North Carolina will enter the 2015-16 season as the Atlantic Coast Conference favorite, according to a vote of media in attendance at the league’s annual “Operation Basketball.”
The Tar Heels, who return four starters from last year’s team that reached the finals of the ACC Tournament and the “Sweet 16” of the NCAAs, received 60 of 89 first-place votes in Wednesday’s preseason poll. In addition to point guard Marcus Paige, the Tar Heels will welcome back forwards Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks and sophomore guard Justin Jackson. Five additional players that saw significant playing time from last season’s 26-12 team are also set to return.
Virginia, which has won a total of 60 games over the past two seasons while claiming the 2014 ACC championship and placing atop the ACC regular-season standings in both 2014 and ’15, received 18 first-place votes and placed second in the overall preseason voting. Defending national champion Duke (eight first-place votes) placed third.
Defending ACC champion Notre Dame received one first-place and placed fourth, followed by Miami, Florida State (one first-place vote) and Louisville.
NC State placed eighth, while Syracuse received the remaining first-place vote and finished ninth. Pitt placed 10th, while Wake Forest, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Boston College rounded out the voting.
North Carolina senior guard Marcus Paige and Virginia senior guard Malcolm Brogdon were named Preseason ACC Co-Players of the Year after each received 36 votes among those casting ballots. Paige averaged 14.1 points and 4.5 assists last season while shooting .395 from 3-point range and .865 from the foul line. Brogdon (14.0 ppg) was a finalist for the 2015 John Wooden Award and was named a second-team All-American by four publications.
Duke freshman Brandon Ingram, a 6-foot-9, 190-pound swing man from Kinston, North Carolina, was the overwhelming choice as ACC Preseason Freshman of the Year on 82 of the ballots cast. Ingram averaged over 24 points and 10 rebounds as a high school senior and led Kinston High to four consecutive state titles.
Paige, Brogdon, Ingram, Florida State’s Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Notre Dame’s Demtrius Jackson were voted to the Preseason All-ACC first team. Virginia’s Anthony Gill, Duke’s Grayson Allen, Notre Dame’s Zach Auguste, NC State’s Anthony “Cat” Barber and North Carolina’s Johnson were second-team selections.
UNC was picked as the ACC preseason favorite for a league-high 21st time (20 times outright, one tie) in the 47-year history of the poll, and the sixth time under current head coach Roy Williams. Media voters tabbed Duke as the preseason favorite each of the previous two seasons.
The Tar Heels tied with Kentucky for the No. 1 spot in the USA Today Coaches Preseason Poll, while Duke ranked fourth and Virginia sixth. Notre Dame was voted 18th, while Louisville, NC State, Florida State and Miami all received votes.
The regular season begins for all 15 ACC teams the weekend of Nov. 13-15. In addition to an 18-game regular-season conference schedule, the 63rd annual ACC be held March 8-12 (Tuesday through Saturday at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.
ACC Operation Basketball 2015-16 Preseason Poll
(First-place votes in parenthesis)
Team & Points
1. North Carolina (60): 1292
2. Virginia (18): 1226
3. Duke (8): 1187
4. Notre Dame (1): 949
5. Miami: 841
6. Florida State (1): 827
7. Louisville: 821
8. NC State: 808
9. Syracuse (1): 666
10. Pitt: 623
11. Wake Forest: 391
12. Clemson: 359
13. Georgia Tech: 296
14. Virginia Tech: 260
15. Boston College: 134