2013-14 ACC Basketball Predictions and Futures Betting Odds
by Robert Ferringo - 11/1/2013
One of the most underrated stories in college basketball over the last five years has been the deterioration of the ACC. Once the premier conference in all of college basketball, the ACC had become a top-heavy mess. The ACC hasn’t finished higher than No. 4 in conference rankings in each of the past three years, and outside of Tobacco Road the level of play has fallen off drastically.
But when times got tough, the ACC did what it has always done: called the big boys in the Big East.
Just as it did in college football a decade ago, the ACC raided the Big East and brought in three basketball powerhouses. Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame will inject some new life into the ACC while also destroying one of the Atlantic Coast’s chief conference rivals. It is a double-whammy and has vaulted this flailing league back to the top of the charts.
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Here is Doc’s Sports 2013-14 ACC basketball predictions (with odds to win the conference title in parentheses):
The Favorite: Duke (+175)
Now this is more like it. Duke has one of its most physically gifted teams of the last decade. Freshman Jabari Parker is one of the best first-year players in the country and is a physical specimen; he’s the type of player that the Blue Devils were passing through the program routinely 10 or so years ago. The Blue Devils also add highly-touted transfer Rodney Hood from Mississippi State. I feel like the addition of Hood is being overrated. He was a good SEC player but not a great one. But Hood brings size and athleticism, something the Blue Devils have been desperate for at times over the past few seasons. Those are the new players. The holdovers offer a solid core. Rasheed Sulaimon is a future pro and could explode after a great freshman year. Talented, experienced guards Andre Dawkins and Quinn Cook bracket him. If there is a weakness on this team, it is size. And there is a lot of pressure on guys like Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee. But these guys are blue chip recruits, and they can handle it. I think this is one of the best teams in the country, and Duke is a true national title contender.
The Challengers: Syracuse (+250)
The Orange are ready to lay waste to the ACC, and their new conference is just lucky that Syracuse will make their maiden voyage this year as opposed to last year. Syracuse has to replace a load of talent in the backcourt. They will go with a freshman at point guard, talented Tyler Ennis. He will be paired with either Trevor Cooney – a huge loser – or Duke transfer Michael Gbinije. The Orange need to take care of the ball and make some three-point shots. If they do that then this team will dominate once again thanks to its massive front line. The Orange have an All-ACC player in forward C.J. Fair and a sophomore with breakout potential in Jerami Grant. Add in a three-headed monster at center with Rakeem Christmas, Baye Moussa Keita and DaJuan Coleman, and the Orange have incredible length, size, rebounding and defense on the back end of their patented 2-3 zone. Like men playing against boys, the Orange would physically dominate about 80 percent of the teams in the country. Syracuse will have to adjust to the officiating in the ACC. And the ACC will have to adjust to the zone. The Orange have reloaded, but guard play will determine their ceiling for this season.
North Carolina (+350) – The P.J. Hairston Saga filled the Tar Heels offseason with drama. Stunningly, Hairston is going to avoid a major suspension or being stripped of his eligibility altogether (it’s a long story). He is the leading scorer for a team that is solid at the point with Marcus Paige and in the post with James Michael McAdoo. That triumvirate will lead UNC’s high-octane attack this year. The key for the Tar Heels will be the play of the supporting cast. Leslie McDonald, Brice Johnson and freshman Isaiah Hicks give Roy Williams a lot of talented options. But this team is still pretty raw. What they have in talent they lack in savvy, and I’m not convinced this team can put all the pieces together for a tournament run. They will enjoy their share of blowouts and spend plenty of time in the Top 10 this year. But I see them as the clear third-best team in the ACC, and I don’t see the Heels as a Final Four-caliber squad.
The Dark Horse: Virginia (+800)
I am a big fan of this Virginia team. Guard Joe Harris is the most underrated player in the country. He can dominate on both ends of the court, and the senior four-year starter is an absolute stud. Of the league’s top tier, Harris gives the Cavaliers the best go-to guy. But he isn’t the only talent here. Forward Akil Mitchell nearly averaged a double-double last year (13.1 PPG and 8.9 RPG). Swingman Juan Anderson is another returning starter, and the sophomore showed a ton of potential last year. He is one of five talented sophomores – Mike Tobey, Evan Nolte, transfer Anthony Gill and Malcolm Brogdon are the others – that will determine how this season goes for the Cavaliers. Virginia has size and skill, and they are motivated by last year’s NCAA Tournament snub. The Cavs need a point guard to emerge. But they have several options. And as long as the sophomores progress and build on last season, this team is a true sleeper in the ACC.
