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Throughout the 2021-22 season, The Daily Orange’s men’s basketball beat writers have watched Syracuse face each Atlantic Coast Conference team at least once — and six teams twice — en route to the Orange’s first regular season under head coach Jim Boeheim that ended with a record under .500.
There were the blown leads, including the most recent 18-point advantage in an eventual loss to Miami. There were the blowouts, like both games against Duke. There were the deflating losses that expedited the sinking of their season, like the one against Pitt. And there were the high points of the conference slate, like a 22-point victory over Wake Forest which sparked a four-game winning streak.
The beat writers were asked to draft a team that included a five-player lineup, a sixth man and a head coach heading into the ACC tournament, which begins Tuesday at the Barclays Center. The goal wasn’t to necessarily draft the five best players, but rather the most complete lineup that takes into account skillset and fit on the overall team.
Roshan Fernandez was awarded the first overall pick via a random number generator, followed by Andrew Crane and Gaurav Shetty in a snake draft format. Here’s who they selected:
Roshan Fernandez: Paolo Banchero, forward, Duke
Alondes Williams was probably the obvious first-overall selection (he won ACC MVP), but I valued a combination of rebounding and scoring with my pick here. Alondes is certainly an impressive scorer, but I felt like I could get those points from other strong offensive players. Paolo Banchero provided both rebounding and points. There’s a reason why he’s an All-ACC First Team selection as a freshman and is projected to go top three in this year’s NBA draft. He’ll provide the length and strength my team needs.
How he fared against SU: Banchero had 15 points and 13 rebounds in the first Syracuse-Duke game. He had 21 points and nine assists in the second game on 4-of-7 shooting from 3-point range.
Andrew Crane: Alondes Williams, guard, Wake Forest
I was shocked that Alondes, or at least Armando Bacot, wasn’t selected first overall. That made this pick a bit tougher, as I’d originally planned to just take whomever wasn’t selected first overall, but I decided on Alondes because I wanted to construct a team that could score — and keep scoring — at a pace the other two teams couldn’t match. Alondes draws 5.2 fouls per 40 minutes, and his 61.2% 2-point percentage ranks 135th in the country, per KenPom. But he also holds the country’s 47th-best assist rate and helped anchor the Wake Forest offense that finished seventh in effective field-goal percentage and 29th in adjusted efficiency. I found my point guard, and a pure scorer, in the first round, and that’s as good of a first pick as I could ask for.
How he fared against SU: In Wake Forest’s overtime win against Syracuse in January, Williams led the Demon Deacons with 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting. But in their meeting three weeks later, the Orange held him to just eight points on 3-of-10 shooting as Daivien Williamson took over and scored 27.
Courtesy of Wake Forest Athletics
Gaurav Shetty: Armando Bacot, forward, North Carolina
As the final pick of the first round, I was glad to see that a coach wasn’t taken with the two picks ahead of me. I wouldn’t want that to become a trend after last year. Now, I really wanted Alondes in the first round, but as the third pick that wasn’t that realistic, so I pivoted to Bacot. After Banchero and Alondes, there isn’t really an elite scorer, but there is an elite rebounder. Bacot is the only player in the ACC averaging double-digit rebounds per game, plus his 16.6 points per game won’t hurt either in trying to keep up with the top two scorers taken before me.
How he fared against SU: In one game against SU, Bacot recorded a double-double with 17 points and 18 rebounds.
Shetty: Mark Williams, center, Duke
I’ve always been a fan of a run-and-gun, Mike D’Antoni seven-seconds-or-less style offense, so doubling up on rebounding here at the turn just made the most sense. At 7-foot-1, Mark is one of the tallest players in the conference and sports a 7-foot-7 wingspan. He grabs over seven rebounds per game, so between Bacot and Mark, I’d get about 20 rebounds per game from my two big men. But the biggest perk of Mark’s size is his impact on defense where he leads the ACC in blocks 2.8 blocks per game, almost a full block more than any remaining active players in the conference. With Bacot and Mark manning the paint, I feel pretty good about them cleaning up the boards against any teams and swatting some shots into the stands for good measure.
How he fared against SU: In two games against SU, Mark posted 43 points, 19 rebounds and four blocks.
