ACC Operation Basketball kicks off hoops season - WECT, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

ACC Operation Basketball kicks off hoops season

The ACC held its annual media day Wednesday at the Ritz-Carlton in Charlotte (Source:ACC) The ACC held its annual media day Wednesday at the Ritz-Carlton in Charlotte (Source:ACC)

Duke basketball was picked to finish first in the ACC Preseason poll, while Carolina was picked second as ACC Operation Basketball kicked off the season at the Ritz-Carolton in Charlotte Wednesday.

The Blue Devils, led by preseason ACC Player of the Year Grayson Allen, advanced to the Sweet 16 last season. Their first round matchup against UNCW helped develop many of their young players, according to team captain Matt Jones.

"The team we played that night were really special, really talented," Jones said. "They played a really great game. I think what we learned the most is we can't take anything for granted."

Carolina looks to get back to another Final Four despite the absence of Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson. The Heels earned a regular season and ACC Tournament title last season.

"A lot of people are saying that we don't have the backcourt to get to that spot that we did last year," said Joel Berry. "I think that's false because we're returning me, Justin, Nate, Theo, and then we have Seventh Woods and Brandon Robinson coming in. I think that the talent is there and we do have the backcourt to get to that spot."

NC State fans are excited to watch freshman sensation Dennis Smith Jr., who very well may be a lottery pick come next year's NBA draft. From the get-go, his head coach has entrusted him with a leadership role.

"From day one, they were pretty accepting of the type of person I was, on and off the court, so that made it pretty easy for me to be a leader," Smith said. "When I came in, Coach Gottfried kind of insisted that I be the leader of the team. Kind of gave me the keys."

Wake Forest saw the least amount of success among North Carolina schools in the conference last season, winning just two ACC games. The Deacs are using that as motivation, and hope to turn the corner this year under Danny Manning.

"We want to build on the season that we had last year. We didn't have too good of a season, so we just want to improve on our record," said Bryant Crawford, who enjoyed a consistent rookie year on his way to All-Freshman honors. "We want to put ourselves in the best position to compete for those titles and championships and be able to raise some trophies at the end of the year."

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