No. 17 North Carolina Tar Heels at No. 10 Miami Hurricanes Betting Preview

Saturday, December 12, 2020, Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida, 3:30 p.m. ET

Tar Heels at Hurricanes Betting Preview: Tar Heels  (+3.5), Hurricanes (-3.5)

Tar Heels

No. 17 North Carolina will be a much tough test for a Miami defense coming off a shutdownout win over Duke.  Quarterback Sam Howell, who beat Miami as a freshman last year, ranks ninth nationally and first in the ACC in passing yards per game (312.9) for the Tar Heels (7-3, 6-3 Atlantic Coast Conference)..

North Carolina’s offense is second in the ACC in points (41.1), which is in stark contrast to the team Miami just played (Duke, 23.8 points, 13th place in the league).

The Tar Heels have three players who could go over 1,000 yards for the season Saturday: running back Michael Carter (937), wide receiver Dyami Brown (932) and running back Javonte Williams (904).

Williams, a junior who leads the league and is tied for second nationally with 19 touchdowns, could bolt early for the NFL in April.

“We would never tell a junior, ‘We really want you to come back,’ ” North Carolina coach Mack Brown said.”Come on, man. That’s not fair to them.”

Carter ranks fourth in the ACC in rushing yards per game, third in total rushing yards and second in yards per carry (7.1). Williams is fifth, fourth and third in those carries, getting 6.7 yards per carry. Brown is second in reception yards per game.


No. 10 Miami is going for its sixth straight win since losing at Clemson in early October. The Hurricanes (8-1, 7-1 ACC) also try to avenge last year’s 28-25 loss at North Carolina.

Miami is 4-0 at home and beat Duke 48-0 last week despite having 15 players out due to injuries, coronavirus and other issues.

“There were five or six other players that we found out could play just one day before the game,” Hurricanes coach Manny Diaz said. “We’re hoping the list of players out will be much shorter (than 15) this week.”

Despite missing five key defensive players against Duke — including full-time starters in cornerback Al Blades, linebacker Zach McCloud and defensive tackle Jonathan Ford — Miami forced five turnovers and missed just one tackle, according to Pro Football Focus.

Credit goes to numerous players, including Quincy Roche, who was named ACC Defensive Player of the Week after netting three tackles for loss, forcing fumble and making a fumble recovery. Defensive tackle Jordan Miller and linebacker Waynmon Steed made their first career collegiate starts.

For the season, Roche and fellow Miami defensive end Jaelan Phillips are tied for third in the league in tackles for loss per game (1.56).

Miami will test a North Carolina defense that has given up 28.6 points a game — seventh in the conference –with quarterback D’Eriq King. King ranks third in the ACC behind only Howell and Clemson star Trevor Lawrence in total offense with 311.2 yards per game. King has passed for 2,334 yards and run for 467, fulfilling his reputation as a dual threat.

Hurricanes receiver Mike Harley is ninth in the league in reception yards per game (72.6).

Miami’s other playmakers include stellar tight ends Brevin Jordan and Will Mallory, who have combined to catch 40 passes for 590 yards and eight touchdowns this season.

On the ground, the Hurricanes have three running backs who have combined for 1,031 yards: junior Cam’Ron Harris and freshmen Donald Chaney and Jaylan Knighton. Those three backs have combined to score 14 total touchdowns, including 12 rushing.

Tar Heels at Hurricanes Betting Pick for December 12, 2020

Officially, Miami leads the series 11-10 with the Tar Heels forced to vacate 2008 and 2009 wins because of NCAA penalties, but on the field, the Tar Heels have a 12-11 advantage after their 28-25 victory at Chapel Hill last year. The Hurricanes romped 47-10 in 2018 in their last meeting on their turf. 

Tar Heels at Hurricanes Betting Pick:

Hurricanes 45,Tar Heels 38

Tar Heels at Hurricanes Best Bet for December 12, 2020

The two teams are among the highest scoring in the conference with North Carolina averaging 41.1 points a game and Miami 34.9 to rank second and fifth, respectively. But the Hurricanes have held their opponents to 11.0 points a game after last week’s shutout of Duke, and the Heels have given up 28.6 per game despite a 49-9 win over FCS foe Western Caroline to last week.

Tar Heels at Hurricanes Best Bet: OVER 67.5

OddsUSA College Football Best Bet of the Week: North Carolina Tar Heels at Miami Hurricanes

Spread: Miami -2.5

Moneyline: Miami -154; North Carolina +126

Over/Under: 67.5

*Odds via

There is nothing on the line for either North Carolina or Miami in their game this weekend. The ACC title game is already set. Neither is in the national championship picture. Both quarterbacks have long since fallen out of contention for the Heisman Trophy.

So, how are the respective coaches going to motivate their teams to play their hardest?

