Each season, my favorite piece to write is the ACC breakout player list. The title speaks for itself but what needs to be reiterated every season is the order. The ranking of the player indicates the confidence in which he will break out. Eight would be the least amount of confidence or a bit of a deep sleeper for instance.
Here we go…
8. Tariq Ingraham-Wake Forest
This breakout should have happened a season ago. Simply put, this man is a beast. Ingraham was lost for the 2020-21 season after contracting Covid-19 after just two games.
If Tariq is able to find a way to be a better rim protector, he will lock down the pivot for Steve Forbes. He will have to contend with Colorado transfer Dallas Walton this season but neither is likely to receive more than a 50% timeshare at the five.
7. Demarr Langford-Boston College
Langford is going to be the beneficiary of the “someone has to take the shots” circumstance. As far as natural talent goes, Demarr is the top dog in Chestnut Hill this season as new coach Earl Grant tries to rebuild this program. Help is on the way but not until 2022.
Langford will need his efficiency to come up after a poor shooting freshman season in order to be truly effective. That will be tough as he will likely see opponent’ most talented perimeter defender night in and night out.
6. Wyatt Wilkes-Florida State
Simply put, when Wyatt Wilkes scores, Florida State wins games. The 6’8 senior has recorded 10 games of nine or more points in his career and the Seminoles have come away victorious nine times.
Wilkes has never received consistent minutes during his time in Tallahassee despite shooting 35% from behind the arc. This season however, the roster seems to set up for him to get first crack at the three spot. Kentucky transfer Cam’Ron Fletcher is also vying for the spot, but at this point, Wilkes is the better player.
5. Jesse Edwards-Syracuse
Buy. Stock. Now. I’d love to put Mr. Edwards higher on the list but the top four guys are somewhat forgone conclusions at this point. Edwards is likely going to be the man in the middle for the Orange, presumably jumping Bourama Sidibe.
The Junior big man looks to have concentrated on his body this offseason which should give him the edge. Coach Jim Boeheim would also likely much prefer an anchor in the middle as opposed to the musical chairs that’s been played at the five spot since the departure of Paschal Chukwu.
Syracuse may be the best shooting team in the league this season so if you simply need someone to defend the rim and wipe the glass, Edwards is going to be the man.
4. Reece Beekman-Virginia
Beekman may be the most interesting guy on the list. He’s not a longshot but he’s also far from a sure thing. Somehow, that makes sense in this case.
Beekman surprised some college basketball prognosticators last season (myself included) when most expected fellow freshman Jabri Abdur-Rahim to be the big time newcomer.
By the end of the season Reece has started 20 games and become a fixture in Wahoo conversation. Perhaps the most interesting thing about Beekman is that he has a positive impact on the game without doing much scoring.
He simply does everything except score efficiently. He does have a penchant for making big defensive plays which Virginia is known for.
If Beekman can simply raise his shooting numbers to respectable levels he will position himself to be the next in a long line of fantastic Virginia point guards. At this point, who is betting against Tony Bennett on developing a guard? Not me.
3. Femi Odukale-Pittsburgh
Another shining example of “someone needs to take shots.” However, in this particular instance, Odukale can actually make them.
In Pitt’s final five games of the 2020-21 season, Odukale averaged 13.6 points, 3.2 assists and 4 rips per contest while shooting nearly 54% from the field. That includes a season finale of 28P-6R-3A in a loss to Miami (FL) in the ACC conference tournament.
The Panthers are in full rebuild mode after the departure of Xavier Johnson and Au’diese Tony midseason and Justin Champagne to pursue a professional career. The strength of the team is still in the backcourt however with Odukale and junior Ithiel Horton.
2. Dre Davis-Louisville
The biggest difference between Odukale and Davis is that Davis’ team will most likely win some games. With Chris Mack’s backcourt losing Carlik Jones, David Johnson and little used Josh Nickelberry, backcourt minutes are wide open.
One could assume that Florida transfer Noah Locke will get first crack at the point guard spot which make the wing spot Davis’ position from the jump. The question is whether or not Dre can shoot the ball (29% from deep in 2020-21) with enough efficiency to become a threat. If he is able to do so, expect his stats to jump even if his minutes per game remain flat.
It’s important to remember that the biggest jumps in production typically take place between freshman sophomore seasons.
1. Jeremy Roach-Duke
The #1 spot always feels like a cop-out but Roach is the most likely for a reason. He has talent and is also a year further removed from the knee injuries suffered in high school.
Roach will have plenty of talent around him once again this season in preseason POTY Paolo Banchero, Mark Williams, Trevor Keels and Wendell Moore. The question is not Roach’s talent but his consistency. While Roach logged 12 games in double figures last season he also turned in eight contests in which he scored four or fewer points.
The good news is that Roach finished the season strong in terms of efficiency shooting 57% from the field and 40% from behind the arc in the final 11 games.