Top 5 Atlantic Coast Conference players in the 2022-23 NCAA season including Terquavion Smith, Caleb Love and more

The Atlantic Coast Conference endured some unusual and troubling troubles early in the season, although three teams remain in the top eight.

Louisville (0-6) and Florida State (1-5) can’t avoid each other, while Duke (5-1) balances a mix of experience and youth under first-year coach John Scheyer. Leaders North Carolina (4-0), meanwhile, are trying to rewind and make the national championship game again after coming this far and failing against Kansas last season.

Fifth-seeded Virginia (4-0) showed with their preseason performances that they may be the best team in the ACC, beating No. 5 Baylor and No. 19 Illinois. But is this team ready for players like No. 14 Arizona, No. 18 Alabama, or No. 9 Arkansas?

Players like Miami junior guard Isaiah Wong and Virginia senior forward Jayden Gardner might not be featured today, but they could easily make that list next month. They’re returning players who have not only gotten better, but are expected to make another leap this season and have a case for getting first-round picks in the 2023 NBA draft.

We start with fifth place going to Justyn Mutts.

#5, Justyn Mutts, Virginia Tech

Mutts, a sixth grader, had the interest of several NBA teams after leading Virginia Tech past Duke to become the ACC champion last season.

The rare poster of Paolo Banchero by Justyn Mutts. Felt like it was the moment it was over.

The New Jersey native returned for another year as part of a young and talented team. Mutts led the team in rebounds (7.4 per game), steals (43) and assists (123) last season. One of only two returning starters, Mutts is responsible for establishing a culture for Blacksburg’s transfers and new guys.

An aggressive forward who has an established role in the block, Mutts can use his body to get into place. He’s also found new swim moves and fakes to score with. With his above-average athleticism, he keeps his teammates on their toes with powerful dunks and also catches them alley-oops.

So far the numbers are not wow. He averages 11.0 points, 4.0 assists, 9.0 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game while shooting 60.0%.

#4, Dane Goodwin, Notre Dame

The Marksman got off to an impressive start earlier this season.

The fifth-year senior can shoot with the dribble and is arguably the best shooter in the conference due to his in-the-gym range. He also hasn’t missed a free throw in five games this season (11 of 11). Meanwhile, his defense surprises casual viewers. He underestimated defensive engagement on and off the ball.

Goodwin averages 15.4 ppg and 5.2 rpg while shooting 52.6% from 3-point range and 54.9% overall. If it’s open, it’s most likely cash.

No. 3, Armando Bacot, North Carolina

Bacot has finally felt comfortable in the last two games, which adds to that Double double record he holds. He got off to a somewhat slow start, having gotten into a lot of trouble early in the season. He has to defend at a high level again with his mind and not just with his hands.

Bacot averages 16.8 ppg on 53.1% shooting, with 1.0 steals and 1.2 blocks per game. He needs to lower his turnover per game (3.0 per game) and he needs to regain his dominance on these boards, averaging 12.0 rpg this season (13.1 rpg last season).

Bacot scores eight to 14 points per game on putbacks and second chance opportunities. This keeps the defense honest and helps UNC with the elite guards who have the tar heels.

Bacot will only improve with time and more reps.

No. 2, Terquavion Smith, State NC

The North Carolina native could have made an NBA roster last season solely on the basis of his advantage. But he came back to school to sharpen his tools. NC State hasn’t had a point guard this good since Dennis Smith Jr., the #9 pick in the 2017 NBA draft. He’s a shady guard with impressive on-the-fly skills and counterattacks when navigating the track.

Check out that sick end in a heartbreaking loss to Kansas on Wednesday.

Smith has many Bones Hyland (Denver Nuggets) and Jordan Clarkson (Utah Jazz) in his game. He’s a combo guard with an interesting size and quick twitch that can fill it up in a hurry. He’s entertaining, draws fans to the courts, and has only gotten better since his freshman season.

At 33.7 minutes per game this season, Smith has had a 29% utilization and still carries a 55% true shot percentage. He averages 17.7 ppg, 5.0 apg, and 2.7 rpg.

The most underrated part of his game is his defense. The Guardian has made a significant leap averaging 2.5 steals per game while carrying a heavier offensive load, making him even more impressive.

However, Smith has control of the ball so much that turnovers happen: 3.8 per game. If he finds a way to minimize that, Smith could end the season as the ACC’s top player.

#1, Caleb Love, (UNC)

Caleb Love could have been a top 20 pick in the draft last year. However, the heartbreaking defeat in the national championship game prompted him to return to his final dance with Armando Bacot and fellow backcourt RJ Davis. One thing he’s shown this season is an even more impressive goal-scoring ability in midfield outside of his floater.

Caleb Love’s two-point percentage by season *Warning about small sample size* 63.4…..2022-2338.0…..2021-2234.8…..2020-22This season: 26-41 from two 11-16 on “near two” 15-25 to “distant twos”

Caleb Love faced Portland in the first round of the Phil Knight Invitational. He scored 23 points on 66% shooting on all three levels.

His pace has made his game even deadlier, and when he’s at his best he goes at his own pace. That’s in terms of goals and passing. And if he has the right matchup, he’s shown again this season that he’s stuck on defense.

Love holds the top spot, and in a couple of weeks, Smith could find his way into this slot. Perhaps someone else will be the ACC’s most impressive returnee. We’ll have to wait.

Quick links

More from Sportskeeda

Edited by Joseph Schiefelbein