Last season: 31-5, lost in second round of NCAA Tournament
Coach: Gregg Marshall
Who’s gone: G Daishon Smith, F Zach Bush
Who’s back: F Markis McDuffie averaged 11.5 points and team-best 5.7 rebounds last season; G Landry Shamet averaged 11.4 points and team-best 3.3 assists; F Darryl Willis and F Shaq Morris both averaged nearly 10 points and 5 rebounds; G Conner Frankamp averaged 8.9 points while shooting 44 percent from 3-point range; Backups returning this season include F Rashard Kelly, F Austin Reaves and G C.J. Keyser.
Who’s new: C Asbjorn Midtgaard is a 7-foot-1, 265 pound prospect from Denmark; G Rodgerick Brown was a three-star recruit out of Tennessee.
The Skinny: The Shockers return almost their entire team intact after going 31-5 last season, making them a trendy pick to not only win the ACC in their debut season but perhaps crash the Final Four. Their success could be based on the health of McDuffie and Shamet, both of whom will miss the start of the season with foot injuries. Shockers coach Gregg Marshall is hopeful they will be back on the floor when league play begins.
Duke chases title with 1-and-dones
October 31, 2017
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) Grayson Allen was part of one star-studded freshman class that won a national championship at Duke. He’s also been on a young team that flamed out in the NCAA Tournament’s opening weekend.
So the senior guard knows what works and what doesn’t.
And he’s confident this team resembles 2014-15 – and not last year’s enigmatic group.
”The great thing is, they all have great attitudes,” Allen said. ”They’re all extremely talented, from top to bottom, so I’m really looking forward to what we can put together. But we’ve got to put it together.”
Things clicked perfectly during Allen’s freshman season, when he teamed with one-and-dones Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones to claim Duke’s fifth and most recent national championship. The players all entered the NBA draft after one year in college.
It didn’t quite work last year when the Blue Devils tried to do the same thing, loading up with one-year players Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles and Frank Jackson. That crew capped off a drama-filled season by being overwhelmed in the second round by a South Carolina team that advanced to the Final Four.
Duke never has the luxury of low expectations, the price of building one of the biggest powerhouses in the sport and of perpetually having McDonald’s All-Americans ready to replace the ones that move on to the pros.
This year is no different, with promising freshmen Gary Trent Jr., Wendell Carter Jr. and Marvin Bagley III – who graduated a year early to start college , and presumably move to the pros, a year ahead of schedule – taking over and looking to blend with a thin cast of upperclassmen. Allen is the only returnee who played more than eight minutes per game last season.
”The fabric of a junior-senior team at Duke in the past is very difficult to replicate to the level of the same fabric,” Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski said. ”It doesn’t mean you don’t have a good fabric, but it’s different.”
Some things to know about the 2017-18 Duke Blue Devils:
THEY’RE BIGGER: This Duke team will barely resemble the guard-heavy groups that made J.J. Reddick, Nolan Smith, Jon Scheyer and Jones recognizable names. The strength of these Blue Devils will be on the interior, with Carter (6-foot-10), Bagley (6-11) and sophomore Marques Bolden (6-11) anchoring the front line. Krzyzewski says this will be ”a big team, but an athletic team” and conceded that ”we’re not the outside shooting force that we’ve been in previous years.”
ALLEN’S LEARNED HIS LESSON: Allen returned for his senior year with a determination to avoid the questionable play that made him a lightning rod over the past two seasons. He’s a captain again after he was stripped of that role following his third tripping incident in less than 12 months, and says he ”can’t focus on the one-on-one stuff” with opponents and instead must keep his cool and lead this young team.
INEXPERIENCED UPPERCLASSMEN: The Blue Devils will need some upperclassmen to step up for perhaps the first time in their college careers. After Allen, the most experienced returning player is Bolden – who played all of 157 minutes during a freshman season marked by injury – while Antonio Vrankovic averaged 7.8 minutes in 2016-17. ”Guys that played limited who are sophomores or a junior need to be empowered to express their culture because they know it,” Krzyzewski said. ”They just don’t have the so-called credibility of playing time, but they have the credibility of being in our program.”
KEY GAMES: Duke gets its customary early season test from Michigan State on Nov. 14 in the Champions Classic in Chicago and drew Indiana in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge in its marquee nonconference games. As for the games everybody anticipates – the Blue Devils visit archrival North Carolina on Feb. 8, then play host to the reigning national champions in the season finale on March 3.
