 0.7 122.6 13% 52%

Because he had to complete a summer course after reclassifying to 2015, Derryck Thornton joined the Blue Devils later than usual for a freshman. Still, the 6'2" guard’s ability was immediately evident: Quick hands and feet, pushing the tempo offensively, picking up opposing guards for 94 feet. On a team replete with options, Thornton must reprise Tyus Jones’s performance as a steely first-year floor leader.

Virginia
SI/Hanner Projected 2015-16 stats
Name Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg POSS MINS
Malcolm Brogdon SG 14.4 4.8 2.5 110.7 25% 79%
Anthony Gill PF 12.9 7.3 1.0 117.2 25% 70%
Mike Tobey PF/C 10.1 7.0 0.6 111.8 24% 60%
London Perrantes PG 7.8 2.9 4.7 110.4 17% 85%
Marial Shayok SF 6.3 3.1 1.4 104.3 18% 53%
Evan Nolte SF 4.1 2.1 0.7 105.9 14% 44%
Darius Thompson PG 3.7 2.4 1.9 99.8 19% 44%

By now, we’re all done doubting Tony Bennett can bring it together in Charlottesville. But the emergence of a second perimeter scorer to complement Malcolm Brogdon (14 ppg) is imperative no matter how good the defense is. Marial Shayok, Evan Nolte, Isaiah Wilkins ... the Cavaliers need someone, anyone, in the Justin Anderson role to make a Final Four push.

Louisville
SI/Hanner Projected 2015-16 stats
Name Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg POSS MINS
Damion Lee SF 12.6 5.9 1.9 112.6 24% 64%
Trey Lewis PG 11.9 3.1 2.6 105.0 22% 69%
Donovan Mitchell SG 9.1 3.3 1.7 101.9 21% 60%
Deng Adel SF 8.3 4.4 1.1 101.9 21% 54%
Quentin Snider PG 7.1 2.2 1.9 101.1 20% 54%
Raymond Spalding PF 6.1 4.3 0.5 101.9 21% 40%
Chinanu Onuaku C 5.8 6.3 0.8 104.5 16% 60%

This season relies on the premise that the skills of graduate transfers Damion Lee (21.4 ppg at Drexel) and Trey Lewis (16.3 ppg at Cleveland State) will translate to the ACC. That’s a gamble, but it’s not like Rick Pitino had much choice. In terms of on-court performance—and only in that context, it must be emphasized—the difficulty of a roster turnover looms larger than the specter of an NCAA inquiry.

Notre Dame
SI/Hanner Projected 2015-16 stats
Name Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg POSS MINS
Demetrius Jackson PG 15.2 3.9 3.6 122.5 20% 95%
Zach Auguste PF 15.0 7.6 0.9 114.1 27% 69%
V.J. Beachem SF 14.3 3.9 1.2 115.7 20% 79%
Steve Vasturia SG 13.4 4.3 2.2 119.4 17% 93%
Bonzie Colson, Jr. PF 9.7 4.4 0.7 121.1 23% 50%
Rex Pflueger SG 4.6 2.1 0.8 100.4 19% 35%
Austin Torres PF 3.7 2.8 0.3 111.5 16% 33%

Mike Brey has enough pieces left over from an Elite Eight run to forge a top-half ACC finish. But no returning Irish player will be able to replace Pat Connaughton or Jerian Grant. Demetrius Jackson (12.4 ppg) will try, and an NCAA tournament return is likely, but this team can’t match the intangibles that helped last year’s group soar.

Miami
SI/Hanner Projected 2015-16 stats
Name Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg POSS MINS
Sheldon McClellan SG 15.0 4.4 1.9 123.0 22% 80%
Angel Rodriguez PG 12.2 2.1 3.9 106.7 27% 69%
Tonye Jekiri C 8.8 9.1 1.2 113.6 18% 75%
Davon Reed SG 7.8 3.2 1.6 120.0 17% 58%
Kamari Murphy PF 7.3 5.8 0.8 105.6 18% 62%
Ja'Quan Newton PG 7.2 2.2 2.2 103.0 22% 53%
James Palmer SG 5.4 1.9 0.9 106.8 18% 41%

Angel Rodriguez (11.9 pgg) and Sheldon McClellan (14.5 ppg) were pretty good, but perhaps not the difference-makers some expected once the two transfer guards were eligible last year. Another favorable schedule that features only one game apiece with Virginia, Duke and North Carolina leaves them little excuse in a push for an NCAA bid.

