College season inches closer with more previews and announcements
The season is about to kick-off for many ACC teams, and there is talent up and down the conference. North Carolina State is the reigning conference tournament champ and may be the front-runner, returning four starters, including All-American Elissa Cunane. If Cunane can improve on her statistically dominant 2019-20 season the Wolfpack could be Final Four bound.
Former ACC player of the year Dana Evans will lead Louisville, who have been dominant since entering the conference in 2013. The Cardinals lost two players to the WNBA which requires immediate rebuild, and rebuild they did. Jeff Walz’s squad added two top-20 recruits and will push NC State for the top dog in the ACC.
Do not be surprised if there is an orange wave this season. Syracuse also returns four starters but most importantly will receive major contributions from point guard Tiana Mangakahia who returns to the court after defeating cancer. The orange have dark horse written all over them.
Three storied programs went through major coaching changes this offseason, even if only temporarily. Niele Ivey takes over for Hall of Fame coach Muffet McGraw at Notre Dame, Kara Lawson takes the reigns at Duke from Joanne P. McCallie, and Brooke Wyckoff will lead Florida State for the season while Sue Semrau sits out. Notre Dame and Duke had disappointing starts to last season and will look to get things going under a new regime, while Florida State may have missed their window after a strong 2020 with their top three scorers graduated.
Boston College, Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech are all trending in the right direction with last year’s performances, and each add key newcomers into the conference.
It looks like Clemson and Pittsburgh will once again be the bottom-feeders of the ACC, although both schools return young players looking to make strides in their second or third years.
The remaining programs Miami, North Carolina, Virginia, and Wake Forest are on the fringe of budding but also rebuilding, where each could have low-seed tourney aspirations but with the potential of a brutal year.
In other college news, the highly anticipated Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic post-Thanksgiving tournament has announced the competing teams, South Carolina, Gonzaga, Oklahoma, and South Dakota State.
The Gamecocks, Bulldogs and Jackrabbits were all ranked teams at the end of last year, and the round robin tourney structure is bound to produce exciting games early in the college season.