Last season: 17-16, sixth straight season without an NCAA Tournament appearance.
Coach: Brad Brownell.
Conference: Atlantic Coast.
Who’s gone: G Jaron Blossomgame (senior), G Avry Holmes (senior), F-C Sidy Djitte (senior).
Who’s back: F Donte Grantham. The senior struggled some last year and hopes to rebound after his scoring average dropped from double digits as a sophomore to seven points. F Elijah Thomas. The Texas A&M transfer played the second half of the season after sitting out and averaged seven points and four rebounds. G Shelton Mitchell, a Vanderbilt transfer who is the team’s top returning scorer at more than 10 points a game, but bothered by a knee problem. G Marcquise Reed is a Robert Morris transfer who averaged 10 points a game in his first season at Clemson.
Who’s new: F David Skara. A junior who transferred from Valparaiso and has won praise from Brownell as Clemson’s best defender. F Mark Donnal. A Michigan graduate transfer, Donnal helped the Wolverines to the NCAA Tournament the past two seasons. F Aamir Simms. A freshman from Palmyra, Virginia is 6-7 expected to give the Tigers a reliable dual-threat inside and out.
The Skinny: Brad Brownell has held on to his job because he’s a strong ambassador for the program and instrumental in the refurbished Littlejohn Coliseum that opened last year. He knows the pressure to make the NCAAs is there and needs to have a healthy Mitchell at point guard to make that happen.
North Carolina aims for big follow-up
October 31, 2017
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) The motivation has changed for North Carolina, even if the goal hasn’t.
The Tar Heels enter the season as the reigning national champion after spending last year chasing another shot following a crushing loss in the 2016 final. It remains to be seen whether the goal of winning another one offers nearly as powerful of a driving force.
”I love winning, everybody on the team does,” senior swingman Theo Pinson said. ”We’re competitors.
”I remember last year on the day of the national championship game, me and (senior Joel Berry II) woke up and said … `Who would ever think we’d be here again?’ So why not have that same feeling again?”
Duke (1991-92) and Florida (2006-07) are the only teams to repeat as champions since UCLA’s run of seven straight ended in 1974.
”It’s really, really difficult,” said Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams, who has won three at UNC. ”What you do is you try to set a standard, try to set a goal that you strive for, that you push for, and you think about every day – trying to be one of the best teams.”
Picked to finish second in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Tar Heels have plenty of holes to fill, losing Associated Press first-team All-American Justin Jackson from the wing along with big men Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks and Tony Bradley Jr. Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams has plenty of perimeter options – starting with Berry’s return as the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player – but uncertainty up front.
March hero Luke Maye, the 6-foot-8 junior who hit the last-second shot to beat Kentucky and send UNC to the Final Four, is back but is more of a stretch-4 with his ability to shoot from outside. The Tar Heels brought in freshman big men Garrison Brooks (6-9, 215), Sterling Manley (6-11, 240) and Brandon Huffman (6-10, 250) – and need them to grow up fast.
Williams has long preferred to have two reliable big men on the court, both for interior scoring and to handle his emphasis on rebounding .
”We look really good walking through the frickin’ airport,” Williams said, adding: ”If I had to play for my life, I may not play any of them. I may play really small. But that’s the reason you get to practice.”
Here are things to know about the 2017-18 season for the Tar Heels:
BERRY’S HEALTH: The school said last week that Berry is sidelined for roughly four weeks after breaking a bone in his right hand, coming when Williams said Berry punched a door after losing a video game against Pinson and a student manager. Berry might not miss much time, but UNC needs him on the court as its toughest competitor .
MORE AT THE POINT: Even when Berry is playing, the Tar Heels need to sort out their backup point guard job. Sophomore Seventh Woods played in all 40 games last year, while freshman Jalek Felton also figures to be in the mix.
JOHNSON’S ARRIVAL: Cameron Johnson didn’t have an easy time getting to UNC, but the Pittsburgh graduate transfer offers the potential to replace some of Jackson’s lost production. The 6-8 Johnson is a similar frame to Jackson and shot 42 percent from 3-point range last season. ”I’ll just try to contribute in any way,” Johnson said, ”make shots, defend, rebound – do all I can.”
WILLIAMS’ RETURN: Junior guard Kenny Williams III provides 3-point shooting and defense, when he’s healthy. Williams missed the final 14 games after February knee surgery , then had a setback in his recovery over the summer. But Williams said he’s ready. ”They ask me every day: how do you feel?” Williams said. ”And I tell them I feel great. Because I do.”
