Caulton Tudor

Perimeter players likely to rule ACC hoops in 2017-18

Posted May 26

— Tony Bradley’s decision to turn pro created a lot of questions regarding North Carolina’s frontcourt for the 2017-18 basketball season, but also brought the ACC’s overall talent picture into better focus.

Had the 6-11 freshman stayed for another season, Carolina almost certainly would have been the clear preseason ACC favorite and among the top handful of teams nationally.

But without Bradley, the 2016-17 NCAA champs will be several other league teams – inexperienced and depth-shy up front. Other than Bonzie Colson of Notre Dame and Ben Lammers of Georgia Tech, the ACC will begin the new season without a strong all-star candidate among the league’s entire grouping of centers and full-time forwards.

In addition to Bradley, the league also lost Jayson Tatum (6-8, Duke freshman), Jonathan Isaac (6-10, Florida State freshman), John Collins (6-10, Wake Forest sophomore), Justin Jackson (6-8, UNC junior), Harry Giles (6-10, Duke frosh) and Tyler Lydon (6-9, Syracuse soph) to the early NBA entry list.

Colson, a 6-6 senior, and UNC guard Joel Berry II, a 6-foot senior point guard, loom as the top candidates for preseason ACC player of the year. But it’s entirely possible that Lammers, a 6-10 senior who averaged 14.2 points and 9.2 rebounds on last season’s 21-16 NIT runner-up team, could fail to land a spot on the preseason first-team.

Although there will be additional roster changes over the summer, the ACC’s 15 teams clearly are going to start the season with far more established guard/perimeter talent than inside. A preseason first-team lineup of Berry, Colson, Duke senior Grayson Allen (6-5), Boston College junior Jerome Robinson (6-5) and Miami sophomore Bruce Brown (6-5) would not be startling.

If recruit rankings are target, freshman frontcourt help is on the way. Duke’s Wendell Carter (6-10) and Louisville’s Malik Williams (6-11) are rated among the top 20 or so signees nationally.

But keep in mind that young big men generally are slower to adjust and also are more injury prone. Duke’s 6-man overall recruit class is rated second only to Kentucky, but Carter is the only player taller than 6-7.

Carolina, which relied more on seniors Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks than Bradley last season, likely will begin the season with 6-8 junior Luke Maye up front with one of three frosh – Garrison Brooks (6-9), Brandon Huffman (6-9) and Sterling Manley (6-10). Brooks, from Auburn, Ala., is rated slightly higher than Huffman (Raleigh Word of God High) and Manley (Peckerington, Ohio).

NC State, which will be in its first season under Kevin Keatts, probably will start with as much inside experience as most of the ACC. Sophomore Omer Yurtseven (7-0) exited the draft pool and will join seniors Abdul-Malik Abu (6-8) and Lennard Freeman, who missed last season with injuries. Abu and Yurtseven combined to average roughly 18 points and 12 rebounds per game. The 6-8, 260-pound Freeman averaged 4.7 points and 5 rebounds per game in 2015-16.

Here’s a look at the top returning players:

FRONTCOURT
1.Bonzie Colson, 6-6, Sr., Notre Dame
2.Ben Lammers, 6-10, Sr., Ga. Tech
3.Deng Abel, 6-7, Jr., Louisville
4.Abdul-Malik Abu, 6-8, Sr., NC State
5.Taurean Thompson, 6-10, So., Syracuse
6.Donte Grantham, 6-8, Sr., Clemson
7.Anthony Lawrence, 6-7, Jr., Miami
8.Luke Maye, 6-8, Jr., UNC
9.Nik Popovic, 6-11, So., Boston College
10.Marues Bolden, 6-11, So., Duke

BACKCOURT
1.Joel Berry, 6-0, Sr., UNC
2.Grayson Allen, 6-5, Sr., Duke
3.Jerome Robinson, 6-5, Jr., Boston College
4.Bruce Brown, 6-5, So., Miami
5.Bryant Crawford,, 6-3, Sr., Wake Forest
6.Josh Okogie, 6-4, So., Ga. Tech
7.Ky Bowman, 6-0, So., Boston College
8.Ja’Quan Newton, 6-3, Jr., Miami
9.Matt Farrell, 6-1, Sr., Notre Dame
10.Quentin Snider, 6-2, Sr., Louisville

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