October 16 was ACC media day in Charlotte, N.C., which had been preluded and followed by a bevy of coach and player interviews.
Dubbed “Operation Basketball,” the media was abuzz with the release of the selections for the conference champion, player of the year, first team and rookie of the year.
Duke was selected as the preseason conference favorite with 50 of the possible 54 first-place votes. This was the 14th time in the 45-year history of the poll that Duke was selected as the conference chalk.
Coming in as the bridesmaid was Syracuse, with three first-place votes, and North Carolina got the bronze medal, with one first-place vote.
It is worth mentioning that the ACC champion is the team that wins the ACC tournament. Since the inception of the Big East Conference in 1979, Syracuse won 10 regular season championships and five tournament championships, but never won both in the same season.
Also noteworthy is that newcomers Syracuse (2), Notre Dame (5) and Pittsburg (6) were all picked to be in the top six, giving kudos to the new kids on the block.
Syracuse standout senior C.J. Fair was selected as the ACC Preseason Player of the Year, edging out Virginia’s Joe Harris and Duke’s Jabari Parker.
Fair also garnered Preseason All-ACC First Team honors along with Harris, Parker, Duke’s Rodney Hood and Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant, who is the brother of Syracuse forward Jerami Grant.
Parker also was selected overwhelmingly as the Preseason Rookie of the Year, gathering 50 of 54 first-place votes.
During the past few days of this media frenzy, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim has lent himself to several interviews and has given some insight into how he feels the season will play out for his Orange.
In an interview with ESPN’s Chris McKendry, while discussing Fair’s under-the-radar status, Boeheim revealed that although Fair was the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, he never called a play for him last season.
Boeheim also admitted that he would try to be a little smarter this season and run some plays for his senior forward.
Coach Boeheim believes that his group of bigs, which includes Fair, Grant, Rakeem Christmas, DaJuan Coleman and Baye Keita, has the size and experience to give most teams more than they can handle.
He added that he thought his front line of big men would be one of the best defensive groups he’s ever coached at the school, which is high praise from the second-winningest coach in NCAA men’s basketball history.
He cited Keita’s and Fair’s senior leadership and Coleman’s weight loss, 30 pounds since last season, according to Boeheim, as key factors in his prophecy of success.
Boeheim also had very good words regarding his freshman point guard Tyler Ennis.
In a podcast with ESPN’s Andy Katz and Seth Greenberg, Boeheim referred to Ennis as a player who “gets” the point guard position and is mature beyond his years, for which he gave partial credit to Ennis’ father, who is a basketball coach.
In the same interview, Boeheim discussed Duke transfer Michael Gbinije as someone who would fill in as a backup to Ennis but would also get some time at the small forward position.
In both of the ESPN interviews, Boeheim has expressed that not only is he excited, but the student body is excited. He said that Syracuse has already sold close to 4,000 more season tickets than last season, more than it has in 10 years.
He also believes that the Duke game on February 1, at Syracuse, will sell out on the first day of ticket sales, which has never been done in the history of the school, including all those years against Georgetown.
The 68-year-old head coach seems recharged and ready for the new challenge of a new conference. His regular season starts November 8, against Cornell, with conference play beginning at home on January 4, against Miami.
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