FREE FROM SHADOW: The school recently got a no-penalty ruling from the NCAA tied to its multi-year academic case involving irregular courses featuring athletes from numerous sports, including men’s basketball. This will be the first in several seasons it won’t hang over the Tar Heels, including in recruiting. ”Whatever time period it was,” Roy Williams said, ”I was just happy it was over with.”
Louisville season opens amid scandal fallout, minus Pitino
October 31, 2017
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) For the second time in three seasons, Louisville needs to maintain its on-court focus amid fallout from another scandal off of it.
This time the Cardinals will have to get it done without longtime coach Rick Pitino.
Louisville is just over a month removed from acknowledging that it is being investigated in a national federal bribery probe of college basketball. The investigation led to Pitino’s firing on Oct. 16 after 16 seasons. David Padgett has been promoted from second-year assistant to interim coach.
Athletic director Tom Jurich was also fired in the wake of the probe that stunned players.
”It just came out of nowhere,” senior guard Quentin Snider said, ”and when that happened you just didn’t know what to do until someone explained to you what’s going on.
”The only way to get over tough times is to be around your teammates and play basketball.”
Stunning as the sudden changes have been to the program, Cardinals veterans believe their previous experience moving past a 2015 sex scandal has prepared them to handle this latest crisis – even without the Hall of Fame coach on the sidelines.
”We’re the only ones who can bring everybody together,” said 7-foot senior Anas Mahmoud, referring to a group including Snider and junior forwards Deng Adel and Ray Spalding.
”We’ve been around here for the last couple of years and we know how the fans support us, we know the system and even the university. That was the key point when it came to getting everybody together. We also had experience from two years ago, and that helped us a lot in blocking everything out and knowing how to deal with things.”
Leading scorer Donovan Mitchell – an NBA draft lottery selection – and starting forward Jaylen Johnson are among eight Cardinals gone from a 25-9 squad that reached the NCAA Tournament second round. But Louisville returns five regulars who averaged at least 5.5 points per game – led by Snider (12.4 points per game), Adel (12.1 points, 4.5 rebounds), and Mahmoud (2.1 blocks). Guards V.J. King and Ryan McMahon are also back.
Malik Williams (6-11) and Lance Thomas (6-8) highlight a freshman class with length. Louisville also signed 6-7 guard Brian Bowen, a high school All-American who is referred to in the federal complaint but not named. Bowen remains enrolled but is being held out of practice and games until the allegations are resolved.
Louisville’s biggest question is how quickly Padgett adapts to becoming a first-time head coach on short notice. The 6-11 former player under Pitino suggests he will stress defense like his mentor but acknowledges things have moved too fast to ponder what his philosophy will be.
That makes Padgett just as intent as the Cardinals to stay tuned into basketball and away from the noise.
”I think we have a chance to have a very, very good year based on our talent level,” he said. ”We have a good mix of returning, experienced players who’ve played a lot of significant minutes for us and we have a nice group of young, talented freshmen.
”We’re excited about this season and that’s what we want it to be, focused on basketball. That’s what these kids deserve.”
Here are other things to watch as Louisville moves forward without coach Rick Pitino:
Q’S TEAM: Snider has shared backcourt responsibilities with Chris Jones, Terry Rozier and Mitchell – the last two now in the NBA – but is now in charge. The Louisville native will run the point and is eager to show defensive improvement along with his added responsibilities. ”One thing he (Padgett) told me to do while I’m on the floor is be that other coach,” Snider said.
SUPPORT STAFF: Padgett’s first hire was veteran former head coach Trent Johnson, who most recently guided TCU until 2016. Former Duke standout and Ohio State assistant Greg Paulus was added Oct. 19 with first-year staffer R.J. Evans promoted the next day.
NEWCOMERS: Louisville native Dwayne Sutton averaged 12 points and 7.7 rebounds as a UNC Asheville freshman before transferring to his hometown school. The 6-5 sophomore redshirted last season as a walk-on but has a scholarship and is eligible. Freshmen such as Williams, Thomas, 6-7 Jordan Nwora and 6-2 Darius Perry are expected to contribute immediately for depth.
