clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Young and Wild ACC

The ACC is predicted to be another competitive conference, yet this year with many teams supporting young starters. With five of the teams standing in the Top 25, other conferences shouldn't take these teams lightly.

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Boston College

Boston College, who came in 12th with a 5-11 record in conference and a 13-17 record overall, is looking to build the team as even better shooters in this seasons rally.

"The shooting part, we certainly work to develop, but you can't turn someone into those kind of shooters," said Head Coach Erik Johnson. "You have to recruit it, and then it is a matter of fine tuning it. When they are open, you know that they are going to knock it down. I just have to get out of their way."

The trio of Nicole Boudreau, Kelly Hughes, and Emilee Daley combined to connect 197 of the Eagles' 250 successful three-point shots last season, helping them set their fourth consecutive record of successful three-point shooting.

Hughes scored a career-high 424 points, the most by any Eagle since the 2010-11 season, with a career-high three-pointers made (81). Boudreau, one of this year's team captain, was named the All-ACC Academic team averaging 33 minutes, 11.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and led her team with 81 assists.


With vital contributor Nikki Dixon graduated, third-year coach Audra Smith will miss Dixon, but eagerly believes her team will experience a breakthrough.

"I feel like this is the year," said Smith. "We are finally at the point where all of the players on our roster are players who were recruited by our staff, and they are a great group of young women."

Last season, the team went 9-21, with only one win in the conference play. The Tigers have no seniors on the court, yet a young group of seven sophomores and five freshmen join the two juniors in their journey to achieve their first ACC title in 16 years.

Contributing to the team is Ivy Atkism, who shot 43% from the floor and 76.5% from the charity stripe. Atkism predicts the team to win more conference games this year, noticing the team's improvement and positive outlook during practices.


Intimidatingly, the Blue Devils enter the season with the nation's top-rated recruiting class which includes ACC Newcomers Watch List selections Kyra Lambert and Angela Salvadores of Spain. Heading into her ninth year as head coach, Joanne P. McCallie has the team stacked with three returning starters, including Azurá Stevens, and five letter winners.

The 6'6'' Stevens made her debut last year as a freshman, and collected six Duke freshman records: field goals (194-tied), rebounds (271), offensive rebounds (120), double-figure scoring games (28-tied), double-doubles (10 - tied) and double-figure rebound games (12). She knows the team's only enhancing in abilities from here.

"We just enjoy being around each other," Stevens said. "That carries over when we get on the court and play together. And I have complete confidence in any of (the freshman) in any game. If their number is called, they will be ready to go."

The key freshman Lambert averaged 25.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, 4.5 steals and 2.7 assists in high school, while other newcomer, Salvadores represented Spain in the U18 and U19 USA teams, averaging 20.0 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 2.3 assists in just over eight notable games for the gold medal.

McCallie showed curiosity towards her team at the season's start, for the tight-knit Blue Devils show no sign of disrespect.

"We were almost concerned at the start of the fall. We had such low drama; it was ridiculous. At the same time, they have found out how to get on to each other, what make to say to make each other better and what makes each other tick."

Florida State

The Seminoles are starting the season right where they left off as the seventh place team in the USA Today poll. With the help from their NCAA Elite Eight run, the team of twelve girls, five of which are not from America, will continue to hit the court and even hit the weights.

"In Europe we don't work as hard in the weight room as much as we do here, and the game is faster," said Leticia Romero, who last season finished eighth in the ACC field goal percentage with 50.4% and second in assists (5.4). "Those were the things I had to adjust to the most, plus the language, especially as a point guard. That was really hard for me at first, but it was something I knew I had to do in order to communicate with my teammates."

Last season, the team struck a 32-5 record with a conference record of 14-2. Florida State will try to prove that they are better than the predicted second finishers in the ACC head coaches poll and Blue Ribbon Panel.

Georgia Tech

As an opposing team, one might be nervous for the match-up against this season Jackets.

"We are back where we were my first 10 years here," said head coach MaChelle Joseph. "We are going to defend, rebound, play hard, going to play smart and play together. We've gotten back to an atmosphere where we are all blue-collar players who are going to outwork you every night. It has just been a joy for me to be part of."

The veteran coach and her team were chosen 11th in the ACC Preseason media poll after last season's 19-15 record and 7-9 conference stance.

