Armed with a talented freshman class, Duke is the preseason favorite to win the ACC.
Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils received 41 of 65 first-place votes from media members at Wednesday’s league media day, outdistancing North Carolina, ACC newcomer Louisville and reigning champion Virginia atop the standings.
Duke returns upperclassmen Quinn Cook, Amile Jefferson and Rasheed Sulaimon while adding a stellar recruiting class led by big man Jahlil Okafor, the preseason pick for rookie of the year.
That group will chase Duke’s first ACC regular-season or tournament title since 2011.
“I think we do have the ability” to win the ACC, Cook said, “but we had the ability last year and we had the ability my freshman year and sophomore year. … Our young guys have got to step up because they’re good enough to have an immediate impact and we need them to grow up fast.”
The Blue Devils were picked first for the second straight season and 14th time under Krzyzewski.
The Tar Heels were second with 12 first-place votes and have the league preseason player of the year in junior guard Marcus Paige, who made a habit of coming up with big second-half performances last season and averaged 17.5 points per game.
“I hope that means it can translate to wins,” Paige said of his honor. “I see that they picked us second in the conference and we have goals of finishing higher than that.”
Paige led the five-man preseason All-ACC team and was joined by Okafor. The rest of that group was Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell, Virginia’s Malcolm Brogdon and Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant.
Despite a 23-13 record and 10-8 ACC mark last season, Clemson was picked to finish 11th.
Coach Brad Brownell’s team returns four starters – guard Rod Hall, center Landry Nnoko, two-guard Damarcus Harrison and power forward Jaron Blossomgame – and veteran reserve guard Jordan Roper (Irmo).
Clemson opens the season Nov. 14 at home against Florida A&M.