MARQUEE GAMES: The Cardinals visit Purdue on Nov. 28 in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and host Big Ten member Indiana on Dec. 9. They also visit cross-state rival Kentucky on Dec. 29 before another challenging ACC slate highlighted by consecutive games Feb. 17 and 21 against defending champion North Carolina and at Duke, respectively.
UConn features 8 newcomers, 3 others
October 31, 2017
STORRS, Conn. (AP) UConn coach Kevin Ollie says it will take some time to identify specific roles for all the new players on his team.
It may also take time for everyone else to identify who those guys are wearing Huskies uniforms.
Just two players, guards Jalen Adams and Christian Vital, saw significant playing time on the team that finished a disappointing 16-17 last season, including 9-9 in the American Athletic Conference.
”We’ve got pretty much 11 new guys,” Ollie said. ”Eight guys who are newcomers and three guys who didn’t even play last year.”
The strength of the team appears to be at the guard position, where Adams and Vital will be joined by Alterique Gilbert, Fordham graduate transfer Antoine Anderson and swingman Terry Larrier.
Gilbert was granted a medical redshirt after being lost to a shoulder injury three games into last season. Larrier, a transfer from VCU, missed all but four games after blowing out his left knee in the Maui Invitational Tournament.
”I think our backcourt should be one of the best in the country,” said Adams, who led the team in scoring last year (14.4 points per game). ”If one’s having a bad shooting night, the next guard, he’s on fire. I think we all complement each other well.”
The biggest questions come in the frontcourt, where graduation and transfers have left the Huskies with nobody over 6-foot-9.
Redshirt freshman Mamadou Diarra, who sat out last season with knee problems, started in the post in the Huskies first preseason game. Junior college transfers Eric Cobb and Kwinton Williams; freshmen Josh Carlton, Isaiah Whaley and Tyler Polly, and grad David Onuorah a graduate transfer from Cornell, are all in the mix.
”The minutes are out there,” Carlton said. ”There is no real solid lineup in stone right now, so everyone is going hard.”
UConn, which was picked to finish 5th in the AAC’s preseason poll, opens at home on Nov. 10 against Colgate.
Here are some other things to watch for this season:
The Huskies were able to get in an extra preseason game in this year after the NCAA cleared them to face Providence in a contest that benefited the Red Cross disaster relief efforts. The Friars dominated the matchup of former Big East rivals, leading by 27 points in the second half before winning, 90-76. Eleven Huskies got into the game.
”It will take some time,” Larrier said. ”I think by the time we get to the (regular season) everybody will be ready.”
The Huskies beat Division II Merrimack in their second preseason game 79-63, getting 70 points in the paint.
The Huskies are still waiting to hear whether freshman Sidney Wilson, who transferred from St. John’s after taking a single summer school class, will be allowed to play this season. The 6-7, highly recruited wing is seeking an NCAA waiver rather than sit out a year as a transfer student.
”The NCAA is something that I can’t control,” he said. ”If they grant me the waiver, I’m happy. If not, I’m just going to cheer my teammates on and wait until next year.”
Gilbert was named the AAC’s preseason rookie of the year, for the second straight season. He was eligible for the honor after playing just 87 minutes last year before dislocating his left shoulder against Loyola Marymount. It’s the fourth straight season the Huskies have won the award. Daniel Hamilton won it in 2014 and Adams received the honor in 2015.
UConn enters the season having made a 3-point basket in 278 consecutive games, a streak that dates back to Nov. 27, 2009, a loss to Duke in the championship game of the NIT Season Tip-Off Tournament.
Adams, a junior, has played in 68 games for UConn, by far the most of any player on the team. Vital is next on that list, having played in 31 games. He’s followed by two walk-ons. Senior forward Christain Foxen has played 24 minutes in 19 games as a Husky. Guard Michael Noyes, a grad student has played a total of 13 minutes in 10 games.
New coach pushing Wolfpack to have more competitive edge
October 31, 2017
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) New North Carolina State coach Kevin Keatts spent the offseason pushing his players to get in better shape to play his up-tempo pressing style. He also spent time listening to what fans wanted from his first team.
”The one thing that came back to me is they wanted to see a product that would compete every night,” Keatts said. ”And that’s what I’m looking for.”
That’s one reason Keatts is now in Raleigh after two NCAA Tournament trips in three seasons at UNC Wilmington. His predecessor, Mark Gottfried, guided the Wolfpack to four straight NCAA Tournaments and two Sweet 16s from 2012-15, only to see things come undone with two straight losing seasons that included a 9-27 record in Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season play.
