Conference Preview: ACC

Conference Preview: ACC

This article is part of our Conference Preview series.

The more things change, the more they say the same. You don't rebuild, you reload. Pick a cliché and it's likely to have some relevance in the ACC, arguably the nation's premier conference. Duke once again brings in a new roster of talent. North Carolina has leadership holes to fill, but has their patented blend of top recruits mixed with three-year veterans. Virginia looks to rebound from becoming the first No. 1 seed to ever lose to a No. 16 in the NCAA tournament. Syracuse looks poised to again have a 6-man rotation, leading to huge minutes for their studs. There's emerging teams in Clemson and Virginia Tech, rebuilding teams like Miami and North Carolina State, and a few new coaches in Louisville's Chris Mack and Pittsburgh's Jeff Capel.

The league really does feel like a case where the names and faces are different, but the roles, styles and expectations are largely the same as they always are. With that in mind, let's take a look at the premier fantasy options.

Center: Kerry Blackshear, Virginia Tech Hokies

Officially tagging someone as a center appears to be a bit taboo, with only 13 appearing throughout the conference on official rosters and six more getting a forward/center slash. So unless you're counting on a huge leap from Marques Bolden, you're going to need some leniency from league commissioners. My personal preference in the paint is Clemson's Elijah Thomas, thanks in large part to his ability to block shots, but it may be

The more things change, the more they say the same. You don't rebuild, you reload. Pick a cliché and it's likely to have some relevance in the ACC, arguably the nation's premier conference. Duke once again brings in a new roster of talent. North Carolina has leadership holes to fill, but has their patented blend of top recruits mixed with three-year veterans. Virginia looks to rebound from becoming the first No. 1 seed to ever lose to a No. 16 in the NCAA tournament. Syracuse looks poised to again have a 6-man rotation, leading to huge minutes for their studs. There's emerging teams in Clemson and Virginia Tech, rebuilding teams like Miami and North Carolina State, and a few new coaches in Louisville's Chris Mack and Pittsburgh's Jeff Capel.

The league really does feel like a case where the names and faces are different, but the roles, styles and expectations are largely the same as they always are. With that in mind, let's take a look at the premier fantasy options.

Center: Kerry Blackshear, Virginia Tech Hokies

Officially tagging someone as a center appears to be a bit taboo, with only 13 appearing throughout the conference on official rosters and six more getting a forward/center slash. So unless you're counting on a huge leap from Marques Bolden, you're going to need some leniency from league commissioners. My personal preference in the paint is Clemson's Elijah Thomas, thanks in large part to his ability to block shots, but it may be a tougher sale on position than Blackshear. The Hokies' big man goes 6-foot-10 and 260 pounds, and in spite of his willingness to shoot from the perimeter, he absolutely passes the eye test of center eligibility. After missing the 2016-17 season, Blackshear took a significant step forward, doubling his scoring to 12.5 points while playing just six minutes more per night than he did as a freshman. Fantasy owners would probably like more rebounds (5.9) or blocks (0.9), but Blackshear balances things out with a stout field goal percentage (55.8) and ability to shoot threes. His minutes aren't huge, and there's a tendency for foul trouble, but Blackshear looks to be the cream of this limited crop.

Others considered: Marques Bolden, Duke; Sterling Manley, North Carolina; Elijah Thomas, Clemson; Oshae Brissett, Syracuse

Freshman: Zion Williamson, Duke Blue Devils

For those completely unfamiliar with Williamson, he's a 6-7, 285-pound mammoth of a man that can handle, jump and get through defenders on his way to the basket. Assuming Williamson accepts he's a forward and not a point-forward, his inside-outside potential makes him the preferred freshman to own in Durham. Williamson, along with guards R.J. Barrett and Cameron Reddish, will certainly have plenty of moments offensively, but Duke lost 29.7 rebounds from a season ago. If they are counting on both Reddish and Barrett, along with holdover Marques Bolden, to absorb some 20 of those, the Blue Devils could be in trouble on the interior. There's no wrong answer if you're looking for a Duke frosh on your roster, but Williamson has the clearest path to double-doubles nightly.

Others considered: R.J. Barrett, Duke; Cameron Reddish, Duke; Tre Jones, Duke; Coby White, North Carolina; Nassir Little, North Carolina; Jaylen Hoard, Wake Forest; Trey McGowens, Pittsburgh

Scoring: Ky Bowman, Boston College Eagles

Bowman was arguably the most valuable fantasy commodity in the ACC a year ago – yes, even ahead of Marvin Bagley – thanks to his all-around skillset. Bowman averaged 17.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.5 steals and 2.3 made 3-pointers nightly while shooting 80.2 percent from the line. He did so while teammate Jerome Robinson poured in 20.8 points at the wing. Robinson is now with the the Los Angeles Clippers, which will leave Bowman as a one-man wrecking crew in Chestnut Hill. The only real knock on Bowman is his shooting percentage, which fell from 49.2 percent as a freshman to 42.2 last year. He's going to have a green light all season, which is going to lead to some absolutely huge nights, but there's almost no way that percentage improves due to the volume of shots he'll be hoisting.