Returning star Roddreka Rogers, led Georgia Tech as a junior with the most rebounds, 335 in just last season alone. Assisting her is other senior Aaliyah Whiteside, who put up 936 career points and averaged 13.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, and team's best 2.3 assists per game. These two will continue to show their leadership since they both played with no seniors on the court due to injuries.


To some, losing three starting contributors and half the roster may worry a coach and the program. Yet, nine-year head coach Jeff Walz feels the young team will work to strive well in this year's competition.

"I feel good offensively, but I am really concerned right now about getting our freshmen along defensively," said Jeff Walz.

The Cardinals went 27-7 with a 12-4 mark in the conference play, and reached the Sweet 16.

Mariya Moore finished the year with 454 points, the fourth most among the freshmen in program history, while listing as the school's top five in other freshmen categories including 3-pointers (No. 2, 62), free-throws (No. 2, 124) and assists (No. 4, 121). Myisha Allen-Hines totaled 402 points being seventh in the school history, along with a shot percentage of 55.8 from the field, which placed her at fourth in the ACC and 13 nationally.

With two All-Americans, Moore and Alien-Hines, and the nation's No. 1 recruiting class, the USA Today Sports Preseason Top 25 women's basketball poll chose Louisville at the 8th seed.


Last season, Miami finished 20-13 overall with an 8-8 conference record. The Hurricanes have made it to the post-season finals (WNIT or NCAA) for the past six straight years; yet, head coach Katie Meier trusts in her team's talents to advance them even further.

"If someone goes 7-9 (in the ACC), those seven wins could be so incredibly impressive that you can't keep them out," Meier said. "We were 8-8 last year, and our Notre Dame win last year helped get us in... And then we played really well in the NCAA Tournament, so we gave the ACC even more credibility. "

Returner, Adrienne Motley added to the team last season as the 2015-16 Blue Ribbon Panel Preseason All-ACC Team and  ACC Coaches Preseason All-ACC Team, along with averaging 16.9 points per game.

NC State

This season, the Wolfpack will consist of seven returning lettermen, two as starters, and a solid recruiting class that could allow a surprising outcome.

Last season, NC State went 18-15 overall with a 7-9 conference record. Co-captain Miah Spencer averaged 14 points per game and led the team with 107 assists. In addition, she scored double figures on 23 occasions and ranked 7th in the ACC in steals.

Arriving on the squad is a three-star recruit and USA Basketball Women's U17 World Championship Team member, Camille Anderson. She will offer lots of energy, a mentality of always working hard to win, and a solid 3-point shooter.

Head coach Wes Moore is eager to see the entire team at full swing come the first game.

"I think we have a lot more depth and size inside, and I hope that is something we can take advantage of," said Moore. "I am really excited about the season."


The University of North Carolina women's basketball team have been predicted to crumble; however, Head Coach Sylvia Hatchell believes all the vital parts are still present in the team.

"People think we are falling apart ... we're fine," said Hatchell. "We have talent, and I probably have the most experienced (coaching) staffs in the country with Andrew Calder, and now Sylvia Crawley is back with us. And in three weeks, we're going to sign a class of terrific (incoming) freshmen players. The past is behind us. We're going to be OK. We're going to be better than OK."

USA Today placed the Tar Heels as the 20th seed in the preseason poll, after last season's 10-6 conference record, 26-9 overall. Key freshmen players to look out for are No. 11 ranked by All-Star Girls Report and 17th by ESPN in her class Destinee Walker, and No. 14 ranked Stephanie Watts. The two will be playing with the five experienced seniors.

Notre Dame

The two-time defending ACC champions will stand with an army of talent as they fill in the WNBA Draft player Jewell Loyd. Last season, the Fighting Irish won the ACC Championship, yet fell short to UConn in the NCAA Final Four.

With an outstanding record of 36-3 overall, and 15-1 conference record, head coach Muffet McGraw feels this programs plan for the army of the three freshman All-Americans, Marina Mabrey, Arike Ogunbowale, and Ali Patberg, will cover for more points on the board.

"It is going to be difficult for us to replace Jewell because she had such a go-to presence on our team," said McGraw. "That is what we will be looking to establish on this year's team. It is easy to replace points; it is easy to replace stats."

The expectations remain high as the Fighting Irish remains the 3rd spot in the predicted poll, supported by four returning starts including Brianna Turner, the 2015 ACC Freshman of the Year and 2016 ACC Preseason Player of the Year.


