Player of the Week
John Collins - Wake Forest
A Wake Forest grad recently made this statement as we were discussing the Demon Deacons season. "John Collins is having the best individual season of any Wake player in recent history." Now, I knew that Collins was having a great season and one that very few saw coming when evaluating Wake a few months ago but at first I thought that statement was absurd. He and I did some digging into the Wake basketball statistical archives and I came away from that research in agreement with him. Collins' sophmore campaign outweighs what any Wake player has done since Tim Duncan left campus in 1997. You could argue that Josh Howard's junior season where he won ACC POY honors but his numbers are right on par with Collins' and he played 7 more minutes per game that season and the Per 40 stats aren't really that close anyway. Chris Paul had some nice seasons as did Eric Williams, Kyle Visser and Justin Gray but none of them seem to stack up to what Collins is doing through 25 games this season.
Collins averages of 18.1 points and 9.4 rebounds are both good enough for Top 10 and Top 3 in the ACC respectively. He's shooting 60.2% from the field which would rank him 6th in the country for players with a minimum of 250 field goal attempts. He's become a more complete player than he was when he first stepped on campus. He's become a monster around the rim and has developed decent moves on the block which was where I had him lacking last season. I had Wake pegged as one of the worst team's in the ACC this season and they've been anything but and a huge reason for that is the play of Collins. It would be hard to imagine a team that could finish with a sub .500 ACC record and still produce the ACC POY but if Collins can finish the season like he has played since mid-January then he's going to make it difficult on the voters.
Bonzie Colson - Notre Dame
Minus a two to three game stretch in January, Colson is a guy who could have realistically been on this list all season long. He's averaging career highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, three point percentage and free throw percentage. All while shooting over 51% from the field for an team that some thought would take a big step back this season considering what they lost to the draft a year ago. Colson and VJ Beachem have made sure that didn't happen and both have played well all season long.
Colson is somewhat of a unicorn when looking at the way he plays the game. He's only 6'5 but is built like a tank. There's literally nothing on the floor that he can't do well. He's leading the ACC in rebounding and is top ten in the country even though he's playing as an undersized PF most of the time. In two games last week, both wins, the junior forward averaged 30 points, 14.5 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 steals per game as he helped the Irish break a season high four game losing streak.
Mark Gottfried - NC State
After Saturday's 30 point drubbing at Wake, the chatter about Gottfried's job became full on screams from the Wolfpack fan base. It was the first time that NC State had been swept in a season by Wake in 20 or so years. Any and all good mojo that the team had gotten after winning at Duke late in January has officially gone away. Senior forward Beejay Anya was heard telling a fan to meet him in the parking lot after the game and the man who was supposed to lead the Wolfpack back to the NCAA Tournament, Dennis Smith took himself out of the game with a minute or so left. In all of my years covering college basketball, it was unlike anything I've ever seen.
In terms of overall talent, this might be one of the best that Gottfried has had in his entire career but it hasn't translated to very many wins. This will be the second straight season that the Wolfpack will miss out on the Big Dance and while that's not as big of a deal in terms of Gottfried being on the hot seat since he had led the team to four straight appearances and two Sweet 16's in his first four seasons, it is the way this team is losing games and the fact that they look as if they have just quit. I'm not a part of that locker room and I don't know what the root of the issue is, but I can tell you that State alum aren't happy. Obviously the record isn't what most thought it would be but the team has regressed from the beginning of the season, doesn't play defense, barely plays together and has no energy to start games or finish games. For a team that had high expectations coming into the season, it almost seems like the players can't wait for it to finally be over.
Top 5 Coaching Performances
1. Mike Brey - Notre Dame
Lost a big chunk of scoring and leadership from last year's team and never skipped a beat. The job he's done in developing guys like the aforementioned Colson and Beachem along with Matt Farrell has been nothing short of amazing. This team could make some noise come Tourney time.
2. Tony Bennett - Virginia
Much like what Brey has done with the Irish, Bennett lost the majority of his major contributors from last year's team, lost Austin Nichols to a suspension and yet still has this team in the conversation for an outright ACC regular season title. One of the best coaches in America, hands down.
3. Josh Pastner - Georgia Tech
Inherited a roster void of much talent and lacking any depth. Convinced Josh Okogie to come to Atlanta and has this steam sitting at .500 in ACC play with an outside shot at an NCAA Tournament birth with a strong finish a decent showing in the ACC Tournament.
4. Danny Manning - Wake Forest
In just his third season at Wake, Manning already has this team headed in the right direction both on the court and off of it. He's locked down a solid recruiting class for next season and has this current team playing at a level very few expected coming into this season.
5. Mike Krzyzewski/Jeff Capel - Duke
I'll probably get rocked for this considering the talent level and the fact that they've underachieved from their preseason #1 ranking but with all of the injuries, back surgeries and tripping incidents that both of these coaches have had to deal with, they deserve credit for keeping these guys on track and continue to focus on the next game.
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