Therein lies the beauty of college football. It is not always about what you can gain or lose, depending on the game’s outcome. It is about winning for the sake of winning, having a better record, and pride. Coaches don’t have to dangle the prospect of winning a championship to get the most out of their team.

But these guys do have something to gain from winning this weekend—a higher ranking and a better bowl bid.  However, both teams have talented rosters that will not go down without a fight. So—who’s going to win?

North Carolina Tar Heels

For the Tar Heels, it is all about how much damage they can do on offense. Sam Howell is one of the better quarterbacks in the country. He has an excellent tandem of running backs to work with in Michael Carter and Javonte Williams. Both are also good receiving threats out of the backfield.

The offensive line has played well for most of the season, and wide receivers Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome are one of the more dynamic wide receiver duos in the country.

North Carolina can put up some points (41.1 per game; 12th in the country). They generate offense (534.5 total yards per game; fifth in the country). But where they struggle is stopping their opponents from doing the same.

They have been giving up over 400 yards (61st) and 28.6 points a game this season (63rd). But they have been able to come through on occasion for the Tar Heels. With Miami giving up more tackles for a loss than anyone else in the ACC, they might get a chance to do so this weekend.

Miami Hurricanes

The Hurricanes were expected to be a good team last season, but they were missing one essential thing—a good quarterback. That is certainly not the case this year. The addition of a dynamic playmaker like D’Eriq King made them an instant threat to Clemson for conference supremacy.

Something which a 42-17 early-season loss quickly brought that dream to an end.

But the Hurricanes have bounced back well from the loss with five consecutive wins—and King’s play has had a lot to do with it. His numbers are not gaudy, but he has been efficient and makes few (if any) mistakes. So far this season, he has thrown 20 touchdowns and four picks.

Defensively, Miami is not a good team, but they are not a bad one either. They are averaging right around 366 total yards allowed per game (44th), 139.1 on the ground (42nd), and 227.1 through the air (56th). 

But while they may give up a decent number of yards, they are stingy when it comes to points (22.0 per game; 30th).

Game Prediction

Look for both Howell and King to have a big day here as both teams generate a ton of offense and score a lot of points. The lead will go back and forth throughout the game; the winner could very well be the team that has the ball last (and scores, of course).

While the Tar Heels have more overall talent on their offense, Miami has the most dynamic player in the game in King. In the end, he is going to make the difference and lead the Hurricanes to the end.

Take Miami to win, straight up and ATS. As for the over/under—these two teams will cover the over.

Prop Bets

If you are not sure about who will win the game, you may be more interested in some of the production-based prop bets FanDuel is offering. For instance, the total passing yards mark has been set at over 300 for both quarterbacks (Sam Howell o/u 309.5; D’Eriq King o/u 304.5).

Assuming this game turns into the wild shoot out it is expected to be, both could easily cover the over. But both only have three 300+ yard games this season. It is more likely that both come close but finish with less. Take the under for both.

But the more fun question is figuring out who will score in the game (rushing and receiving touchdowns only). Howell and King have scored four rushing touchdowns this season; King may do so here but don’t bank on Howell running into the endzone.

Javonte Williams has scored 16 touchdowns this season, with at least one coming in every game but one. You can count on him scoring in this one; take the over on his rushing total as well (72.5). Michael Carter did not score in six of UNC’s ten games this season. Do not take him to score, but do take him to cover the over for his rushing total (77.5).

Dazz Newsome and Dyami Brown are hit or miss when it comes to getting in the endzone, but if you want to take one of them, take Brown.

As for Miami, the ball has been spread around a lot this year. So, there is no go-to touchdown. Cam’ron Harris has scored half of the team’s rushing touchdowns, so he looks like a good bet to score. Mike Harley has scored in four of his last five games (take him). But leave the rest alone.   

ACC/Big Ten Challenge Best Bets: Look For a ‘B1G’ Tuesday

The college basketball schedule has been littered with captivating matchups out of the gate to begin the season.  While we have lost many games due to the ongoing pandemic, Tuesday night’s slate should be the best college basketball slate of the young season and that’s because the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge officially tips off with a delicious menu of non-conference college basketball goodness.

As we knock on wood to ensure as many of these games as possible can still proceed (we already lost Louisville-Wisconsin and Michigan-NC State), let’s hone in on the Best Bets of the evening in three of the biggest matchups of the week.

#16 North Carolina at #3 Iowa 

Spread: Iowa -3
Total: O/U 155.5
Time/TV: 7:30 PM ET, ESPN

The Iowa Hawkeyes couldn’t have asked for a better start to the season.  

Iowa is ranked 3rd in the country, their highest ranking since 2016, and a perfect 3-0 to start the season winning by an average of 33 points per game.  Wooden Award favorite Luka Garza has been utterly ridiculous out of the gates as he is averaging 34 points and 10 rebounds per game while shooting 76% from the floor and 62.5% (!!) from three-point range.  Have we mentioned the man is nearly 7-feet tall?!

