How The Heralded ACC Freshman are Faring

With sportscasters panting over the ACC as the hottest basketball conference at the end of the 2015-2016 season, the usual big brand names pulled in top prospects in men’s college hoops. Due to injuries, the road they face isn’t quite as cheery as the NCAA big dogs or the ESPN big egos predicted.

As any follower of NCAA basketball should know, the most infamous ACC men’s basketball team is most likely Duke. The Blue Devils collected highly desirable recruits in Harry Giles, Marques Bolden and Jayson Tatum. Coach Mike Krzyzewski also swooped up Wendell Carter, the top uncommitted prospect from the recruiting class of 2017.

The Blue Devils are sitting pretty so far this season with their 8-1 record, but have done this without any of their prized prospects. The number one rated Harry Giles went under arthroscopy surgery on his left knee before the season. This is the same knee that Giles tore his ACL, MCL, and meniscus in 2013. Both Bolden and Tatum both returned in Duke’s 94-55 easy win over Maine this past weekend. Tatum scored 10 points and grabbed eight boards in 20 minutes while Bolden recorded seven points and five rebounds in 12 minutes. With Luke Kennard, Grayson Allen, and Amile Jefferson leading the Dukies, there’s no pressure to rush back these highly talented freshmen. Duke’s goal is to win a national championship in April and having their team fully healthy by tournament time is the right course of action.

The ACC other “royal team,” the North Carolina Tar Heels, also have an 8-1 record and rated as the seventh best team in the country. The bitter rival of the Duke Blue Devils, the Tar Heels were upset by a very talented Indiana Hoosiers team in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, Their next big matchup will be against the sixth ranked Kentucky Wildcats.

UNC’s top recruit is Seventh Woods, who really hasn’t made his presence felt in limited minutes. Woods saw a season-high in minutes in the Tar Heels’ 95-50 win over Radford and also scored a season-high nine points. The Tar Heels have had their share of top recruits. Roy Williams’ most productive has been forward Tony Bradley, who is averaging 9.9 points and 6.3 rebounds in 17.6 minutes per game this season. Another recruit who has seen a bit of action is Brandon Robinson, who is just averaging 3.2 points and 2.3 rebounds in 12 minutes per game.

There are a handful of notable ACC teams with recruits able to make a difference. Since the league expanded to 15 teams, it’s more of a challenge to snag the best players if you consistently finish in the middle (or bottom) of the pack. In order to compete at the top tier, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, Boston College, and Wake Forest need to draw a key recruit or two.

Syracuse’s top recruit, freshmen Tyus Battle, has seen sporadic playing time, ranging from 13 to 24 minutes in any given game. Jim Boeheim played the freshman guard 36 minutes in Syracuse’s 77-71 win over North Florida, leading Battle to score a season-high 19 points. he burden of carrying the Orange to victory. It’s all on him at this point. Another freshman who is contributing for Syracuse is 6’10” forward Taurean Thompson, who is averaging 6.4 points and 3.1 rebounds in his 15 minutes per game.

Florida State, Louisville, and possibly North Carolina State can hold in the middle or move up. Miami has an explosive team with contributions from a few talented recruits. Two of the best are Dewan Huell and Bruce Brown. Clemson has a chance to climb up the ACC ladder with three transfers. If they can build some momentum and gel as a team, the Tigers could have some success.

Kyle Guy, a newbie with Virginia, has the overwhelming challenge of replacing Malcolm Brogdon. Coach Bennett is doubling down on Guy to team up with point guard London Perrantes for an impressive shooting backcourt.

The ACC looks to be the conference in charge again this season. The conference produces more NBA players than any other NCAA men’s basketball conference. In the past 15 years, Duke and North Carolina have snagged 18 of the top 25 recruits in the country. It’s not just the blue bloods of Duke and North Carolina carrying the conference. Six ACC teams earned a spot in the Sweet Sixteen last year. With the amount of talent that came in this season, there’s no reason why the ACC can’t meet or exceed last year’s success.

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