Several Takeaways From ACC Operation Basketball

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on October 26th, 2018

Charlotte’s Spectrum Center was the site of this year’s ACC Operation Basketball and we were in the Queen City earlier this week to cover the annual event. In this post we present some of the primary takeaways we observed and interesting quotes we heard over the course of the day (links to the coaches’ and players’ press conferences can be found here), and at the bottom we also present the preseason award results as voted on by participating media.


Notre Dame’s Mike Brey had a lot to say about the current state of college basketball as well as the ACC’s new scheduling changes at ACC Operation Basketball in Charlotte.

A major topic of discussion at ACC Operation Basketball once again this year was the fallout from the ongoing FBI investigation into college basketball recruiting. At last year’s event, the FBI probe had just revealed incriminating allegations involving two ACC schools, Louisville and MiamiN.C. State was later added to the naughty list. Coincidentally, the first criminal trial of individuals involved in some of these pay-for-play schemes wrapped up on Wednesday with guilty verdicts for all three defendants. But the big fallout has yet to come, possibly in the form of NCAA sanctions against the schools (“victims”) complicit in those nefarious recruiting activities. In his morning address, ACC’s commissioner  John Swofford was very supportive of the NCAA reforms based on last spring’s Rice Commission recommendations, while acknowledging that “I don’t think it’s going to be perfect. I think we’re going to have to test some of the things that are being changed, tweak them as we go along.”

Given the timeliness of the verdicts, many ACC coaches were asked to chime in on the topic. Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski and North Carolina head coach Roy Williams had been highly criticized for comments they had previously made on the matter, so both Hall of Fame coaches spent time on Wednesday clarifying their points of view. Kryzyzewski repeated the explanation he gave following Duke’s exhibition game on Tuesday night, claiming that his use of the term “blip” to characterize the revelations was not meant to be dismissive on their importance. Likewise, Williams explained what he meant when he claimed to be “dumbfounded” by the new information: “A very intelligent person one time told me there’s a difference between being indifferent or having a lack of knowledge. And my problem is I have a lack of knowledge about those things. I’m not very indifferent about it at all.” Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey showed that he was willing to go deeper with his comments in saying, “But certainly there’s some NCAA issues here. There’s no question about that. […] We’ve got some guys that aren’t amateurs, let’s handle that.”


The other big source of conversation in the Spectrum Center on Wednesday revolved around changes to the ACC schedule that will begin in the 2019-20 season. We already knew that the league was going to a 20-game conference slate coinciding with the launch of the ACC Network, but Swofford also confirmed that the ACC will tip off next season with a handful of league games. Every school but one (presumably Duke, which has Champions Classic obligations at the start of each season) will be playing another conference foe right out of the gate.

Reaction to this news among the ACC’s coaches was varied. Almost all liked the idea of starting the season with a bang, even if it meant knocking heads with one another in early November. But opinion on moving to a 20-game schedule was mixed. Brey — a longtime proponent of the idea — is all-in, stating, “I think again, it’s good for us. It has to happen as we have the ACC Network coming online. I think it strengthens everybody’s schedule. […] and that’s a good thing for more bids for our league.” The Notre Dame coach also supports the plan to open the season with league tilts: “I think it’s a no-brainer to come right out of the gate with the ACC playing basketball and helping the network out.” On the flip side, resident curmudgeon and Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim doesn’t approve of either measure, adding, “I’ve never been a big fan of going to 20. […] It probably eliminates a non-conference game or two that you would challenge yourself […] I’ve never been a big fan of playing early conference games. I like to get build up to it.”


Boston College guard Ky Bowman’s talent and hairstyle have his coach’s approval.
(AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)

Some of the most insightful comments of the day were made by coaches of these star players.

    • Jim Christian, on what makes Ky Bowman special (including his hair): “I think I told him that if we make the NCAA Tournament I’ll go red [hair color], too. If he wants me to go red, if that’s what it takes to get us there, we’ll do that. But he’s a unique guy. The enthusiasm he brings to everybody in our program, everybody at the school, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime type personality..”
    • Mike Krzyzewski, on his stud freshman R.J. Barrett: “Well, he’s an outstanding basketball player, and really ahead maturity-wise. He seems like he’s a senior or a junior at least. He’s always played up with the National Team and been the leader of whatever age group he’s with. But has played older all the time […] he’s just ahead. He’s a winner.”
    • Roy Williams, on the development of Luke Maye since high school: “His body’s gotten 100 percent better or at least 99 percent better than he was then. He’s much stronger, leaner, quicker, bouncier, all those kind of things. The other part I would say that’s changed, whenever that was, sophomore, junior year, the kid spent an unbelievable amount of time and sweat to be the player that he is right now. He’s one of the better players in our game, and it’s all because of sweat.”
    • Krzyzewski, on the uniqueness of freshman Zion Williamson: “He’s been a joy to coach. You know, he’s such a good guy. He’s an extremely hard worker. He’s a good basketball player, and has guard skills and has fit in fabulously and won the respect of these guys and the coaching staff. Just, I think, one of the more unique basketball players that I’ve had a chance to coach, and the best athlete that I’ve had a chance to coach at Duke.”

As expected, voting for the predicted order of finish in the ACC broke into some tidy tiers. For the fourth time in five years, Duke is the media’s choice to win the league. Perhaps this is just a major trolling job executed by non-supporters of the Blue Devils in the media. After all, Duke hasn’t won the regular season crown since sharing it with Maryland in 2010. Virginia and North Carolina also received strong support for high finishes in the standings. On our ballot, we chose the Tar Heels first, followed by Virginia and Duke. Our thinking is that if teams are even in ability, it’s prudent to look at the disparity in league schedules. This year, North Carolina should benefit from only having two road games versus the ACC’s top seven squads. Likewise, we picked Florida State fourth – the highest spot among the second tier of teams – in large part because the Seminoles have a more favorable road slate.

ACC Operation Basketball 2018-19 Preseason Poll

  1. Duke (52) – 1709
  2. Virginia (47) – 1699
  3. North Carolina (20) – 1641
  4. Syracuse (1) – 1268
  5. Virginia Tech – 1187
  6. Clemson (1)- 1148
  7. Florida State – 1127
  8. NC State – 885
  9. Notre Dame – 859
  10. Miami – 816
  11. Louisville – 735
  12. Boston College – 568
  13. Georgia Tech – 324
  14. Wake Forest – 313
  15. Pittsburgh – 241

2018-19 Preseason All-ACC Team

First Team

  • Luke Maye, North Carolina (111) 
  • Tyus Battle, Syracuse (86)
  • RJ Barrett, Duke (76)
  • Kyle Guy, Virginia (62)
  • Ky Bowman, Boston College (58)

Second Team

  • Zion Williamson, Duke (55)
  • De’Andre Hunter, Virginia (32)
  • Justin Robinson, Virginia Tech (29)
  • Ty Jerome, Virginia (17)
  • Marcquise Reed, Clemson (16)

ACC Preseason Player of the Year

  • Luke Maye, North Carolina (50)
  • RJ Barrett, Duke (22)
  • Zion Williamson, Duke (15)
  • Tyus Battle, Syracuse (11)
  • Ky Bowman, Boston College (7)

ACC Preseason Rookie of the Year

  • RJ Barrett, Duke (66)
  • Zion Williamson, Duke (43)
  • Cam Reddish, Duke (4)
  • Jaylen Hoard, Wake Forest (3)
  • Coby White, North Carolina (2)
Brad Jenkins (383 Posts)

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