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Duke tops ACC preseason men's basketball poll

Duke tops ACC preseason men's basketball poll

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Duke, which has brought in another crop of talented freshmen, topped the ACC men’s basketball preseason media poll Thursday.

North Carolina was picked second and Louisville third.

Defending NCAA champ Virginia, which returns just one starter, was picked fourth.

Virginia Tech, which lost the top five scorers from its Sweet 16 team, was picked 14th out of the 15 squads.

UVa’s Mamadi Diakite made the preseason All-ACC first team.

Louisville forward Jordan Nwora was voted the preseason ACC player of the year. Nwora averaged 17 points and 7.6 rebounds last season. He earned All-ACC third-team honors in March.

North Carolina point guard Cole Anthony, an Oak Hill Academy graduate, was chosen the preseason freshman of the year. Anthony is the son of TNT analyst and former NBA player Greg Anthony.

Duke point guard Tre Jones and Notre Dame forward John Mooney joined Nwora, Anthony and Diakite on the preseason first team.

Jones (9.4 ppg, 5.3 assists per game) is the only starter back for the Blue Devils, who won 32 games and the ACC Tournament last season.

The Blue Devils, who bowed out in the Elite Eight, must replace first-round NBA Draft picks Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish.

But Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski brought in another highly touted freshman class, including Cassius Stanley and McDonald’s All-Americans Vernon Carey, Wendell Moore and Matthew Hurt.

“Our team this year is very balanced,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said Tuesday at ACC media day in Charlotte, North Carolina. “We’re going to need not just balance in whatever the starting five would be, but really from 1 through 10. We can play that many guys.”

Duke received 51 first-place votes and 1,564 points. UNC was second with 19 first-place votes and 1,493 points.

Garrison Brooks is the only starter back for the Tar Heels, who finished tied with UVa atop the ACC standings last season. North Carolina won 29 games before losing in the Sweet 16.

The Tar Heels must replace first-round NBA Draft picks Coby White, Cameron Johnson and Nassir Little, as well as Luke Maye and Kenny Williams.

“Last year could have been our best 3-point shooting team ever with Cam and Luke and Kenny, Coby,” UNC coach Roy Williams said. “Those guys are gone, so we’ve got to be a little better on the defensive end of the floor, a little better on the backboards, a little better at defending around the rim, scoring around the rim.”

Williams’ freshman class includes Anthony, who was named the most valuable player of the McDonald’s All-America Game, and fellow McDonald’s All-American Armando Bacot.

The Tar Heels should get a boost from two graduate transfers — All-Big South first-team pick Christian Keeling, who averaged 18.7 points at Charleston Southern last season, and All-Colonial Athletic Association third-team pick Justin Pierce, who averaged 14.9 points at William and Mary last winter.

Louisville reaped 29 first-place votes and 1,448 points. The Cardinals return six of the top seven scorers from a team that won 20 games before falling in the round of 64 in the NCAA Tournament last season.

“Despite all the fanfare, all the preseason prognosticators and the cover of magazines and all that stuff, I try to tell our guys, ‘Don’t drink that poison. We haven’t done anything yet, and we’re the same team that felt as low as we did in the NCAA Tournament at the end of the year,’ ” Cardinals coach Chris Mack said.

Nwora is one of three returning starters on the Cardinals, along with Dwayne Sutton and Malik Williams. Six-foot-10 center Steven Enoch is back as well.

Louisville has added graduate transfer Lamarr Kimble, who averaged 15.6 points as the point guard for St. Joseph’s last season.

UVa had 12 first-place votes and 1,405 points. Diakite, Kihei Clark and Braxton Key are back from a team that won 35 games, but UVa will miss NBA Draft picks DeAndre Hunter, Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy.

Florida State was fifth with 1,157 points. The Seminoles return starters Trent Forrest and M.J. Walker from a team that won 29 games and made the Sweet 16.

N.C. State was sixth with 1,038 points. Point guard Markell Johnson is one of three starters back from a team that won 24 games and had to settle for an NIT bid.

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Mark Berman covers Virginia Tech men’s basketball and many other teams at the university. He also helps cover other colleges, including Radford, VMI, Roanoke, Washington and Lee and Ferrum.

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