Garza is not a one-man army for Fran McCaffrey’s Hawkeyes either.  Iowa’s trio of Joe Wieskamp, Patrick McCaffery, and Jack Nunge has given the Hawks additional firepower and senior Jordan Bohannon gives Iowa a steady hand at point guard to run the show.     

The Hawkeyes, however, have certainly been feeding off the minnows in college basketball’s ocean of teams.  The likes of NC Central, Southern, and Western Illinois aren’t exactly Final Four sleepers in the making.  Tonight’s contest will be their first true test of the season when the much-improved North Carolina Tar Heels make the rare road trip to Iowa City.

The Heels are off to a 3-1 start to the season, their most recent outing being their lone loss of the season in the Maui Invitational Final to #13 Texas.  The fate of tonight could rest on the ankle of senior center Garrison Brooks, as no one else on the Carolina roster is equipped to handle Garza.  The preseason ACC player of the year has not been cleared to play as of Monday evening, and will likely be a game-time decision for Roy Williams’ bunch.

North Carolina would certainly prefer to have their senior leader on the floor, but if they do not improve upon their grisly shooting numbers of 45.2% from the floor (220th overall by KenPom) and 27.1% from three-point range (237th overall by KenPom), Brooks presence may not mean a whole lot when matching up against the 3rd most efficient offense in the country.  

Fortunately for the Heels, Iowa isn’t exactly known for their defensive prowess.  While they have glowing statistics in every defensive category to start the 2020 season, they will almost surely regress to the mean when they are playing better competition.  A season ago, the Hawkeyes checked in as the 171st most efficient defense in the country and allowed their opponents to shoot nearly 50% from the floor.  North Carolina should have their opportunities to improve their shooting tonight.  

Ultimately this will be one of the more entertaining non-conference games of the season. If Garrison Brooks were 100-percent healthy I would feel a little more comfortable backing the Heels on the road, but Garza is going to be too much to handle. I like the Hawkeyes to cover the 3-point spread if Brooks plays, and I like it even more if he doesn’t.

Prediction: Iowa 80, North Carolina 72
Best Bet: Iowa -3

#6 Illinois at #10 Duke 

Spread: Duke -4
Total: O/U 147.5
Time/TV: 9:30 PM ET, ESPN

The last time these two schools met came back in 2007 when Duke would beat Illinois by the score of 79-66.  To say a few things have changed in the 13 years since would be a slight understatement.  

The one constant in those 13 years would be Duke’s basketball program continually being one of the best in the country, but there are quite a few questions about this season’s Blue Devils, the largest being how they will fare in an empty Cameron Indoor Stadium. 

The results thus far have been mixed.  Duke does enter tonight’s game with a 2-1 record but did lose in their lone test of the early 2020 campaign when they fell 75-69 to now #4 Michigan State.  In their most recent action, the Blue Devils never trailed in a 76-54 victory over Atlantic Sun member Bellarmine as Matthew Hurt chipped in 24 points and went 6-for-8 from distance. 

The competition will see a dramatic boost this evening when 6th ranked Illinois comes to town.  The Illini were last in action six days ago when they would fall to #2 Baylor 82-69 in the Jimmy V Classic.  The Bears’ combination of outside shooting and smothering defense was too much to overcome for Brad Underwood’s team in the second half after the Illini went into the halftime break trailing by just a point.

The Illini are paced by their dynamic duo of Ayo Dosunmu (23.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 6.3 apg) and Kofi Cockburn (13.0 ppg, 9.8 rpg) and feature the 11th best three-point shooting team in the country.  The Illini are not only snipers from outside, they are also a terror on the glass and boast the 2nd best offensive rebounding percentage according to KenPom’s analytic ratings.  That could ultimately be the difference in tonight’s game.  

In Duke’s loss to Michigan State, the Blue Devils struggled against the Spartans’ physicality.  Duke was outrebounded and shot a paltry 32% from the floor.  Without the screaming student body to propel them, the team had a hard time ending the Spartans surge in the second half and the teams’ inexperience began to appear.  While Duke has played another game since the same issues that haunted them in their loss to Michigan State may haunt them once more tonight.

It’s hard to envision Duke being 0-2 on their home floor against a pair of Top 10 opponents, but the 2020 season will be full of surprises with this being the most chaotic season in history.  The young Blue Devils will gel soon enough, but tonight the experienced Illini will use the same blueprint their conference foes used against them last week to land a big road victory.

Prediction: Illinois 79, Duke 74
Best Bet: Illinois +4 (Would also sprinkle some on Illinois ML)

Syracuse at #21 Rutgers 

Spread: Rutgers -3.5
Total: O/U 140.5
Time/TV: 9:30 PM ET, ESPN2

While this matchup doesn’t feature a blue blood program like North Carolina or Duke, this could be one of the better games of the entire ACC/Big Ten Challenge when it’s all said and done.

