College basketball, and more important, ACC basketball, returns November 9 with 12 ACC programs in action. The slate includes the debut of Hubert Davis as head coach at North Carolina, an intriguing game between NC State and midmajor darling Bucknell, and a marquee matchup in the Champions Classic between No. 9 Duke and No. 10 Kentucky.

In our view, the ACC has three bona fide Final Four contenders in Duke, Florida State and North Carolina and as usual, there is no shortage of talent in the conference. From future lottery picks to transfer portal gems to veteran talents, the ACC has no shortage of star power.

Every week, we’ll do our best to rank the top 10 players in the conference. Beginning week 4 of the season (after Feast Week), we will also name up to 1 honorable mention player from each school. What the list won’t be is a ranking of the NBA potential of these players. There are plenty of mock drafts out there that do that work and a simple Google search will help you out. What it will do is reward college basketball productivity. We’ll watch as many games as we can and rank the best 10 players the best we can. If we leave your favorite player out, it’s obviously on purpose, and not because ranking the top 10 players in the nation’s most storied basketball league is difficult.

Here’s the preseason top 10.

10. Paul Atkinson Jr., Forward (Notre Dame)

A graduate transfer out of Yale, Atkinson arrives at Notre Dame as the reigning Ivy League Player of the Year, having averaged 17.6 points and 7.5 rebounds per contest in his final season at Yale (2019-2020). A highly skilled big who is a fantastic passer and a tenacious rebounder, Atkinson will give the Irish frontcourt real bite to go along with Nate Lazewski, who has played nearly 100 games in his Notre Dame career. The Ivy League canceled basketball last season, so Atkinson practiced and played with Team USA to stay in game shape, earning valuable experience against international pros.

Atkinson is a winner, who won a state championship at Westminster Academy in Fort Lauderdale and kept winning when he arrived in New Haven. His role on this team is a big reason Notre Dame should return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2017. A

9. Caleb Mills, Guard (Florida State)

Mills has healed from the pair of wobbly ankles that limited his 2020-21 campaign with Houston, and he’s ready to bring his assassin’s jumper to the ACC. Leonard Hamilton’s squad knocked down a league best 40.3% from behind the stripe last year, but the ringleader of the shooters, M.J. Walker (42%), graduated. Mills won’t attack the basket as much in the ACC as he did early in his Houston days, but he was good enough to be an AAC preseason Player of the Year pick and healthy again, he’ll be one of the ACC’s best newcomers.

8. Michael Devoe, Guard (Georgia Tech)

Devoe makes the list ahead of flashier names like Caleb Love because Devoe is, err, productive. He’s a guy that makes defenses extend because of his shooting range but he doesn’t get enough credit for being a physical, instinctual defender that is the heart and soul of what the Yellow Jackets want to be on both sides of the floor. The ACC Tournament MVP can score off a screen, off the bounce, and from well, really deep.

Josh Pastner’s team got a bad break when it won the ACC Tournament last year and then had to play the perfect foil in Loyola-Chicago round one. If the Yellow Jackets make it back to the Big Dance next March, Devoe will be why.

7. Prentiss Hubb, Point Guard (Notre Dame)

Hubb, a junior, has been the best player on a non-tournament team in both of his first two seasons in South Bend. Hubb is a 38 minute a night guy (16th nationally in usage rate last year) and is the engine that will drive one of the nation’s most balanced inside-out offenses. He’s not going to shoot any better than 34% beyond the arc, but he doesn’t have to as long as he continues to dish out 6 assists per night and limit turnovers.

6. Kihei Clark, Point Guard (Virginia)

Clark’s story is why we love the sport: one Division 1 offer and then a UVA assistant sees him at a tournament and thinks: “Hey, that kid can help us.” Tony Bennett visits him, talks to him, offers him and a year later he’s the starting point guard and engine of a national champion. Pitch that script in Hollywood and they’d laugh you out of the building. The Hoos have run different offense depending on personnel the last two seasons, but Clark has been steady through all of it, and he’s a wonderful connector who helped Virginia lead the ACC in field goal attempts off spot-up jumpers (37%, per Synergy). Clark also takes tremendous care of the basketball- turning it over more than 3 times in only 3 games last season, and finishing double digit games (11) with over 5 assists and a 2-1 assist to turnover margin. He’s also a buzzing pest defensively, ranking 16th in the ACC in steal rate a year ago, a career best.

