Redistricting the ACC: Which School Would Dominate a New World?
What if, just if, there were zoning regulations for colleges just as there are for schools at lower levels?
Obviously, the entire landscape of the NCAA would look completely different, as players could not be exported outside of their home state to represent other programs: but besides that, the power structure of the individual conferences would be thoroughly shaken up.
In this specific scenario, some of the Atlantic Coast Conference's treasured blue blood programs would sink into mediocrity as normal outsiders would stake their claim for the best team on the east.
The rules of this hypothetical are simple and hierarchical: if a player currently plays at a school in their home state and they are deemed one of the five best fits for the scenario, they remain at that university.
If the player does not currently play within their home state and could fit into multiple programs in this false reality that has been constructed, they will then be assigned to a team based on the offers that they received during their recruiting process.
If multiple schools within the same state offered the player in question a roster spot, the next consideration will be competition for playing time.
If a decision still cannot be reached, then the university's proximity to the athlete's hometown will become a factor.
Players were chosen based on a combination of factors that are listen in order of importance: statistical output, prestige of their current program, win/loss record, postseason performance and fit for the team. Note that fit comes last as this exercise is designed to create the most talented rosters, not necessarily the smartest or the ones that would have the highest chemistry.
Without further ado, here are the power rankings for the brand-spanking new ACC.
#15: Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Guard: 6'2 Davien Williamson (12.9ppg, 2.1rpg, 2.5apg, 1.3spg, 45.5% FG)
Guard: 6'1 Keyshaun Langley (10ppg, 1.8rpg, 3.4apg, 1.1spg) via NC A&T
Guard: 6'4 Ian DuBose (10.9ppg, 4.6rpg, 2.4apg, 1.4spg, 45.6% FG)
Forward: 6'9 Ody Oguama (7.6ppg, 5.4rpg, 46.5% FG in 21.9mpg)
Forward: 6'11 Kadin Shedrick (has barely played, high school averages were: 15.6ppg, 10.6rpg, 4bpg) via UVA
The Demon Deacons would have a nice blend between experienced players in Williamson, DuBose and Oguama that currently play at Wake, though they would need to spend a majority of their season developing the talent of their youthful UVA transfer.
Williamson and Langley would provide nice intangibles at the guard position, alternating ball handling duties. Williamson would likely be the star of this low-ceiling team.
This construction is hardly different from reality as the Demon Deacons finished in fourteenth place in the ACC this season. At least certifying the bottom position could boost their draft stock? Never mind.
#14: North Carolina Tar Heels
Guard: 6'5 Qon Murphy (8.6ppg, 2.4rpg, 1.3apg in 22.2mpg) via New Hampshire
Guard: 6'8 Leaky Black (5.6ppg, 4.9rpg, 2.4apg, 1.2spg)
Forward: 6'7 Jayden Gardner (18.3ppg, 8.3rpg, 47.9% FG) via East Carolina
Forward: 6'9 Isaiah Whaley (8ppg, 6.2rpg, 2.6bpg, 1spg, 47.9% FG) via UConn
Forward: 6'11 Day'Ron Sharpe (9.5ppg, 7.6rpg, 51.9% FG in 19.2 mpg)
No, your eyes are not deceiving you. One of college basketball's most storied programs would flat-out STINK under the given paradigm.
The Tar Heels would depend on Leaky Black for individual brilliance at the guard position which has yet to acquiesce in any shape in the collegiate ranks.
Day'Ron Sharpe and Isaiah Whaley would be a force defensively on the interior, but unless they can limit their opponents to less than an average of 50 points per game, they would struggle to put together enough stretches offensively to finish with a winning record.
