Previewing ACC Basketball for the 2021-22 Season

By Dan Vasta in College Basketball
| November 8, 2021 8:28 am PST

The ACC has been the top conference in America over the years. Their championships are unmatched.

The final season of Mike Krzyzewski has made Duke a trendy choice to capture the ACC championship. The 2021-22 season is sure to bring plenty of storylines and excitement.

Looking at the latest preseason odds for the ACC, it is time to dissect and analyze the top favorites, sleepers, and threats. Here is your 2021-22 ACC college basketball preview.

Odds to Win the ACC

  • Duke: +250
  • North Carolina: +450
  • Florida State: +450
  • Virginia: +700
  • Louisville: +800
  • Virginia Tech: +1200
  • Notre Dame: +2000
  • Syracuse: +2200
  • Clemson: +3000
  • Georgia Tech: +4000
  • NC State: +5000
  • Miami: +7000
  • Pittsburgh: +10000
  • Wake Forest: +10000
  • Boston College: 20000

The Duke Blue Devils are listed as the favorites like they often are, albeit Virginia has seen odds that are as short or even shorter under Tony Bennett. The Cavaliers won the national title in 2019, a season after getting upset by a 16-seed.

Despite Duke having one of the better rosters more years than not in the ACC, they have not won the conference since 2010. Yes, that is accurate. These odds are winning the regular season, not the conference tournament.

The bottom six teams face an uphill battle with odds that are longshots. The conference snuck in seven NCAA Tournament teams’ last season.

If the ACC expects to bounce back, more teams will need to be competitive. It is a serious challenge to take any team outside the top eight with any confidence.

Teams like Syracuse, Notre Dame, and Virginia Tech will need to become reliable teams that finish with a winning record in conference play.

If all three disappoint, that hurts the stability and strength of the ACC. Yes, Duke and Carolina should improve. Florida State is often as good as Virginia, but there need to be more teams improving.

The value of the ACC odds suggests the season could come down to the final two matchups of Tobacco Road. The Heels have won the conference three times since 2016, and Hubert Davis does bring back five of UNC’s top seven scorers from a season ago.

These odds are across consensus sportsbooks entering the season. Let’s look at your ACC favorite this season.

The Favorite to Win: Duke (+250)

The Blue Devils are the consensus favorite for most that are projecting ahead. If you enjoy playing the game of risk, you have come to the right place.

I suggest looking at the Blue Devils disappointments in the ACC standings for over a decade.

Their last conference title in 2010 is stunning to some, but the ACC is no walk in the park. The youngsters that Duke has hauled in have run into too many freshman walls in January and February.

We have seen their future lottery picks dominate the non-conference, but they have run out of gas during ACC play. The top seeds in the ACC Tournament for the past decade have been the experienced squads.

Those that avoid complacency with a handful of seasoned veterans achieve success. There are a few more disadvantages that are pointing against Duke.

Last season, Duke ranked No. 276 at defending the three-ball. The opposition shot 35.6% behind the arc, which will need to change if the Blue Devils believe they can win the ACC.

The top stat may have been their lack of free throw attempts. Most Duke teams are athletic, aggressive, and have the goods to get easy points at the charity stripe.

People complain and argue that Coach K always gets the calls. Well, last season was a struggle to get calls. Duke failed to find any production at the line, and it proved costly.

Duke ranked No. 227 in attempts from the line and No. 282 in made free throws. That is absurd to think that a preseason Top 10 team could be so abysmal in a category. Paolo Banchero could be the top player in the country despite having never played a collegiate game.

The athletes and explosiveness should get back to an exceptional level that most Duke folks expect every year. The struggling Coach K squad finished in the Top 50 in three categories that may springboard towards the upcoming season.

  • No. 20: Assists Per Game (16.2)
  • No. 49: Field Goal Percentage (46.8)
  • No. 34: Blocks Per Game (4.5)
  • No. 40: Assist Turnover Ratio (1.27)

If Duke can continue to get improvement from their backcourt to help feed off one of the more talented frontcourts in the country, we could see Krzyzewski ride off into the sunset.

Main Threats in the ACC

Duke is currently favored, but they will have their challengers from start to finish in the ACC.

North Carolina (+450)

North Carolina is the biggest threat to the Blue Devils, and it may not be that close. The Tar Heels have their backcourt intact from last year. Duke missed the tournament for the first time since 1995, thanks to their inconsistent backcourt.

The return of Armando Bacot is vital after losing Garrison Brooks (Mississippi State), Walker Kessler (Auburn), and Day’Ron Sharpe (NBA). North Carolina last season under Roy Williams would dominate the backboard as well as any team in the country.

  • No. 1 Rebound Margin (+10.4)
  • No. 1 Offensive Rebounds Per Game (15.76)
  • No. 3 Rebounds Per Game (42.86)

The team will continue to dominate the glass, but they will have more shooters on the court. The team has Kerwin Walton, R.J. Davis, and Caleb Love as their starting backcourt.

Leaky Black could see his role diminish, but he will impact the game on both ends of the court. Love can make that next step towards becoming a star.

The additions of Brady Manek (Oklahoma) and Dawson Garcia (Marquette) are athletic bigs that can put the ball on the deck and knock down open looks.

Brooks and Sharpe were strictly back to the basket scorer’s last season. Pairing the new transfers with Bacot could be the perfect recipe for success.

