2022-23 College Basketball Conference Preview: ACC Fantasy Outlook

2022-23 College Basketball Conference Preview: ACC Fantasy Outlook

This article is part of our Conference Preview series.

It wasn't the best of seasons for the ACC in 2021-22, as Duke and North Carolina carried the Conference in the NCAA Tournament, but there was little success outside of those two teams in the final stages of The Big Dance. There were some interesting stories around some teams such as Miami and Wake Forest, and the struggles of teams such as Pittsburgh and Boston College were also nationally known. Going through all the ups and downs, though, the ACC had another uninspiring season.

It remains to be seen if that will change in the 2022-23 campaign. Sure, the Tar Heels will return most of their starters for another season and are poised to make another title run, with the goal being a spot in the NCAA Title Game or bust. Duke will need to start from scratch after losing 80 percent of its starting lineup to the 2022 NBA Draft, and teams such as Virginia and Miami might turn a few heads here and there. But the rest of the conference remains subpar at best, and there aren't many teams that are bound to make some noise nationwide, let alone finding any potential sleepers or dark horses for an (improbable) Tournament run. Every year comes with a Cinderella story, but chances are this year's one won't come from the ACC.

Which teams will lead the Conference? Will the Tar Heels and Blue Devils respond to the big expectations on their shoulders? What will it happen with teams such as

It wasn't the best of seasons for the ACC in 2021-22, as Duke and North Carolina carried the Conference in the NCAA Tournament, but there was little success outside of those two teams in the final stages of The Big Dance. There were some interesting stories around some teams such as Miami and Wake Forest, and the struggles of teams such as Pittsburgh and Boston College were also nationally known. Going through all the ups and downs, though, the ACC had another uninspiring season.

It remains to be seen if that will change in the 2022-23 campaign. Sure, the Tar Heels will return most of their starters for another season and are poised to make another title run, with the goal being a spot in the NCAA Title Game or bust. Duke will need to start from scratch after losing 80 percent of its starting lineup to the 2022 NBA Draft, and teams such as Virginia and Miami might turn a few heads here and there. But the rest of the conference remains subpar at best, and there aren't many teams that are bound to make some noise nationwide, let alone finding any potential sleepers or dark horses for an (improbable) Tournament run. Every year comes with a Cinderella story, but chances are this year's one won't come from the ACC.

Which teams will lead the Conference? Will the Tar Heels and Blue Devils respond to the big expectations on their shoulders? What will it happen with teams such as Virginia Tech and Florida State, two teams that might have enough in them to crack the NCAA Tournament if a few breaks go their way? And will programs such as Pittsburgh and Boston College bounce back following awful seasons during the 2021-22 year? Without further ado, let's dive into our comprehensive 2022-23 preview for the ACC.

Top Players

Overall: Armando Bacot, C, North Carolina

The overall favorite to win the ACC Player of the Year Award, Bacot has all the signs of being "a man on a mission" in 2022-23. The goal is clear -- he intends to carry the Tar Heels to a National Championship before he chooses to jump to the NBA. Bacot is probably one of the best players in UNC's history, which is not saying a small thing, and he is probably one of the best -- if not the best -- two-way player in the Conference by a wide margin, making a strong pick for the No. 1 overall pick in nationwide fantasy formats. Bacot rebounds everything in sight (though more on that later in the rebounding category), and he was also a top-10 scorer in the conference last season with an average of 16.3 points per contest. He's also an excellent passer, protects the rim adequately -- tied for fifth last season with 1.7 blocks per game -- and his high motor allows him to be a problem with no solution for opposing defenders. If he can avoid missing any serious time due to injury, Bacot should be the odds-on favorite to win the ACC Player of the Year Award, which might only cement his legacy as one of UNC's greatest players in what will be his final year with the program.

