At one point on Wednesday morning, Virginia's Akil Mitchell scanned the room at the ACC's annual basketball media day in Charlotte, and came to a realization.
"It's kind of weird looking around the room and not knowing most of the players," the senior forward said.
Wednesday marked the official tip-off of a new era in ACC basketball, with the conference welcoming newcomers Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse into the fold. And those new members are all expected to make an instant impact in their new home, with all three picked to finish in the top six of the league's preseason media poll.
"Certainly, potentially this league has every chance to be the best basketball league ever," said Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim. "I think that's true, but I still kind of think let's go out and prove it, rather than talk about it."
Boeheim's team was picked second in that preseason poll, and Syracuse senior forward C.J. Fair was tabbed as ACC preseason player of the year. Fair led the Orange in both scoring (14.5 ppg) and rebounding (7.0 rpg) last year, and beat out UVa senior guard Joe Harris by a single vote in the player of the year balloting.
Harris -- an All-ACC first team selection a season ago, whose 16.3 ppg last season is best among returning players in the conference -- was among the players who discussed the conference's new depth on Wednesday.
"I know I'm excited to play against some different teams, some new faces, go to different venues. I think it's great for the league," he said. "I mean, the ACC was a powerhouse beforehand from a basketball standpoint, and adding these three teams to the league just makes it that much better. And I think it's one of the best basketball conferences in America."
"The teams that are used to winning regular season titles are going to be disappointed," said North Carolina sophomore guard Marcus Paige, "because there's other teams that are used to winning regular season titles. And it's going to be really competitive."
Duke was voted the preseason favorite in the conference, getting 50 of 54 possible first-place votes in Wednesday's media poll. the Blue Devils add highly coveted recruit Jabari Parker and Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood to last year's 30-win team.
"It's going to be fun, just from a competitive standpoint," said Hood, a sophomore forward. "You know, you watch Syracuse and UConn rivalries, and them coming here, we want to create the same type of games, legendary games and hopefully we're on the winning side of them."
North Carolina was voted third in the ACC in the preseason media poll. Virginia, Notre Dame, and Pittsburgh rounded out the top six.
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