Breaking down our ACC preseason men's basketball ballots

Jeremy Roach earned an individual honor with Tuesday evening's poll announcement.
Jeremy Roach earned an individual honor with Tuesday evening's poll announcement.

Tuesday evening, the ACC announced the results of its annual preseason poll, with Duke checking in at No. 2 behind only North Carolina. That was not all, as two other Blue Devils—freshman center Dereck Lively II and junior guard Jeremy Roach—received a pair of individual honors themselves.

Three of our men's basketball beat writers who were on hand Oct. 12 in Charlotte for ACC Tipoff and cast ballots as part of the media panel break down their picks below. Here's how their choices stack up to the rest.

Preseason All-ACC First Team

Poll results:

First team: 

  1. Armando Bacot, North Carolina
  2. Isaiah Wong, Miami
  3. Caleb Love, North Carolina
  4. Terquavion Smith, N.C. State
  5. Jeremy Roach, Duke

Second team: 

  1. Jayden Gardner, Virginia
  2. Dereck Lively II, Duke
  3. Justyn Mutts, Virginia Tech
  4. PJ Hall, Clemson
  5. RJ Davis, North Carolina

Jonathan's ballot:

  1. Armando Bacot, North Carolina
  2. Caleb Love, North Carolina
  3. Isaiah Wong, Miami
  4. Jayden Gardner, Virginia
  5. Terquavion Smith, N.C. State

Ordering aside, the first four players on my ballot were natural choices. It was the fifth slot that was difficult: Bacot, Wong, Gardner and Notre Dame's Dane Goodwin are the only returning players who were selected to an All-ACC team a season ago.

Enter sophomore-year Smith: In the past 10 seasons, only Pittsburgh's Michael Young in 2016-17 led the league in scoring and missed out on first-team honors, and with Dereon Seabron—a second-team choice for the Wolfpack in March—off to the professional ranks, Smith is in line to score as much as anybody in the ACC this season.

The only surprise here is Roach, if you can even call it that. The junior captain has accomplished as much as anybody in the ACC—even the remnants of North Carolina's "Iron Five" core—and was ultimately a clear sixth man for me on this list. Depending on how heavily Duke leans on its freshmen (read below), Roach has a good chance of helping the panel's choice age well come March 2023.

Micah's ballot:

  1. Armando Bacot, North Carolina
  2. Isaiah Wong, Miami
  3. Jayden Gardner, Virginia
  4. Caleb Love, North Carolina
  5. Terquavion Smith, N.C. State

Bacot was arguably the league's best player last season, while Wong—alongside Nijel Pack—fills the roles of Kameron McGusty and Charlie Moore and will make the step up after being an All-ACC Third Teamer. Gardner will likely lead a very skilled Virginia roster in scoring and rebounding and Love is a proven closer for the nation's preseason No. 1. I picked Smith over a pool of several talented scorers and game-changers including Pittsburgh's John Hugley, Virginia Tech's Justyn Mutts and Roach since he is a proven next-level scorer for a hungry N.C. State team as just a sophomore. 

Sasha's ballot:

  1. Armando Bacot, North Carolina
  2. Terquavion Smith, N.C. State
  3. Jeremy Roach, Duke
  4. Kihei Clark, Virginia
  5. John Hugley IV, Pittsburgh

What really is there to say about Bacot that hasn't already been said? He's the most important, and dare I say most talented, player on a team fresh off a national championship berth. Let's move on. 

I was the only voter from The Chronicle to include Roach on my ballot, and for me, it comes down to role. I don't think he's going to put up dazzling numbers, but I do think he is going to be the clear MVP on one of the top teams in the conference, and that, to me, will put him among the league's best. For similar reasons, I voted for Clark. This Virginia team is poised for a resurgence, and Clark will be the driving force behind that. 

My hottest take is that Hugley is going to set himself apart this season. He will be one of the ACC's top rebounders and will lead his team in points. Those things are certain. However, there is also something to be said of being the clear leader of your team, which, to me, gives Hugley the edge over similar players like Gardner for the fifth spot on my ballot.

Preseason Player of the Year:

Poll results: Armando Bacot, North Carolina

Jonathan's ballot: Armando Bacot, North Carolina

There is little to say here—Bacot would have had my vote for Player of the Year over Wake Forest's Alondes Williams a season ago, and with the outlook a little less turbulent in year two of head coach Hubert Davis' tenure in Chapel Hill, he is going to be even better. 

Bacot received 82 of 101 votes here. Expect that proportion to be bigger in a few months.

Micah's ballot: Armando Bacot, North Carolina

Easy. Not close. No contest. 

Bacot was able to dominate the league while still adjusting to Davis’ new offense, so just imagine what he can do after an offseason during which he said he got even better. He’s going to start draining threes now? Guess we will see.

But in all seriousness, he is a star and is within striking distance of the ACC all-time rebounds record. If you’re in the conversation to pass Tim Duncan in a stat, you’re likely the best player in the conference. So here we are.

Sasha's ballot: Armando Bacot, North Carolina

What if I said I picked Bacot because he was really funny at ACC Tipoff? I didn't, but Bacot was really funny. This is the only new thing I can think of to add to the conversation about him. He's good, great, fantabulous. He's going to tear up the ACC this year. 

Preseason Freshman of the Year

Poll results: Dereck Lively II, Duke

Jonathan's ballot: Dereck Lively II, Duke

Lively and Whitehead are both fine choices for this award, but it was his position that pushed Lively over the edge on my ballot. In recent years, ACC big men—especially at Duke—have been great early in their careers. Paolo Banchero, Vernon Carey, Marvin Bagley III, Jahlil Okafor and, to a certain extent, Zion Williamson all took home this award at season's end, setting a precedent for Lively to make noise in Durham and beyond. It may end up being his only year as a Blue Devil, but he looks ready to make it count.

