|Duke freshman Jabari Parker is a big reason why the Blue Devils are a favorite to win the ACC. (bigstory.ap.com)|
Syracuse, Notre Dame and Pitt are entering their first season in the ACC, but it is still Duke who is projected to be at the top of the standings. The Blue Devils received 50 first-place votes from ACC media in the preseason poll in large part thanks to freshman Jabari Parker and Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood. Duke lost Seth Curry, Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly, but Quinn Cook will take over at point guard and the Blue Devils have the talent to find themselves in first in the ACC at the end of the season. Go ahead and circle the regular-season finale between UNC and Duke in Durham to possibly decide the conference.
Dark Horse: Virginia
Virginia is ranked No. 24 in the preseason AP poll, yet with the star power of the teams mentioned above, it is quite possible Virginia gets overlooked. Still, the ACC writers have the Cavaliers finishing fourth in the conference, and with four returning starters (most notably the top to scorers from last season, Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell), Virginia could improve on a 23-12 record from a year ago. Virginia gets two key games at home at the end of the season against Notre Dame and Syracuse before ending the year at Maryland. This team seems poised to pull and upset or two at the expense of the conference elite.
Player of the Year: Jabari Parker, Duke
The ACC media picked Syracuse's C.J. Fair, who last year led a very talented team in scoring with 14.5 points per game and added seven rebounds per game. Fair very well may be the best player in the ACC this year, but it's tough to pick against another freshman phenom in Jabari Parker. Remember, Parker was on the cover of Sports Illustrated being called the next LeBron before Andrew Wiggins. Obviously any comparison between LeBron James and a player who has yet to record a minute in college is absurd. Still, it would be no surprise if the 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward burst onto the scene and dominated the ACC this year.
Coach of the Year: Jim Boeheim, Syracuse
The natural instinct, after looking at who our favorite, player and newcomer of the years are, would be to select Mike Krzyzewski as coach of the year. Then we came across an interesting stat. Coach K has not won ACC Coach of the Year since 2000. That's not a knock on Krzyzewski. He's one of the greatest coaches of all time. Instead, it seems like the media like picking coaches such as Jim Larranaga of Miami and Leonard Hamilton of Florida State who have brought up surprising teams to the top of the conference. That's why if Boeheim can have Syracuse in competition for the ACC crown in the Cuse's first year in the conference, he seems like a strong pick for coach of the year. Also keep an eye on Tony Bennett from Virginia if the Cavaliers make one of those Florida State-like runs in conference play.
Newcomer of the Year:Jabari Parker, Duke
It seems like with many of our previews, the picks for conference player of the year are also newcomers. That's a credit to how strong this freshman class is, and tells you a bit about the culture of college basketball in the one-and-done era. Parker will be dangerous from all over the court and finds a way to score. His teammate, and Mississippi State transfer, Rodney Hood should also make a big impact on the Blue Devils this season and could be in the hunt for this award at the end of the year.
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