Florida State (+450)

The other team that should be considered a contender is Florida State (+450). Leonard Hamilton has handled lofty expectations well.

Look at their recent success heading into March.

  • 2021: 4-seed
  • 2019: 4-seed
  • 2018: 9-seed
  • 2017: 3-seed
  • 2012: 3-seed

Hamilton has been with the Noles since 2002-03, but they have fallen short in the dance. Luckily, you don’t have to worry about that when placing a wager on FSU winning the ACC. They play stifling defense and have shared the ball with their athletic ability.

They have been the deepest squad in the nation. The ability to throw a second starting five is remarkable.

FSU has had nagging injuries to some of their top players over the years, and perhaps that is why they have only won the ACC title once since 1990.

Virginia (+700)

Their domination in 2020 could have seen them put it all together if there was a tournament. Still, winning the ACC title showed that their program is here to stay.

The third contender that could challenge Duke would be Virginia, but the confidence is lacking. This selection is projected on the coaching ability that Tony Bennett has given the program.

Virginia rarely has the best handful of teams in the country. In 2018-19, they were loaded and able to be 1-seeds with ACC titles in consecutive seasons. What does give them a puncher’s chance is their ability to play elite defense over the years.

  • 2021 Scoring Defense Rank: No. 6
  • 2020 Scoring Defense Rank: No. 1
  • 2019 Scoring Defense Rank: No. 1
  • 2018 Scoring Defense Rank: No. 1
  • 2017 Scoring Defense Rank: No. 1
  • 2016 Scoring Defense Rank: No. 2

Top Sleepers in the ACC

Duke and North Carolina are the top two dogs to win the ACC and they are certainly not sleepers when picking a winner.

Three sleepers are standing out in the ACC entering the season.

Syracuse (+2200)

The first squad is the Syracuse Orange and Jim Boeheim. His son is one of the better guards in the country. Buddy has been making buckets for years, and Cuse has played their best towards the end of seasons.

Boeheim is an elite shooter with the size to rise over perimeter defenders. At their current value (+2200), they should be in the running like they often are.

The issue with them capturing the conference crown is they drew Duke and Florida State twice. While they only play Virginia and North Carolina once, there are enough landmines on the docket to cost them a few games.

Notre Dame (+2000)

Notre Dame is a program that has often been offensively exceptional under Mike Brey. Many have mentioned his name on the hot seat, but they will become a tournament team if they stay healthy and find any momentum from the non-conference.

Recent struggles have me pausing on the Irish, especially these past handfuls of years.

  • 2021: Missed NCAA’s
  • 2019: Missed NCAA’s
  • 2018: Missed NCAA’s
  • 2017: Round of 32 Loss (West Virginia)

There have been struggles with the Irish before March as well. Their lack of success in conference play has led to their recent demise.

Virginia Tech (+1200)

The Hokies under Mike Young are in a great spot as a sleeper. Last season they appeared in the NCAA Tournament, but they have had five winning seasons in the ACC out of the past six seasons.

Their squad is a balanced one, with Justyn Mutts and Keve Aluma leading the way. Aluma is an athletic forward that averaged 15-8 last season while shooting 49% from the floor.

Hunter Cadoor could be a spark plug off the bench. If he gives way at times to former Wofford star Storm Murphy, the tandem should thrive.

Murphy played for Young with the Terriers a few seasons ago. They have a bevy of guards that can fill it up. Nahiem Alleyne is a guard that has given the opposition plenty of concerns.

Spreading the ball around and taking care of the sugar is an underrated necessity to win a power conference. Young could continue moving up the coaching ranks with another stellar Top 25-like season.

Their current odds of +1200 is only that low due to the expectations for Duke and Carolina. If either one of those teams were to stumble out of the gates, Virginia Tech is fully capable of becoming the ACC leader in a relatively down year from a depth perspective.

Betting on ACC Basketball in 2021-22

The depth of the conference is not where it once was a few years ago. We have seen the basement of the conference lose to awful teams before January. If the ACC wants more hype and love, they need a few things to go their way.

Duke and North Carolina need to be consensus Top 20 squads with a third wheel right there.

We have seen Virginia become a Top 10 program excluding the past two seasons, but that is where Florida State will need to show up.

Leonard Hamilton has been so productive in Tallahassee. Everything has been done seemingly but reaching the Final Four.

They had a strong shot in 2020 before the NCAA Tournament canceled, and they fell short in the Sweet 16 to Michigan last season.

ACC Schedule Through the Years
  • 20-game slate since 2019-20
  • 18-game slate went back to 2012-13
  • 16-game slate went back to 1991-92

Many seem to forget the journey is a long road to capturing a conference title. Injuries and lady luck need to be on the side of the winning team. Avoiding grueling Saturday to Monday turnarounds are part of the lucky scheduling breaks.

Ultimately, I am picking North Carolina to win the ACC regular-season championship. At their current +450 odds, they will likely shrink once conference play begins. The Tar Heels schedule looks favorable on paper as well.

Playing Duke twice in the final month of the season is a benefit. They could start 8-2 or 9-1 to begin, and that should allow UNC to stay ahead of the pack before the slate heats up.

The ACC basketball season will be highly entertaining and avoid missing out on the opportunity of picking some winners this season.

The year will be chaotic like college sports often are. Be sure to check back for the latest college basketball betting sites throughout the season.

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