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Chief Justise

Player of the Week

Justise Winslow, Duke

Justise WinslowJustise WinslowBecause of a shallow rotation, the Blue Devils have to rely heavily on their starters. Fortunately, Jahlil Okafor, Quinn Cook, and Tyus Jones, have played well enough this season to keep Duke one of the top teams in the nation. Freshman, Justise Winslow has been a huge part of Duke's success himself, but was struggling in January with shoulder and rib injuries. Interestingly enough, all of the Blue Devil's losses this season occurred during January. Perhaps Justise is that final piece that takes Duke from a great team to a championship contender. If that's the case, the ACC better watch out. In two Duke victories this past week, Winslow has averaged 18.0 points on 66.7% shooting from the floor (66.7% from behind the arc as well), 7.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 4.0 steals, and 1.5 blocks. These stats are in addition to the outstanding defense he plays, which will often force opponents into turnovers and low-percentage shot attempts. His ability to have a tremendous impact on the game without having to dominate the ball is why he's held in such high-esteem in draft circles. Offensively, he already has the kind of profile that NBA teams would like in a defensive role-player. He makes the most out of transition opportunities, thanks to his speed and body control. He's active in half-court situations as well, always looking to cut to the rim and -- due in large part to his leaping ability -- is a strong finisher when he gets there. Contrary to what many were claiming his biggest weakness was before the season began, Winslow is also a quality spot-up shooter. He connects on 40% of his three point attempts, making an average of 1.2 triples per game. With the ball in his hands, he's much more limited, though he can slash to the rim in a straight line, and has the awareness/passing ability to find his teammates when they're open. All things considered, he's got a very nice, well-rounded skill-set, with the potential to get better. He's young and known as a very hard worker, so it will be interesting to see how he takes his game further. If he polishes his ball-handling ability and mid-range shooting, he could be an NBA all-star. Even if he doesn't, it's hard not to see him become a starting-quality defensive role-player.

Hot

Montrezl Harrell, Louisville

Grit and toughness are a requirement to thrive in the ACC, and Louisville junior Montrezl Harrell has both in spades. The 6'8" forward plays every game with a tremendous amount of energy. Coupling that with his athleticism is how he scores the majority of his points. Lately, however, he's been expanding his offensive repertoire. Over the last week, Harrell has averaged 19.5 points (72.7% shooting) and 8.0 rebounds per game. This included a 23 point, 12 rebound, 2 assist, 40 minute performance in a loss Wednesday against Notre Dame. He also shot a season-high 12 free-throws in that game (though he only made 7 of them). This recent increase in production isn't an accident. Harrell is becoming more aggressive in looking for his own shot, which could be very scary for other teams, as he's hard enough to guard when he's just looking to score off of hustle plays. Now he's becoming more comfortable with the ball in his hands; both in the mid-range, and in the post. It's not unusual anymore for him to spot up from the elbow or even turn and shoot over his left shoulder from 15 feet. On the block, he's displayed a drop step, a hook, and even an up-and-under move. His offensive game is far from polished, but the potential is more evident now than it's ever been. Considering his work-ethic and motor, there's no reason to think he's plateaued.

Anthony Gill, Virginia

Once it was announced that Justin Anderson would miss a significant amount of time with a finger injury, there was a lot of concern about who would step up offensively to compensate. Malcolm Brogdon was the obvious choice, and he's certainly delivered on those expectations, but thanks to junior Anthony Gill, he hasn't had to do so alone. This past week, Gill has averaged 16.5 points on 73.7% shooting (including 5/6 from the stripe) as well as 7.0 rebounds in two Virginia victories. Despite being a somewhat quiet scorer, he's been the Cavaliers' most efficient player this season. He's shooting 58.8% from the field thanks to his nice touch and patient play around the rim. He's also adept at getting to the free-throw line, leading the team in free-throw attempts (4.6 attempts per game, shooting 67.2%) despite not commanding a lot of possessions. Logically, a higher usage rate for Anthony would be good for Virginia, and these past few weeks seem to have confirmed that. There's a lot of reason for Cavalier fans to be excited for this postseason. You know that the team can compete with anyone defensively, and between Brogdon, Anderson (if he returns), and Gill, the team may have enough offensive options to beat the unbeaten.

