How the hell is everyone? It appears as if we may be coming out of this Corona induced haze and I don’t mean the one the one that caused you to wear a box on your head and ski down your stairs. Despite the country being semi-shutdown in recent weeks, there has been plenty of action in the ACC during the off-season. Today, I want to take a look at the programs who had the best and worst off-seasons in the conference.
It should be mentioned that this list doesn’t have a whole lot to do with traditional recruiting. Obviously, Duke and Carolina are huge winners with their incoming classes. This is more about what has happened since March with player movement, coaching changes, additions and subtractions etc.
First some quick notes on teams not appearing:
- Virginia: They were offseason winners with the addition of Sam Hauser, but that was last year.
- North Carolina State losing Josh Hall is a real bummer for the Pack, but they still have talent on the wings.
- I love the addition of Kyle Sturdivant at Georgia Tech.
- If Cartier Diarra had gone pro Virginia Tech would have been #1 on the list of losers.
It’s good to be back, let’s start with the easy targets.
Loser: Notre Dame
For whatever reason, I appear to be on an island here and I don’t understand why. It seems fairly obvious to me. Notre Dame lost three of their top seven scorers, their best three-point shooter, the leading double-double player in the ACC, two of their top three assist guys, and 260 career starts.
Now, they did land coveted transfer wing Trey Wertz from Santa Clara but it is not a foregone conclusion that he will be eligible right away and after his interview with The Athletic, it didn’t seem to play a huge part in his decision. He would be a great replacement on the wing for a graduated T.J. Gibbs but that is now in the hands of the NCAA. Wertz averaged roughly 12 points, 4 assists, and 3.5 rebounds last season while shooting 40% from behind the arc.
The Irish also get Cormac Ryan eligible this season which is huge. Ryan is a transfer from Stanford who I am told has impressed many since arriving in South Bend. He will be a huge part of this transition as well.
The biggest question marks are in the front court, fifth year senior Juwan Durham is a great rim protector, but still played less than 18 minutes per game last season. That is fine when your front line also boasts John Mooney, but now you have two young bucks and Nate Lazsewski as your backup options at the pivot.
I am a huge Mike Brey fan, as well as a fan of his entire staff, but I have serious questions about this team.
Basically, everything that could have gone correctly for Jim Larranaga this offseason, did go correctly. Chris Lykes, Harlond Beverly, and Isaiah Wong all stayed put, Kam McGusty did the same.
Nysier Brooks is also now eligible, giving the ‘Canes their first legitimate ACC level big man since the emergence of Ebuka Izundu a couple of seasons ago. Brooks is a transfer from Cincinnati who sat out last season due to NCAA guidelines. The 6’11 Philly native averaged 8.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game for the Bearcats in 2018-19.
The cherry on top for the Hurricanes this offseason is the recent addition of Stony Brook leading scorer Elijah Olaniyi. The 6’5 graduate transfer gives Miami another weapon on the wing as both a shooter (108 career triples) and defender (1.6 steals per game, 92.9 defensive rating).
Those two additions along with high level freshman Earl Timberlake and their four returning guards make this Miami team a squad that should put points on the board and wins in the left hand column on their way to a tournament birth.
This observation and opinion is largely based on two things. The defection of Elijah Hughes to the NBA and the potential that Alan Griffin is not granted a waiver. If the latter happens, this offseason a disaster. Personally, I think he gets it. However, to think that the latter is the answer to the former, would be an expectation that may not be entirely reasonable.
It is never good to lose the ACC’s leading scorer, especially on a team that finished 18-14 and seemed to struggle at times even when Hughes was scoring (the Orange lost 9 games in which Hughes scored 18 or more points) and Griffin is not quite as gifted offensively as Hughes.
The good news is that Griffin is a New York native which often plays favorably when it comes to seeking a waiver.
The losses of Jalen Carey and Brycen Goodine also played a part in the Orange appearing on this list as I believe both were talented youngsters. However, if JG3 continues to develop as he did as the season progressed last season, I, and the entire Syracuse fan base will forget about their defections post haste.
When you are talking about college basketball free agent success, Chris Mack has had a pretty solid run in three off-seasons with the Redbirds. Christen Cunningham two years ago, Lamar Kimble last season, and now he has added Carlik Jones and Charles Minlend Jr. this year.
Jones was one of the most coveted graduate transfers on the market after three seasons and 1,500 points at Radford. For his career, he averaged 15.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game. He hasn’t been a great shooter over the course of his career but did shoot 41% from behind the arc last season on 115 attempts.
Minlend might be lesser known but that can be attributed to the fact that hes been at San Francisco playing at midnight EST for three seasons. He is not a great shooter but did score over 1,200 points in three seasons for the Dons and will make a nice piece off the bench for Coach Mack.
The other reason for Louisville winning the offseason is that everyone else with the exception of Jordan Nwora stayed put and Nwora leaving was not a shock. The retention of David Johnson, Samuell Williamson, Josh Nickelberry, The Irish Hulk, and Malik Williams to go along with these transfers is a credit to this staff and this program in terms of continuity.
The loss of Ryan Murphy was interesting because he seemed to fall out of favor towards the end of the season after some good games early. When he was rolling, he was a perimeter scoring option that the Panthers needed and that has now become a hole in their rotation. The answer could be Ithiel Horton, who was an All-Freshman Selection in the CAA in 2018-19, but I am not sure about jumping from the Colonial to the ACC and expecting immediate results. He did shoot 41% on 193 attempts from deep as a true freshman though.
The loss of Trey McGowens (Nebraska) is the one that really hurts. McGowens was a good defensive player and after early struggles in true road games, was sort of putting that together late in his sophomore season as well. As Xavier Johnson seemed to take a step back last season, McGowens seemed to be the emotional leader on the court.
The loss of Eric Hamilton will also hurt in the front court, though retaining Justin Champagnie and Xavier Johnson are both big wins.
Winner: Wake Forest
Look, it is what it is. Sometimes, you just have to rip the band-aid off. The Demon Deacons saw an opportunity to compete against zero other schools and go get the coach they wanted in Steve Forbes. That is a huge win! Take notes UCLA. Actually, that ended fine. Take notes St. Johns!
Some people outside of the program may see the mass exodus as a huge negative but I do not. The situation gives Coach Forbes the flexibility to build his team, his way, very quickly. He was able to bring back good pieces in Jahcobi Neath and Ismael Massoud, both of whom I think have upside. Obviously, keeping Isaiah Mucius is a huge win as well.
He also brought back Ody Oguama in what might be an underrated move. Ody isn’t fantastic but is miles better than bringing in a freshman at this point that simply isn’t ready to play at this level especially given his long term upside as a better than average rebounder. In fact, in conference games per 40 minutes last season, Oguama averaged 9.4 points and 10.3 rebounds. Now, those 7 personal fouls per 40 is something that is going to need some work.