CHARLOTTE — It’s an annual rite of fall, along with the changing of the leaves and the first morning frost.
For the 19th time since the ACC began picking a preseason basketball poll in 1970, Duke and North Carolina were picked as the league’s top two teams for the coming season.
This time the Blue Devils and their roster full of five-star freshmen were selected as the preseason favorite, getting 1,020 points and 57 of 69 first-place votes cast at the ACC’s Operation Basketball media day in Charlotte on Wednesday.
UNC was a distant second with 921 points and seven first-place votes, followed by Notre Dame at 852 (four first-place votes) and Miami at 809 (1). Louisville, under interim coach David Padgett, was picked to finish fifth with 733 points.
The rest of the poll has Virginia (690), Virginia Tech (549), Florida State (519), Georgia Tech (468) and Syracuse (420) at six through 10. Wake Forest, fresh off its first NCAA tournament berth since 2010, was picked to finish 11th with 378 points while NC State checks in at No. 12 with 310 in coach Kevin Keatts’ first season with the Wolfpack.
Clemson (289), Boston College (181) and Pittsburgh (141) hold down the final three spots in the poll.
Duke’s Grayson Allen and Marvin Bagley III, along with UNC’s Joel Berry were named to the the first-team preseason All-ACC team, along with preseason Player of the Year Bonzie Colson of Notre Dame and Ben Lammers of Georgia Tech.
Bagley was picked as the preseason Rookie of the Year.
Duke’s selection at No. 1 was anything but a surprise. Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s team has been the preseason ACC favorite in four of the last five years and 18 times overall.
The Blue Devils have have been at or near the top of most national preseason projections because of a talented roster led by Allen, Bagley and fellow rookies Gary Trent Jr., and Trevon Duval.
That’s a lot of pressure for such a young team, but according to senior captain Allen — who was one of four freshmen on a team that won a national championship in 2015 — Duke is ready for the challenge.
“It’s a lot of attention, it’s a lot of hype. Everything’s a hyperbole. Everything’s either great or terrible,” Allen said of the expectations annually placed on the Blue Devils. “It can be a lot of pressure, but as a Duke basketball player they kind of equip us to deal with it and the attention that comes.
“But a lot of it is rightfully so. The freshmen we have coming in are extremely talented and highly touted guys. There’s naturally going to be hype around them, but you just kind of learn to deal with that.”
UNC is just as accustomed to high rankings and unlike rival Duke, the Tar Heels have plenty of experience on their side despite losing three starters from last year’s national championship team.
“It’s a different atmosphere, but at the same time we understand we have me, Luke (Maye), Kenny (Williams) and Joel (Berry) who have been to two (Final Fours),” senior wing Theo Pinson said. “We’re the type of competitors that we want to do it again. Any why not do it again?″
Just as the Tar Heels and Blue Devils have embraced their lofty preseason expectations, NC State is used to being picked much lower in the poll.
In fact, if senior forward Lennard Freeman had his way, his team would have finished even lower than 12th.
“Hopefully y’all pick us last, honestly, so we can only go up from there,” Freeman told members of the media Wednesday.
Keatts said that his player’s attitude was a good sign.
“The greatest motivation is if somebody doubts you,” the former UNCW coach said. “That’s a great opportunity for me to go back and challenge those guys, especially the seniors, and say ‘this is what people think about you.
“If we’re picked 12-15, when you look at our record and how much we lost, I think that’s appropriate right now. But you don’t win the ACC tournament by what you’re picked in the preseason.”
ACC preseason basketball poll
(First place votes in parenthesis)
- Duke (57) – 1020
- North Carolina (7) – 921
- Notre Dame (4) – 852
- Miami (1) – 809
- Louisville – 733
- Virginia – 690
- Virginia Tech – 549
- Florida State – 519
- Georgia Tech – 468
- Syracuse – 420
- Wake Forest – 378
- NC State – 310
- Clemson – 289
- Boston College – 181
- Pittsburgh – 141
Preseason All-ACC Team
Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame (64)
Grayson Allen, Duke (60)
Joel Berry II, North Carolina (58)
Marvin Bagley III, Duke (26)
Ben Lammers, Georgia Tech (25)
Bruce Brown Jr., Miami (22)
Quentin Snider, Louisville (12)
Deng Adel, Louisville (12)
Josh Okogie, Georgia Tech (11)
Jerome Robinson, Boston College (11)
Preseason Player of the Year
Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame (49)
Grayson Allen, Duke (9)
Joel Berry II, North Carolina (9)
Bruce Brown Jr., Miami (1)
Jerome Robinson, Boston College (1)
Preseason Rookie of the Year
Marvin Bagley III, Duke (58)
Lonnie Walker IV, Miami (3)
Lavar Batts Jr., NC State (2)
M.J. Walker, Florida State (2)
Jalek Felton, North Carolina (1)
Aamir Simms, Clemson (1)
Oshae Brissett, Syracuse (1)
De’Andre Hunter, Virginia (1)