Syracuse enters tonight’s contest with a perfect 3-0 record on the season, their latest victory being a 35-point drubbing of MAAC member Rider.  Jim Boeheim’s Orange entered the season with expectations that they would be a three-point chucking machine, and they’ve been every bit as advertised.  In their 87-52 win over Rider, ‘Cuse shot 15-of-30 from distance, by far their best showing to date in the young season.

The Orange have been led in large part by the frontcourt tandem of Alan Griffin (16.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg), and Quincy Guerrier (16.3 ppg, 11.0 rpg).  The team did get back shooting specialist, and coach’s son, Buddy Boeheim for their victory over Rider, but he will be missing in action this evening as he is quarantining after being deemed that he was close in contact with a walk-on player that tested positive for COVID-19.  Freshman Kadary Richmond will fill in as Boeheim sits, and while he’s not the shooter that Boeheim is, he has shown to be a very capable defender and feels like a natural fit in Syracuse’s vaunted 2-3 zone defense. 

Meanwhile, Rutgers was on the verge of their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1991 when last season abruptly ended, and several questions swirled over the team entering this season in regards to whether or not they’d be able to replicate last season’s success all over again.

So far, so good for the Scarlet Knights.  Rutgers was one of the stronger home teams in the country a season ago and they’re a perfect 3-0 at the RAC to kick off the new campaign.  The Scarlet Knights have been led by their trio of guards with Ron Harper Jr. (21.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg), Jacob Young (15.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg), and Montez Mathis (15.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg) all picking up where they left off last season.   

Where there could be some concern, however, comes with the fact Rutgers has not played in 10 days.  Additionally, while their guard play is among the strongest in the Big Ten, they’re not an outside shooting team whatsoever.  A season ago, Rutgers had the 295th ranked three-point shooting team in the country, this season that’s up to 202nd, but the Scarlet Knight’s first three opponents have been softer than a new roll of Charmin.  They still can’t shoot from outside.

Rutgers is also a woeful team at the free-throw line, shooting it 55% from the charity stripe to begin the season after fielding the 333rd rated free-throw shooting team a season ago.  

Where Rutgers earns their milk money comes on the defensive end of the floor and by attacking the paint.  Rutgers boasted the 6th most efficient defense in college basketball a season ago per KenPom and currently sits at 12th overall after the first few weeks of action.  They will force the Orange into a lot of contested shots and they will attack the Cuse zone on the glass.  

This game just screams like a hard-fought defensive battle with a lot of shots clanging off the rim.  I don’t have a strong feel for a side in this matchup but I love the under and look for a game in which each opponent struggles to hit 70 points. 

Prediction: Rutgers 68, Syracuse 65
Best Bet: UNDER 140.5

Black Friday Best Bets: Irish, Heels to Light Up the Scoreboard?

Ah, the day after Thanksgiving, a wonderful day where you can spend the day on the couch feasting on Thanksgiving Day leftovers while avoiding getting stampeded for discounted electronics.

The college football is typically pretty good too, even during the broken year that is 2020.

Friday’s slate boasts nine matchups in all, but we’ve unearthed the three Best Bets of the day.  If you want to make a little extra dough today while trying to get that new PS5, we got you covered.

#2 Notre Dame at #19 North Carolina

Spread: Notre Dame -5.5
Total: O/U 68.5
Time/TV: 3:30 PM ET, ABC

The first CFP ranking is out and the Irish are sitting as the #2 team in the country.  Today, however, Notre Dame faces its biggest road test of the season with a trip to Chapel Hill to meet Mack Brown’s 19th ranked North Carolina Tar Heels.

Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of this matchup. 

The Notre Dame offense has come to life in recent weeks, posting 40+ points in three of the last four games including a wild 47-40 2OT win over Clemson.  QB Ian Book is playing the best football of his collegiate football career and the Irish have put up over 500 yards of offense in their last two games.

Analytics has the Irish as a Top 10 offense.  Old fashioned statistics back up that assessment.  Notre Dame is playing its best football of the season and gets a great matchup today against a North Carolina defense that is giving up over 410 yards of offense per game and nearly six yards per play.

While the ‘Heels defense leaves a lot to be desired, their offense is one of the best in the country.  North Carolina boasts the 4th overall offense in the country, averaging an eye-popping 563 yards per contest and 43 points per game.

To me, this has all the makings of a possible upset and an even more probable shootout.  The recent trends back up the shootout as well as Notre Dame has gone over the total in five of the last six games off a Notre Dame bye week, while UNC is 7-3-1 to the over in their last 11 games as the underdog.

