Five ACC Storylines to Watch this Offseason

Posted by Matt Patton on April 11th, 2016

With the long offseason ahead of us, let’s take a look at five key ACC storylines to keep an eye on over the summer.

  1. NCAA Sanctions: After investigations that surrounded both programs in different ways this season, there should finally be some closure for Louisville and North Carolina. Louisville is still trying to get in front of NCAA sanctions by self-imposing its own (in addition to this year’s postseason ban, the program also recently added recruiting penalties). This strategy has worked well for other schools, but predicting eventual NCAA punishments is an exercise in futility. North Carolina is the more interesting case — the Tar Heels may not receive any sanctions or they may get the book thrown at them. What remains unclear is whether there will be administrative fallout from either scandal. I would not be shocked if Rick Pitino ends up stepping down from his post — especially if the NCAA deems the Cardinals’ self-imposed penalties insufficient. But I would be shocked if Roy Williams did.

    Rick Pitino may be in for a stressful offseason. (photo: Getty Images)

    Rick Pitino may be in for a stressful offseason. (photo: Getty Images)

  2. Coaching Carousel: This is a slow year for the ACC in terms of coaching turnover. Pittsburgh lost Jamie Dixon to his alma mater, TCU, and Georgia Tech fired Brian Gregory. The Yellow Jackets were initially spurned by Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel and Bryce Drew (who went to Vanderbilt instead), and after reports that Cal’s Cuonzo Martin was their top candidate, athletic director Mike Bobinski hired Josh Pastner away from Memphis. Pastner is far from a sure thing in this spot, but he should be able to put more talented teams on the floor. Whether those teams will have more success than what Gregory mustered (two teams with winning records; no NCAA Tournament appearances) remains to be seen. In Pittsburgh, many fans were upset with the hiring of Kevin Stallings away from Vanderbilt (ironically, the response from Commodores’ fans mirrored Dayton fans after Georgia Tech hired Gregory). Stallings will have his work cut out for him in the Steel City, but he was a solid coach with several very good teams in Nashville. Like Jamie Dixon, he may have stuck around the same place a little too long, but there’s no reason to think he won’t do reasonably well there.
  3. NBA Draft Early Departures: The most important players to leave so far are Duke’s Brandon Ingram, NC State’s Cat Barber, Florida State’s Malik Beasley and Notre Dame’s Demetrius Jackson, all of whom will hire agents. None of these decisions are surprising, but Mark Gottfried and Mike Brey certainly would have loved to hang onto their stars. A doomsday scenario exists for Mark Gottfried if Abdul-Malik Abu winds up staying in the draft. Coach K and Leonard Hamilton, however, got mixed news as Grayson Allen and Dwayne Bacon announced they will return to school next season. With the new, prolonged draft process, we’re probably not done with early entrants. Other players testing the waters are first team All-ACC Jaron Blossomgame, Chinanu Onuaku and Xavier Rathan-Mayes, but most if not all of these will come back. The biggest question is who will remain in Chapel Hill.
  4. Transfers: I’ll only talk about a couple transfers in-depth, but Wake Forest (again), NC State and (surprisingly) Virginia Tech were gutted by departures. Caleb and Cody Martin are both leaving Raleigh, which won’t make the loss of Barber any easier for Gottfried. Wake Forest lost two role players, but it also graduates Devin Thomas and Codi Miller-McIntyre. The most surprising transfer is Virginia Tech’s Jalen Hudson, a very important player this year in Blacksburg. Rumors proved true when Duke’s Derryck Thornton opted to transfer, which opens up a scholarship for five-star center Marques Bolden. Thornton’s family wasn’t happy with how he was used this season, and he probably wouldn’t have seen significantly more possessions with Frank Jackson arriving in Durham. It wasn’t all bad news, though. Virginia grabbed Memphis’ Austin Nichols, who should become one of the team’s best players right away. My guess is that some shorthanded teams will pick up a few graduate transfers. A complete list (as of April 7) of ACC transfers is included at the bottom of this article.
  5. Incoming Freshmen: The ACC had a banner recruiting year. Duke is currently neck-and-neck with Kentucky for the country’s top recruiting class (if Bolden ends up in Durham, that could be the difference to set Duke apart). But the league has five of the top 11 recruiting classes, according to 247sports.

Transfer DeparturesMatt Milon (Boston College); Derryck Thornton (Duke); Caleb Martin (NC State); Cody Martin, Austin Ajukwa (Clemson); Kaleb Joseph (Syracuse); Jalen Hudson (Virginia Tech); Satchel Pierce, Rondale Watson (Wake Forest); Andre Washington, Cornelius Hudson, James Palmer (Miami).

Eligible Transfers: Shelton Mitchell (Clemson); Marcquise Reed, Torin Dorn (NC State); Rashad Muhammad (Miami); Keyshawn Woods (Wake Forest); Austin Nichols (Virginia); Paschal Chukuw (Syracuse).

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