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Andy Wittry | | December 7, 2017

Previewing ACC men's basketball conference play

No. 1 Duke is one of the five teams from the ACC that have claimed a spot in the AP Top 25.

It's a good time to be a men's basketball team in the ACC. In the latest AP Top 25 Poll, five of the top 15 teams are from the conference: No. 1 Duke, No. 9 Notre Dame, No. 10 Miami, No. 11 North Carolina and No. 15 Virginia. That doesn't include undefeated Florida State (7-1) or Clemson, Syracuse and Virginia Tech, which are each 7-1 this season.

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The ACC is coming off of the most decisive victory in the 19-year history of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, to the tune of an 11-3 win in the series. As of Tuesday, Dec. 5, every team in the conference has a winning record, so as non-conference play comes to a close, here's a preview of ACC conference play.

The favorite

As the unanimous No. 1 team in the country with wins over Michigan State, Texas, Florida and Indiana, it's only fair to label Duke the favorite to win the ACC. The Blue Devils have a pair of players who could wind up on every All-American list next spring.

Senior guard Grayson Allen is averaging 17.5 points, 4.3 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game while making 47.1 percent of his 3-point attempts, and he may not be the best player on his team. That's because freshman forward Marvin Bagley III is averaging 21.9 points and 11.2 rebounds per game with nine double-doubles in 11 games. They have size and future pros throughout their lineup, as well as the nation's most efficient offense.

The sleeper

Maybe it's not fair to label a team ranked No. 13 in the preseason AP Top 25 Poll a sleeper but Miami poses the greatest threat to Duke in the ACC, so we're choosing the Hurricanes. They're 8-0 with an average margin of victory of more than 22 points per game, including a statement non-conference win on the road at Minnesota. After 10 days off, Miami will play four consecutive road games, which will be litmus test for the 'Canes.

They're long and athletic – only one rotation player is shorter than 6-3 – and through Tuesday, Dec. 5, they're sixth in the country in defensive efficiency. Sophomores Dewan Huell (13.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and Bruce Brown (11.7 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 5.0 apg) are the names to know in Coral Gables, Fla.

Player to watch

Marvin Bagley III deserves all the praise he can get. He's a walking double-double who can roll out of bed and score 24 points and grab 12 rebounds against any level of college competition. He's the highest usage player on Duke's roster yet he's still an extremely efficient scorer who rarely turns the ball over. He's an excellent rebounder on both ends of the floor, which makes Duke's already-efficent offense even more dangerous if the Blue Devils earn second and third chances on offense after missed shots. He has a higher block percentage (2.9%) and fouls committed per game (2.2), so he can consistently protect the rim without getting in foul trouble.

At this point, the question isn't whether Bagley will win any honors, such as ACC Freshman of the Year, but rather, how many awards will he win.

Breakout player

Here are true statements about North Carolina forward Luke Maye. 1) He came to Chapel Hill as a preferred walk-on. 2) He averaged 5.5 points and 3.9 rebounds per game last season, when he averaged the ninth-most minutes per game on the team. 3) He is averaging a team-high 20.8 points and 10.3 rebounds per game this season with five double-doubles, finishing one rebound shy of two more double-doubles.

Maye is much more than the hero who hit the game-winning shot against Kentucky in last year's Elite Eight.

Five games you can't miss

Florida State at No. 1 Duke – Sat., Dec. 30, 2 p.m. ET

No. 15 Virginia at Virginia Tech – Wed., Jan. 3, 9 p.m. ET

No. 1 Duke at No. 10 Miami – Mon., Jan. 15, 7 p.m. ET

No. 9 Notre Dame at No. 15 Virginia – Sat., March 3, 4 p.m. ET

No. 11 North Carolina at No. 1 Duke – Sat., March 3, 8:15 p.m. ET

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