Player of the Week
After watching Virginia Tech draw the short end of the selection stick the last two years, it's hard to not pull for them to come through this season. They project to be on the bubble yet again and the team is desperate to make it over the hump and into the NCAA tournament. This desperation has been working in their favor recently. The senior trio of Malcolm Delaney, Terrell Bell and Jeff Allen must be aware that they need to gain momentum if they want a taste of the tourney before they leave the school. Delaney is scoring the bulk of his points at the free throw line (just under 50% of his 55 points this past week were scored at the free throw line) and Bell is playing efficiently (made all five of his 3-point field goal attempts against Maryland) but the team's MVP over the past few weeks has been Jeff Allen. Allen has averaged 19.5 points on 56% shooting over his past six games. He's also averaged 12.8 rebounds in that time period. Even though he's not much of a shot blocker, Allen has also been playing superb defense. He is showing great intensity while guarding his own man and rotates well to help his teammates. If Jeff Allen continues to play like this, then Virginia Tech has a great chance of reaching the tournament this season. That would be the cherry on top of a great legacy that he would be leaving behind at Virginia Tech. Allen is currently the leader among active ACC players in steals and rebounds and is one of only two players in the ACC averaging more than 10 rebounds a game this season. I'm looking forward to seeing how he and the rest of his team close out their final year.
Reggie Jackson was recently in a pretty bad rut. Yeah, he was slumping pretty hard and the monkey on his back wasn't helping matters either. Basically the player who was hot for the entire season, got ice-cold and put up some non-Reggie Jackson type numbers. The Boston College Eagles didn't respond well to this, and now they're just fighting to stay on the tournament bubble. Without Jackson playing well, they don't stand a chance. Fortunately for them, their star guard just got his groove back. In a very important game last week against a fellow bubble team in Maryland, Jackson put up a career-high 31 points on 12/16 shooting (5/7 3PT) with a season-high 8 rebounds as he led his team to a 76-72 victory. Even with his recent slump, Jackson has been remarkably efficient this season, shooting 51% from the field (highest among guards in the ACC) and 43% from behind the arc. He's also a talented playmaker (4.6 APG), who is skilled at penetrating the defense and finding his teammates for open shots. When he's playing well, Jackson is one of the best players in the ACC.
Maryland lost to both of the aforementioned teams last week (Virginia Tech and Boston College). Part of the reason is that their star big man, Jordan Williams, hasn't been producing. He's only averaging 12.3 points in his last three games (down from 17.1 on the season), and he hasn't managed to get a double-double in that time either (has 20 double-doubles so far this season). This is less of a problem with his offense, and more of a problem staying out of foul trouble. Williams has had 4 fouls in four of his last five games. This limits the time that he spends on the floor, as well as his aggressiveness on the glass. The sophomore center is leading the ACC in both rebounding (11.7 RPG) and field goal percentage (55%), and until recently has done a good job in staying out of foul trouble. Just like the Hokies and the Eagles, the Terrapins are considered a bubble team. They're going to need Jordan Williams on the court if they want to finish the season strong.
Top 5 Small Forwards
1. Kyle Singler - Though he's not getting any National Player of the Year pub like his teammate Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler remains a multi-dimensional player who knows how to win basketball games. Look for him to kick it up a notch in March. Bam!
2. Chris Singleton - Singleton's recent foot injury could keep him out for the rest of the season. The Seminoles will miss his presence on both ends of the floor. Offensively, he's shown great improvement in both his shot selection and his free-throw shooting. Defensively, he’s probably the best in the conference.
3. Harrison Barnes - He didn't start the season the way most of us expected, but recently Harrison Barnes has been playing like a potential top 5 pick. He's not as polished offensively as Singler and he isn't the defender Singleton is, but Barnes has more NBA potential than either of them.
4. Corey Raji - Raji is a bit under the radar, but a very good player nonetheless. He's a tenacious rebounder (especially offensively) and an efficient scorer. He's been a great role player for the Eagles.
5. Travis McKie - The team's horrendous record is not a reflection of the individual play of Travis McKie. Wake Forest’s freshman has been taking advantage of the playing time he's received this season to put up averages of 12.3 points and 7.5 rebounds a game.
Notes: Even with Singleton's injury, Florida State will likely receive a tournament bid... Forward CJ Leslie is starting to play well again, averaging 18.3 points and 8 rebounds a game over his last three... Outside of his free throw shooting ability, North Carolina forward John Henson is showing a lot of promise. He's averaged 14 points, 12 rebounds and 3 blocks over his last three games..