Crane: Kameron McGusty, guard, Miami
Gaurav has really built his team around size, and lots of it with Bacot and Mark, so I’m going to keep drafting players that can drive, shoot the 3 and hopefully get those centers in foul trouble. McGusty led the Hurricanes with 53 3s, and he’s tied with Isaiah Wong for the most successful 2s, too. He draws 4.4 fouls per 40 minutes, continuing a trend that I established by taking Alondes in the first round, and while he’s not necessarily the strongest defender, he adds a 17.5 points-per-game average into my second guard slot or small forward position.
How he fared against SU: McGusty scored 38 points in two games against Syracuse this season, with 19 in each, to help the Hurricanes erase multiple double-digit deficits that the Orange had built. He also chipped in nine rebounds and eight assists.
Fernandez: Buddy Boeheim, guard, Syracuse
Buddy Boeheim scored the most points in the ACC during the regular season. He was a First-Team All-ACC selection, and he’s proven that he’s capable of scoring while being guarded by some of the conference’s best defenders. He’s drawn difficult matchups but still averaged a career-best 19.3 points per game. Buddy was a consistent scorer from both inside and outside the arc this season.
Elizabeth Billman | Senior Staff Photographer
Fernandez: AJ Griffin, forward, Duke
I think I might’ve reached a little bit for AJ Griffin here, but his 3-point shooting percentage is the eighth-best in the nation (and the best in the ACC). There’s good reason he’s also projected to go top 5 in the NBA draft, according to ESPN. Alongside Buddy, my team should be more than capable of knocking down 3-pointers when it needs to.
How he fared against SU: Against Syracuse, Griffin had 15 points on 5-of-9 3-point shooting in the first game and 20 points on 6-of-10 3-pointers in the second game.
Crane: Keve Aluma, forward, Virginia Tech
If either of these teams try to play zone against mine, I now have my quasi-point guard out of the high post. After Syracuse’s loss to Virginia Tech on Feb. 12, Hokies head coach Mike Young called Aluma a “really good passer and decision maker,” and he led them in scoring (15.4 points) while chipping in 6.5 rebounds per game. He draws 4.3 fouls per 40 minutes, and I’d like his chances to create offense with — I’d assume? — AJ Griffin guarding him. Aluma will have about a three-inch size advantage on Griffin, which should help with closing out on those 3-pointers Griffin will take while also crashing the boards. Aluma logged six double-doubles this season, and that’s the type of balance I’m looking for while also facilitating for Alondes and McGusty.
How he fared against SU: Aluma led Virginia Tech with 20 points and five rebounds when the Hokies defeated the Orange on Feb. 12. He connected on 7-of-13 shots, while also attempting a team-high eight free throws.
Shetty: Michael Devoe, guard, Georgia Tech
Since I missed out on the top scorers at the top of the draft, I had to find other ways to beef up the scoring. With my run-and-gun style offense, I’m going to need shooters to give my frontcourt duo some space. I planned to take one of Buddy or Griffin here but Roshan reached for both of them, so I had to find someone else. I landed on Devoe since he’s the ACC’s third leading scorer and is a capable shooter from 3. He’s having a down year at 36.7%, but in the two past seasons he was shooting at least 40%, coincidentally when Moses Wright was still playing for the Yellow Jackets. Devoe is still a capable scorer as the focal point of GT’s offense this year, but with the attention on Bacot and Mark down low, I think Devoe would go back to being an excellent 3-point shooter on the wings.
How he fared against SU: In one game against SU, Devoe recorded 14 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists.
Shetty: Charlie Moore, guard, Miami
With this pick, I now have the ACC’s leader in blocks and the second-place finisher in steals to really set my defense up to create a lot of turnovers. SU fans should know Charlie well after he poured in six 3-pointers in the Orange’s first loss to Miami this year. In the second game, Boeheim said Syracuse made an effort to limit Charlie’s 3-pointers in particular, so I know he’d be a great player for my team. Charlie was a huge part of the reason the Hurricanes were able to create turnovers in the final minute of the second game to complete the 18-point comeback and secure the win. I’d put Charlie as my primary ball handler to play easy pick-and-rolls with Bacot or Mark, and then he’d be split for choice passing to Devoe or my next pick on the wings for a 3.
How he fared against SU: In two games against SU this season Charlie recorded 36 points, 14 assists and three steals.