The X-Factor: Notre Dame (+650)
This is another team that could jump up and post a top-two finish in the league standings. The Irish welcome back four starters from a team that finished fifth in the loaded Big East last year. While several ACC teams are trying to figure things out in the backcourt, the Irish boast one of the most experienced 1-2 combinations in the nation. Seniors Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant are both three-year starters. They combined to average 23.5 points and 11 assists per game, and Grant gives them a bona fide go-to player in the clutch. Junior Pat Connaughton and senior Tom Knight do all the dirty work from the 3 and 5 spots, respectively. Notre Dame has size coming off the bench, and this is one of the few upperclassmen-dominated rosters in the ACC. There are two things to watch with this team. First, they need a clear No. 3 scoring option to emerge. Connaughton is good, but he is not it. Second, this team needs some of the more athletic freshmen to step in and give them minutes. Because while the Irish can guile their way past anyone, they will need to match the speed and size of teams like Duke, SU and UNC if they want to be a real player in the league title race.
The ATS Machines: Boston College (+2000)
The Eagles pleasantly surprised me last year, and I jumped on the bandwagon early. They haven’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2007, but I absolutely expect this team to be dancing this March. The Eagles have all five starters back from last year’s very competitive squad. Freshman point guard Olivier Hanlan burst onto the scene and averaged 15.4 points per game. The Canadian should play off the ball more this year, while experienced Joe Rahon (10.1 PPG) runs the show. Add in productive forward Ryan Anderson (14.9 PPG, 8.0 RPG), and the Eagles have three players that can do a lot of damage every night. Notre Dame transfer Alex Dragicevich gives B.C. an experienced stretch-four, and if junior seven-footer Dennis Clifford can give them 20-25 solid minutes per night then this team will improve defensively. Steve Donahue is doing a great job with this team. And what they lack in pure talent they make up for with chemistry and cohesion. B.C. will be very good this year before fielding a Top-20 team next season. Get on board early.
Georgia Tech (+4000) – I am as excited for this Yellowjackets team as I am for any in the country. They desperately – DESPERATELY – needed a point guard. The position has been a glaring weakness within the program since Jarrett Jack left in 2005. They gained a legit point guard when Tennessee transfer Trae Golden returned home and was granted a waiver to play immediately. This will be the senior’s third year as a starting PG, and his “old man game” will help settle a Jackets team full of thoroughbreds. Seven-foot center Daniel Miller is a force in the paint, sophomore forward Robert Carter is a beast on the low block, and 6-8 forward Kammeon Holsey gives them an option off the bench. Swingman Marcus Georges Hunt actually led the team in scoring as a freshman, and fellow sophomore Chris Bolden showed flashes of talent. Having Golden to set everything up will slot everyone properly – rather than having Georges-Hunt and Bolden play out of position – and this team has the talent and the athleticism to go toe-to-toe with anyone in the conference. They probably won’t be NCAA-bound, but they will be a moneymaker.
The Disappointment: Pittsburgh (+1000)
The Panthers have been one of the most consistent and successful basketball programs in the country over the past decade (NCAA tournament failures aside). They rebounded from a rare down 2012 to go 24-9 and make the Big Dance last year. But Pitt lost five of its top eight players. And the graduation of point guard Tray Woodall is crippling. Woodall’s absence is a big part of the reason they missed the tournament two years ago, and there is no clear heir to either of the backcourt roles. I’m not sure how Pitt’s rugged style is going to play in the ACC. And they aren’t bringing any top-tier talents to the table. I think the Panthers are going to miss the NCAA Tournament again this season, and the program is heading toward a crossroad.
Maryland (+1500) – This is a very interesting team this year and one that could end up surprising some people. Maryland lost big man Alex Len, but they still have three starters back. Dez Wells gives the Terps a go-to guy in the backcourt, and Shaquille Clear is a guy that could make a major leap. Michigan transfer Evan Smotrycz should provide some needed outside shooting. But the glaring issue with the Terps is that they don’t have a point guard. They were one of the worst teams in the country in regards to turnovers. They are hoping Seth Allen can seize the reigns after a promising freshman year. If he can’t then a very talented frontcourt may go to waste.
