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ACC Season Preview Part 4: Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse

This is part four of a five part series which will preview the ACC basketball season three teams at a time. At the end of the previews I will release my initial ACC basketball power rankings since that appears to be my thing. Enjoy!

Rob Carr

Check out the previews for BC, Clemson and Duke here.

Check out the previews for Florida State, Georgia Tech and Maryland here.

Check out the previews for Miami, North Carolina and NC State here.

Notre Dame: 2012-2013  (25-10, 11-7 Big East)
Offensive Rating: 111.4
Defensive Rating: 96.3
Key Returning Players: Jerian Grant
Key Additions: Demetrius Jackson (4*) and V.J. Beachem (4*)

Key Losses: Jack Cooley
% Scoring Returned: 75%
% Minutes Returned: 81%
%Rebounds Returned: 54%

Last season Notre Dame went 25-10 and got blown out by Iowa State in the first round (I refuse to call it round two) of the NCAA Tournament. What most fans will remember about their season was their 5 overtime thriller against eventual national champion Louisville, during which Jerian Grant scored 12 points in just 44 seconds to force overtime. Take that, Reggie Miller. In overtime, Louisville's Russ Smith put on a clinic in how to play laughable hero ball, and Garrick Sherman scored 17 points all in overtime to help the Irish win the game. Sherman came into that game because Luke Harangody Jack Cooley fouled out, and in 2013-2014 they will have to play without the graduating senior for the entire year.

Jerian Grant was named to the Preseason All-ACC team and deservedly so. Last season Grant averaged more than 13 points per game while dishing out 5.5 assists per game. Perhaps most importantly, Grant was able to give his team 36 minutes per game as he has done in each of his first two seasons in South Bend. In addition to his incredible stamina, Grant is also able to play such extended minutes because he gets called for fewer than two fouls per 40 minutes. Grant was not the most efficient scorer on his team, and he needs to improve his 3-point shooting, but the fact that he was still relatively efficient even though he possessed the ball more than anyone else on Notre Dame last season is relevant.

The Fighting Irish have a lot to replace in Jack Cooley, who averaged a 13 points and 10 rebounds for the team last season. The combination of Garrick Sherman, Tom Knight and Zach Auguste should help replace Jack Cooley in the front court. All three players had very solid rebounding rates in limited roles last season, and this year look for the Irish to continue being a strong rebounding team.  I believe Mike Brey will get it done and help lead this team back to the NCAA Tournament.

Pittsburgh: 2012-2013  (24-9, 12-6 Big East)
Offensive Rating: 112.3
Defensive Rating: 91.4
Key Returning Players: Lamar Patterson, Talib Zanna and James Robinson
Key Additions: Michael Young (4*) and Josh Newkirk (3.3*)

Key Losses: Steven Adams, Tray Woodall and J.J. Moore

% Scoring Returned: 49%
% Minutes Returned: 51%
%Rebounds Returned: 42%

It's hard to believe it, but Jamie Dixon has been the head coach at Pittsburgh for ten seasons now. During his ten seasons Jamie Dixon's program has been the model of consistency as his teams have made the NCAA Tournament in nine of his ten seasons, and his teams have been a five seed or better in seven of those tournaments. The lone season the Pittsburgh Panthers did not make the NCAA Tournament under Dixon's watch, they won the C.B.I. That's why even though Pittsburgh arguably three of their four best players from last season, they should still be right up there in the ACC standings.

Pittsburgh teams have never been about one star player, but if I had to pick one, I'd go with senior Lamar Patterson. Last season Patterson averaged 27 minutes per game on a team, where no player averaged more than 29 minutes per game. He also was their second leading scorer. He is a versatile wing who can play the 4 if need be because of his 220 pound frame.

The losses of Steven Adams, Tray Woodall and J.J. Moore and tangible, but Pittsburgh has an excellent group of seniors who will find a way to get things done. In each of the past three seasons Pittsburgh has been top 5 nationally in offensive rebound rate, and I would look for them to continue being relentless in pursuit on the offensive glass. Talib Zanna is a rising senior who had excellent efficiency on the offensive end and on the glass last season. According to Jon Rothstein, Cam Wright is a much improved three point shooter and, along with Lamar Patterson and James Robinson, will help Pitt to stretch the floor. Pittsburgh isn't the most talented team in the conference, but they will get results. Death, taxes and Jamie Dixon.

Syracuse: 2012-2013  (30-10, 11-7 Big East)
Offensive Rating: 110.4
Defensive Rating: 88.8
Key Returning Players: C.J. Fair

Key Additions:  Tyler Ennis (5*) and Tyler Roberson (4*)
Key Losses: James Southerland, Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche
% Scoring Returned: 48%

% Minutes Returned: 53%

%Rebounds Returned: 56%

The 2012-2013 Syracuse team turned their wingspan and and 2-3 zone into a Final Four team. Gone from that team will be Michael Carter-Williams, James Southerland and Brandon Triche, who is finally done playing after what seemed like eight seasons. Those players were three of Syracuse's four leading scorers from last season, and the three leaders in assists and steals   Carter-Williams was an AP honorable mention All-American last season, averaging 13 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists per game. Southerland was an extremely efficient player in terms of effective field goal % as well as blocking and stealing the ball. His loss cannot be overstated. Clearly these were significant losses for a Syracuse team who has hopes of returning to the Final Four.

The Orange will be heavily reliant upon C.J. Fair if Syracuse is going to return the the Final Four this season. C.J. Fair averaged 14.5 points, 7 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block and shot 47% from beyond the arc last season, and therefore was named ACC Preseason Player of the Year. Fair's 6'8" frame is perfect for Jim Boeheim's patented 2-3 zone, as Fair's length and quickness allow him to get in passing lanes and block shots.

For the Orange to warrant their preseason top 10 ranking they are going to need several returning players to emerge. One player I would look for to emerge is sophomore DaJuan Coleman, who played limited minutes last season, but had high rebounding rates when he was in, and also has the pedigree of being a former 5-star recruit according to several publications.  Syracuse fans will hope that freshman Tyler Ennis can live up to the billing of being a 5-star recruit. He's expected to start from day one and will have some big shoes to fill for Michael Carter-Williams. Ultimately this team should be very good, but there are a lot more unknowns on this team than there are on Duke and North Carolina.