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NC State tapped as ACC women’s basketball preseason favorite

acc basketballReigning ACC champion NC State is the 2021-2022 ACC Women’s Basketball preseason favorite, according to separate polls of the league’s 15 head coaches and the Blue Ribbon Panel.

The Wolfpack received 50 of 57 first-place votes from the Blue Ribbon Panel for a total of 847 points and 14 of 15 first-place votes from the league’s head coaches to finish with 224 points to lead the voting. NC State has won back-to-back ACC Tournament titles and is the preseason favorite for the first time since the conference began such rankings prior to the 1991-1992 season.

Louisville, the 2020-2021 ACC regular-season champion, received the remaining first-place vote in the head coaches’ poll and seven from the Blue Ribbon Panel to finish second in both with 207 and 789 points, respectively.

Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech were third and fourth in both polls, matching the highest preseason ranking for the Yellow Jackets and marking the highest for the Hokies. Georgia Tech received 691 points and 192 points from the Blue Ribbon Panel and head coaches, while Virginia Tech earned 644 and 172 points, respectively.

Florida State was fifth in both polls, collecting 607 points from the Blue Ribbon Panel and 152 from the head coaches.

Notre Dame, North Carolina and Duke were picked sixth, seventh, eighth in both polls, followed by Miami, Clemson and Boston College. Wake Forest, Syracuse, Pitt and Virginia round out the Blue Ribbon Panel, while Syracuse, Wake Forest, Pitt and Virginia followed Boston College in the Head Coaches’ Poll.

NC State’s Elissa Cunane, an Associated Press, ESPN and USBWA All-American following the 2020-21 campaign, was chosen as the ACC Preseason Player of the Year by the head coaches and Blue Ribbon Panel. The Summerfield, North Carolina, native was a first-team All-ACC selection last year and a semifinalist for the Wooden Award, given to the nation’s most outstanding player.

Cunane was named the 2021 ACC Tournament MVP after averaging 23.3 points, 9.0 rebounds and 62.5 percent (25-of-40) shooting in three Wolfpack wins. Her 70 total points marked the fifth-most by a player in a single ACC Tournament in the last 20 years. She ended the season ranked sixth in the ACC in scoring (16.3), fifth in rebounding (8.3), second in field-goal percentage (.533) and third in free-throw percentage (.843).

Both Preseason All-ACC Teams were the same with Boston College’s Taylor Soule, Clemson’s Delicia Washington, Georgia Tech’s Lorela Cubaj and Lotta-Maj Lahtinen, Louisville’s Hailey Van Lith, NC State’s Jakia Brown-Turner, Notre Dame’s Maddy Westbeld and Virginia Tech’s Elizabeth Kitley and Aisha Sheppard joining Cunane.

All 10 student-athletes earned All-ACC honors following the 2020-21 season, with eight claiming first team accolades.

The Newcomer Watch Lists were nearly identical as well and included Louisville’s Payton Verhulst, NC State’s Diamond Johnson and Notre Dame’s Sonia Citron and Olivia Miles. Celeste Taylor of Duke was selected to the Head Coaches’ list, while North Carolina’s Teonni Key garnered mention from the Blue Ribbon Panel.

Five ACC teams are ranked in the Associated Press Preseason Top 25 Poll, tied for the most of any conference. NC State headlines the group at No. 5, while Louisville sits one spot behind the Wolfpack at No. 6. Florida State is ranked No. 16, Georgia Tech is No. 17 and Virginia Tech rounds out the poll for the league at No. 24. Notre Dame also received votes.

The 2021-2022 season tips off on Tuesday, Nov. 9, with 11 of the league’s teams in action.

Conference play begins on Sunday, Nov. 14, with Syracuse hosting Notre Dame on ACC Network, while NC State travels to Pitt on Friday, Dec. 10, and the Orange welcome Clemson on Saturday, Dec. 11. The first full date of league play is Sunday, Dec. 19, with six matchups on the slate.

The 2022 ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament will be held March 2-6 at Greensboro Coliseum for the 22nd time in the last 23 years.

Blue Ribbon Panel & Head Coaches Preseason Player of the Year

Elissa Cunane, NC State, Sr., C

Blue Ribbon Panel Preseason All-ACC Team (57 voters)

  • Taylor Soule, Boston College, Sr., F (1)
  • Delicia Washington, Clemson, Gr., G
  • Lorela Cubaj, Georgia Tech, Sr., F (1)
  • Lotta-Maj Lahtinen, Georgia Tech, Sr., G
  • Hailey Van Lith, Louisville, So., G (1)
  • Jakia Brown-Turner, NC State Jr., G (1)
  • Elissa Cunane, NC State, Sr., C (42)
  • Maddy Westbeld, Notre Dame, So., F
  • Elizabeth Kitley, Virginia Tech, Jr., C (10)
  • Aisha Sheppard, Virginia Tech, Gr., G (1)

() Indicates preseason player of the year votes

Blue Ribbon Panel Newcomer Watch List

  1. Payton Verhulst, Louisville, Fr., G
  2. Teonni Key, North Carolina, Fr., F
  3. Diamond Johnson, NC State, So., G
  4. Sonia Citron, Notre Dame, Fr., G
  5. Olivia Miles, Notre Dame, Fr., G

Blue Ribbon Panel Predicted Order of Finish (57 voters)

  1. NC State (50) – 847 points
  2. Louisville (7) – 789
  3. Georgia Tech – 691
  4. Virginia Tech – 644
  5. Florida State – 607
  6. Notre Dame – 580
  7. North Carolina – 488
  8. Duke – 464
  9. Miami – 355
  10. Clemson – 324
  11. Boston College – 297
  12. Wake Forest – 250
  13. Syracuse – 227
  14. Pitt – 160
  15. Virginia – 117

() Indicates first-place votes

Head Coaches Preseason All-ACC Team

  • Taylor Soule, Boston College, Sr., F
  • Delicia Washington, Clemson, Gr., G
  • Lorela Cubaj, Georgia Tech, Sr., F
  • Lotta-Maj Lahtinen, Georgia Tech, Sr., G
  • Hailey Van Lith, Louisville, So., G
  • Jakia Brown-Turner, NC State Jr., G
  • Elissa Cunane, NC State, Sr., C (13)
  • Maddy Westbeld, Notre Dame, So., F
  • Elizabeth Kitley, Virginia Tech, Jr., C (2)
  • Aisha Sheppard, Virginia Tech, Gr., G

() Indicates preseason player of the year votes

Head Coaches Newcomer Watch List

  • Celeste Taylor, Duke, Jr., G
  • Payton Verhulst, Louisville, Fr., G
  • Diamond Johnson, NC State, So., G
  • Sonia Citron, Notre Dame, Fr., G
  • Olivia Miles, Notre Dame, Fr., G

Head Coaches Predicted Order of Finish

  1. NC State (14) – 224 points
  2. Louisville (1) – 207
  3. Georgia Tech – 192
  4. Virginia Tech – 172
  5. Florida State – 152
  6. Notre Dame – 149
  7. North Carolina – 127
  8. Duke – 125
  9. Miami – 92
  10. Clemson – 83
  11. Boston College – 78
  12. Syracuse – 60
  13. Wake Forest – 59
  14. Pitt – 47
  15. Virginia – 33