Also Considered: Jayden Gardner, F, Virginia; Caleb Love, G, North Carolina; Isaiah Wong, G, Miami; Terquavion Smith, G, North Carolina State; Joe Girard, G, Syracuse

Scoring: Terquavion Smith, G, North Carolina State

Armando Bacot could have easily led this category as well since he averaged 16.3 points per game last season and is expected to have an even bigger role on offense for the best program in the conference this time around, but when it comes to being a pure scorer, then Smith should be the go-to option here. Smith chose to return to NC State -- in what's been deemed as a questionable decision since he was a projected first-round pick in the 2022 NBA Draft -- and is coming off an excellent season in 2021-22, as he averaged the same 16.3 points per game as Bacot, but he did it in a team that was nowhere as dominant as UNC. To note, Smith had a 26.1 percent usage rate last year with Dereon Seabron in the same backcourt, and with Seabron departing to the NBA, Smith's usage rate should jump even higher. In other words, expect him to put up enormous numbers while also standing as one of college basketball's best shooters.

Also Considered: Isaiah Wong, G, Miami; Caleb Love, G, North Carolina; Joe Girard, G, Syracuse; Daivien Williamson, G, Wake Forest; Nijel Pack, G, Miami

Rebounding: Armando Bacot, C, North Carolina

When we say no center stands on the same tier as Bacot, his numbers during the 2021-22 season and his progression should be enough to believe that's true. And this is especially true when it comes to the rebounding area of the game, as he comfortably led the ACC in boards per game last season with 13.1 boards per contest. To put things into perspective, the second-best rebounder in the Conference was Dereon Seabron, from NC State, with a "meager" 8.2 rebounds per contest. It's not clear any player is ready to challenge Bacot for the rebounding crown this season, either, so it's fair to consider him as the best rebounder in the Conference -- and by a sizable margin.

Also Considered: John Hugley, C, Pittsburgh; Nate Laszewski, F, Notre Dame; T.J. Bickerstaff, F, Boston College; Dereck Lively, C, Duke; Justyn Mutts, F Virginia Tech

Assists: Jeremy Roach, G, Duke

If there's one thing that stands out in the ACC is the amount of quality passers that are in the Conference, with names such as Isaiah Wong, Reece Beekman, Kihei Clark and R.J. Davis all thriving with their respective teams. However, Roach is bound to have a great year with the Blue Devils, and it wouldn't be surprising if he ends up leading the ACC in assists per game once the 2022-23 season comes to a close. He struggled with consistency at times during the previous campaign, and while he only averaged 3.2 assists per game in 2021-22, it's worth noting that figure increased to 4.0 dimes per game during the NCAA Tournament. Knowing he will be the undisputed ball-handler in an offense filled with new faces, and as one of the most veteran players in the Blue Devils roster, Roach could be in line for a huge year with just a little more consistency.

Also Considered: Kihei Clark, G, Virginia; Reece Beekman, G, Virginia; Prentiss Hubb, G, Notre Dame; Tyree Appleby, G, Wake Forest; Joe Girard, G, Syracuse

Center: Armando Bacot, C, UNC

It's hard to say anything that we have not already said about Bacot in this article alone, but as the undisputed favorite to win the ACC Player of the Year award, he should also be treated as the best center in the conference, and by a wide margin once again. He led all centers in points per game, rebounds per game and field goal percentage while also ranking among the top centers in the league in blocks per game (even if he was nowhere near Mark Williams' impressive 2.8 blocks per contest). With Bacot set to play an even bigger role with UNC and Williams departing the NCAA ranks to play in the NBA, Bacot's place as the best center in the ACC shouldn't be under any sort of question.

Also Considered: Jesse Edwards, C, Syracuse; John Hugley, C, Pittsburgh; Dereck Lively, C, Duke; Kyle Filipowski, C, Duke

Freshmen: Dariq Whitehead, G, Duke

There are several quality freshmen entering the ACC ahead of the 2022-23 season, but none appears in Whitehead's tier – at least based on potential and high-school numbers. Tipped to be the "next big freshman" out of Duke, he'd have to worry about managing the expectations that come with being a player everyone will look at in one of the biggest programs in the country, but if he can handle the pressure of being tabbed as the next Zion Williamson, Paolo Banchero or RJ Barrett, then he should be just fine. As he is right now, he's expected to be one of the best players in the country and definitively should be the best freshman in college basketball. He's extremely polished for his age, and while he's not the best defender out there, he can definitively get the job done. Most of his potential lies on what he can do offensively, though. Whitehead is a true three-level scorer who can be the best scorer on a championship team. That's perfectly fine with what Duke's aiming for in 2022-23.