But it was the lack of competitiveness that stood out during a 15-17 season last year, with N.C. State losing five games by at least 24 points – including a 51-point loss at rival North Carolina – that helped lead to Gottfried’s ouster .
Keatts is hoping the changes will help reverse that rapid decline . He’s bringing a version of the fullcourt press from his time under Rick Pitino at Louisville. He’s talked of wanting players who can defend, he loves shooters and wants players ”with some type of toughness” to run it.
Sophomore Markell Johnson offers athleticism at the point to fill the role vacated when one-and-done talent Dennis Smith Jr. bolted for the NBA. Fifth-year senior Lennard Freeman is back to bring rebounding to a frontcourt that features sophomore Omer Yurtseven and senior Abdul-Malik Abu.
Picked to finish 12th in the 15-team Atlantic Coast Conference, North Carolina State brought in pair of graduate transfers – Baylor’s Allerik Freeman and North Carolina A&T’s Sam Hunt – to bolster a roster that had only four returnees from last year’s main rotation.
”When you’re trying to turn over a new leaf, it’s kind of cool we have a new combination of new guys,” said Torin Dorn, one of the lead returnees. ”And we still have some guys that have been here and know what N.C. State is all about and know what it takes to win at N.C. State.”
Here are things to know about the 2017-18 season for the Wolfpack:
JOHNSON’S JOB: The 6-foot-1 Johnson had a better than 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio behind Smith last season and needs to show quickly he can take the lead role in the offense. Keatts put it simply: ”The guy that needs to play well obviously is Markell Johnson.”
ABU’S HEALTH: The school announced last week that Abu had sprained a knee ligament and his recovery time was uncertain, though he didn’t need surgery. N.C. State needs the 6-8, 240-pound Abu up front, from his experience (86 career starts) to his production (12.4 points and 7.9 rebounds over the past two seasons).
YURTSEVEN’S IMPROVEMENT: Yurtseven arrived being discussed as a possible one-and-done prospect, but the Turkish 7-footer looked overwhelmed during much of his debut season after missing the first nine games due to an NCAA eligibility dispute. Yurtseven said he’s lost body fat and gotten in better shape while gaining confidence learning Keatts’ system. ”I feel like he has a good way of adapting to the players that he has, adapting his system,” Yurtseven said.
FREEMAN’S HEALTH: Lennard Freeman is finally healthy again. He needed a second surgery to correct a stress fracture in his right leg and redshirted last season. He showed his value when the Wolfpack’s late-season run that reached the 2015 NCAA Sweet 16 began when Freeman moved into the starting lineup.
REINFORCEMENTS FOR 2019: N.C. State has three players sitting out in Utah transfer Devon Daniels, UNC Wilmington transfer C.J. Bryce and freshman Braxton Beverly ahead of playing next season. Beverly had hoped to play this year, but the NCAA has denied an appeal to its ruling forcing him to sit out – basically treating him like a transfer instead of an incoming recruit – because he took summer classes at Ohio State before a late coaching change prompted him to get his release and come to N.C. State.
Last season: 16-17, first losing season since 1999-2000
Coach: Kevin Stallings
Who’s gone: F Michael Young, G/F Jamel Artis, G Cam Johnson, F Sheldon Jeter, G Chris Jones, C Rozelle Nix, G Jonathan Milligan, G Justice Kithcart, G Damon Wilson, F Corey Manigault.
Who’s back: F Ryan Luther averaged 5.7 points and 3.9 rebounds last season; G Jonathan Milligan.
Who’s new: Everybody else. G/F Jared Wilson-Frame averaged 14.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists for Northwest Florida State last season. G Marcus Carr averaged 9.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists for Montverde Academy (Florida) as a senior. F/C Terrell Brown averaged 16.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.8 blocks at Tilton School (N.H.). G/F Shamiel Stevenson, Canadian native averaged 14.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.2 blocks for Hillcrest Prep (Arizona).
The Skinny: Stallings basically blew up the program following a bumpy first season that saw the Panthers miss out on postseason play for the first time since 2000. Pitt’s ability to compete this season is going to depend heavily on the reconstructed roster coming together quickly. Expectations are low. Pitt was picked to finish last in the conference, meaning any upward movement would be considered a success for a team that was an NCAA Tournament staple under Ben Howland and Jamie Dixon.
Last season: 25-9; lost to North Carolina in NCAA Tournament regional semifinals
Coach: LaVall Jordan.