#13: Louisville Cardinals
Guard: 6'2 David Sloan (11.1ppg, 4.3apg, 2.2rpg, 41.5% 3PT) via East Tennessee State
Guard: 6'2 Taveion Hollingsworth (13.9ppg, rpg, 2.4apg, 1.3spg) via Western Kentucky
Guard: 6'5 Terry Taylor (21.6ppg, 11.1rpg, 1.2spg, 52.1% FG) via Austin Peay
Guard: 6'5 David Johnson (12.6ppg, 5.8rpg, 3.2apg, 38.6% 3PT)
Guard: 6'6 Justin Powell (11.7ppg, 6.1rpg, 4.7apg, 44.2% 3PT) via Auburn
Boy, would this be an annoying team to play.
The hypothetical Cardinals would be giving up size and strength every time they took the court, but what they would miss in bodily dimensions would be replaced by a team of active defenders that love to get shots up and fly around the court.
Justin Powell would be the point center in this situation, despite being a guard, as his well-rounded abilities make him the primary candidate to run the team's offense.
#12: Miami Hurricanes
Guard: 6'4 Jason Preston (16.3ppg, 7.3apg, 7.2ppg, 1.5spg, 40.5% 3PT) via Ohio
Guard: 6'2 Trent Frazier (10.4ppg, 2.8rpg, 2.7apg, 1.3spg, 37.4% 3PT) via Illinois
Guard: 6'5 Michael Devoe (15ppg, 4.3rpg, 3.3apg, 40% 3PT) via Georgia Tech
Forward: 6'10 Nate Laszewski (13.3ppg, 7.3rpg, 58.9% FG, 43.4% 3PT) via Notre Dame
Forward: 6'10 Johni Broome (13.7ppg, 9rpg, 1.9bpg, 57% FG) via Morehead State
Jason Preston under the tutelage of Head Coach Jim Larranaga would be a scary sight in the postseason tournament.
Michael Devoe and Nate Laszewski would provide proficient perimeter play, Laszewski being more of a shooter and Devoe preferring to create off the dribble.
Trent Frazier's experience in the rugged Big Twelve would make him an invaluable commodity on both ends: however, a lack of a catalytic player spells the downfall for these Hurricanes.
#11: Clemson Tigers
Guard: 6'2 Devontae Shuler (15.3ppg, 3.3apg, 3rpg, 1.6spg) via Ole Miss
Guard: 6'4 Rayshon Harrison (17.3ppg, 5.6rpg, 2.5apg, 1.4spg) via Presbyterian
Guard: 6'6 Josiah-Jordan James (8ppg, 6.5rpg, 1.4spg, 1bpg) via Tennessee
Forward: 6'5 Hayden Brown (18.8ppg, 10.5rpg, 2.8apg, 50.8% FG) via The Citadel
Forward: 6'8 Dontarius James (17.5ppg, 4.3rpg, 45.1% FG) via Jacksonville
While this squad contains a couple of Southeastern Conference-tested members in Shuler and James, it is the mid-major acquisitions that could make the biggest impressions.
These Tigers would be a nightmare parlay for any bettors, given their boom-or-bust potential.
Hayden Brown would be a mismatch for many wing defenders, averaging 10.5 rebounds per contest at just 6'5. This could be used to create second-chance opportunities on the offensive glass while a disruptive backcourt would force turnovers for Clemson.
#10: Duke Blue Devils
Guard: 5'9 Darius McGhee (15.5ppg, 4.4rpg, 2.1apg, 40.8% 3PT) via Liberty
Guard: 6'3 Carson McCorkle (has barely played, high school averages were: 15.9ppg and 52% 3PT) via UVA
Guard: 6'6 Aaron Wiggins (14ppg, 5.8rpg, 2.5apg, 1.1spg, 43.6% FG) via Maryland
Forward: 6'5 Wendell Moore Jr. (9.7ppg, 4.8rpg, 2.7apg, 1.2spg)
Center: 7'1 Jay Huff (13ppg, 7.1rpg, 38.7% 3PT, 2.6bpg) via UVA
This team is full of players that can excel in different systems, but struggle in the same system.