Editor's Note: Whitehead suffered a broken foot in late-August that would require surgery, and while Duke appears confident it won't be an extended absence, fantasy managers may want to consider other options for their freshman -- in leagues that require it -- or at least downgrade Whitehead's ranking.

Also Considered: Dereck Lively, C, Duke; Kyle Filipowski, C, Duke; Mark Mitchell, F, Duke; JJ Starling, G, Notre Dame; Judah Mintz, G, Syracuse; Dior Johnson, G, Pittsburgh; Seth Trimble, G, North Carolina; Jalen Washington, C, North Carolina; Rodney Rice, G, Virginia Tech

Sleepers

Matt Cleveland, G, Florida State

The Seminoles suffered an injury-plagued season in 2021-22 and are coming back ready to take the ACC by storm this campaign, and there is no question Cleveland will play a huge role in what Florida State ultimately accomplishes. The former five-star prospect enters his sophomore year with untapped potential, as he barely shot from beyond the arc last season but still averaged 11.5 points and 4.6 rebounds across 26.1 minutes in 29 games (eight starts). Plus, he is a stellar defender with a massive wingspan that allows him to guard multiple positions. All signs point to Cleveland being a player to watch in the ACC this year.

Isaiah Wong, G, Miami

Wong is one of the best pick-and-roll navigators in the country, and that alone gives him huge upside in an offense where spacing is absolutely key. He is expected to be one of the leading players for the Hurricanes in a season where the program promises to make some noise, and while he might not be as a pure of a passer as Jeremy Roach or some of the other promising guards in the conference, it wouldn't be shocking if he ends up as one of the best floor generals in the ACC once the season comes to an end. He averaged 15.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game last season. That arguably puts him past "sleeper" status, but we'll consider him a "sleeper" to lead the country in scoring and potentially become an All-American, even with key transfers added to the Miami backcourt.

Dane Goodwin, G/F, Notre Dame

There are plenty of elite shooters in college basketball, and the ACC is no exception, but Goodwin is on a tier of his own when it comes to that. He was elite in almost every shooting category, but the advanced metrics also backed him up, since Goodwin shot over 50 percent on catch-and-shoot opportunities, per Synergy, and that figure increased to 57 percent when he had an unguarded look. The veteran, who's returning to the Fighting Irish for a fifth season, averaged a career-best 13.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.3 assists while converting 45.8 percent of his 4.4 three-point attempts per game. He should certainly be considered a sleeper to crack first-team all-ACC.

Transfers

DJ Burns, F, North Carolina State

Fresh off a season in which he claimed the 2021-22 Big South Player of the Year while anchoring the Winthrop Eagles, Burns makes the jump to the ACC with bigger goals in mind. A former Big South Rookie of the Year, Burns averaged 15.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game last season and didn't waste time to find a new home following his departure from Winthrop. His conditioning might be an issue, and some believe he can be a liability on the defensive end, but he can erase those concerns with a strong offensive season. After all, Burns shot 62.6 percent from the field in 2021-22 and shot 60 percent from the field in his career with the Eagles.

Jaylan Gainey, F, Florida State

Gainey is the latest Ivy League star to make the leap to a Power 5 Conference, and he should be one of the best transfers into the ACC while also providing quite a boost to the Seminoles on both ends of the court with his two-way ability. Gainey is a wiry 6-foot-9 big man that is at his best when playing around the rim, and he should make a huge impact on the defensive end given his resume – he is a two-time Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year. However, his offense shouldn't be taken for granted. Despite the fact his numbers were somewhat pedestrian – he averaged 9.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game – it must be noted that he shot an impressive 70.3 percent from the field in 2021-22.

