ACC Basketball: Top 5 storylines for 2016-17 season

3 of 6

Will freshman players dominate the ACC?

For the past several seasons, the best players in the ACC have arguably been freshmen. Last season, Duke’s Brandon Ingram was selected by the Los Angeles Lakers as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. In his only season at Duke, Ingram averaged 17.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and two assists per game while shooting 44% from the field and 41% from three-point range.

In 2015, the freshmen trio of Jahlil  Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow led the Blue Devils to a national championship. In 2014, Duke’s Jabari Parker and Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis stole the show.

This season, several teams have freshmen who are capable of being one-and-done’s and leading their respective teams to conference championships and potentially a national championship. If NBA age requirements did not exist, Some of these ACC freshmen could play professionally right now.

Here are several freshmen players to keep an eye on this season:

  • Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles, Jr., Marques Bolden, Frank Jackson, Javin DeLaurier (Duke)
  • Tony Bradley, Seventh Woods, Brandon Robinson (North Carolina)
  • Dennis Smith, Jr., Omer Yurtseven (N.C. State)
  • Jonathan Isaac (Florida State)
  • Tyus Battle (Syracuse)
  • Austin Nichols, Kyle Guy (Virginia)
  • Dewan Huell (Miami)
  • V.J. King (Louisville)

Several ACC schools are ranked in the top 15 of ESPN’s 2016 recruiting rankings. Duke was ranked No. 2, Virginia No. 8, Florida State No. 12, North Carolina No. 13, Miami No. 14 and Syracuse No. 15.

At the ACC’s Media Day, N.C. State’s freshman point guard Dennis Smith, Jr. was projected to be first-team All-ACC in addition to freshman of the year. DraftXpress predicts that the 2017 NBA Draft will have Smith as the No. 2 overall pick, Duke’s Tatum and Giles at No. 3 and 5, respectively, FSU’s Isaac at No. 7 and Duke’s Bolden at No. 8.

This season, a handful of ACC teams will lack senior leadership. This growing trend has begun to make leaders out of freshman players. This will again be evident during the 2016-17 season.