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Andy Katz | NCAA.com Correspondent | October 25, 2018

Duke is the best team in the ACC, barely, in Andy Katz' preseason college basketball power rankings

CHARLOTTE — The ACC is back in its center, returning the conference tournament to the state of North Carolina for the first time since the 2014-15 season after taking it to the North in D.C. and New York.

The league also will do what it does best: produce Final Four and title teams. I could legitimately see four teams winning the title — Duke, North Carolina, Virginia and Syracuse. The Cavaliers are the team that is driven to do so, maybe more than any other because of the loss to UMBC last March — in the same building where Wednesday’s media day was held — in the first-ever 16 vs. 1 upset.

I struggled with ranking the top three and could easily have put the Cavaliers in the top spot. Look, Virginia and Syracuse have the most experience back. Talent is on the side of Duke and for that reason — for now — the Blue Devils get the edge.

1. Duke: The Blue Devils have the most talent, but the question that will linger will be: Does Duke have the best team? Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett are just too good not to tab Duke as the team to beat — now. But that could change, especially when Duke goes on the road in the ACC.

Postseason prediction: NCAA tournament

2. North Carolina: The Tar Heels have hidden experience that isn’t getting as much attention. Luke Maye is an All-American, but do not dismiss the importance of Kenny Williams and Cameron Johnson. This squad will get better and better as the season progresses.

Postseason prediction: NCAA tournament

3. Virginia: The Cavaliers may be the best team in the ACC by season’s end. A healthy De’Andre Hunter, a driven Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome and the addition of Braxton Key means Tony Bennett has one deep team that could make a run at the title.

Postseason prediction: NCAA tournament

4. Syracuse: Tyus Battle’s return means the Orange have their five back that made a run to the Sweet 16. Jim Boeheim has that quiet confidence about him. He knows when he’s got a team that could make a Final Four run. And this is one of those teams.

Postseason prediction: NCAA tournament

5. Florida State: The ageless wonder Leonard Hamilton didn’t pull off a fluke by reaching the Elite Eight. He had a team that simply got healthy. He’s got another squad that could make a deep run in the NCAAs. There should be no surprises with this crew.

Postseason prediction: NCAA tournament

6. Clemson: There is no more bubble talk with the Tigers. This squad and program have arrived under Brad Brownell. Experienced guards and a confidence means the Tigers have created a culture of winning. Expect another solid season.

Postseason prediction: NCAA tournament

7. Virginia Tech: The Hokies have one of the more underrated players in Justin Robinson. If this team can find a bit more consistency late in the season then the Hokies will break through with an NCAA tournament win.

Postseason prediction: NCAA tournament

8. Miami: The Hurricanes have the talent to get back in the NCAA tournament, but the question will be if can they connect defensively. Jim Larranaga is waiting for that to occur early in the season. If it does then the ‘Canes will be right back in the mix.

Postseason prediction: NCAA bubble

9. NC State: The Wolfpack have top 25 talent, but they’re not a top 25 team yet. The key for the Wolfpack will be whether or not they can be a disruptive force defensively. When NC State is flying around then they can win a lot of games.

Postseason prediction: NCAA bubble

10. Notre Dame: The Irish will be able to score. If they defend, then Mike Brey will once again have a squad that is picked low and finishes much higher. Don’t be shocked by the Irish in the hunt for a bid late in the season.

Postseason prediction: NCAA bubble

11. Louisville: This is the Chris Mack factor. He will have this team ready to play and ultimately be a tough out. Mack said UConn transfer Steven Enoch could end up being a key factor for the Cardinals. If they’ve got the rim protector then this team can make a run toward a bid.

Postseason prediction: NIT candidate

12. Boston College: Ky Bowman is going to be a stud for the Eagles. Watch. Bowman will put up numbers for BC and ensure that they will be competitive in games. Expect at least one major surprise again.

Postseason prediction: NIT candidate

13. Georgia Tech: Josh Pastner is going through a bit of restart/rebuild/bridge. But expect the Yellow Jackets to improve mightily during the season.

Postseason prediction: None

14. Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons are going through a similar patch to Georgia Tech. This could be one of the harder teams to place. There will be a ton of expectations on Brandon Childress to carry this team.

Postseason prediction: None

15. Pitt: Jeff Capel will win at Pitt. But this will take time. He’s starting on re-branding this culture. This is the honeymoon season to get the program to begin anew.

Postseason prediction: None