Norchad Omier – Miami: Omier is a highly-decorated prospect out of the transfer portal that's spent the last two seasons with the Arkansas State Red Wolves, earning Sun Belt Rookie of the Year honors in 2020-21 and the Sun Belt Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year Awards in 2021-22, putting together an impressive stat line across the board and emerging as an elite two-way threat. Omier averaged 17.9 points, 12.2 rebounds (including 4.0 offensive boards per game), 1.9 blocks and 1.6 steals per game this past season. While the addition of Nijel Pack should also provide a huge boost for Miami, Omier has the potential to play a huge role right away with the team. The one thing to note is to analyze whether Omier's game can fully translate to the ACC given the uptick in competition, but even if that's not the case, he should play a big role with Miami.

Ben Vander Plas, F, Virginia

Vander Plas is a coveted name out of the transfer portal that should give Cavaliers fans a reason to get excited, as he delivered impressive numbers during a four-year college career with the Ohio Bobcats in the MAC while earning All-MAC honors in three of those seasons. The 6-foot-8. versatile forward averaged 14.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game while also shooting 45.7 percent from the field and 33.8 percent from the three-point arc in 2021-22. There's no question Vander Plas should provide a boost on the offensive end thanks to his scoring ability, and even if those numbers do not fully replicate in the ACC given the uptick in terms of quality of rivals, he should still be good enough to play a consistent role with Virginia.

Pete Nance, F, North Carolina

Transferring to UNC out of Northwestern, Nance was arguably the Wildcats' best player last season after averaging 14.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.1 blocks per game in 2021-22 while shooting 45.2 percent from three-point land and 49.7 percent from the field. After putting up career-best numbers in the Big Ten, he'll have an opportunity to play a big role on an ACC team that should be a favorite for the National Championship. Nance is expected to come off the bench for North Carolina, so he's not likely to replicate those numbers with the Tar Heels, but that shouldn't take anything away from the impact he's likely to make with the program. Essentially, he'll be filling a role similar to Brady Manek from last year's National Championship runner-up team.

Also Considered: Nijel Pack, G, Miami; Grant Basile, F, Virginia Tech; Marcus Hammond, G, Notre Dame

Top 10 Players

1.    Armando Bacot – North Carolina
2.    Jayden Gardner – Virginia
3.    Isaiah Wong – Miami
4.    Dariq Whitehead – Duke
5.    R.J. Davis – North Carolina
6.    Jeremy Roach – Duke
7.    Terquavion Smith – North Carolina State
8.    PJ Hall – Clemson
9.    Caleb Mills – Florida State
10.  Caleb Love – North Carolina

*Note: These rankings are at the discretion of the article author, and may not necessarily correspond with RotoWire's official 2022-23 player rankings.

Projected Team Standings

1.    North Carolina Tar Heels
2.    Duke Blue Devils
3.    Virginia Cavaliers
4.    Miami Hurricanes
5.    Virginia Tech Hokies
6.    Florida State Seminoles
7.    Notre Dame Fighting Irish
8.    Wake Forest Demon Deacons
9.    Clemson Tigers
10.  Louisville Cardinals
11.  Syracuse Orange
12.  North Carolina State Wolfpack
13.  Pittsburgh Panthers
14.  Boston College Eagles
15.  Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Projected Team Rotations

