The favorite blue bloods may have lots of competition this year in the gauntlet of the ACC. Not having fans in attendance to start the season will bring a bubble-like atmosphere – screaming Cameron Crazies inches from grabbing players inbounding the ball, the relentless TAR—HEELS chant in front of 15,000 plus and court storming after top 5 teams being upset will not exist to begin the season. Players will be six-feet apart from teammates during timeouts, glass shields will be up, face coverings will be worn by media and daily Covid-19 testing will be the new norm. This is college basketball in 2020.
ACC Pre-season Player of the year: Garrison Brooks, UNC
Garrison Brooks decided he had more in store after a dreadful 14-19 season that was ended with a 28-point shellacking from Jim Boeheim and the Orange back in the second round of the ACC tournament. The 6’ 9” senior looks to leave his imprint as the next dominant big man to wear the Carolina blue. Averaging 16 points and 8 rebounds on a lopsided Tar Heels squad wasn’t an anomaly. Expect Brooks to continue to work on his midrange game (like Brice Johnson) and defensive presence. Shooting 54 percent from the field last season, Garrison will hands down compete for best “Big Man” on campus. UNC’s depth on the interior, with Armando Bacot gaining much needed experience & the addition of Walker Kessler, helps Brooks stay fresh and not burnt out before conference play. Surrounded by a star-studded lineup featuring the 4th ranked point guard in the class of 2020, Caleb Love should have a field day feeding Garrison consistently in the paint.
Freshman of the Year- Jalen Johnson, Duke
First Team All-ACC
Garrison Brooks, UNC
- Jalen Johnson, Duke
- Scottie Barnes, Florida State
- David Johnson, Louisville
- Sam Hauser, Virginia
Duke, UNC, Virginia, Clemson and Florida State will round out the top 5 in the ACC.
Yes, Clemson will shock a lot of teams this year led by returning Greensboro native John Newman, who flourished last season – looking to put the team on his back. Newman’s “does it all” scoring, rebounding and lock – down defense will be an x-factor for a Tigers team that’s highly slept on.
Coach Leonard Hamilton has his tenacious, underrated, Florida State squad ready to run through a wall for him every time the ball is tipped. His team, with arguably its best recruiting class during Hamilton’s tenure, has a complete star in Scottie Barnes (you heard it here first). Florida State lost several players to the lottery, but Hamilton has reloaded with 5-star talent.
Duke returns Wendell Moore Jr. and Matthew hurt (who has put on 15 pounds of muscle to compete in the paint when Duke runs small ball with him at the five). A name to watch out for is Jalen Johnson. The kid has highlight reel written all over him. After missing a year of high school ball, Jalen is catching up to speed with how transcendent college basketball is. Duke’s much anticipated opening game versus Gardner-Webb has been postponed due to a positive Covid test from the Gardner-Webb locker room. The Blue Devils open their 2020-21 campaign Saturday against Coppin State at 2 p.m.
Tony Bennett and the Cavaliers are the last National Champions of college basketball. With the NCAA tournament being cancelled last season, they’re still defending their crown. Marquette transfer Sam Hauser, who will keep teams at bay running a zone defense, can score from 30 to 35 feet with his unconscious downtown shooting. Kihei Clark’s defensive improvement and tempo will have Virginia competing for another ACC and National Championship.
UNC is on a redemption tour after finishing tied for last place in the ACC standings – including being swept by Duke and the only losing season in Roy Williams 30 plus years of coaching. The addition of Caleb Love will remove the short-term memory of Cole Anthony and UNC being the laughing stock of the ACC. Garrison Brooks will be the ACC player of the year. That revenge tour starts Wednesday at 6pm versus The College of Charleston. The two have a three-game series until the 2023 basketball season.
Don’t Sleep on Kevin Keatts and NC State. It’s a struggle for teams to come out from the PNC arena with a win…ask Duke. Keatts will have his young guns ready, specifically the freshman out of Greensboro Day School – Cam Hayes. The freshman had interest from Duke, UNC and Virginia before committing down I-40 at State.
Wake Forest, Boston College…. We don’t have to explain what’s already understood.