• 72°

Duke opens season as ACC favorite ahead of Tar Heels and Virginia

CHARLOTTE (AP) — Duke has been picked to win the Atlantic Coast Conference title ahead of North Carolina, Virginia and Louisville.

Blue Devils guard Grayson Allen was selected the preseason player of the year by a wide margin over Clemson forward Jaron Blossomgame, while North Carolina State point guard Dennis Smith Jr. was voted rookie of the year.

Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils picked up 85 first-place votes and 1,359 points in voting by league media at the league’s preseason media day Wednesday. Defending champion UNC had the other six first-place votes.

Syracuse was fifth followed by N.C. State, Notre Dame, Florida State, Miami, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech and Boston College.

UNC’s Joel Berry II and Virginia’s London Perrantes joined Allen, Blossomgame and Smith on the preseason all-ACC first team.

The second team consisted of UNC’s Justin Jackson, Duke’s Jayson Tatum, Syracuse’s Tyler Lydon, FSU’s Dwayne Bacon and Pitt’s Michael Young.

Duke won the NCAA championship in 2015 and reached the Sweet 16 of last year’s NCAA Tournament, part of a record run of six ACC teams to reach that round. North Carolina and Syracuse both reached the Final Four, with the Tar Heels losing to Villanova on a last-second 3-pointer in the NCAA championship game.

•••

ACC LOOKS TO KEEP STRONG 2-YEAR NCAA RUN GOING IN 2017

CHARLOTTE (AP) — The Atlantic Coast Conference has shaken off a four-year Final Four drought with strong back-to-back postseason runs that have included winning one national title, playing for another and putting three teams in the national semifinals.

The trick now is to keep that momentum going for the league that considers itself college basketball’s best. The ACC also wants to increase its number of NCAA Tournament bids toward a still-unreached target of 10 invitations.

“I think with our 15 programs and as good as those programs generally are, I don’t think it’s unrealistic to point to that,” Commissioner John Swofford said in an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press during the league’s preseason media day. “But I also don’t think, if you’ve got seven, eight, nine and everybody talked about 10, that’s not failure — especially when they’re winning in the tournament.”

The ACC’s series of expansions over the past decade were supposed to push the league to juggernaut status by adding programs like Louisville, Syracuse, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh to a lineup that featured tradition-rich charter members Duke and North Carolina.

It’s taken some time — maybe a little longer than expected, the way North Carolina State coach Mark Gottfried sees it — but the league is starting to earn that status.

“I think you’re seeing now what we thought was going to happen a couple of years ago,” said Gottfried.

, whose Wolfpack has been to the NCAAs in four of his five previous seasons with two Sweet 16 runs. “Couple of years ago, we all said this is the best basketball league in America. It probably wasn’t just yet.

“I think what you’re seeing now, it’s happening. Just took a few years for us to get there. And part of that is because I think everybody’s better.”

Compare that to a year earlier, when Gottfried said the league had “work to do” to earn its claim as the nation’s best by regularly earning more than the six bids it got in 2015. The league went on to tie its record of seven and would’ve had a new high mark had a 23-win Louisville team not sat out with a self-imposed postseason ban amid an ongoing NCAA investigation into allegations that a former staffer hired escorts and strippers for sex parties with recruits and players.

Once in the tournament, ACC teams kept winning.

North Carolina reached the NCAA championship game. Syracuse made a surprise run to the Final Four. Four teams reached the Elite Eight and a record six teams got to the Sweet 16.

The league finished with a record 19 NCAA Tournament wins, surpassing the previous mark of 18 set by the Big East in 1985.

And that came one year after Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils — this year’s preseason favorite for the 15th time under the Hall of Famer — won the NCAA title.

The ACC’s two-year run of 36 NCAA wins is also a record for all leagues, surpassing the Big East (2008-09) and the Big Ten (1999-2000) by eight.

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, whose Fighting Irish have gone to two straight Elite Eights, believes momentum from a strong finish can carry through the offseason and into the next season. He figures that’s a factor in the ACC’s broader success from the past two tournaments.

“Once you get to that second weekend, then you’ve got a group of guys coming back,” Brey said. “They talk about stuff like that. Then if you get the bid, they’re more believing they should advance. There’s a confidence instead of maybe a fear or an anxiety. I think that’s what’s happened with a number of programs.”

If Brey is right, the league could be in for another big year. Duke is considered a national-title contender, while UNC and Virginia have earned top-10 rankings in several preseason publications.

If one of those teams have a deep run, then it will be up to the next tier — Louisville, Syracuse, North Carolina State, Notre Dame, Florida State and Miami — to get the league within reach of double-digit NCAA Tournament bids.

“I think they both matter in their own regard, but everybody wants to say, ‘Oh the Big 12 put this many teams in’ or ‘the Big Ten put this many teams in,’” Miami senior guard Davon Reed said. “And that’s good. The ACC not only puts a lot of teams in, but I think our record in the tournament each year … speaks for itself — the ACC’s quality and the wins that they produce in the tournament.”

___

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

___

Online:

More AP College Basketball site: http://collegebasketball.ap.org

Comments

Local

Top North Carolina House finance chair, Rowan representative stripped of position

Crime

One charged, another hospitalized in fight between cousins

Local

Bell Tower Green renamed to honor Stanbacks; Nancy Stanback receives key to city

Business

Commissioners green light additional houses at Cherry Treesort in China Grove

Education

A.L. Brown will hold in-person, outdoor graduation

Local

Granite Quarry awards FEMA contract for Granite Lake Park

Local

City to vote on apartment developments, final phases of Grants Creek Greenway project

High School

High school football: North receiver McArthur a rising star

Columnists

Carl Blankenship: Pollen and prejudice make their return

News

Harris pitches $2.3T spending plan on trip to North Carolina

Nation/World

Murder case against ex-cop in Floyd’s death goes to the jury

Crime

Sheriff’s office: Man takes deputies on chase with stolen moped

Coronavirus

Afternoon, evening COVID-19 vaccination clinic planned Thursday

Crime

Concord man charged with woman’s murder in drive-by shooting

Ask Us

Ask Us: Have city, county elected officials received COVID-19 vaccine?

Local

City gives away nearly 100 trees during ‘We Dig Salisbury’ event

Local

Political Notebook: Bitzer expects most ‘Trump-like’ candidate to be favorite in state’s Senate race

Crime

Blotter: Concord man arrested in Rowan for indecent liberties with children

Coronavirus

Half of US adults have received at least one COVID-19 shot

Nation/World

Police: FedEx shooter legally bought guns used in shooting

News

Hester Ford, oldest living American, dies at 115 … or 116?

Local

Size of pipeline spill again underestimated in North Carolina

BREAKING NEWS

Kannapolis Police searching for suspect who fled scene of homicide

Education

RSS superintendent talks district’s future, strategic plan survey