5. Armando Bacot, Forward/Center (UNC)

Bacot led the Heels in scoring, rebounding, box plus/minus, and effective field goal percentage last season. 

Hubert Davis has promised to give the big fella more room to roam in the Tar Heels offense in 2021-22, which should spell big things. Why? Bacot was monstrous down the stretch for the Tar Heels last March, averaging 16.6 ppg in March, 9.5 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game. Bacot has had a good camp as well, and posted a double-double (secretly, of course) in a scrimmage against Florida where he spent time matched up with First Team All-SEC big Colin Castleton. The Tar Heels are going to wear people out on the glass– as usual– and Bacot should help make them far more efficient offensively than a year ago, when they finished outside the top 50 in KenPom efficiency for the second consecutive campaign.

4. Isaiah Wong, Guard (Miami)

The Hurricanes started the year with second weekend potential but were hammered by injuries a season ago and now must rebuild without mainstay Chris Lykes (Arkansas) and top 25 recruit Earl Timberlake (Memphis). The good news in Coral Gables? It can’t get any worse on the injury front and Isaiah Wong was perhaps the breakout player in the ACC last season, averaging 17.1 points and 5 rebounds a game and connecting on 35% of his threes on high volume.

Playing alongside Kam McGusty, a talented Oklahoma transfer, the Canes have the makings of one of the league’s best backcourt tandems and it could be one of the best units- even without Lykes- if Harlond Beverly takes the jump Jim Larrañaga expects him to take.

But the stir that mixes the drink will be Wong, who is an absolute bucket getter.

3. Paolo Bancehero, Forward (Duke)

The skillset on Banchero (great shooting touch, nice passer, can take you off the bounce, great midrange game, dominant rebounder) is just too good to not have in the top five, and it shouldn’t stun anyone if he ends up not only at the top of this list, but a Wooden Award candidate as well. I don’t know if Banchero will have a Zion-like pop culture impact, but he may have a Jayson Tatum type basketball impact and at a minimum, will help Duke fans get the bad taste of Jalen Johnson’s star-crossed freshman campaign out of their mouths.

The other thing is Banchero is such a tremendous basketball fit for what Coach K wants to do offensively. No one in the sport spaces you better than Duke and even without Matthew Hurt, Duke has three guys who shoot over 30% from deep which should help Duke create the necessary room for Banchero to be lethal as the team’s second big, playing off Mark Williams.

2. Keve Aluma, Forward (Virginia Tech)

Aluma had a monstrous junior campaign and anchors a Virginia Tech team that runs the best offense in the ACC and is old and really good. The senior averaged 15.2 points and 7.9 rebounds per game and did it with ruthless efficiency, ranking in the top 25% of the country in offensive rating, box plus/minus, effective field goal percentage, free throw rate, block rate, and rebounding rate. Put plainly, he does everything. He also should do it with less double teams this season thanks to the addition of Storm Murphy, who, like Aluma, joined Mike Young in Blacksburg after playing for him at Wofford. Murphy is an All-Southern conference talent who will give the Hokies a third terrific shooter from the perimeter, along with Hunter Cattoor and Naheim Alleyne, who dropped 28 in the NCAA Tournament loss to Florida last season.

Is Aluma good enough for the Hokies to compete for an ACC championship? I’m not positive. But he’s without question the best player on a team full of good ones.

1. Buddy Boheim, Guard (Syracuse)

Buddy Buckets battled COVID and multiple stoppages last season and never seemed to be himself until March, when he flat out took over. Boeheim, who will lead the Orange’s backcourt for the third consecutive season, averaged 24 points a game from March 1 forward, a run that included 30 in Syracuse’s win over San Diego State in the NCAA Tournament and 25 more in the Orange’s second round win over West Virginia. In the win over the Mountaineers, he was just making shots without space or any action off the ball.

Boeheim should be aided this year by a roster full of guys who can score. Jim Boeheim told Adam Zagoria in a Forbes interview that this could be his best offensive team to date, the kind of team that makes Mr. Syracuse basketball want to coach until he’s 80.