Conference: Big East.
Who’s gone: F Andrew Chrabascz, G Avery Woodson, G Tyler Lewis.
Who’s back: F Kelan Martin. After spending part of last season coming off the bench, Butler’s top scorer (16.0 points) will become a full-fledged starter this season – and one of the team’s leaders. G Kamar Baldwin made a huge impression as a freshman after cracking the starting lineup. Look for the stronger sophomore to improve on his averages of 10.6 points and 3.7 rebounds in what could be a breakthrough season. F Tyler Wideman. The 6-foot-8 senior has been one of the team’s most consistent rebounders and his final college season could prove to be his best yet. He averaged 7.2 points and 5.0 rebounds last season.
Who’s new: G Paul Jorgensen. The former George Washington player could be next in a long line of transfers who have had an immediate impact in the Bulldogs’ backcourt. He won’t beat out Baldwin, but he could help solidify a young backcourt that needs experienced hands.
The Skinny: Butler may not be the same without Chrabascz and Lewis. But this seems to be the story almost every season, and the Bulldogs usually prove they can overcome the low preseason expectations. Don’t be surprised if it happens again. Jordan begins his first season at his alma mater with plenty of talent, enough experience and a realistic shot of taking Butler to a fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.
Last season: 21-12, lost in first round of NCAA tournament.
Coach: Jim Larranaga.
Conference: Atlantic Coast.
Who’s gone: G Davon Reed, F Kamari Murphy.
Who’s back: G Bruce Brown. The 6-5 sophomore averaged 11.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists last season, and is widely expected to turn pro after this season; G Ja’Quan Newton. Miami’s lone senior averaged 13.5 points last season; G Dejan Vasiljevic. The sophomore from Australia wins raves for his shooting range, but he made only 36 percent of his field goal tries last season. F Dewan Huell. The 6-11 sophomore is expected to be Miami’s best front-court player. C Ebuka Izundu. The 6-10 junior from Nigeria has gained nearly 30 pounds since his freshman year.
Who’s new: G Lonnie Walker IV. The 6-4 freshman from Reading, Pennsylvania, is Larranaga’s most highly touted recruit at Miami; G Chris Lykes. The 5-7 freshman is expected to see considerable playing time.
The Skinny: The season begins under the cloud of the FBI investigation into college basketball, with Larranaga saying he was named in court documents but has done nothing wrong. On the court the outlook is bright. Larranaga’s goal is for the Hurricanes to rank in the top 25 in offensive and defensive efficiency, which shows his expectations are high. Brown and Walker IV are considered potential NBA first-round draft picks next year and are projected to be part of a balanced, potent attack, but defense could be shaky early in the season.
North Carolina State preview capsule
October 31, 2017
North Carolina State preview capsule
North Carolina State
Last season: 15-17, second straight losing season.
Coach: Kevin Keatts.
Conference: Atlantic Coast.
Who’s gone: PG Dennis Smith Jr., G Terry Henderson, G Maverick Rowan, F Ted Kapita, C BeeJay Anya.
Who’s back: Sophomore Markell Johnson is expected to inherit Smith’s starting job and join junior Torin Dorn as returning guards. N.C. State will have much more returning experience up front with sophomore Omer Yurtseven, senior Abdul-Malik Abu (recovering from a sprained knee ligament) and fifth-year senior Lennard Freeman.
Who’s new: N.C. State brought into two graduate transfer guards in Allerik Freeman (Baylor) and Sam Hunt (North Carolina A&T), as well as freshman Lavar Batts Jr. to the backcourt. The school had hoped to have freshman guard Braxton Beverly, but the NCAA has denied an appeal to its ruling that he must sit this year after taking summer classes at Ohio State before getting his release following a late coaching change.
The Skinny: Keatts is taking over for Mark Gottfried, who got the Wolfpack to four straight NCAA Tournaments then saw things come undone in the past two years (9-27 in the ACC those seasons). Keatts, the former UNC Wilmington coach, has pushed his new team in conditioning for his up-tempo offense and a version of the fullcourt press from his time under Rick Pitino at Louisville. This is a reboot year for N.C. State, picked 12th in the 15-team ACC with only four players back from last year’s main rotation and putting in a new system.
