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X-Man Origins

Player of the Week

Xavier Rathan Mayes, Florida State

Xavier Rathan-MayesXavier Rathan-MayesAaron Thomas was supposed to be Florida State's go-to scorer, so after he was ruled ineligible for the season by the NCAA (and subsequently signed with an agent), there were a lot of questions about who could be relied upon to put points on the board. After this past week, it looks like freshman guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes, a highly-touted high school recruit that missed all of last season at Florida State to academic issues, is stepping into that role. Rathan-Mayes averaged 28.0 points (on 53.7% shooting), 5.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists over his last two games. The 6'4" guard is now leading the Seminoles in both points (14.2) and assists (4.7) per game on the season. The go-to role suits Rathan-Mayes, as he is nothing if not confident with the ball in his hands. He can get into the lane and is comfortable operating in the mid-range. He's got a tight handle with deceptive quickness, and will seemingly pull-up for a splay-footed jumper off the bounce at any time, making him a tough cover for defenders. His perimeter shooting leaves something to be desired (only a 24.2% shooter from outside), but considering his mid-range ability, I see the potential for him to improve there. If he manages to do that, he'll quickly become one of the most dangerous scorers in the conference. Note Xavier Rathan-Mayes as a potential breakout candidate for next season.

Hot

Jerian Grant, Notre Dame

I covered Jerian Grant last week when I crowned him my Player of the Week, but I think anyone that's paying attention would agree that his performance in Notre Dame's victory over Duke warrants a spot here. Grant exploded for 23 points and a career-high 12 assists against the Blue Devils on Wednesday, but he showed his true value in the last minute of the game. With a one point lead, Grant made an off-balance, highly contested jumper. Not long after, he found teammate, Steve Vasturia, for an open three-pointer. Just a few seconds later, he emphatically blocked a layup attempt by Quinn Cook. Grant's crunch-time performance was particularly impressive considering he played every minute in that game. While the stage and context make this performance really stand out, this type of impact is not unusual at all for Jerian, especially lately. Over his last four games, Grant is averaging 22.5 points (58.8% shooting), 4.0 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 1.5 blocks, and 2.0 steals. I mentioned last week that he was a likely first rounder, but I could see him sneaking into the lottery if he finishes the season strong or continues sinking effortless 30-footers (as he did against Duke).

Terry Rozier/Chris Jones, Louisville

The Louisville Cardinals are a top-ten ranked team in the nation, and considered a legitimate contender to win the ACC championship this season. However, the team has actually been a bit gimped offensively for most of 2014-15, as starting point guard Chris Jones, has not performed up to pre-season expectations. Now, we may be seeing what this team can do at full force, as Jones is starting to show off his explosive offensive ability. The senior averaged 22.5 points on 69.6% shooting from the floor in two games this past week. With those numbers contrasting his season averages of 13.4 points on only 38.2% shooting, it's no surprise Louisville won those two games. Jones didn't do it alone, however. His backcourt mate, Terry Rozier, averaged a whopping 24.5 points on 61.2% shooting over the same time period. Unlike Jones, Rozier has been performing all season, and has established himself as one of the top scorers (18.1 PPG) in the ACC. If both of these players continue to play at a high level at the same time, the Cardinals will be a major threat this postseason.

Cold

Justise Winslow, Duke

The winningest coach in NCAA history, Coach Mike Krzyzewski, won his 1,000th game last Sunday at St. Johns. The game itself was won comfortably by the Blue Devils, and a terrific celebration followed, but one of Duke's starters didn't contribute much at all to the victory. This player (who shall remain nameless) clearly has no respect for Coach K or his remarkable legacy. Justise Winslow (oops) finished the game scoring a total of zero points in only ten minutes of play. Of course, I say that in jest. The athletic defender has actually exhibited nothing but high character during his brief time at Duke, but he has been struggling to score much the last few weeks. Winslow is only averaging 5.0 points on 33.3% shooting, to go along with 0.6 assists and 1.8 turnovers over his last five games played. This sharp drop in performance can at least in part be attributed to nagging rib and shoulder injuries, but then, Winslow was never supposed to be a great scorer anyway. He's really more of a glue-guy that can make a big impact on the game without the ball being in his hands. In any case, it looks like he may be coming back around, having scored 13 points in Duke's loss to Notre Dame. Coach K would definitely appreciate him contributing on offense, especially now that wing Rasheed Sulaimon has been dismissed from the team.

Top 5 Juniors

1. Montrezl Harrell, Louisville - I mentioned above that Chris Jones and Terry Rozier have been playing exceptionally well lately, but in many ways Harrell is the leader of the team. Perhaps ironically, he recently lost his title as team co-captain. Regardless, he's still scoring at a good clip (14.9 PPG), rebounding at one of the highest rates in the conference (8.9 RPG), and playing intense defense.

2. Justin Anderson, Virginia - The Cavaliers are still undefeated and Anderson is obviously a huge part of that. He's the top scorer on the team, averaging 13.9 points per game, and he continues to make threes at the absurd rate of 51.9%. Anderson doesn't have to carry Virginia on his own (the team's defense takes care of most of that), but he'll be needed over this upcoming three game stretch, in which they play Duke, UNC, and Louisville consecutively.

3. Trevor Lacey, NC State - The Wolfpack have been slipping lately (losers of three straight), but transfer Trevor Lacey is still having an excellent season. The 6'1" guard is averaging 16.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 2.3 threes (on 42.1% shooting). If NC State were a more competitive team, Lacey would be getting a lot more national hype. Until then, he'll just have to continue to fly under the radar.

4. Marcus Paige, UNC - I say the same thing every time Paige is brought up: "He's having a down year, but he's still the heart of the Tar Heels." Paige is leading UNC in points (14.1 PPG) and assists (4.2 APG), and has led the team to a 7-1 record in the ACC. He always seems to play better in high-pressure situations, and has proven that he can be relied on to close games.

5. Devin Thomas, Wake Forest - The Demon Deacons are at the bottom of the ACC standings, but they've been more competitive than you might think. Out of the eight ACC games they've played, they've only lost one of them by double-digits. You'd hate to think of how this season would have gone if Devin Thomas didn't break out. The double-double machine is averaging 13.0 points and 10.0 rebounds, and has become one of the top bigs in the conference.

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