Cool Hand Luke
It was a great week for the ACC, or at least it was for most teams. They took home the conference's first ACC/Big10 Championship title in 7 years and as a collective group, went 20-8 overall. The only "bad" loss was by Pitt on Friday night at home to a bad Duquesne team (more on that later).
Some teams have come out of the gates hot and are living up to expectations, some are exceeding those expectations and others just haven't seemed to put it all together. As we get closer and closer to conference play towards the end of this month, teams should have full rosters at their disposal and we should start seeing even more separation between the contenders and pretenders.
Player of the Week
Luke Kennard - Duke
Raise your hand if you had Kennard pegged as someone who would be getting ACC POY consideration for this Duke team? If your hand is raised then you're lying to yourself as well as the rest of us. Don't get me wrong, I've always liked Kennard's game, especially how it fits with the collegiate game/rules but what he's doing so far this season has been nothing short of spectacular. Outside of his streaky three point shooting at times (combined 3-20 from distance against W&M, App State and Mich St), there really isn't anything that you can knock about his game and what he has been able to accomplish this season. He's been one of, if not the best all around players in college basketball this season and has really made sure that this Duke team didn't slip up early as they were awaiting the return of 3/5 of their prized freshman class. Kennard is a scorer in every sense of the word and can do so from anywhere on the court. It will be interesting to see what Coach K does with his rotation and starting unit if/when Harry Giles returns from his injury. With the way Kennard, Amile Jefferson and Matt Jones have been playing, it would be hard to send any of them to the bench in favor of arguably the best pro prospect on the entire roster. But those are problems that any Coach in America would love to have so I doubt Coach K is sweating it too much.
John Collins - Wake Forest
The Demon Deacons sit at 7-2 with their only losses coming to #1 Villanova and a good Northwestern team on the road. Nothing for their fans to complain about. They've played extremely well this season and they can thank none other than Collins for their success as he has come out of nowhere this season to lead the Deacs in scoring, rebounds and blocked shots. If anyone thought that this team would see a signifcant drop off in the post after Devin Thomas' graduation then you thought wrong. Collins has four double-doubles this season (at the time this is being written), including three in a row. Collins has shown great touch around the basket this season and is an explosive player in the paint. His best games have come against lower level competition this season so I'm interested to see how his development continues once we get into the ACC slate where he will matchup with some of the better big men in the country.
Torin Dorn - NC State
The Wolfpack, as a team, haven't really looked great in any game this season but individually there are a few guys playing extremely well with Dorn being the most consistent so far this season. He's second on the team in scoring behind only Dennis Smith but hes been by far the player that has kept the Wolfpack in the majority of their games and has done so very quietly. He's the type of sneaky scorer where you look up with 10 minutes left in the game, he's got 15 points and you haven't heard his name. He was known for his scoring prowess during his freshman season at Charlotte and he's picked up right where he left off when he transferred. He's shooting 61% from the field (as a guard mind you) and 54% from distance. He's at his best when he can rise over defenders from around 16-18 feet. His mid-range game is the best I've seen so far in the ACC this season and he always seems to be at the right place at the right time on offense. I made similar comments about TJ Warren a few years ago. Not that he'll be the next Warren, but I see similarities in the way they both go about their business on the offensive end. Now, if Dorn and the rest of the team could learn to play defense then they'd be one of the better teams in the conference.
Jamel Artis - Pittsburgh
Artis was suspended for the team's game against Duquesne last Friday night due to what Head Coach Kevin Stallings said was a "failure to meet our high standards.” The team lost that game to the Dukes and I place the blame squarely on the shoulders of Artis for not doing what he needed to do off the court, to keep himself on it. He and Michael Young are one of the top duo's in the ACC and it was clear that the team missed Artis' scoring and play making ability against a lesser Duauesne team.
Top 5 Early Season Storylines
1. Amile Jefferson
I talked a lot about Kennard above, but he hasn't been doing this on his own. Jefferson has been absolutely stellar this season as an upperclassman and senior leader of a fairly young Duke team.
2. NC State
For everything that the Wolfpack are and can be, their downfall will be at the defensive end of the floor. When watching this team play, it is as if they are allergic to defense and Dennis Smith seems to be one of the major culprits. They were my dark horse team coming into the season but they won't go very far if they can't figure out how to stop people.
3. Top Conference in the land
The ACC is always one of the top basketball conferences year in and year out, but this season the conference is as good and deep as I've ever seen. Depending on how much they beat up on each other when conference play begins, I don't think it would be a stretch for this league to get 9 to 10 teams in the field of 68.
4. Wake Forest
I honestly wasn't sure Wake would even win an ACC game this season. Sure, they had shots in three games against Boston College and Georgia Tech (two at home) but outside of those, it would be slim pickins. But with the way they've played so far this season, I could see them potentially being a .500 team in the ACC which would be a huge win for this team and program this season.
5. Bonzie Colson
17.1 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2 assists, 1.4 blocks and 1 steal. Currently undefeated record with wins against Colorado, Northwestern and Iowa. For a team that was supposed to be in somewhat of a rebuilding year. Enough said.
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