Last season: 23-11, lost to Florida in second round of NCAA Tournament
Coach: Tony Bennett
Conference: Atlantic Coast
Who’s gone: G London Perrantes, G Marial Shayok (transferred), G Darius Thompson (transferred)
Who’s back: G Devon Hall. He’s a tri-captain the leading returning scorer (8.4 ppg). G Kyle Guy. He made a splash and became a fan favorite with his outside shooting stroke and man bun. The bun is gone, but the stroke is still there. F Isaiah Wilkins. Another tri-captain, he anchors Bennett’s Pack-Line defense.
Who’s new: F Jay Huff. He’s a stretch four who draws comparisons to the like of Dirk Nowitzki, but will be asked to stay closer to the basket much of the time to help with rebounding. G Nigel Johnson. A speedy point guard who brings speed and a love of playing defense. G De’Andre Hunter. A 6-foot-7 guard who, like Huff, redshirted last year and who is a big-time scorer but may be asked to play some forward too because Virginia needs the size
The Skinny: Virginia is younger and without a go-to guy like Joe Harris, Malcolm Brogdon or Perrantes, but Guy and PG Ty Jerome both demonstrated outside shooting skills last season, Huff’s improvement has been hyped throughout the offseason and the ever-present defensive focus always steals a few victories.
[B]Wake Forest preview capsule
October 31, 2017[/B]
Last season: 19-14, lost to Kansas State in NCAA Tournament opening round
Nickname: Demon Deacons
Coach: Danny Manning
Conference: Atlantic Coast Conference
Who’s gone: F John Collins, F Dinos Mitoglou
Who’s back: G Bryant Crawford averaged 16.2 points, 5.5 assists last season; G Keyshawn Woods averaged 12.5 points and 4.2 rebounds; G Mitchell Wilbekin averaged 7 points, 1.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists.
Who’s new: G-F Chaundee Brown is the program’s highest-rated recruit since Al-Farouq Aminu in 2008; C Olivier Sarr is a 7-foot native of France who could help mitigate the loss of Collins inside.
The Skinny: Manning’s fourth season with the Demon Deacons will be a pivotal one. They made their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2010 behind a player (Collins) who’s since moved on to the NBA. The key issue is whether the handful of guards in the rotation can carry this team farther than Collins did.
[B][I]Duke preview capsule
October 31, 2017[/I][/B]
Last season: 28-9, lost to South Carolina in NCAA Tournament second round
Nickname: Blue Devils
Coach: Mike Krzyzewski
Conference: Atlantic Coast Conference
Who’s gone: G Luke Kennard, G Frank Jackson, G Matt Jones, F Jayson Tatum, F Harry Giles, F Amile Jefferson, C Chase Jeter
Who’s back: G Grayson Allen averaged 14.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists last season, F Marques Bolden averaged 1.5 points in 6.5 minutes per game.
Who’s new: F Marvin Bagley III started college a year early and Duke unretired Danny Ferry’s No. 35 jersey to give to him; G Gary Trent Jr. is the son of the ”Shaq of the MAC” at Ohio University who played nearly a decade in the NBA; F Wendell Carter Jr. was rated as the nation’s No. 4 overall recruit by multiple evaluation services.
The Skinny: Duke loaded up on potential one-and-done freshmen – players who likely could enter the draft after one season in Durham – for the third time in four years to replace the three they lost to the pros during the offseason. Duke is traditionally a perimeter-oriented program, but the strength of this team will be on the interior and the Blue Devils will go as far as Bagley and Carter can carry them.
[B]Villanova Preview Capsule
October 31, 2017
Last season: 32-4, lost in second round of NCAA Tournament.
Coach Jay Wright
Conference: Big East
Who’s gone: G Josh Hart, G Kris Jenkins, F Darryl Reynolds
Who’s back: G Jalen Brunson, the sensational junior point guard, averaged 14.7 points, shot 54 percent from the field, had 148 assists and flirted with the idea of leaving for the NBA. G Phil Booth led the Wildcats in scoring in the national championship game in 2016. He missed most of last season with an injured left knee. F Omari Spellman, G Donte DiVincenzo and G Mikal Bridges round out a lineup for the Big East favorites.
Who’s new: The Wildcats added Collin Gillespie, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree and Jermaine Samuels to the lineup.
The Skinny: The Wildcats were picked to win their fifth straight regular-season conference title, Brunson was chosen as the conference’s preseason player of the year, and Spellman was selected freshman of the year. The 2016 national champions should again be among the small group of programs that can win it all on that first Monday in April.