Last season: 31-3, lost in first round of NCAA Tournament
Coach: Tony Bennett, 10th season
Conference: Atlantic Coast
Who’s gone: G Devon Hall and F Isaiah Wilkins
Who’s back: G Kyle Guy (14.1 ppg, 83 3-pointers) was the team’s leading scorer and joins point guard Ty Jerome (10.6 ppg, 132 assists) as one of the nation’s top backcourt tandems. F De’Andre Hunter returns from a late-season wrist injury as the ACC’s top sixth man last year (9.2 ppg in just 19.9 mpg) and F Jack Salt anchors a defense that is always one of the nation’s best. Fs Mamadi Diakite and Jay Huff have shown flashes of brilliance, but will need to offer more consistency at both ends.
Who’s new: Alabama transfer Braxton Key could be a huge addition if he returns to his freshman year form when he averaged 12 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.5 assists for the Crimson Tide. Slowed by a knee injury, his numbers were cut almost in half, but at 6-foot-8, he should be a valued rebounding addition, too.
The Skinny: The Cavaliers may have topped their Ralph Sampson lost to Chaminade legacy last season by becoming the first No. 1 seed, and the overall No. 1 seed at that, to lose in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Bennett has said it’s important to remember the feeling, but also their historic success and move forward. Bennett’s team have largely underachieved in the tournament, reaching just one Elite Eight and one Sweet 16, a lack of success that has to haunt on some level.
Expectations: The Cavaliers are ranked fifth to start the season and picked second behind Duke in the ACC. With much veteran experience, they should again be able to give the young but talented Blue Devils a run for the ACC regular season and tournament titles.
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