Florida State
SI/Hanner Projected 2015-16 stats
Name Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg POSS MINS
Xavier Rathan-Mayes PG 13.4 3.3 3.5 101.5 27% 74%
Montay Brandon SF 10.7 5.1 1.9 106.3 19% 76%
Dwayne Bacon SF 8.8 3.8 1.2 107.6 21% 56%
Phil Cofer PF 7.6 4.5 0.4 105.3 19% 55%
Devon Bookert CG 6.9 2.3 2.1 104.2 18% 54%
Boris Bojanovsky C 6.5 4.3 0.7 113.1 17% 50%
Jarquez Smith PF 6.5 3.2 0.4 102.9 19% 45%

The dynamic in Tallahassee is combustible enough to warrant special attention. Proven returning veterans like Xavier Rathan-Mayes​ (14.9 ppg), Montay Brandon (11.8 ppg) and Devin Bookert (10.1 ppg) didn’t earn an NCAA tournament bid last year. Will a trio of four- and five-star freshmen blend in without rancor, or will they attempt a takeover, given that the returnees haven’t accomplished much of note?

North Carolina State
SI/Hanner Projected 2015-16 stats
Name Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg POSS MINS
Anthony Barber PG 15.4 3.8 4.6 112.0 24% 90%
Terry Henderson SG 11.2 3.2 1.4 108.7 22% 64%
Abdul-Malik Abu PF 9.0 6.0 0.8 107.8 22% 59%
Caleb Martin SF 7.9 4.2 1.0 108.5 19% 56%
BeeJay Anya C 7.7 6.1 0.5 108.6 16% 67%
Maverick Rowan SG 6.6 3.0 1.3 102.7 20% 46%
Lennard Freeman PF 5.2 6.4 0.7 109.0 15% 57%

The Wolfpack have achieved consistency (four straight NCAA tournament bids) despite their defense: The team's adjusted efficiency rating for the last four seasons ranked 78th, 112th, 127th and 87th, respectively. And Cat Barber is the only returning double-digit scorer for 2015-16. That means Mark Gottfried needs immediate help from transfer Terry Henderson and freshman Maverick Rowan.

Syracuse
SI/Hanner Projected 2015-16 stats
Name Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg POSS MINS
Trevor Cooney SG 13.3 3.0 1.8 110.7 20% 80%
Michael Gbinije SF 11.6 4.4 2.9 111.8 20% 73%
Tyler Roberson PF 10.0 7.8 1.5 108.5 19% 75%
Dajuan Coleman C 9.3 5.9 0.6 107.3 23% 60%
Malachi Richardson SG/SF 7.6 3.8 1.1 104.0 20% 52%
Franklin Howard PG/SG 6.2 3.1 2.3 101.3 19% 50%
Tyler Lydon PF 6.0 4.1 0.5 101.3 19% 45%

After the tumult of 2014-15, the Orange well know there are worse ways to start a season than with an experienced backcourt (Kaleb Joseph, Trevor Cooney and Michael Gbinije) and a freshman class featuring four four-star prospects. Jim Boeheim will miss nine ACC games due to a suspension, but an NCAA tournament bid is doable, and it would be a massive relief.

Pittsburgh
SI/Hanner Projected 2015-16 stats
Name Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg POSS MINS
Mike Young PF 13.5 6.9 1.3 119.5 22% 76%
Jamel Artis SF 12.6 5.5 1.9 114.1 23% 71%
James Robinson PG 10.3 3.6 5.2 114.1 19% 85%
Chris Jones SF 8.7 3.2 1.6 110.0 19% 63%
Sheldon Jeter SF 7.3 3.6 0.7 109.5 19% 50%
Sterling Smith SG 6.9 2.5 1.1 108.0 19% 48%
Alonzo Nelson-Ododa PF 5.7 4.1 0.9 103.8 20% 45%

Pittsburgh—tough, blue-collar, bury-your-knuckles-in-a-bucket-of-granite-before-tipoff Pittsburgh—ranked 202nd nationally in defensive efficiency a year ago. That’s miserable and inauspicious and must be corrected for Jamie Dixon’s program recapture consistency. Bringing in three grad transfers for 2015-16 smacks a little bit of exasperation and isn’t a long-term solution to ACC contention.

