Player of the Week
KJ McDaniels, Clemson
Maintaining his early season dominant form, McDaniels overwhelmed a much improved and lengthy South Carolina frontcourt on Sunday afternoon; on both ends of the floor. He poured in 21 points on 7/12 shooting, with ten boards and two steals. At 6’6, McDaniels blocked SEVEN shots, and has now racked up 13 swats through three games. This is not an aberration, as he posted two blocks per game last season. He’s been a raw product offensively for two years, but athleticism has always been present in excess. He already has six treys on his ledger which is mighty encouraging – he’s a long strider and can finish with the elite. The Tigers will need McDaniels to accept the challenge all year long to stay competitive in the ACC. A 3-0 start will serve to build confidence on a youthful roster.
Florida State sophomores:
The Seminoles have disposed of cupcake central in the early going, but their second-year players have been the marquee bright spots. Bookert is leading the show masterfully, averaging 15 points, five rebounds, four assists (2 turnovers) and three steals per game. He’s a confident and efficient shooter, connecting on 53% from the field (10 attempts) and 56% from distance (1.7 makes). Montay Brandon is off to a productive start after a difficult transition year as a frosh. The 6’7 wing is scoring ten points, grabbing five boards and dishing out two assists per game. He has the potential to be ‘Mr. Versatility’ for Leonard Hamilton. Last but certainly not least, another long, athletic wing in Aaron Thomas. 6’5 Thomas is putting up 13 points on 57% shooting and leading the conference in steals (4 per game). On a separate note, senior Ian Miller is healthy and playing great ball. It’s been a long time coming.
Under the radar Virginia Tech freshmen:
Ben Emelogu & Trevor Thompson
Emelogu has come from nowhere to be named team captain as a freshman. He’s averaging 15 points per game, including 22 in an upset victory over West Virginia. He’s raw with ball in hand, but he’s an athletic specimen at 6’5 205. After failing to see the floor in a season opening loss to (quietly good) USC Upstate, Trevor Thompson has racked up 11 & eight plus two blocks per game in the last two – in just 19 minutes. He’s an active and athletic at 6’10, but strength will be a major factor come conference play. Devin Wilson, who has a highly coveted wide receiver on the gridiron, has manned the point guard spot for VT with Marquis Rankin suspended (9/5/3).
Nick Faust, Maryland
Faust is shooting 31% in the early stages because Faust is settling. At 6’6 with a strengthened frame and explosive athleticism, it’s hard to imagine why. He shot 5/18 in the Barclays Center against Connecticut, attempting TEN three-pointers. He attempted just eight field goals in a home loss to Oregon State (13.5-point favorites) and half of them were three’s. If Faust wants to take the easy way and out and chuck long-range bombs, it’s going to be a rough year for both his future draft stock and the Terps W/L record. 6’9 center Shaquille Cleare has been an extreme disappointment, averaging two points (33% FG), two rebounds and two turnovers in 17 minutes per game. Cleare doesn’t fit into Mark Turgeon’s defensive style either.
Joe Harris, Virginia
Harris, a preseason frontrunner for ACC Player of the Year, has suffered through a bizarre opening three games. He scored 18 points on 7/12 shooting versus VCU, but combined for only six points in the team’s two victories. Harris went 0/4 from the floor against Davidson, finishing with one point and one assist in 30 minutes; this after putting up five points on 2/6 field goals in his season debut versus James Madison. While it’s obviously far too early to make a fuss, Harris’ stroke and assertiveness have been MIA. Pressure can do funny things to a player… Akil Mitchell and Justin Anderson have been noticeably absent as well.
Top 5: Shocking November Outcomes
St. Francis 66, Miami (FL) 62 – stunning losses are not completely foreign to Miami, but this one was ugly. Rebuilding or not, you can’t lose to an NEC school on your home floor. The ‘Canes shot 31% from the field and 0/15 from three. We miss you, Shane.
Belmont 83, North Carolina 80 – the Tar Heels fell at Chapel Hill as 14-point favorites. They had a six-point advantage with five minutes remaining but could not make free throws: 22/48 as a team and 4/16 from JP Tokoto. Yes, Belmont is well coached and well-schooled. The talent gap, however, is gargantuan.
Oregon St. 90, Maryland 83 – As mentioned earlier, the Terps lost as a 13.5-point choice to the preseason #8 in the Pac-12. The Beavers shot 60% from the floor on the road. Marist at home on Friday afternoon should provide the required elixir.
Indiana St. 83, Notre Dame 70 – to me, this “upset” is far more minor in scale, despite the 11-point spread. The Irish never adjusted to the three-point success of the Sycamores and paid a steep early price. Don’t be surprised to see ISU come March.
Toledo 95, Boston College 92 – BC can’t defend in any capacity. Guards stroll into the paint and there is zero rim protection. Toledo, who does have BCS-caliber talent on its roster, shot 57% from the field and got to the stripe 37 times. The Eagles nearly lost to Florida Atlantic next time out, escaping in Chestnut Hill by three.
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