Last season, seven ACC teams had spots in the NCAA tournament. This year in a crowded conference, they are hoping for more of the same. For right now at least, there is a standout favorite.
According to polls from the blue ribbon panel and the conference coaches, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are the favorites to win the conference. They are also at No. 6 in the AP Top 25 and No. 5 in the USA Today poll.
Notre Dame is looking for it’s fifth straight ACC title, and is returning two double-digit scoring threats in Arike Ogunbowale and Marina Mabrey. Having those two will likely ease the loss of Lindsay Allen, playmaker extraordinaire. Their biggest obstacle to overcome, however, is the loss of Brianna Turner, who is redshirting after tearing her ACL.
The Fighting Irish will have their hands full, considering the Louisville Cardinals are right on their tail.
Louisville returns Asia Durr and Myisha Hines-Allen, who both averaged double digits last season. They also have three top-25 recruits joining the fray in Dana Evans, Lindsey Duvall and Loretta Kakala. Overall, as head coach Jeff Walz said at media day, the Cardinals backcourt is a lot deeper this season. They have the ability to create plenty of matchup problems based on their depth alone.
Duke has arguably the best player in the conference, senior Lexie Brown, who is entering her final season. Last year she averaged 18.3 points per game, and also led the team with 3.9 assists. With her at the helm, it’s no wonder Duke was picked to finish third in the league, and currently sits at No. 12 in both major national polls.
The Blue Devils will also add freshman Mikayla Boykin, who averaged a whopping 37.4 points, 13.7 rebounds, 6.5 assists, and 5.6 steals per game as a high school senior.
Florida State also occupies a spot in both major polls, at No. 18 in the AP Top 25 and No. 14 in the USA Today poll. The Seminoles return Shakayla Thomas and Imani Wright, who both averaged double-digits last season. While they will be without Leticia Romero and Brittany Brown, they have a huge defensive advantage with returning center Chatrice White, who had 50 blocks last year.
Finally, banging on the door for supremacy is Virginia. The Cavaliers were slated to finish fifth in the ACC, and return Dominique Toussaint, Jocelyn Willoughby and Lauren Moses. Their only major loss was Breyana Mason, and based on the fact that they are led by vets, it’s not surprising that they received votes in both major polls.
Virginia is arguably the biggest team in the conference, and are fueled by their desire to make it to the NCAA tournament after being left out last year.
All in all, the ACC may be one of the most competitive conferences in the country this season. That means plenty of can’t-miss games that will likely have huge impact on final rankings.
Buckle up, ACC fans.