Both defenses could be in for a long day, making that 5.5-point spread a riskier play.  I will avoid picking a side in this contest and root for the scoreboard to light up.  Take the over in this one and don’t look back.

Best Bet: OVER 68.5 (Play up to 69.5)

#15 Oregon at Oregon State

Spread: Oregon -12.5
O/U 66.5
7:30 PM ET, ESPN

The 124th installment of Oregon vs. Oregon State kicks off later this evening from Corvallis with the Ducks looking to improve their CFP standing with another victory.

The rivalry formerly known as the ‘Civil War’ has been dominated by the Ducks over the last decade with Oregon going 9-1 overall in the L10 matchups between these two schools.  Against the spread, however, has been a different story as the two sides have split it right down the middle going 5-5 ATS over the same time frame.

The Ducks are led by sophomore quarterback Tyler Shough this season and Shough has done a great job out of the gates in replacing the likely NFL Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert.  Oregon is averaging just under 500 yards of total offense through their first three games of the season and Shough leads the conference in touchdown passes.  The Ducks are not the same offensive powerhouse that they were under Chip Kelly many years ago, but they’re still a very potent group.

Oregon State, however, has shown to be better than advertised thus far to start the season.  While the Beavs are sitting at 1-2 to start the year, they’ve been competitive in all three contests including a 27-21 loss to Washington that was scheduled at the very last minute due to COVID-19 cancellations.

The Beavers’ focal point on offense comes with running back Jermar Jefferson.  Jefferson averages over 166 yards of total offense per game and has notched five rushing touchdowns.  The Beavers offense as a whole averages about 360 yards of offense, so you can see how much they lean on their junior running back.

Each defense comes into this game showing signs of weakness, most notably Oregon’s rushing defense which has been gouged for nearly 190 yards a game.  

Despite the unorthodox Pac-12 season, this is still a rivalry game and these are still two teams that do not like each other.  Oregon should come away with another win in this series, but I like the Beavers to keep it close by running the ball and keeping the Ducks explosive offense on the sideline.

Best Bet: Oregon State +12.5

Central Michigan at Eastern Michigan

Spread: Central Michigan -7
Total: O/U 59.5
Time/TV: 4:00 PM ET, CBS Sports Network

Of course, I couldn’t resist that sweet, sweet MACtion.

You may have noticed the Tuesday and Wednesday MACtion goodness was absent this week.  Unfortunately, we’re now at the point of the schedule where we will no longer have our mid-week fix of Mid-American Conference football, but Friday MACtion is just as juicy.

Today’s offering is an in-state rivalry amongst Michigan universities when Central Michigan heads to Ypsilanti to meet Eastern Michigan.

Central Michigan is coming off of their first loss of the season, a 52-44 defeat at the hands of Western Michigan, and now looks to keep their MAC West division hopes alive with a road victory today.

Eastern Michigan has been a tough foe for their MAC brethren to face, however.  Take these trends into consideration today:

• EMU is 15-4 ATS after failing to cover in its previous game (EMU did not cover in 45-28 loss to Toledo)
• EMU is 24-8 ATS in their last 32 games overall as an underdog
• EMU is 18-8 ATS the last 26 games against teams with a winning record
• EMU is 19-7 ATS following a straight-up loss in their last 26 games

While Central Michigan has covered the last three match-ups in this series, I still like Eastern Michigan’s chances to keep this game within a touchdown today.  EMU has been miserable in running the football this season (115th overall in the country), but they’ve been respectable throwing the ball (52nd overall) and they face a Chippewas defense that just got lit up in the passing game a little over a week ago.

Look for CMU to win, but EMU to cover in another MAC thriller.  I love the seven here but would buy the hook if you have the opportunity.

Best Bet: Eastern Michigan +7 (Would buy up to +7.5)

ACC College Basketball 2020-21 Preview

The ACC was well on their way to having one of the most disappointing showings in conference history before the COVID-19 put an end to the college basketball season in the middle of March.

Despite the surprisingly down season from the conference, Duke was still sitting in the top-10, Florida State was emerging as a real threat to make a deep run in the tournament, Louisville was a dangerous team, and Virginia was playing some of its best basketball of the season.

The 2020/21 campaign should have the ACC returning more to the form we’re accustomed to seeing from the basketball power conference, though the league does not have a truly imposing team for all of the country to fear either.

Instead, the ACC is a very balanced conference this season that will have its familiar names at the top of the standings, but when it comes to the rest of the pecking order the conference has the potential to be very competitive and very exciting.

Here’s how the ACC shakes out for the upcoming season.

The Contenders

#4 Virginia Cavaliers (+215 to Win ACC)

Before the 2019/20 college basketball season was called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tony Bennett’s Virginia Cavaliers were quietly playing their best basketball of the season.  They were on an eight-game winning streak and heading into the ACC Tournament before they would defend their title in March.