Micah's ballot: Dariq Whitehead, Duke

Lively is great—his length will make an immediate impact on both ends of the floor—and will prove that he earned his top-recruit status. However, Whitehead’s dynamic play and three-level scoring ability will make him the team’s top scorer, and pacing a team with the top freshmen in the league should earn him honors of top freshman. 

I recognize that he is recovering from a foot injury and recoveries from injury always have an air of uncertainty attached, but Whitehead has the raw skill to bring him the hardware come season’s end.

Sasha's ballot: Dereck Lively II, Duke

Lively has big shoes to fill at the five for Duke, and I think he has the skill set to do that. Mark Williams was a revelation last year, and if Lively can fill in even some of those gaps, he will cement himself as one of the Blue Devils' most important players. There are plenty of talented rookies in the ACC this season, but Lively has an immediate and vital role to fill, which will put him a cut above the rest. 

Preseason Order of Finish

Our picks are in bold, poll results are italicized.

Jonathan's ballot

  1. North Carolina/North Carolina
  2. Duke/Duke
  3. Virginia/Virginia
  4. Miami/Miami
  5. Virginia Tech/Florida State
  6. Notre Dame/Notre Dame
  7. Florida State/Virginia Tech
  8. Syracuse/Syracuse
  9. Wake Forest/Wake Forest
  10. Clemson/N.C. State
  11. Boston College/Clemson
  12. Pittsburgh/Louisville
  13. N.C. State/Boston College
  14. Georgia Tech/Pittsburgh
  15. Louisville/Georgia Tech

Beyond ranking the final five teams, I had the hardest time with two decisions here: Duke or Virginia at No. 2 and ranking spots five through seven, a group of teams I consider the ACC's second tier.

The Blue Devils were my gut choice, a coin-flip-and-a-feeling pick loosely based on impressions of last year's Virginia squad. The skeptic in me is not ready to feel good about bumping a team that will largely resemble those 2021-22 Cavaliers, who went 12-8 in-conference, ahead of Duke and all of its talent.

A word on the second tier: Virginia Tech looks different than it did when it snatched an ACC sweep from the Blue Devils in March, but it still surrounds returning starters Hunter Cattoor and Justyn Mutts with a lineup talented enough to win under head coach Mike Young. If one of the Hokies, Fighting Irish or Seminoles has a shot to move up a tier, I have the Hokies.

Micah's ballot

  1. North Carolina/North Carolina
  2. Duke/Duke
  3. Virginia/Virginia
  4. Miami/Miami
  5. Virginia Tech/Florida State
  6. Notre Dame/Notre Dame
  7. Florida State/Virginia Tech
  8. Clemson/Syracuse
  9. Wake Forest/Wake Forest
  10. Syracuse/N.C. State
  11. N.C. State/Clemson
  12. Pittsburgh/Louisville
  13. Boston College/Boston College
  14. Louisville/Pittsburgh
  15. Georgia Tech/Georgia Tech

My top seven is set in stone—and consensus says just the same. Those seven have the right combination of experience, talent and coaching that will keep them in the conversation for an ACC regular season title, although North Carolina looks primed to follow up its Final Four run with an impressive regular season. 

In spite of Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner’s claim that Virginia should be the ACC’s top team, the Wahoos fall just behind Duke after a mediocre season but head coach Tony Bennett’s team certainly showed promise. I picked Gardner for my first team and am continuously blown away by Virginia’s defensive abilities, which are sure to help them to another winning season in the conference.

The big difference in my picks from the consensus is the placement of Clemson—the Tigers’ PJ Hall can spoil any team’s night and could help his team quietly creep up the standings.

Sasha's ballot

  1. North Carolina/North Carolina
  2. Duke/Duke
  3. Virginia/Virginia
  4. Florida State/Miami
  5. Miami/Florida State
  6. Virginia Tech/Notre Dame
  7. Notre Dame/Virginia Tech
  8. N.C. State/Syracuse
  9. Wake Forest/Wake Forest
  10. Clemson/N.C. State
  11. Syracuse/Clemson
  12. Georgia Tech/Louisville
  13. Pittsburgh/Boston College
  14. Louisville/Pittsburgh
  15. Boston College/Georgia Tech

There is nothing really groundbreaking here. North Carolina and Duke are the obvious choices for the top two spots in my opinion, with the Tar Heels bringing back four-fifths of a championship-contending starting lineup and Duke bringing in what is far and away the best freshman recruiting class in the nation. 

Meanwhile, Virginia brings back its entire starting five as well as a host of top-ranked freshmen. The group struggled last year, but led by one of the most innovative coaches in the game, it can bounce back into the upper tier of the ACC. 

The next tier—Florida State, Miami, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech—was hard for me to rank. Ultimately, I put the Seminoles at the top because their season last year was largely derailed by injuries, but before that, they were one of the most threatening teams in the league. Matthew Cleveland and Caleb Mills, arguably last season's two most important players, are back for 2022-23, as well as other key returners like Cam'Ron Fletcher. Florida State will be on a mission to avenge last season, and I think it has the personnel to be successful.

As for Georgia Tech at No. 12? What can I say—Pastner could motivate someone to scale Mount Everest.

Sasha Richie profile
Sasha Richie | Sports Managing Editor

Sasha Richie is a Trinity senior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.

Micah Hurewitz

Micah Hurewitz is a Trinity senior and was previously a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.

Jonathan Levitan

Jonathan Levitan is a Trinity senior and was previously sports editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.


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