Duke picked as as preseason ACC basketball favorite

UNC's Luke Maye was the preseason pick as ACC Player of the Year while Duke's R.J. Barrett was chosen as Rookie of the Year

Freshmen R.J. Barrett, left, and Zion Williamson are two reasons why Duke is once again the preseason pick to win the ACC (Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

CHARLOTTE — The cast of characters is almost completely different, but the expectations are the same. For the fifth time in the last six years and 19th time overall, Duke is the preseason pick to win the ACC basketball championship.

Despite four of its starters never having played a regular season college game, the Blue Devils received 52 of 121 first-place votes for a total of 1,709 points in a preseason media poll conducted at the ACC’s Operation Basketball event on Wednesday in Charlotte.

Defending league champion Virginia placed a close second in the balloting with 1,699 points and 47 first-place votes, while North Carolina received 1,641 points and 20 first place votes to check in at No. 3.

Syracuse and Clemson were the only other teams to get first-place votes while being predicted to finish fourth and sixth, respectively, with Virginia Tech coming in at No. 5 between them. NC State was picked eighth while Wake Forest rounded out the state contingent by placing 14th in the 15-team ACC.

In the preseason individual award voting, UNC senior forward Luke Maye was the choice for Player of the Year, earning 50 votes to easily outdistance the Duke freshman duo of R.J. Barrett (22) and Zion Williamson (15).

Barrett was the choice for Rookie of the Year, with Williamson and fellow Blue Devils rookie Cam Reddish placing second and third. That influx of incoming five-star talent, along with highly rated point guard Tre Jones and sharpshooter Joey Baker, is the reason Duke is once again at the top of the preseason ACC poll.

“I think we’re going to be really together,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said of his young team. “This group really likes one another. We’ll be a lot better than we are now, and hopefully we’ll be worthy with our work and our effort to have a chance to win.”

Joining Maye and Barrett on the preseason All-ACC first team are Syracuse’s Tyus Battle, Virginia’s Kyle Guy and Boston College’s Ky Bowman, a native of Raleigh. The second team is made up of Williamson, Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter and Ty Jerome, Virginia Tech’s Justin Robinson and Clemson’s Marcquise Reed.

The biggest surprise in the voting is that UNC’s Nassir Little, a top-10 recruit nationally, did not get a single vote for ACC Rookie of the Year or all-conference.

ACC teams open regular-season play on Tuesday, Nov. 6 with 10 games set for opening night, including Duke taking on Kentucky in the State Farm Champions Classic in Indianapolis and UNC traveling to Wofford to play a Terriers team that beat it a year ago.

The first conference game of the 2018-19 season is set for New Year’s Day, when Notre Dame visits Virginia Tech at 1 p.m. The season will conclude with the 2018 ACC Tournament, which will return to North Carolina for the first time in four years at Charlotte’s Spectrum Arena from March 12-16.

Here are all the results of Wednesday’s preseason media voting:

ACC Operation Basketball 2018-19 Preseason Poll

(First-place votes in parenthesis)

1. Duke (52) – 1,709

2. Virginia (47) – 1,699

3. North Carolina (20) – 1,641

4. Syracuse (1) – 1,268

5. Virginia Tech – 1,187

6. Clemson (1) – 1,148

7. Florida State – 1,127

8. NC State – 885

9. Notre Dame – 859

10. Miami – 816

11. Louisville – 735

12. Boston College – 568

13. Georgia Tech – 324

14. Wake Forest – 313

15. Pitt – 241

Preseason All-ACC

First Team

Luke Maye, North Carolina (111)

Tyus Battle, Syracuse (86)

R.J. Barrett, Duke (76)

Kyle Guy, Virginia (62)

Ky Bowman, Boston College (58)

Second Team

Zion Williamson, Duke (55)

De’Andre Hunter, Virginia (32)

Justin Robinson, Virginia Tech (29)

Ty Jerome, Virginia (17)

Marcquise Reed, Clemson (16)

ACC Preseason Player of the Year

Luke Maye, North Carolina (50)

R.J. Barrett, Duke (22)

Zion Williamson, Duke (15)

Tyus Battle, Syracuse (11)

Ky Bowman, Boston College (7)

Kyle Guy, Virginia (5)                       

De’Andre Hunter, Virginia (4)

Ty Jerome, Virginia (2)

Justin Robinson, Virginia Tech (2)

Cam Reddish, Duke (1)

T.J. Gibbs, Notre Dame (1)

Jaylen Hoard, Wake Forest (1)

ACC Preseason Freshman of the Year

R.J. Barrett, Duke (66)

Zion Williamson, Duke (43)

Cam Reddish, Duke (4)

Jaylen Hoard, Wake Forest (3)

Coby White, North Carolina (2)

Jalen Carey, Syracuse (1)

Nate Laszewski, Notre Dame (1)

Jairus Hamilton, Boston College (1)