That of course never got the chance to happen, but Tony Bennett’s team is in perfect position this season to pick up where they left off in March and to be a very serious contender in cutting the nets down all over again. 

The Hoos are widely considered to be the favorite to win the ACC this season, both from pundits and oddsmakers alike and for good reason.  Tony Bennett has compiled quite the group for the 2020/21 campaign. 

A strong returning core became that much better when Bennett added Marquette grad transfer, Sam Hauser, to the team.  Hauser is the ideal stretch four and will dramatically improve the Virginia offense.  Once again the veteran Kihei Clark will run the point, and he is amongst the most efficient point guards in all of college basketball.

Bennett also has a solid incoming recruiting class, headlined by four-star recruit Jabril Abdur-Rahim.  If that name sounds somewhat familiar, it’s probably because he is the son of former NBA star Shareef Abdur-Rahim.

Top to bottom, there is not a more complete team in the ACC than Virginia.  If there is a 1 seed to come out of the ACC this season, it will likely be Bennett’s Cavs that land it.

#9 Duke Blue Devils (+225 to Win ACC)

No one in the ACC has reaped the benefits of the one-and-done era more than Coach K and the Duke Blue Devils.  We’ve seen some of the most highly-decorated recruiting classes in college basketball come through Durham, North Carolina, but the 2020/21 iteration of Duke basketball will look differently than we’ve grown accustomed to over the years.

Before Duke haters rejoice that Coach K doesn’t have a future #1 overall draft pick on his roster, it should be known that he does have a team riddled with five-star talent once again. 

Freshman guards Jeremy Roach and DJ Steward will fill the holes from Tre Jones and Cassius Stanley departing to the NBA, while the front-court will be aided by the additions of five-star forwards Jalen Johnson and Jaemyn Brakefield. 

Duke saw center Vernon Carey depart for the NBA Draft, but also added four-star center Mark Williams and grad transfer Patrick Tape (Columbia) to help fill that void.  In addition to that, the Blue Devils also get Matthew Hurt and Wendell Moore back, so this is going to be a very deep team with no spectacular star that stands out. 

If there’s a potential x-factor to the upcoming season for Duke, however, it’s the fact that this season will be played with no fans at Cameron Indoor Stadium.  If there’s a school in college basketball that has an imposing home-court advantage, it’s Duke.  Does taking that away level the playing field now with other schools who have notoriously struggled playing in that hostile environment?  We’re about to find out.  

#21 Florida State Seminoles (+300 to Win ACC)

Thanks to the sudden stoppage of the 2019/20 season, the Florida State Seminoles are your reigning ACC champions.  Florida State will need to replace the losses of Devin Vassell and Patrick Williams, both of whom were lottery picks in the 2020 NBA Draft. 

Leonard Hamilton has quietly built quite the program in Tallahassee, however, and Florida State may just very well be a basketball school now the way their football program has struggled immensely over the last several seasons.

Hamilton’s program is now in the position to draw in top recruits and did just that when Scottie Barnes signed on to play at Florida State.  The 6’9” five-star prospect became the highest-rated recruit to ever play at Florida State and is a likely high draft pick in the making for the 2021 NBA Draft.  He was also tabbed as the preseason Freshman of the Year in the ACC by coaches and media alike. 

If Barnes plays to his potential, the ‘Noles could soar once more.  Florida State returns three starters including guards M.J. Walker and Anthony Polite.  Sophomore Balsa Koprivica also returns to the team after showing a lot of promise in his freshman season that was cut short with a back injury. 

The Dangerous Sleepers

#16 North Carolina Tar Heels (+650 to Win ACC)

If there was anyone in college basketball not terribly sad to see the season suddenly get canceled days before the bracket was to be announced, it was probably Roy Williams. 

North Carolina began the season ranked in the Top 10, with prized recruit Cole Anthony added to a roster that was expected to take another run at an ACC championship.  Instead, the Tar Heels would be mired by injury and have a disastrous 14-19 season while finishing in a three-way tie for last place in the conference with Pitt and Wake Forest.

Now UNC returns reloaded with the 2nd best-recruiting class in the country and the preseason pick for ACC Player of the Year in Garrison Brooks.  Media members seem to buy into the Tar Heels to bounce back as they’re ranked higher than Florida State in the preseason Top 25 poll.  If the loaded freshman class gels better than it did a year ago, North Carolina could be a potentially dangerous team come March.

Miami Hurricanes (+2000 to Win ACC)

After back-to-back losing seasons in South Beach, Jim Larranaga has quietly assembled a roster of talent that’s capable of giving the contenders in the conference a scare at the top of the standings and to send the Canes back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2018.