Wiggins is a dynamic scorer, McGhee is the reigning Atlantic Sun Player of the Year, Huff is among the nation's elite in shot blocking and both Moore and McCorkle are young with talent. Even still, they do not mesh.
If Duke could figure out a way to blend their personalities together, they would be rock solid: unfortunately, they are likely to remain in irrelevance. At least they are better than UNC.
#9: Georgia Tech
Guard: 6’0 Isaiah Miller (19.2ppg, 6.8rpg, 4apg, 2.6spg) via UNC Greensboro
Guard: 6'2 Davion Mitchell (14ppg, 5.3apg, 45.6% 3PT, 2spg) via Baylor
Guard: 6'5 M.J. Walker (12.5ppg, 2.5apg, 43.6% 3PT) via Florida State
Guard: 6'4 Nahiem Alleyne (11.1 ppg, 2.6rpg, 40% 3PT, 1spg) via Virginia Tech
Guard: 6'7 Landers Nolley II (12.9ppg, 4rpg, 1.2spg) via Memphis
Boy, is it painful to put this team so low in the rankings.
A backcourt featuring M.J. Walker and Davion Mitchell, an AP all-American, would just be incredible to watch. Team these two ballers up with snipers Alleyne and Nolley and the offensive firepower is simply overwhelming.
On top of these offensive talents, Isaiah Miller is one of the most rowdy perimeter defenders in college basketball (2.6 steals per game). Alleyne would have to guard larger opponents, though he too is a proficient on-ball defender. The weakness of this team? Height: there is none of it. The Yellow Jackets would have to aim to score 100 points every game.
#8: NC State Wolfpack
Guard: 6'2 Kameron Langley (10.6ppg, 6.6apg, 5rpg, 40% 3PT) via NC A&T
Guard: 5'10 Jalen Cone (Injured this season, last season's stats were: 8ppg, 45.7% 3PT in 18.4mpg) via Virginia Tech
Guard: 6'3 Cam Hayes (7.9ppg, 3.1apg, 2.3rpg, 1.3spg, 39.4% 3PT)
Forward: 6'9 Moses Wright (17.4ppg, 8rpg, 1.6bpg, 1.5spg, 41.4% 3PT) via Georgia Tech
Forward: 6'11 Manny Bates (9.7ppg, 5.9rpg, 2.7bpg, 63.1% FG)
The Wolfpack would struggle with consistency against teams with multiple stara, though their knockout punch (Moses Wright) is a fantastic one to have. The 2020-21 ACC Player of the Year is tenacious on both ends and has a surprisingly soft shooting touch to go with his brute strength in the restricted area.
Manny Bates is among the nation's elite in shot blocking and would form a fierce tandem inside with Wright. Langley would need to adapt to a Power Five conference but is a capable distributor with an ever-ready marksman in Jalen Cone flanking him on the wing.
The Wolfpack would be one of those teams you hope to avoid come the postseason, given the balance of their strengths in lieu of one player that can go nuclear on an opponent.
#7: Florida State Seminoles
Guard: 6'5 Tre Mann (15.9pp, 5.6rpg, 3.4apg, 40.4% 3PT, 1.4spg) via Florida
Guard: 6'9 Scottie Barnes (10.6ppg, 4.3rpg, 4.1apg, 50.5% 3PT)
Forward: 6'8 Dwight Wilson III (14.6ppg, 7.5rpg, 65.6% FG) via Ohio
Forward: 6'8 RaiQuan Gray (12.2ppg, 6.6rpg, 2.2apg, 52.5% FG)
Forward: 6’11 Colin Castleton (12.3ppg, 6.2rpg, 2.2bpg, 58.9% FG) via Florida
The Seminoles, also known as the anti-Georgia Tech, very well may have the tallest starting lineup in the entire NCAA in our paradigm.
Tre Mann and Scottie Barnes are downhill players who can drill long-range shots with regularity while Colin Castleton is extremely protective of the defensive basket and possesses post moves on the offensive end.