Florida State (+2000) – The Seminoles hit a high water mark in 2011-12, winning its first ACC title, but the tide receded last year as FSU slipped into the NIT. The Seminoles return four starters from last year’s team. But the one starter they lost was Michael Snaer, who hit four buzzer beaters and was the unquestioned leader of the team. Leonard Hamilton teams always battle on both ends of the floor. This year will be no exception for the physical Seminoles. I just don’t think they have enough overall skill – shooting, ball handling, offensive playmakers – for a top-tier finish in the league. Also, the Big East castoffs aren’t going to be rattled by FSU physical, defensive style.
N.C. State (+5000) – The Wolfpack were among the most disappointing teams in the country last year. Yes, they won 24 games and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. But after beating Duke on Jan. 12, the Wolfpack went just 10-9 down the stretch and were frustrating for fans and bettors. Four of their five starters and five of their six top players are gone. But with the exception of Richard Howell, those players were gutless. State will be less talented this year, but I expect them to play harder. T.J. Warren will be the go-to player even though he’s only a sophomore. Young Tyler Lewis should be a capable points guard, and LSU transfer Ralston Turner brings experience. The three keys for this team are 1) finding some post production on both ends, 2) how quickly ballyhooed JUCO transfer Desmond Lee adjusts to the ACC, and 3) how quickly everyone learns Mark Gottfried’s system and gets on the same page.
Wake Forest (+5000) – Jeff Bzdelik is running out of chances. The Demon Deacons have essentially the same roster as last year, minus leading scorer C.J. Harris. The hope is that last year’s freshman-dominated recruiting class will make a jump thanks to a year of experience in Bzdelik’s Princeton offense. Wake has four of five starters back, three of which are now sophomores, plus a three-year starter in Travis McKie. But I don’t know that they are physically strong enough to compete with the top tier of this conference. Perhaps next year they could make a run at a postseason. But Bzdelik will need to top last year’s 13 wins to even have a chance to remain on the bench for next season.
Miami (+5000) – Last season was the best in the history of the Hurricanes program. This year the tab is due. Miami lost all five starters, its top six scorers and rebounders, and a stunning 91 percent of their total offense from last year’s team. Jim Larranaga has some big-time transfers that will be eligible next season. He knows that this year is all about just holding the line, developing some young players, and getting one or two big wins to keep the momentum of the program going. But this isn’t a very good team, and they are going to be facing some rivals with some scores to settle.
Clemson (+7500) – Brad Brownell is on the verge of a meltdown at Clemson. After a very successful run under Oliver Purnell, Brownell was brought in to take Tigers football in another direction. That direction has been into the dirt. Clemson has seen its win total drop in each of the past two seasons. They lost their two best players from a team that finished No. 300 in scoring, and now Brownell is being forced into battle with a roster where 10 of 14 players are either freshmen or sophomores. They toured Italy this summer so that should help them get a jump on the season. But the ceiling for this team may be .500, and Brownell’s seat will be scorching by the end of the campaign.
Virginia Tech (+10000) – The Hokies were a one-man gang last year. Alas, Erick Green, the nation’s leading scorer with 25 points per game, has graduated. There is no way to know what the current Hokies will do with the volume of shots that have just been dumped back in their laps. But I suggest they won’t do much. Again, this is a terrible team. Three-year starter Jarell Eddie and Cadarian Raines offer some options in the frontcourt. And UNC-Wilmington transfer Adam Smith, who has a reputation as a gunner, is eligible. But that’s not nearly enough for this team to be anything other than fodder.
Projected ACC Standings:
4. North Carolina*
5. Notre Dame*
6. Boston College*
7. Georgia Tech
10. Florida State
11. North Carolina State
12. Wake Forest
15. Virginia Tech
*Projected NCAA Tournament Teams
Robert Ferringo is a member of the Basketball Writer’s Association of America and a professional sports handicapper for Doc’s Sports. He is considered one of the best college basketball handicappers in the country and has earned five straight winning college basketball years. His $100-per-Unit clients nearly $49,000 in the last seven seasons with his nonconference picks and he is looking forward to his biggest season ever. You can sign up for his college basketball picks and get more information here.
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