Clemson
SI/Hanner Projected 2015-16 stats
Name Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg POSS MINS
Jaron Blossomgame PF 12.1 7.3 0.9 108.3 23% 73%
Avry Holmes PG 10.8 3.2 2.6 105.9 20% 75%
Donte Grantham SF 9.3 4.8 1.5 101.4 21% 69%
Landry Christ Nnoko C 8.4 6.0 0.7 102.9 19% 66%
Jordan Roper PG 8.1 1.6 1.6 99.5 22% 55%
Legend Robertin C 6.5 5.2 0.6 95.5 19% 52%
Austin Ajukwa SG 4.9 2.6 0.7 95.6 19% 41%

The Tigers haven’t reached the NCAA tournament since 2011 and, as good a guy as Brad Brownell is, you have to wonder if ongoing renovations to Littlejohn Coliseum are more curse than blessing for the sixth-year coach. This doesn’t look like a roster fit for March Madness, with Jared Blossomgame (13.1 ppg) and little else of note. Would another middling season prompt administrators to consider a starting fresh in a spiffed-up arena next year?

Georgia Tech
SI/Hanner Projected 2015-16 stats
Name Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg POSS MINS
Marcus Georges-Hunt SF 12.7 5.0 1.9 106.4 24% 71%
Adam Smith SG 11.1 2.2 1.5 106.5 19% 72%
Charles Mitchell PF 8.9 7.2 0.5 102.5 24% 53%
Nick Jacobs PF 8.7 5.0 0.5 104.0 20% 57%
Tadric Jackson SG 7.7 2.6 1.4 96.4 23% 52%
Quinton Stephens SF 6.5 3.6 0.8 103.0 17% 50%
James White SF 5.9 4.3 0.7 99.2 19% 44%
Josh Heath PG 4.6 1.9 3.1 98.0 16% 52%

This has to be it for Brian Gregory, who hasn’t produced a .500 record in league play or a postseason bid in any of his four seasons leading the Yellow Jackets. Make significant progress, or there isn’t much recommending Gregory’s return for a sixth year. A three-transfer influx, featuring former Virginia Tech marksman Adam Smith (13.4 ppg), underscores the urgency.

Wake Forest
SI/Hanner Projected 2015-16 stats
Name Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg POSS MINS
Codi Miller-McIntyre PG 16.2 4.5 4.6 106.3 26% 85%
Devin Thomas PF 12.6 8.4 1.7 98.8 27% 68%
Konstantinos Mitoglou PF 12.5 6.3 0.7 114.9 19% 71%
Mitchell Wilbekin SG 7.9 2.5 1.7 111.3 14% 66%
Cornelius Hudson SF 7.7 3.4 1.1 101.6 18% 55%
Bryant Crawford PG 6.1 2.5 2.3 103.5 18% 50%
Doral Moore C 5.9 4.1 0.5 103.5 18% 45%

You’d like to see a semi-significant jump in Danny Manning’s second year to provide some belief that a culture change is taking hold. That requires a boost in defensive efficiency (137th nationally last year) most of all. Maybe the presence of top-100 recruits Doral Moore and Bryant Crawford, and their pushing for significant roles, will create some urgency among the returnees.

Virginia Tech
SI/Hanner Projected 2015-16 stats
Name Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg POSS MINS
Justin Bibbs SG 11.3 3.0 1.7 106.9 23% 66%
Seth Allen CG 10.3 2.0 2.3 112.2 22% 60%
Jalen Hudson SG 8.7 2.5 1.4 105.1 25% 49%
Ahmed Hill SG 8.5 3.2 1.4 107.6 20% 61%
Johnny Hamilton C 7.7 5.2 0.6 101.6 19% 57%
Zach LeDay PF 7.0 4.8 0.7 105.9 16% 65%
Devin Wilson PG 5.4 2.2 3.1 109.8 17% 55%

Eight players have left the Hokies for various different reasons since Buzz Williams’s arrival. That’s not unexpected for a coach who was gut-rehabbing the program, nor is it necessarily bad given where the Hokies were. Though it is ironic that Justin Bibbs (11.4 ppg) again will lead the charge, as he’s among the lone survivors from the previous regime.

Boston College
SI/Hanner Projected 2015-16 stats
Name Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg POSS MINS
Eli Carter PG 14.6 3.3 2.7 103.0 26% 79%
Dennis Clifford C 8.9 6.4 1.0 105.7 19% 68%
Darryl Hicks SG 8.0 2.8 1.5 99.8 19% 62%
A.J. Turner SF 7.9 3.9 0.9 99.2 20% 58%
Garland Owens SF 6.6 3.1 0.9 104.6 16% 60%
Matt Milon SG 6.5 2.4 1.2 96.3 20% 50%
Sammy Barnes-Thompkins SG 6.4 2.2 1.2 96.3 20% 49%

The Eagles’ leading returning scorer, center Dennis Clifford, averaged 6.9 points per game last year. Programs sold at Conte Forum may reach an all-time high with eight newcomers on the roster, but patience is at an all-time premium as well. Jim Christian is effectively starting over in Year 2, and the ACC is a rough place to build from the ground up.

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