Player of the Week
Ryan Kelly - Duke
Baby Dirk, the White Raven, R. Kelly...it depends on who you ask as to what nickname you'll hear but one thing everyone can agree on, including Coach K, is that Ryan Kelly's performance on Saturday against the 'Canes is one of the best of the year. Kelly hadn't played in nearly two months and was a surprise starter for the Blue Devil's home game against Miami. Everyone expected the 6'11 senior to be rusty after missing the majority of conference play to due a foot injury but he came out firing and scored a season high 36 points on 10 of 14 shooting. He gave the Blue Devils a huge boost in a game that likely vaulted them back into #1 seed territory. Coach K called the performance, "One for the ages. Probably as good a performance as any player has had -- a Duke player has had -- in Cameron." Considering all of the greats to have played for Duke in Cameron that is some pretty high praise. Kelly's return couldn't have come at a better time for Duke as the big man will be able to get integrated back into the offense over the final few games of the season and in the ACCT. This is something that the last star for Duke, that missed time due to a foot injury, didn't get to do. And we all know how that turned out once Tourney time came around.
Shane Larkin - Miami
What was lost in all of the Ryan Kelly hoopla was the performance of Larkin. The sophomore point guard had one of his best games of the season scoring 25 points, dishing out 4 assists and bringing down 4 rebounds. He got to the free throw line 8 times and broke down the Duke defense on multiple occasions throughout the game. Larkin has slowly become one of, if not the best, point guards in the ACC. He is the engine that makes the 'Canes' go. He's quick with the ball, finishes at the rim through contact and has an improving game from beyond the arc. He creates for his teammates and is a leader on a team full of veteran 4 and 5 year players. Miami has all but locked up the #1 seed in the ACCT and could get back to Joe Lunardi's top line if they were to make it a clean sweep of Championships by winning both the regular season and tournament titles. Larkin's development and progression has been huge for Jim Larranaga's squad and as he goes, so does this team.
Nick Faust - Maryland
Maryland has had trouble on the offensive end all season. That trouble can be primarily attributed to the team's inconsistent point guard play. Mark Turgeon has gone with Faust, Pe'Shon Howard and Seth Allen as a point guard by committee sort of thing, riding the hot hand from game to game. With Howard struggling after missing much of last season with an injury and with Allen being just a freshman, Faust has been the go-to guy lately for the Terps. He's not naturally a point guard and is playing out of position. Naturally this has caused him to try and make plays and get others involved when that just isn't his game. He's better suited as a slasher and scorer and when he tries to initiate offense and create as the shot clock winds down, he ends up turning the ball over. He had 6 turnovers, 4 in the first half, last week against Georgia Tech. Every one of those turnovers led to points on the other end for the Yellow Jackets. It was a game that his team desperately needed to win for NCAAT purposes and when the team needed him most, Faust couldn't answer the call. Of course it isn't all his fault as he is trying to be a player that he isn't.
Top 3 Candidates for ACC Player of the Year
1. Mason Plumlee - Duke
No only is Plumlee a serious contender for ACC POY honors but he is a serious contender for National POY honors as well. He is in the top five in the ACC in points, field goals, field goal percentage, rebounds, free throws made and blocks. He has been Duke's MVP this season and is one of the most improved players in college basketball this season. He has gotten more patience around the basket, isn't forcing as much and has started hitting his free throws at a much higher clip. He is a legitimate late lottery pick at this point and with a solid performance in the post season, could cement his name as one of the first 14 players drafted in June.
2. Joe Harris - Virginia
After suffering some bad losses early in the season to teams like Old Dominion, Delaware and George Mason, the Cavaliers have really turned in on during ACC play. Harris has really taken his game to another level and has become the leading scorer on a team that struggles to do just that. He scored 36 points against a top five Duke team last week and is second overall in the conference in points per game. He was known primarily as a 3 point specialist early in his career and is still that since he is shooting over 46% from distance on the season but he has also started to utilize a pump fake to get defenders in the air or to create enough separation to get around them and get to the bucket. He hasn't quite had the impact on the league like Plumlee but he still deserves recognition for the season he is having.
3. Erick Green - Virginia Tech
Green won't get as much consideration as the other two on this list based on his team's performance. The Hokies are currently dead last in the ACC with very little hope, if any, of being invited to play in any post season tournament. Green has been the lone bright spot for this team. He leads the nation in scoring and has put up 20+ points in 26 out of 29 games this season. He is another player that has improved both his game and draft stock tremendously from his junior to senior seasons and should get some votes for POY for what he has been able to accomplish no matter how bad his team is.
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