Crane: Trevor Keels, guard, Duke
I still don’t have a lot of size on my team outside of Aluma, and this might be my reach for the draft, but I really wanted to secure Keels as a facilitator in case there’s a need to play small at any point — or to spell another guard due to foul trouble. Mike Krzyzewski has used a variety of ball-handlers this season at Duke, with Keels being one of them. Wendell Moore Jr. might have a better assist rate and stronger defense, but I valued the fact that Keels had the second-lowest turnover percentage on the Blue Devils behind Griffin. He’s also made the second-most 3s on Duke, and that well-rounded skillset and combination will serve Team Crane well off the bench while ensuring that I take a player from the conference’s best team.
How he fared against SU: Keels was injured when Syracuse and Duke played at Cameron Indoor Stadium, but on Feb. 26, he scored four points and dished out four assists in 28 minutes as the Blue Devils cruised to a 25-point win.
Fernandez: Wendell Moore Jr., guard, Duke
Team chemistry is very important. So with Banchero and Griffin already cracking my starting-five, Wendell is the perfect addition to my Duke-centric team. There’s a reason why the Blue Devils are the only ACC team in the top 10 rankings, and that’s why I’m rolling with them all the way through for my ACC team. Wendell is averaging 13.1 points per game, but perhaps more importantly, 4.6 assists per game and the fifth-best assist-to-turnover ratio in the conference. He knows how to dish the ball to Banchero and connect with Griffin on open 3-point looks. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that he made the All-ACC Defensive Team.
How he fared against SU: Against Syracuse, Wendell had 15 points and eight assists in the first contest and five points and six assists in the second game.
Fernandez: John Hugley, forward, Pittsburgh
To stick with the rebounding theme that Banchero brings to my team, Hugley had the third-most rebounds in the ACC (7.9 per game). He averages 14.7 points per game too, and he received votes for the ACC’s most improved player. He’s one of the best in the country when it comes to drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line (13th in the nation in free throw rate, per KenPom). He’s listed as a forward on Pitt’s roster, but he’ll be more than capable of playing center for my team and grabbing both offensive and defensive rebounds.
How he fared against SU: Against SU, Hugley scored eight points and grabbed eight rebounds in the first game, and he had 11 points and 18 rebounds in the second game.
Crane: PJ Hall, center, Clemson
I really needed to address my center position here before the draft stretched any later, and what better player to take than PJ Hall — Clemson’s leading scorer, who was injured but just returned on Saturday to score 12 points and grab four rebounds in 14 minutes. He, like pretty much my entire team, draws more than four fouls per 40 minutes, and Hall can also serve as the focal point of my offense, perhaps establishing some high-low sets with Aluma if opposing defenses take away my guards. His percentage of possessions used and percentage of shots taken both led the Tigers and ranked 70th and 37th nationally, per KenPom, and he was an All-ACC Honorable Mention and finished second in the voting for the conference’s most improved player. Hall grabbed 10 or more rebounds in just three games this year, so rebounding may emerge as a concern for Team Crane, but the offense has started to shape together nicely. Just a note, though: If Jesse Edwards wasn’t sidelined with a season-ending wrist injury, I would’ve selected him here if he was available.
How he fared against SU: Hall recorded a double-double in Clemson’s loss to Syracuse on Jan. 18, recording 19 points and 11 rebounds on 9-of-13 shooting.
Shetty: Terquavion Smith, guard, NC State
Flying a little bit under the radar this season is the freshman guard for the Wolfpack. Against the Orange, Smith scored a career-high seven 3-pointers to score 25 points, the most of all scorers that night. Averaging 16.5 points per game, Smith is eighth in the ACC in scoring and has made more 3-pointers than any other player in the conference with 96. Playing mostly as a point guard, I’d love to see the potential Smith would have to take spot up 3s playing off-ball while Charlie runs the offense. Both of them could easily rotate, but the key is that they are both capable of keeping teams honest with their range.