This team would use its lethal combination of speed and physicality to slowly overwhelm its opposition, making them a very strong tournament threat despite their median regular season standing.
#6: Boston College Eagles
Guard: 6'2 Marcus Zegarowski (15.6ppg, 4.5apg, 3.7rpg, 41.5% 3PT) via Creighton
Guard: 6'5 Kellan Grady (17.1ppg, 4.6rpg, 2.4 apg, 38.2% 3PT) via Davidson
Guard: 6’6 LJ Figueroa (12.3ppg, 6.1rpg, 37.6% 3PT, 1.6spg) via Oregon
Guard: 6'6 AJ Reeves (9.6ppg, 3.6rpg, 1.7apg) via Providence
Forward: 6'7 Jermaine Samuels (11.7ppg, 6.3rpg, 2.4apg, 39.1% 3PT) via Villanova
Led by one of the nation's top point guards in Marcus Zegarowsk, the Eagles would be a well disciplined and hard-to-beat bunch.
Four of the five members of the roster can stretch the floor, including the makeshift center, Jermaine Samuels. Samuels has taken a back seat in rebounding at Villanova thanks to teammate Jeremiah Robinson-Earl but is capable of averaging at least eight boards a night in this system.
BC would look to control the tempo of their contests and would likely go as far as their backcourt duo could carry them.
Guard: 6'0 Blake Francis (16.1ppg, 2.3rpg, 2.2apg, 1.4spg, 36% 3PT) via Richmond
Guard: 6'2 Matt Coleman (13.2ppg, 4apg, 3.5rpg, 1.2spg, 37.7% 3PT) via Texas
Guard: 6'5 Matt Lewis (19.7ppg, 4.7rpg, 3.7apg, 1.4spg, 47% FG, 38.4% 3PT) via James Madison
Forward: 6'10 David McCormack (13.7ppg, 6.2rpg, 51.5% FG in 23.1mpg) via Kansas
Center: 7'1 Hunter Dickinson (14.3ppg, 7.4rpg, 1.4bpg, 60.7% FG) via Michigan
This UVA group would likely turn into the most consistent team in the ACC.
Supreme size and ability inside with McCormack and Dickinson coupled with three shot-creating guards is a near-perfect match. The only long-term problem for the Cavaliers would be their lack of three-point shooting, as nobody in the starting five shoots over 40% (and two of the five do not even attempt threes).
Virginia also has some inconsistent players in their lineup, though their lack of perimeter power makes them especially vulnerable to outbursts from smaller conference teams and tournament upsets. Plus, they are Virginia, being upset is nothing new to them.
#4: Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Guard: 5'11 Jalen Moore (17.9ppg, 8.4apg, 4.1 rpg, 1.7spg) via Oakland
Guard: 6'3 Marcus Burk (21.7ppg, 3.7rpg, 2.2apg, 1.8spg, 40.9% 3PT) via IUPUI
Guard: 6'4 Paul Scruggs (14ppg, 5.7apg, 4rpg, 1.6spg, 45.8% FG) via Xavier
Forward: 6'6 Aaron Henry (15.4ppg, 5.6rpg, 3.6apg, 1.3bpg, 1.3spg, 44.9% FG) via Michigan State
Forward: 6'9 Trayce Jackson-Davis (19.1ppg, 9rpg, 1.4bpg, 57.1% FG) via Indiana
Not a believer of the statistical darlings in the backcourt because they are from lower-level programs? That is okay, because the front line grows stronger and stronger with three stellar performers from elite programs.
The strength of this team is not having one specific strength: they can shoot, play defense, run in transition, play in the half court, rebound and share the ball.
This team has so many points of attack that they would be nearly impossible to game plan against, making them one of the top four teams in the ACC, hypothetically speaking.