Along with most of the ACC teams, the Panthers have eight of the 12 players either sophomores or juniors, no seniors. Former alumna Brianna Kiesel was drafted into the WNBA, allowing more opportunities for fresh new stars.

"But every day in practice (this fall) has been exciting and challenging. I think you look at each player individually," said Head Coach Suzie McConnell-Serio. "You look for which buttons you can and can't push. I tell my players I will challenge them. It starts with us as coaches, but it also starts with our sophomore class - which is our most experienced class - to provide leadership."

Pittsburgh was picked 10th in the ACC Preseason poll, following last seasons 9-7 conference action with their 20-12 overall record. The underdogs consisted of sophomore Yacine Diop, who played in and started all 32 games this season, was third on the team in scoring (9.4) and second in rebounding (7.2), and concluded as Pitt's first-ever ACC Freshman of the Week recipient.

Freshman Brenna Wise spoke at Media Day as an incoming freshman among rising stars eager to shine.

"If you don't expect anything from us, you're bound to be surprised," said Wise. "That is the way we look at it. We don't mind the underdog role."


Returning to the court is star player Brittney Sykes after missing last season due to an ACL injury. The team managed 22-10 record with an 11-5 conference stance without her presence; yet, Sykes will assists the team with her talents from her sophomore year where she averaged 16.6 points per game and shot over 50% for the season.

"I don't think you can really put a percentage on it," Sykes said when asked to assess the stage of her recovery.  "I can tell you that I feel great. I am taking part in every practice, taking part in every rep. The coaches and trainers are staying on top of it, and I am doing my part. I am not thinking about (the injury), and I am playing without fear."

Furthermore, Alexis Peterson will see a lot of playing time after her remarkable sophomore year averaging 16.2 points per game, which ranked her third in the league.


The Cavaliers will look to improve mentally on this season after last year's minor attention to detail.

"We have improved a lot on just finishing, being consistent and holding each other accountable," sophomore Mikayla Venson said. "We saw last year how that not paying attention to little things hurt us. We've definitely looked at that and tried to pay attention to it."

In last years 17-14 overall record, and 7-9 conference play, Venson set the Virginia freshman record for made-3's in a season (61) and became second in the conference in three-point percentage at 41.2.

Assisting her will be senior Faith Randolph, who placed sixth in the ACC in scoring average (16.4) and 12th in field goal shooting percentage (39.9). She was also ranked seventh in the nation in free throw percentage with an outstanding 90.7.

This past summer, a Navy Seal worked with the team in hopes of a better fight mentally.

"I like our grittiness this year," Randolph said. "I think our fight and our passion is going to help us win games... We all have the idea of what it takes to win. One of our mottos is "Know What It Takes." We want to attack and get stops. Last year we kind of faded away at the defensive end. This year we are taking the initiative of becoming a great defensive team."

Virginia Tech

Australian player Vanessa Panousis, may be far from home and adapting to the new rules and guidelines set for college hoops. However, she feels she fits at home with her team in Virginia.

"You know from talking to them that college basketball here is a great experience the way they talked about it," said Panousis. "It was something I wanted to do since I was 12 years old."

Panousis set the Virginia Tech single-season three-pointers made a record with 77 while also setting the sophomore class record. Also, she set the Tech record for consecutive games with a three-pointer at 17, spanning her freshman season into sophomore. Last season, she aided the team averaging 13.5 points per game.

Head Coach Dennis Wolff and the team went 12-20 with a conference record of 1-15. Without a doubt, the team is looking to improve. Until then, the three seniors along with the many passionate hearts will work to achieve goals.

Wake Forest

With Dearica Hamby in the WNBA, Wake Forest has confidence in the team's abilities after a competitive play against the 16th-ranked Duke Blue Devils in the ACC Tournament. Although the team went 13-20, 2 and 14 in the conference, third-year coach Jen Hoover has high hopes for this season's predicted 14th-ranked team.

Key contributors, Kandice Ball and Amber Campbell, will return to action this season. Ball, the 6'3'' senior, improved tremendously last season - she was second on the team with 19 blocked shots.

Campbell, who averaged 10.7 points per game as a freshman and was the only Demon Deacon to start all 33 contests, will fit with her returning teammates to collectively fit the puzzle.

"We can't wait until the end this season to play smart and show everyone what are capable of doing," said Ball. "We were playing hard all of last season, but we could have played smarter. This season, we don't want to wait until the end to play smart. We want to play that way in December, and carry that through all season long."