One Man Wolfpack
Thanksgiving is over and the season is now in full swing. Most of the "Holiday Tournaments" are behind us and teams are now looking at closing out their OOC schedules as we head into December before Conference play gets under way with the new year. Thus far, the ACC looks like the best conference in America top to bottom with some of the usual suspects leading the way. With a solid showing in this week's ACC/Big 10 Challenge, I could easily see the conference getting 9-10 teams into the NCAA Tournament field when it is all said and done.
Player of the Week
Dennis Smith - NC State
11, 12, 21, 21, 24, 30. Those are Smith's scoring totals from each of his first six games of the season. Obviously those numbers will have to plateau at some point since there's no way he can continue to elevate his scoring output all season, but those numbers show what most NC State fans were hoping for from Smith coming into the season. He's a proven scorer that will only get better as the season progresses. He was on my "Who's Not" list after the first week of the season and I said that he would get better as he got more comfortable on the court. He seems to have recovered completely from his torn ACL that kept him out for all of his senior season and it looks as though he's made himself a believer that he's fully healed. The Wolfpack are very reliant on their guards from an offensive standpoint. Outside of Abdul Malik Abu, they currently don't have much in the frontcourt from an offensive perspective. That should change as they get healthy and suspensions are served so it should be a welcomed sight to Mark Gottfried and company that Smith is beginning to play like a potential lottery pick. He still gets a little out of control at times but he's worked on that over the last few games and seems to be picking his spots better. He's a gifted scorer but also a very underrated passer. Defensively is where I've seen him struggle recently and is something that the entire NC State roster needs to work on as they just haven't looked good on that end of the floor all season.
Bonzie Colson - Notre Dame
Wtih three straight double-doubles, all wins by the Irish, Bonzie deserves recognition. Colson began the week with 22 points, 12 rebounds, a couple of steals and a block against Colorado in what was a monster performance for the junior big man. He followed that up with two more 11 rebound games against Northwestern and Chicago State respectively. In a year where I thought there would be a noticable fall off for the Irish after losing starting lineup mainstays Demetrius Jackson and Zach Auguste, Colson along with fellow upper classmen VJ Beachem and Steve Vasturia have kept Notre Dame in the ACC mix and have quietly become one of the better teams in the conference. Colson isn't your prototypical big man at just 6'5 but he has expanded his game out beyond the arc over the last two seasons while mainting his reputation as an undersized banger on the inside that isn't afraid to mix it up. He's made more three's this season than he did during his first two years combined with the Irish and has gone from being a high intensity role player to this team's top offensive threat and leader. Colson isn't a household name outside of South Bend but a strong showing on Tuesday night against Iowa along with big time games against Purdue and Villanova early in December could vault him into ACC POY conversations.
Amile Jefferson - Duke
With all of the hype surrounding the return of Grayson Allen and the incoming crop of freshmen, Jefferson seems to be the forgotten Blue Devil. As I wrote in my ACC Preview, his return to the rotation was more important than anyone else this season because of what he brings to the table. He's picked right up where he left off last season and has seemingly gotten better during his time on the sidelines. For a guy who wasn't much of an offensive threat during his first three seasons in Durham, Jefferson has quietly become a solid post player and a guy that can go get you a bucket when you need one. His jump shot looks good, although he lacks the range that I would like from a PF at the next level and he's a good defender in the post. As I tweeted during a game earlier this season, Jefferson is the epitome of what you want out of a college player in terms of development. Go find some tape of Duke's trip to Raleigh during Jefferson's freshman year. CJ Leslie absolutely dominated Jefferson from the opening tip and had him in foul trouble the entire game. Then play some tape of Jefferson in any game this season and you won't believe it is the same player. He's the X-Factor for Duke this season and has he goes, so will the Blue Devils.
Xavier Rathan Mayes - Florida State
I know it is early and I know things are fluid at this point. But XRM has really disappointed me this season. I thought this was the year he took a sizeable step forward in his development and became the Robin to Dwayne Bacon's Batman. But while Bacon has elevated his game so far this season, XRM has has struggled mightily. He's shooting below 38% from the field, including 19.2% from distance this season, both career lows. He just hasn't looked comfortable so far this season and his play has suffered. I made a comment to a friend of mine about liking FSU this season due to what I said was "great guard play". He quickly questioned that line of thinking saying that the "great" adjective with regards to XRM was a "stretch". I was hoping to be prove right and there's still time for that, but early returns have been anything but "great" for XRM. On the bright side, the team is playing well and should be a Top 25 contender for most of the season.
Beejay Anya - NC State
If Jefferson is everything that you want out of a player in terms of development, Anya would be everything that you don't want. Everything with Anya centers around his ability to stay in shape and keep unecessary weight off of his 6'9 frame. He had slimmed down from when he arrived on campus but seems to have had trouble keeping that weight off over the last two seasons. With the suspensions and injuries to Omer Yurtseven, Ted Kapita and Lennard Freeman, Anya has essentially been guaranteed minutes so far this season and has done very little with them. Foul trouble has been an issue this season at times and he has seen his minutes cut down quite a bit in the two games that Kapita has been active. He played a season low 7 minutes against Loyola-Chicago on Saturday and likely won't see those minutes climb anytime soon. A player with the wingspan and ability to block shots like Anya has, it is a shame that he hasn't been able to keep himself in shape enough to carve out more of a role on this NC State team that is desperate for help in the frontcourt currently. Still, he's the ACC's leading active shot blocker and if he could prove his worth on that end of the floor by protecting the paint, there might still be hope that he gets back in Mark Gottfried's good graces.
Top 5 ACC Teams
1. North Carolina
Class of the ACC so far this season. Extremely balanced and deep. As players continue to adjust to their new roles, the sky is the limit for this team.
The Blue Devils aren't far behind the Tar Heels right now and as soon as they get healthy then I'd have them with a slight advantage over their in-state rivals.
3. Notre Dame
The biggest surprise of the season so far and a pleasant one at that. There are few coaches that can get the most out of their players the way Mike Brey can.
That loss to Baylor was just bad. No reason that a team like Louisville should squander a 20+ point lead. Other than that, they've looked better than I thought they would.
5. Florida State
The aforementioned Bacon has looked really good so far. So has freshman forward Jonathan Isaac with his 15 and 7 averages.
Follow me on Twitter @CCroweNBADraft
This kind of articles seems to cause bad luck... and here Smith falls dramatically against Illinois...
To be fair though, Amile had 17 points and 13 rebounds while Colson had 24 points and 17 rebounds so it only caused bad luck for Dennis.
Although, Smith did revert back to how he looked in the first few games with trying to do too much and force the issue when he shouldn't have. Especially in the second half. Gott has to calm him down and let him know that he doesn't have to play hero ball all the time.