#3: Pittsburgh Panthers
Guard: 6'3 Collin Gillespie (14ppg, 4.6apg, 3.8rpg, 37.6% 3PT)
Guard: 6'3 Justin Jaworski (21.5ppg, 3.7rpg, 2.3apg, 1.5spg, 39.8% 3PT) via Lafayette
Guard: 6'6 Tyrese Martin (10.3 ppg, 7.5rpg, 1apg, 44% FG) via UConn
Forward: 6'9 Dylan Painter (13.5ppg, 11.5rpg, 1.9apg, 51.5% FG) via Delaware
Center: 6'9 Tre Mitchell (18.8ppg, 7.2rpg, 1.5bpg, 51.9% FG) via UMass
Do not underestimate the value of fundamentals: Collin Gillespie has proven to be one of the most disciplined leaders in college basketball and can act as a solo hero in times of desperation.
This team is full of tremendous rebounders in the front court despite not being the tallest roster ever assembled, and they will play you tight.
With Gillespie steering the ship and the starting five shooting an incredibly efficient percentage from the field, this team will not play the most exciting brand of basketball, but they will beat you.
#2: Syracuse Orange
Guard: 6'0 Jose Alvarado (15.2ppg, 3.5rpg, 4.1apg, 2.8spg, 50.4% FG, 39% 3PT) via Georgia Tech
Guard: 6'5 James Bouknight (18.7ppg, 5.7rpg, 1.8apg, 44.7% FG) via UConn
Guard: 6'6 Buddy Beoheim (17.7ppg, 2.5rpg, 2.7apg, 1.3spg, 39.1% 3PT)
Guard: 6'8 Julian Champagnie (19.8ppg, 7.4rpg, 1.3apg, 1.4spg, 38% 3PT) via St. John's
Forward: 6'6 Justin Champagnie (18ppg, 11.1rpg, 1.6apg, 1.3bpg, 1.2spg, 47.7% FG) via Pittsburgh
Do not be alarmed by the Orange's four-guard attack: Justin Champagnie's twin Julian is a fierce competitor on the boards while Buddy Boeheim can pitch in with good size.
Jose Alvarado is arguably the most intimidating perimeter defender in college basketball, and he is joined at the point of attack by a wily player named James Bouknight.
Every member of this roster is a threat to splash a triple, every player plays with relentless intensity, every player can score at all three levels: this team is almost too good to be true. They would be the most electrifying team in the NCAA.
#1: Virginia Tech Hokies
Guard: 6'2 Mac McClung (15.8ppg, 2.7rpg, 2.1apg, 42.1% FG) via Texas Tech
Guard: 6'4 Cameron Thomas (22.8ppg, 3.4rpg, 1.5apg, 40.5% FG) via LSU
Guard: 6'4 Keyontae Johnson (only four games played, last year averaged 14ppg, 7.1rpg, 1.2spg, 38% 3PT, 54.4% FG) via Florida
Forward: 6'10 Armando Bacot (12.3ppg, 7.8rpg, 62.8% FG in 22.7mpg) via North Carolina
Center: 7'0 Mark Williams (7.1ppg, 4.5rpg, 66.4% FG, 1.4bpg in 15.2mpg) via Duke
That's right, Virginia Tech would win the redistricted ACC just like Virginia Tech is going to win the real ACC next season (thank you Mike Young). VT would have unprecedented scoring talent in the backcourt, a Swiss Army knife (Johnson) on the wing and two giants inside.
Mark Williams in particular averaged 18.5 points and 10 rebounds over the last four games of his 2020-21 season, coinciding with an increase in playing time and an eventual move into the starting lineup. This goes hand-in-hand perfectly with Bacot's astounding 3.2 offensive rebounds per game in limited action, leaving these virtual Hokies with nothing but strengths on their roster.
Virginia Tech could benefit from a spot-up shooter off of their bench to camp in the corner, but as far as the starting five goes, there would be nobody better.
All there is to do is speculate, but if there was a parallel universe that regulated student-athletes' college decisions based on geolocation, this is a sneak peek at what that world may look like.