(AP) – Duke spent much of its first season under Jon Scheyer building to another Atlantic Coast Conference title. Yet it was Miami that outlasted the rest of the league in March for the program’s first trip to the Final Four.
They are the ACC headliners to start the 2023-24 season, with the second-ranked Blue Devils eager to live up to projections as a national title contender and the 13th-ranked Hurricanes aiming for a third straight deep postseason run.
For Duke, that means relying on preseason Associated Press All-American Kyle Filipowski inside and a strong NBA draft prospect in Tyrese Proctor among four returning starters to go with another top recruiting class. Scheyer, in his first full season as Mike Krzyzewski’s successor, led Duke to the program’s league-record 22nd ACC Tournament title before falling to Tennessee in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
“We have a core group returning,” Scheyer said. “You see our freshmen can really help us and can really play. We need to continue to find roles.”
That ACC title run included pushing past the Hurricanes in the semifinals. But the Hurricanes went on to follow an unexpected run to the Elite Eight in 2022 by reaching college basketball’s final weekend. They return three starters from that group in guard Nijel Pack as the top returning scorer (13.6), forward Norchad Omier (13.1 points, 10.0 rebounds) and guard Wooga Poplar.
“We’re not where we’re going to need to be defensively and rebounding in order to compete with the best teams in our league and some of the best teams in the country,” coach Jim Larrañaga said. “My staff is doing a great job of explaining to our players what needs to be done in order to get to where we want to be. Now it’s going to be up to the players to do that, to really work at getting better at defense and rebounding.”
UNC’S NEXT ACT
North Carolina is counting on an offseason roster overhaul to avoid last year’s turmoil.
The Tar Heels opened at No. 1 after an unexpected run to the NCAA title game in 2022, but became the first team to sit atop the AP preseason poll and miss the NCAA Tournament since its expansion to 64 teams in 1985.
They’re the league’s only other preseason AP Top 25 team at No. 19 after bringing in five transfers among seven newcomers.
“We’ve still got to figure out what we like, what we don’t like,” said big man Armando Bacot, an preseason AP All-American. “But I think all the guys we have have a great attitude, which will make it easier (to build cohesion) than I think for most.”
Virginia needs to find a new floor leader after Kihei Clark’s departure.
Clark had been a starter going back to the Cavaliers’ run to the 2019 NCAA championship, ending a five-year career as the program’s career leader in assists (718), wins (122), starts (141) and games (161).
The Cavaliers return just one starter in guard Reece Beekman, who has shown a knack for coming through in the clutch. Virginia also added a point guard with Georgetown transfer Dante Harris, who arrived at midseason last year after averaging 11.9 points in 2021-22.
League coaches had pushed to become a 10-bid league to the NCAA Tournament after expansion in the mid-2010s to 15 teams, but the league has headed in a wrong direction of late.
During a five-year span, the league twice had nine bids (2017, 2018), had three No. 1 seeds in the same tournament (2019) and had three different teams cut down the nets (Duke in 2015 and UNC in 2017 along with Virginia).
But the ACC has managed just five bids in each of the past two seasons. The silver lining there has been Miami’s two-year run and a Duke-UNC matchup in the Final Four in 2022, as well as Pittsburgh (2016) and North Carolina State (2018) snapping lengthy droughts last year.
For the first time since 2001, the ACC won’t have a Hall of Fame coach on the sideline. The league had four in spring 2017 with Krzyzewski, North Carolina’s Roy Williams, Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim and Louisville’s Rick Pitino.
Pitino lost his job that fall amid the fallout from a federal corruption investigation into the sport and is now at St. John’s. Williams retired in April 2021, followed by Krzyzewski a year later and Boeheim last season.
The league has three new coaches, led by former Syracuse player and assistant Adrian Autry taking over after Boeheim’s 47-year tenure. Micah Shrewsberry left Penn State to take over at Notre Dame, replacing another long-timer in Mike Brey after 22 seasons with the Fighting Irish.
And at Georgia Tech, former NBA player and assistant coach Damon Stoudamire takes over for Josh Pastner.