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Virginia picked to finish fourth in ACC men's basketball poll

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Virginia guard Reece Beekman shoots a shot during Sunday’s Blue-White scrimmage at John Paul Jones Arena.

Virginia and Virginia Tech were both picked to finish among the top third in the ACC standings in the league’s preseason men’s basketball poll Tuesday.

Defending ACC regular-season champ UVa was picked fourth out of 15 teams, reaping nine of the 81 first-place votes and 949 points. Virginia Tech was fifth in the poll, collecting five first-place votes and 857 points.

Duke, entering Mike Krzyzewski’s final season as coach, topped the poll for the seventh time in the last nine years. The Blue Devils, who were just 13-11 overall and 9-9 in ACC play last season, reaped 47 first-place votes and 1,132 points.

“We need to be a lot better than last year’s team in coaching and preparation and relationships,” Krzyzewski said last week at ACC media day in Charlotte, N.C. “The kids were good last year, but I don’t think we were able to do them justice in preparing them. We’ll be a better team [this year]. But we were a pretty good team at the end [last season]. … Hopefully we’ll be a good team this year at the beginning and the middle and at the end.”

Florida State was second in the preseason poll with 14 first-place votes and 1,034 points. North Carolina was third with five first-place votes and 1,0001 points.

Virginia Tech’s Keve Aluma, who averaged 15.2 points and 7.9 rebounds last year, made the media’s preseason All-ACC first team.

“I want to crash the glass more and defend better,” Aluma said. “The offensive glass will be a big thing for me, so just trying to be relentless on the glass.”

Duke’s Paolo Banchero was voted both the preseason player of the year and the preseason freshman of the year. Aluma was second in the player of the year voting, collecting 16 votes to Banchero’s 28.

The 6-foot-10, 250-pound Banchero is rated the No. 2 prospect in the 2022 NBA Draft by ESPN. The forward from Seattle was rated the No. 4 high school senior in the nation by ESPN last season.

“He’s really got a guard mentality,” Krzyzewski said. “In high school or AAU you’re never allowed to be as physical as you are right away in college, so to learn that [will be important].”

UVa must replace Sam Hauser, Jay Huff and Trey Murphy, but starters Kihei Clark and Reece Beekman are back from a team that went 18-7 overall and 13-4 in ACC play. Clark made the preseason All-ACC second team Tuesday.

Virginia has added transfers Jayden Gardner and Armaan Franklin.

“This team will be different than last year’s team,” UVa coach Tony Bennett said. “We’ll have to be able to play great defense. We lost three great shooters, three great scorers. Now we find other ways. You change things. And I’m excited to see the new opportunities for our newer guys.”

The Hokies return starters Aluma, Justyn Mutts and Nahiem Alleyne from a 15-7 team that finished third in last season’s standings with a 9-4 league mark. Tech, which has added graduate transfer point guard Storm Murphy, could start three fifth-year seniors and two juniors.

“Those guys have played a lot of college basketball,” Tech coach Mike Young said. “I don’t have to coach them a whole lot. They’ve got a really high basketball IQ.”

Duke returns starters Wendell Moore, Jeremy Roach and Mark Williams from a team that did not play in the NCAA Tournament last season. Banchero is one of their three highly touted freshmen, along with A.J. Griffin, who has a sprained knee, and Trevor Keels.

Krzyzewski announced in June that he would retire after the upcoming season.

“I’m preparing the same way. I’m going to be passionate,” Krzyzewski said. “I love what I do.

“I’ve been the luckiest guy ever in coaching. … I’m very, very grateful.”

Florida State returns starters RayQuan Evans and Anthony Polite from a team that went 18-7 overall and 11-4 in ACC play. The Seminoles lost in the Sweet 16.

FSU’s six newcomers include freshman Matthew Cleveland, who was rated the No. 30 high school senior in the nation by ESPN, and Houston transfer Caleb Mills, who made the All-American Athletic Conference second team as a freshman two seasons ago.

“He’s more of a complete player than I had anticipated,” Hamilton said of Mills. “Even though he’s been labeled as a bucket-getter, I find that he has the ability to create for his teammates.

“The new players we bring in always seem to find a way to make a contribution. Except we have more of them this year.”

This will be North Carolina’s first season with Hubert Davis as head coach. Davis was promoted from assistant after Roy Williams retired in April.

“We’re going to the offensive glass,” Davis said. “That’s our foundation. That’s not going to change.”

The Tar Heels return starters Armando Bacot, Caleb Love, Leaky Black and Kerwin Walton from a team that went 18-11 overall and 10-6 in the league.

Oklahoma transfer Brady Manek, UVa transfer Justin McKoy and Marquette transfer Dawson Garcia have come aboard.

“Their ability to spread the floor and to make plays and to shoot the ball from 3 gives our guys the spacing to be able to use all their gifts,” Davis said of the transfers.

Aluma and Banchero were joined on the preseason All-ACC first team by Bacot, Syracuse’s Buddy Boeheim and Miami’s Isaiah Wong.


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