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ACC preview: Will Virginia Tech, Notre Dame or North Carolina come out on top?

Virginia Tech, last season’s tournament champs, and Notre Dame, last season’s regular season champs, are looking to remain at the top of the conference, while North Carolina and others are aiming to take the crown.

NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament - Final Four - Practice
Viriginia Tech’s Elizabeth Kitley warms up before a 2023 game as head coach Kenny Brooks observes.
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The landscape of the ACC looks very different than it did last year. With notable commitments and departures from some of the conference’s best players which team will come out on top remains a question. Here is the ACC coaches preseason rankings:

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

Here are our thoughts on where the best teams stand and what tiers the remaining teams are in:

Virginia Tech

LSU v Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech’s Georgia Amoore.
Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

With Elizabeth Kitley’s decision to return for another year, the Hokies are poised to make another ACC championship run. Last season, she averaged 18 points and 11 rebounds per game. Kitley is the cornerstone of this Hokies team, but she’s not alone. Georgia Amoore and Cayla King are both returning, but, for the most part, this team has a lot of transfers and inexperienced players. Six of the players on this roster are freshmen.

The biggest question is if this team will go through growing pains or if they can lean on the championship experience of the returners and dominate the regular season.

Notre Dame

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 02 Womens Notre Dame at Boston College
Notre Dame’s Olivia Miles.
Photo by Erica Denhoff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Olivia Miles remains the focal point for the Fighting Irish. After suffering a season-ending knee injury at the end of last year, her health and availability is crucial to Notre Dame’s success. With the departure of Dara Mabrey, Sonia Citron and Maddy Westbeld will be especially relied upon to step up.

North Carolina

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 05 Women’s North Carolina at Miami
North Carolina’s Deja Kelly.
Photo by Samuel Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Much like the other teams in the conference, the Tar Heels have lost some talent but still have experience to rely upon. Deja Kelly and Alyssa Ustby are returning and will be the leaders of this team once again. Last season, the Tar Heels were the fastest paced team in the conference and were both a top-four offense and defense. Ciera Toomey was a top-five rated recruit in the 2023 class; if she can contribute right away, UNC will remain in contention for the ACC crown.


Louisville v Iowa
Louisville’s Olivia Cochran.
Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

The Cardinals probably lost more talent than any other team in the conference. After losing Hailey Van Lith to LSU and Morgan Jones, Chrislyn Carr, and Mykasa Robinson to graduation, the Cardinals will be turning to transfers Jayda Curry and Sydney Taylor to carry the torch.

Florida State

Florida State v Miami
Florida State’s Ta’Niya Latson.
Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

The Seminoles will have the ACC scoring leader and the National Freshman of the Year Ta’Niya Latson once again leading them. Even though Latson dealt with injuries at the end of the season, what she was able to do as a freshman was outstanding. There’s no reason to believe she won’t be even better this year. If Latson is healthy, I’m very high on this team.

Tier 2: Duke, Miami, NC State

The Blue Devils lost Celeste Taylor to Ohio State during the summer, which is a huge blow for them. Despite that, Duke was still the best defensive team in the conference by a substantial margin. I don’t expect a fall off on that end, which means they will still be able to compete with any team.

The Miami Hurricanes have a few returners, but are also missing some key players from last season. The Wolfpack have a lot of freshmen on the roster and lost their leading scorer in Diamond Johnson to Norfolk State. But they still have a solid roster top-to-bottom that has the potential to make some noise.

Tier 3: Syracuse, Virginia, Clemson

Being in this tier certainly isn’t a bad thing. It wouldn’t surprise me if any of these teams sneak into a higher tier or even upset some of the top teams in the conference. Syracuse’s Dyaisha Fair is definitely in contention for the Naismith Women’s Player of the Year. Clemson was very impressive in their season opener and Virginia is bringing back almost all of their seniors.

Tier 4: Georgia Tech, Boston College, Wake Forest, Pittsburgh

These teams may be in the lowest tier, but I am very intrigued by Georgia Tech and Wake Forest and whether they could exceed expectations this season. I think they are the two best teams in this group, but all four could upset a team at the top on a given night.

Closing thoughts

The ACC is going through a very interesting period where departures and returners could redefine the success and future of a number of teams. This conference is anyone’s to win—so expect an intense contest for top spot. What remains the same is the ACC having at least five top-25 teams. Some things never change.