Miami boasts one of the best backcourts in the entire country with seniors Chris Lykes and Kameron McGusty.  The Canes depth is where the backcourt gets really fun though as sophomores Isaiah Wong and Harland Beverly, along with standout recruit Earl Timberlake (no relation to Justin) round out Larranaga’s stable of talented guards.

The frontcourt also received a jolt of talent when Cincinnati transfer Nysier Brooks agreed to join the team, giving the Canes one of the best interior defenders in the country.  Brooks should help alleviate the loss of Sam Waardenburg, Miami’s leading rebounder from a year ago, who will miss the season with a foot injury.  

If the Canes can avoid any additional losses to their front-court, and Brooks can step in for Waardenburg, Miami has the potential to be a second-weekend team in the NCAA Tournament when it’s all said and done.

Middle of the Pack

Louisville Cardinals (+1200 to Win ACC)

Louisville is a team with futures odds that have not quite adjusted to the actual state of the team.  Oddsmakers have Chris Mack’s group at 12/1 to win the ACC, but we would consider that to be much too high at the moment.

The Cardinals were already going to face a significant challenge in replacing the talent they were losing, as Mack losing his team’s 4 top scorers from a year ago including the services of Jordan Nwora, who departed for the NBA Draft.

Chris Mack’s answer to fill those voids was to hit the transfer portal, as Charles Mineland (San Francisco) and Carlik Jones (Radford) both made their way over to Louisville in the offseason and to rely on their most experienced returning player, Malik Williams, to be the team anchor. 

Unfortunately for Mack, Mineland already suffered a knee injury and will not be available for at least six weeks and Williams will miss at least 12 weeks with a broken bone in his foot.  He will likely be lost for the season entirely.

That puts the load on the aforementioned Carlik Jones and sophomores David Johnson and Samuell Williamson.  Williamson has freakish potential and could be a high draft pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, but Louisville is dangerously thin everywhere else on the roster. 

Chris Mack is a great coach, but he will need an extra level of wizardry to get Louisville to the top of the conference standings once again.    

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (+3200 to Win ACC)

While North Carolina was the biggest surprise from the ACC a season ago for all the wrong reasons, Georgia Tech was the conference’s biggest surprise for all the right ones.

Josh Pastner’s Yellow Jackets were tabbed to finish 12th in the ACC a season ago by coaches and media alike, and Georgia Tech wound up overachieving en route to finishing 5th in the conference.  Had the season not been canceled, there’s a very good chance Pastner would have at least had his team in the NIT – a great achievement considering where the program was when he took over four years ago.

Now as Pastner enters his fifth season he hopes the experienced backcourt of Jose Alvarado (14.4 ppg) and Mike DeVoe (16.0 ppg, 42.7% 3PM) can get the Jackets back in the conversation for an NCAA Tournament bid. 

If there’s a glaring issue with the Yellow Jackets roster this season it’s the lack of a dependable rim protector, as James Banks graduated from the school.  Banks was an imposing presence down low for the Yellow Jackets and his rebounding and rim protection will be missed this year.  Pastner hopes that 7-footer freshman Saba Gigiberia can fill this void, but it’s a pretty big ask of the youngster.

With that said, Georgia Tech will give a lot of teams fits with their high-scoring backcourt and at least on a game-by-game basis should merit strong consideration in betting on them against the spread.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (+4000 to Win ACC)

While Duke and North Carolina get the fortunate break of reloading with five-star talent whenever they see fit, Mike Brey and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have to go the old school route of building a team by recruiting talent that’s looking to stay with the team for at least three years, and ideally for four.

After a 14-win season in 2018, Mike Brey’s Irish finished with a very respectable 20-12 record including an opening-round victory in the ACC Tournament.

That would place this year’s version of the Fighting Irish right around year three of Mike Brey’s plan to get Notre Dame back into the NCAA Tournament, meaning the pressure to take that next step falls on the shoulders of juniors Prentiss Hubb and Dane Goodwin.  The Irish guard tandem will be joined by Stanford transfer Cormac Ryan, giving the Irish a trio of scoring threats from the perimeter.

In the Notre Dame frontcourt, Juwan Durham will give the Irish one of the best rim protectors in the conference, and junior Nate Laszewski will be asked to fill the void left by John Mooney’s departure.  Beyond that, however, Notre Dame has a lot of questions defensively, and that figures to be the biggest issue they will deal with throughout the season.

If Notre Dame can tighten up the defense and their junior class continues to improve, the Irish could be in the bubble conversation, but they look more likely to be a higher scoring team that will have a hard time hanging with the bigger, more athletic teams in the conference.

Syracuse Orange (+5000 to Win ACC)

Jim Boeheim appears to already be 1-0 on the year after beating COVID-19, so that’s a good start to the season for the famed Syracuse coach.

On the actual basketball court, however, Syracuse may face a little more difficulty. 

