ACC Offseason Storylines to Follow

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on April 28th, 2017

Now that we are back in the midst of the long offseason, it’s time to look at some key ACC storylines to keep an eye on in coming months.

NCAA Punishments (Maybe): Rinse – Recycle – Repeat! This has become an annual bullet point on the ACC offseason storyline list, but maybe it will be the last time we have to include it pertaining to North Carolina and Louisville. The North Carolina academic scandal investigation — which has now dragged on for nearly half a decade — may finally be moving toward a conclusion. Despite the best efforts of UNC’s Four Corners stalling strategy, a recent letter from NCAA infractions committee chairman Greg Sankey indicated that a hearing has been scheduled for mid-August. Still, as we are all aware given the prolonged nature of this case, nothing has proceeded at more than a snail’s pace to this point.

Rick Pitino and Louisville are still waiting on the NCAA to rule on the school’s 2015 stripper scandal. (Jamie Rhodes – USA TODAY Sports)

Louisville’s stripper scandal is a much less complicated case so it seems to be closer to a resolution. The school recently held its own hearing with the NCAA infractions committee and a commonly held belief is that the NCAA will have its final answer on penalties in about two months. The school’s argument that Rick Pitino should not be charged with failure to monitor his assistant coach has already been rejected by the NCAA, so barring a late reprieve, expect the Cardinals’ head coach to serve a suspension at some point next season.

Goodbye: Like every offseason, the ACC will lose a number of underclassmen to the NBA Draft or other professional opportunities. So far we know that all-ACC first teamers Justin Jackson (North Carolina), Luke Kennard (Duke) and John Collins (Wake Forest) will be turning pro. Another All-ACC first teamer, Donovan Mitchell (Louisville) has entered his name for NBA consideration but has not yet hired an agent. If Mitchell returns, the Cardinals will be the clear favorite to win the ACC. The final member of the ACC’s five elite players from this season, — Bonzie Colson — announced that he will be returning to Notre Dame for his senior season. Other notable ACC players that are definitely leaving school early include a trio from Florida State – Dwayne Bacon, Jonathan Isaac and Xavier Rathan-Mayes; two more from Duke – Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles; N.C. State’s Dennis Smith and Maverick Rowan; Louisville’s Jaylen Johnson; and Tyler Lydon from Syracuse. Two other prominent ACC players  – Joel Berry II (North Carolina) and Grayson Allen (Duke) announced that they will be returning for their senior campaigns. In addition to Mitchell, several other important ACC players have not yet made their final decisions. Among them are North Carolina’s Tony Bradley and Theo Pinson; Deng Adel from Louisville; Duke’s Frank Jackson; and N.C. State’s Omer Yurtseven. Roster defections via the transfer route are also occurring at many ACC schools this spring. In particular, Pittsburgh (Cameron Johnson, Damon Wilson, Crisshawn Clark, Corey Manigault) and Virginia (Marial Shayok, Darius Thompson, Jared Reuter) were each hit with multiple transfer losses.

Hello: The current class of high school seniors is not considered as deep as last year and the ACC doesn’t have as many freshman superstars entering anyway — in other words, do not expect the league to be as reliant on freshman stars in 2017-18. The ACC has grabbed at least a dozen of the nation’s top 50 prospects in each of the previous three recruiting cycles, peaking with 16 a year ago. But with this year’s recruiting season almost over, the ACC has only secured eight of the current top 50. There are a few big names still available, however, so the conference may still add to its talent pool. Duke is in the running for the three remaining top 10 players that have yet to decide on a school: Mohamed Bamba (PF), Trevon Duval (PG) and Kevin Knox (SF). While the Blue Devils are not expected to sign Bamba, Mike Krzyzewski’s program is considered the leader to land both Duval and Knox in coming weeks. With their light rosters, look for Pittsburgh and N.C. State to be very active in coming months — trying to add eligible players from multiple sources (graduate and JuCo transfers, available high school and foreign players).

Brad Jenkins (383 Posts)

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