How he fared against SU: In one game against SU, Smith scored 25 points, made seven 3-pointers and grabbed six rebounds
Shetty: Hunter Cattoor, guard, Virginia Tech
I could’ve gone in a couple different directions here, but I made this pick with an eye on my final pick for a coach. But Cattoor also gives me another guard to throw into the mix. Like Smith, he’s another player that the Orange made a concerted effort to limit from 3. Cattoor made nine 3-pointers this season in a win over Florida State and is shooting 40.6% from 3. He also gives me a taller alternative to Charlie if the team needs length. But for a sixth man, I’m more than happy to snag another guard who can drain 3s to add to my arsenal.
How he fared against SU: In one game against SU, Cattoor scored 14 points, seven rebounds and two assists
Crane: Jake LaRavia, forward, Wake Forest
This pick will help address Team Crane’s potential rebounding issue, as LaRavia held the second-best offensive rebounding percentage among Wake Forest’s starters — he also recorded seven or more rebounds in eight of the Demon Deacons’ final 12 games. LaRavia also gives me a 3-point shooting threat (39.7% from beyond the arc) with height at 6-foot-8, so he and Aluma can plug my small forward and power forward spots, respectively. His offensive rating ranked 75th nationally and was actually better than Alondes’, who I selected back in the first round of the draft, and he draws 4.8 fouls per 40 minutes while adding a strong defensive background to his game, too.
Considering this is the last player I’m drafting, I really like the fact that LaRavia was available. I considered drafting one of Florida State’s 7-foot players here just to have some size to match the centers that Roshan and Gaurav have, but in the end, I couldn’t stray from my philosophy to build the best offensive team capable of outscoring anybody. And I did just that.
How he fared against SU: LaRavia and the Demon Deacons played Syracuse twice this season, and he combined for a statline of 17 points, 11 rebounds and 5-for-15 shooting against the Orange.
Fernandez: Dereon Seabron, guard, NC State
Seabron ranks fifth in the league in scoring (17.3 points per game) and second in rebounding (8.0 rebounds per game). He won the ACC’s Most Improved Player award, and this felt like a steal for my sixth man. He fits the theme of my team perfectly, alongside Banchero and Hugley as strong rebounders and scorers. Seabron averaged 5.2 points and 3.5 rebounds a game last season, and that’s just the type of work ethic and improvement that my team needs.
How he fared against SU: Against SU, Seabron had 17 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
Fernandez: Mike Krzyzewski, Duke
Three of my six players play for Duke, so this pick was straightforward. Alongside ACC Coach of the Year Steve Forbes, I think Mike Brey of Notre Dame and Jim Larrañaga of Miami also did a very impressive job this year. Forbes was deserving of the Coach of the Year award, but Krzyzewski is the winningest coach in NCAA history. It’s nothing surprising, and nothing new, but Duke is the best team in the ACC, so I’m going with him as my coach.
Crane: Steve Forbes, Wake Forest
Drafting the ACC’s Coach of the Year in the seventh round? That’s an easy pick. I also have two of Forbes’ best offensive players in Alondes and LaRavia, and he’ll be able to help those two mesh with the rest of the offensive talent that I drafted. Forbes also constructed the 54th-best defense in the country in terms of adjusted efficiency, per KenPom, so hopefully he can help plug any holes that might emerge with defense or rebounding.
Shetty: Mike Young, Virginia Tech
After topping Syracuse in Blacksburg, Young called himself “a brilliant basketball tactician” for some in-game adjustments he made. That confidence alone made me pencil Young in as my final pick. But Young’s Virginia Tech team plays exactly like I’d want my squad to play. The Hokies are at the top of the ACC and fourth in the NCAA in 3-point shooting percentage. With the shooters I have on my team and Young’s sharpshooter Cattoor, I know Young would utilize my players in the best way possible.
Maya Goosman | Digital Design Director
G: Wendell Moore Jr.
G: Buddy Boeheim
F: AJ Griffin
F: Paolo Banchero
C: John Hugley
Sixth man: Dereon Seabron
Head coach: Mike Krzyzewski
G: Alondes Williams
G: Kameron McGusty
F: Jake LaRavia
F: Keve Aluma
C: PJ Hall
Sixth man: Trevor Keels
Head coach: Steve Forbes
G: Terquavion Smith
G: Charlie Moore
F: Michael Devoe
F: Armando Bacot
C: Mark Williams
Sixth man: Hunter Cattoor
Head coach: Mike Young
The post Roundtable: Selecting the top ACC players before the conference tournament appeared first on The Daily Orange.