Syracuse will be a fun team to watch play at least, as Boeheim has two guards that will be encouraged to launch it from three-point range in Joe Girard and Jim’s son Buddy Boeheim.  Marek Dolezaj and Bourama Sidibe also return to Cuse’s starting lineup, with their biggest responsibilities being to play the suffocating trademark 2-3 zone defense on ACC opponents.

Boeheim’s group, however, will be among the youngest in the conference as he will add seven freshmen in total to the team.  How good this Orange team can be will largely come down to how quickly those freshmen can pick up Boeheim’s 2-3 defense. 

NC State Wolf Pack (+8000 to Win ACC)

History tells us that one of the teams in the “middle of the pack” of the ACC will eventually emerge as an NCAA Tournament team.  This season that team could very well be that of Kevin Keatts NC State Wolf Pack.

While Keatts loses the services of dynamic guard Markell Johnson, he fields a team with a lot of experience including his trio of seniors in Devon Daniels, D.J. Funderburk, and Braxton Beverly.  NC State added four-star freshman Cameron Hayes as well as Nebraska transfer Thomas Allen as a means to replace Johnson, but this is a team that has more depth than most of the schools in the ACC and will play a high-tempo brand of basketball that could be very difficult to go against.

If the Pack can successfully find a new point guard to run the offense, this is a very dangerous team lurking in the middle of the conference.

Clemson Tigers (+20000 to Win ACC)

Clemson, believe it or not, actually plays basketball too!  And coach Brad Brownell may have the Tigers’ best recruiting class yet.  Well, in basketball anyway.

Brownell landed a trio of four-star recruits including guard P.J. Hall, forward Olivier Maxence-Prosper, and center Lynn Kidd.  Perhaps the best news of all came when forward Aamir Simms (13.0 ppg, 7.2 rpg) returned to the team after lukewarm interest in the NBA Draft.

Couple all of that with the exciting growth of sophomores Al-Amir Dawes (9.0 ppg) and John Newman III (9.5 ppg) and the Tigers could be a potentially dangerous opponent throughout league play.

It’s unlikely that Clemson has the talent to contend for the ACC crown, but a few upset wins could place the Tigers in the thick of the race for an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament.

The Long Shots

Virginia Tech Hokies (+10000 to Win ACC)

Mike Young’s first season at Virginia Tech after a very successful coaching career at Wofford got off to mixed reviews.  Young inherited a roster that lost a lot of talent from Buzz Williams’ last season with the Hokies and got the Hokies off to a 14-5 start to the season.

Virginia Tech would then go on to finish the year 2-11, and Young’s standout frosh Landers Nolley would transfer to Memphis shortly after the season ended.

That puts the Hokies in a precarious position for the 2020/21 year, and Virginia Tech is expected to finish at the bottom of the conference as a result. 

However, if there are positives to take into the new season for the Hokies it’s that the team returns his top three players in three-pointers made from a season ago, and Young was able to add grad transfers Cartier Diarra (Kansas State) and Cordell Pemsl (Iowa) into the mix.

Best case scenario for the season would be overachieving on the part of this young roster and a run at a possible NIT bid.  In all likelihood though, the Hokies will struggle to hit .500 and be one of the first teams eliminated in the ACC Tournament.

Pittsburgh Panthers (+10000 to Win ACC)

Jeff Capel has Pitt heading in the right direction, but the Panthers are still several pieces away from being a contender in the conference again.

Pitt does return a trio of talented players that showed flashes of playing really good basketball a season ago with Xavier Johnson (11.7 ppg), Justin Champagnie (12.7 ppg), and Au’Diese Toney (9.5 ppg).  Capel was hoping to also have the services of Miami (Ohio) transfer Nike Sibande, but he will not be immediately eligible to play after having his request denied by the NCAA.

If the trio of experienced players can outperform what they did a season ago, Pitt has the potential to at the least be a difficult team to face.  But the Panthers are likely in for another long season as they try to undo the horror that was the Kevin Stallings era.

Boston College Eagles (+30000 to Win ACC)

There’s really nothing to write home about here with Boston College, as in my opinion, they are your likely bet to finish dead last in the conference.

This is likely to be the last season of the Jim Christian coaching experience.  The Eagles will at least have a fun backcourt to pay attention to with Wynston Tabbs returning from injury to join Providence transfer Makai Ashton-Langford, but beyond that, this is a team that will struggle to win double-digit games this season.  They may be a fun team to fade against the spread, however.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons (+50000 to Win ACC)

Wake Forest is going to be a team to reckon with, but probably not until the 2022 season at the earliest.  Danny Manning has been fired and the school made a phenomenal hire when they hired Steve Forbes from East Tennessee State.

Forbes will get the Deacs to play hard and win a few games they probably shouldn’t, but this team can’t be expected to do a whole lot this season, as they don’t return a single player that averaged more than eight points per game.

ACC Projected Order of Finish

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