Others considered: Tyus Battle, Syracuse; Marcquise Reed, Clemson; T.J. Gibbs, Notre Dame; Justin Robinson, Virginia Tech

Rebounding: Luke Maye, North Carolina Tar Heels

The leap Maye made as a junior was truly remarkable, as he put up 16.9 points and 10.1 boards after going for 5.5 points and 3.9 boards as a sophomore. He posted 18 double-doubles, and fell just one board shy on six other occasions. There's not a lot of flair here, as fantasy owners know what they're getting with Maye. Fortunately, there doesn't appear to be a reason for concern for a dropoff either. The Heels lost a pair of seniors in second-leading rebounder Theo Pinson and leading scorer Joel Berry. Freshmen additions Nassir Little and Coby White should help with scoring, and growth from frontcourt mates Sterling Manley and Garrison Brooks can provide assistance on the glass. But Maye is the unquestioned leader for the Heels. His 3-point shooting (43.1 percent) flirts with elite status, especially for a big man, and the likelihood of regression appears very slim.

Others considered: Oshae Brissett, Syracuse; Steffon Mitchell, Boston College; Dewan Huell, Miami

Assists: Markell Johnson, North Carolina State Wolfpack

There are safer options, but Johnson brings the most upside statistically, even with some mild regression. Simply put, Johnson was an assist machine a year ago, ranking sixth nationally with 7.3 dimes nightly. One could point to the 2.3 assists he averaged a season prior and question whether last year's success is sustainable, but it's important to remember that in 2016-17, the 'Pack had Dennis Smith dominating the ball. Possibly of more concern is the Wolfpack roster turnover, as the roster includes only three players who wore red and white last season. The opportunist in that sees a void of leadership which Johnson will be tasked with filling. It could even lead to an increase in scoring, making Johnson more appealing than the 8.9 points he provided last year suggests.

Others considered: Justin Robinson, Virginia Tech; Frank Howard, Syracuse; Brandon Childress, Wake Forest

Sleepers

C.J. Bryce, North Carolina State Wolfpack

We just mentioned the plethora of new blood in Raleigh, but lets continue hammering that home. The Wolfpack will need to replace their top three leading scorers from a year ago, losing 43.5 points per game (53.7 percent). Bryce is the most obvious answer to step into that void. He sat out last year after transferring from UNC-Wilmington, following coach Kevin Keatts to Raleigh. Under Keatts as a Seahawk, Bryce was superb in 2016-17, averaging 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists while shooting a respectable 48.4 percent. He has the alpha scoring mentality needed, which should help ease any concerns as he steps up in competition level on a nightly basis.

Chaundee Brown, Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Bad teams breed plenty of fantasy success, and that's what we're looking for out of Winston-Salem. Wake Forest looks like they are in for a very long season, but someone has to produce. In losing Bryant Crawford, Doral Moore and Keyshawn Woods, Wake lost 39.9 points, 14.8 boards and 7.1 assists. Brandon Childress looks likely to step in with playmaking, but he's not a natural scorer. Enter Brown, who showed flashes as a freshman with four 20-point outings. He may be a better slasher than shooter, but Brown was still capable from behind the arc, hitting 34.2 percent from outside. He also hit 80.2 percent from the line, a place he figures to be at considerably more as his minutes increase. Necessity and opportunity make for a clear path to a breakout.

Others considered: T.J. Gibbs, Notre Dame; Javin DeLaurier, Duke; V.J. King, Louisville

Top-10*
1) Ky Bowman, G, Boston College
2) Luke Maye, F/C, North Carolina
3) Tyus Battle, G, Syracuse
4) Zion Williamson, F, Duke
5) R.J. Barrett, F, Duke
6) Marcquise Reed, G, Clemson
7) TJ Gibbs, G, Notre Dame
8) Markell Johnson, G, NC State
9) Oshea Brissett, F/C, Syracuse
10) Justin Robinson, G, Virginia Tech

*Note: These rankings are at the discretion of the article author, and may not necessarily correspond with RotoWire's official 2018-19 player rankings.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Bennett
Bennett covers baseball, college football and college basketball for RotoWire. Before turning to fantasy writing, he worked in scouting/player development for the Atlanta Braves and Montreal Expos. He's also a fan of the ACC.
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