The 2014-15 college basketball season is still in full swing, but it’s never too early to look to next year. In fact, a number of the programs featured on this list will gladly forget about this season and look forward to a fresh start aided by an influx of big-time talent to their rosters.
This isn’t just the top recruits in the ACC. The list attempts to factor in the likely returning rosters and project where these fresh faces will fit in. Usual suspects like Duke, Louisville and Syracuse are represented but so are a few programs poised to move up from the bottom and middle of the ACC standings aided by strong 2015 recruiting classes.
1. Chase Jeter, PF/C, Duke
I wouldn’t say the rich get richer here, but they aren’t hurting for cash either. Freshman and de facto No. 1 NBA Draft pick Jahlil Okafor has been fantastic this season for Duke, but he’s almost definitely gone after one season leaving Mike Krzyzewski with a big hole in his frontcourt. Enter 6’11” big man Chase Jeter. The 5-star prospect from Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas provides yet another impressive talent to defend and score around the rim for the Blue Devils. He even has a nifty pass fake that routinely baffles defenders. He’s not quite as refined as Okafor, but he’s going to be a major player for Duke next season.
2. Dwayne Bacon, SG, Florida State
Florida State has the top recruiting class in the ACC for 2015 according to 247Sports and that’s largely thanks to Bacon. The 6’6″, 190-pound wing was named a McDonald’s All-American and along with Chase Jeter is a semifinalist for the Naismith Boy’s High School Player of the Year award. Bacon is a very athletic wing who can throw down a fast break dunk just as easily as he drains smooth 3-pointers. 247 pegs him as the 10th best player in the nation and he currently stars for the illustrious program at Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, VA.
3. Raymond Spalding, PF, Louisville
There aren’t many shots safe from being blocked against a defense that features the lengthy Spalding. He’s 6’9″ but with his long arms and athleticism he plays even bigger and quickly closes gaps on defense. The top player in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, Spalding is considered a consensus top ten power forward. Junior standout Montrezl Harrell is likely bound for the NBA after this season for the Cardinals, so it was imperative to get some help in the frontcourt for Rick Pitino with a lack of proven talent behind Harrell.
4. Luke Kennard, SG, Duke
Kennard is yet another impressive 5-star talent for coach K and the gang in Durham. The 6’5″ lefty can get to the basket and finish with either hand. Kennard also makes shots from all over the court with ease. It seems almost unfair to add yet another dynamic shooter to a team filled with them, but that’s just the way things go. With the likely departures of Okafor and possibly Justise Winslow, Duke will be relying on a number of new faces for offensive production and Kennard should be called on early and often.
5. Malik Beasley, SG, Florida State
Beasley is very similar to future teammate Dwayne Bacon in his playing style. An athletic 6’4″ guard, he seems slightly more suited to the backcourt but can probably contribute at small forward as well. Taken in tandem, it’s clear why these players have people so high on the Seminoles’ 2015 class. They give FSU a much-needed injection of outside shooting ability as the ‘Noles rank 14 out of 15 teams in the ACC this season (29.9%).
6. Doral Moore, C, Wake Forest
Danny Manning’s in-game coaching is a bit too inconsistent for my tastes, but he’s proven early that he has the ability to dramatically improve Wake’s recruiting. Moore is a smooth 7-footer with surprising range who immediately provides a boost in the post for the Demon Deacons. He should pair very nicely with fellow bigs Devin Thomas and Konstantinos Mitoglou. Mitoglou is a Euro style big who lacks the bulk to play in the post all the time. Moore gives Wake a reliable presence down low and that should help Thomas with rebounding and allow Mitoglou to thrive as a difficult match-up outside.
7. Moustapha Diagne, PF, Syracuse
The Orange have a massive hole to fill with the graduation of dominant big man and potential ACC Player of The Year Rakeem Christmas. Diagne is 6’9″, 240 which will instantly make him the second bulkiest post player on the roster (Dajuan Coleman is 6’9″, 255). Assuming Chris McCullough returns to school and is healthy after suffering a torn ACL during his freshman season, Diagne should be able to come off the bench instead of being heavily relied on early. That’s no guarantee as Coleman is still recovering from knee surgery as well, leaving few healthy, proven options on the current ‘Cuse roster.
8. Donovan Mitchell, SG, Louisville
Louisville is another team that shoots it poorly from outside. The Cardinals are 12th in the ACC in 3-point shooting (30.5%) and they lose key scorers Chris Jones and Wayne Blackshear (as well as possibly Montrezl Harrell as mentioned above). Mitchell has a quick first step allowing him get to the rim and finish consistently. He’s surprisingly strong for his size (6’2″, 180) and appears to be the kind of dynamic offensive weapon that Louisville has lacked at times this season. Rick Pitino needs a spark to compliment Terry Rozier and he may well have found it with Donovan Mitchell.
9. Chris Clarke, SG, Virginia Tech
Clarke is a 6’5″ ball of energy whose commitment brings significant credibility to Buzz Williams’ reclamation project in Blacksburg. The top player in Virginia, he’s an extremely athletic wing who can make plays and will hustle constantly. Basically, he’s the blueprint for the kind of player Williams wants on his team and gives Tech another important piece of the puzzle. He’s quick and bouncy in the open floor and should be able to help with rebounding which has been a massive issue for Tech (last in the ACC). There’s still a lot of roster maneuvering yet to occur for the Hokies, but when the dust settles Clarke will quickly find a place either as a starter or the first option off the bench.
10. Matt Ryan, SF, Notre Dame
Notre Dame rarely wows anyone with their recruiting but Mike Brey routinely gets the kind of kids he needs to be successful. Ryan is a 6’7″ wing and an absolutely fantastic shooter. He comes in a little under the radar after a torn labrum limited his action last spring and into the summer. He had offers from Clemson and Boston College among others so ACC coaches were certainly aware of his ability. The Irish lose dynamic guard Jerian Grant and versatile swingman Pat Connaughton so there will be an immediate need for scoring and Ryan should be able to help right away.