First NameLast NameSchoolPosition
MakaiAshton-LangfordBoston CollegeG
DeMarrLangfordBoston CollegeG
T.J.BickerstaffBoston CollegeF
QuintenPostBoston CollegeC
JaedenZackeryBoston CollegeG
MasonMadsenBoston CollegeG
PrinceAligbeBoston CollegeF
DonaldHandBoston CollegeG
HunterTysonClemsonF
P.J.HallClemsonF
AlexHemenwayClemsonG
ChaseHunterClemsonG
BrevinGallowayClemsonG
JoshBeadleClemsonG
DillonHunterClemsonG
IanSchieffelinClemsonF
BennyMiddlebrooksClemsonF
JeremyRoachDukeG
JacobGrandisonDukeG
DariqWhiteheadDukeF
KyleFilipowskiDukeC
DerekLivelyDukeC
MarkMitchellDukeF
RyanYoungDukeF
JadenSchuttDukeG
TyreseProctorDukeG
MattClevelandFlorida St.F
CalebMillsFlorida St.G
JohnWarleyFlorida St.G
DarinGreenFlorida St.G
Cam'RonFletcherFlorida St.F
NaheemMcLeodFlorida St.F
CameronCorhenFlorida St.C
JaylanGaineyFlorida St.F
DallanColemanGeorgia TechG
RodneyHowardGeorgia TechC
KyleSturdivantGeorgia TechG
LanceTerryGeorgia TechG
JavonFranklinGeorgia TechF
JordanMekaGeorgia TechF
DeivonSmithGeorgia TechG
MilesKellyGeorgia TechG
Jae'LynWithersLouisvilleF
ElEllisLouisvilleG
SydneyCurryLouisvilleF
BrandonHuntley-HatfieldLouisvilleF
KamariLandsLouisvilleF
JJTraynorLouisvilleF
RooseveltWheelerLouisvilleC
MikeJamesLouisvilleF
DevinReeLouisvilleF
IsaiahWongMiamiG
HarlondBeverlyMiamiG
AnthonyWalkerMiamiF
NijelPackMiamiG
JordanMillerMiamiF
NorchadOmierMiamiF
AJCaseyMiamiF
NisinePoplarMiamiG
BensleyJosephMiamiG
CaseyMorsellNC StateG
TerquavionSmithNC StateG
JarkelJoinerNC StateG
EbenezerDowuonaNC StateG
DusanMahorcicNC StateC
DJBurnsNC StateF
JackClarkNC StateF
ErnestRossNC StateF
BreonPassNC StateG
GregGanttNC StateF
CalebLoveNorth CarolinaG
LeakyBlackNorth CarolinaG
ArmondoBacotNorth CarolinaF
R.J.DavisNorth CarolinaG
PeteNanceNorth CarolinaF
JustinMcKoyNorth CarolinaF
PuffJohnsonNorth CarolinaF
SethTrimbleNorth CarolinaG
PrentissHubbNotre DameG
CormacRyanNotre DameG
DaneGoodwinNotre DameG
TreyWertzNotre DameG
MarcusHammondNotre DameG
NateLaszewskiNotre DameF
JJStarlingNotre DameF
NikeSibandePittsburghG
JamariusBurtonPittsburghG
JohnHugleyPittsburghC
NellyCummingsPittsburghG
DiorJohnsonPittsburghG
BlakeHinsonPittsburghF
WilliamJeffressPittsburghG
GregElliottPittsburghG
JoeGirardSyracuseG
SymirTorrenceSyracuseG
BennyWilliamsSyracuseF
JesseEdwardsSyracuseC
JudahMintzSyracuseF
John BolAjakSyracuseF
JustinTaylorSyracuseF
KiheiClarkVirginiaG
ArmaanFranklinVirginiaG
ReeceBeekmanVirginiaG
FranciscoCaffaroVirginiaC
KadinShedrickVirginiaF
JaydenGardnerVirgniaF
KodyStattmannVirginiaG
BenVander PlasVirginiaF
JustynMuttsVirginia TechF
HunterCattoorVirginia TechG
DariusMaddoxVirginia TechG
GrantBasileVirginia TechF
SeanPedullaVirginia TechG
RodneyRiceVirginia TechG
MylyjaelPoteatVirginia TechF
JohnCamdenVirginia TechF
DaivienWilliamsonWake ForestG
DamariMonsantoWake ForestG
TyreeApplebyWake ForestG
AndrewCarrWake ForestF
DavionBradfordWake ForestF
JaoItukaWake ForestG
CameronHildrethWake ForestG
MatthewMarshWake ForestF

Other College Basketball Resources:

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Juan Pablo Aravena
30-year-old sports analyst and journalist. Fan of every single sport on this earth. Enjoys a good beer, some good food, and good company. NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL and soccer fan.
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