Cold

Pittsburgh Panthers

Before this last week, the Panthers were primed to make a play for an NCAA tournament bid. They've had two big wins this season against Notre Dame and North Carolina, a winning record in the most stacked conference in the nation, and a relatively easy remaining schedule. Regrettably, they've lost two consecutive games, falling to Wake Forest (not a good look here) and then to Miami (a fellow bubble team). Suddenly, Pittsburgh is facing a losing conference record and could be ranked as low as 9th in the upcoming ACC tournament. They're not alone in the middle of the conference standings, but they'd lose tiebreakers to Miami, NC State, or Clemson. At this point, things are looking pretty grim for Jamie Dixon's squad. To warrant any kind of serious consideration on Selection Sunday, they're going to have to win their next two games (against Florida State and Clemson) and then defeat Virginia in the quarterfinals on Thursday. Certainly not an easy task, but there's not much else they can do to strengthen their resume at this point. There's always the NIT, I suppose.

Top 5 ACC Teams

1. Virginia Cavaliers - There was talk that Justin Anderson could return to the Cavaliers' lineup this Saturday against Louisville, but following an appendectomy Thursday, he'll miss that game, and his status for the upcoming ACC tournament is now in question. Most teams couldn't lose a player of his caliber and still be the favorite to come out of this week with the crown, but Virginia is having a special year. They've only lost one game so far this season, have locked up the ACC regular season title, and are poised to secure a #1 seed for the NCAA tournament on selection Sunday. I certainly wouldn't bet against them this week, even if Anderson stays out.

2. Duke Blue Devils - If there's one team that stands between Virginia and the ACC tournament crown, it's Duke. The Cavaliers (like almost every other team in the nation) don't have a single player that figures to significantly slow down Jahlil Okafor. The expected ACC Player of the Year/Freshman of the Year and potential national Player of the Year has used his combination of size and skill to make opponents look silly all season, and there's no reason to think he'll let up now that it counts. That being said, he's shooting 28.0% from the stripe over his last four games; don't be surprised if teams look to exploit that weakness.

3. Notre Dame Fighting Irish - The Fighting Irish are one of four teams in the country still shooting over 50% from the floor as a team. They're also fourth best in the nation with a 1.61/1 assist/turnover ratio. As the most efficient offensive team in the ACC, Notre Dame has the poise and consistency to contend in the ACC tournament this week. They've already proven they have what it takes to knock off Duke, beating them at home in January. Jerian Grant is a big-time leader that can thrive under pressure, and he'll be key to any kind of significant postseason run. With a nice showing in the ACC tournament, I'd expect Notre Dame to net a #3 seed for the big dance.

4. North Carolina Tar Heels - North Carolina has been facing tough competition all season, even before the conference season started. By the time the ACC tournament starts, they will have played against 10 ranked opponents, half of which were ranked in the top-5 nationally when the game tipped-off. They've already defeated four ranked teams this year, which is impressive, but have yet to record a victory against Virginia, Duke, or Notre Dame this season. They'll get a chance to change that at home against the Blue Devils this Saturday, in a game that could have a big impact on the conference standings (a top-4 seed comes with an extra day of rest in the ACC tournament) as well as tournament seeding on Selection Sunday. Marcus Paige has a reputation for stepping up in big games, so a lot of eyes will be on him, as there won't be any more small games from this point on.

5. Louisville Cardinals - A lot of what was said about UNC could be applied to Louisville. They're also fighting for a top-4 conference record, they also haven't defeated any of the top three teams in the conference, and they'll also get a chance to change that at home this Saturday. Unlike the Tar Heels, however, the Cardinals can't rely on their x-factor any longer. Chris Jones has been booted from the team and is being charged with a lot of things that may be something of a distraction to the remaining team. Of course, Jones has been inconsistent all season, and left Terry Rozier and the aforementioned Montrezl Harrell to carry the team to their current record. The two will have to continue to do so if Louisville wants to make much of an impact this postseason.

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