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Pinball Wizard

Player of the Week

Grayson Allen, Duke

Grayson AllenGrayson AllenWe were treated to a battle for supremecy right out of the gate as the No. 1 Blue Devils took on the No. 2 Michigan State Spartans in the State Farm Champions Classic game on Tuesday, just four days into the college season.

This game was being hyped up for weeks due the collection of talented players that would be featured. Spartans forward Player: Miles Bridges] has been widely viewed as the pre-season player of the year favorite among college basketball analysts. Duke's head coach Mike Krzyzewski typically has his way over Tom Izzo's squads; however, the Spartans seemed determined to not let history repeat itself. From the opening tip-off to the final buzzer, the intensity was raised to an all-time high, as neither team was willing to give any edge over the other. Duke was able to come out of the United Center victorious, edging out Michigan by the score of 88-81. The back and forth game illustrated the surplus of talent on the court. That being said, Grayson Allen was the star that shined the brightest.

Being the only senior on the Blue Devils' roster, Allen is the guy this youthful Duke team must rely on for leadership. In what turned out to be his best game as a collegiate player, Allen appeared virtually unguardable despite the effort exhibited by Michigan State to slow him down. Allen was lighting up the scoreboard like a pinball machine, as he finished with a career-high 37 points to cap off the statement win over the Spartans. He knocked down seven of eleven threes and finished in the paint with ease using his touch and athleticism. Freshman sensation Marvin Bagley went down with an eye injury in the first half after being accidentally poked by teammate Javin DeLaurier. With Duke having to play with their best interior player out for the rest of the game, Allen put the team on his back and delivered when it counted most.

During the final stretches of the game, Allen knocked down two three pointers and made clutch free throws to help Duke pull away from the Spartans with less than three minutes of play. So far this season, Allen has been able to thrive playing off the ball.

Trevon Duval is the new sheriff in town, and has accepted the responsibilities as the starting point guard who will look to get teammates in a rhythm first before he looks for his own shots. Allen credited Duval's unselfish game after the victory, stating that he wouldn't have had the performance he did without his fellow backcourt mate. With Duke being able to knock off Michigan without Bagley for most of the game, it's safe to say that the Blue Devils are capable of beating any team in the country, and appear to be the early favorites to win the National Championship.

Who's Hot?

Nickeil Alexander Walker, Virginia Tech

The Virginia Tech Hokies have notoriously known as a defensive team over the last couple of years under head coach Buzz Williams; however, the team looks to be an offensive juggernaut so far this season. The Hokies first two games ended in 111-79 and 132-93 victories over Detroit Mercy and the Citadel. Although not the greatest of the teams, the triumphant wins were eye-opening nevertheless. The one player who stood out the most for the Hokies was freshman Nickeil Alexander-Walker. The 6'5", 210 lbs guard was able to showcase his skills for the first time in his college career. Being ranked the #21 player from his class by ESPN 100, the Virginia Tech basketball program places high expectations on the freshman. So far, Alexander-Walker is proving his worth and why he made the right decision to attend Virginia Tech.

Through his first two games, Alexander-Walker is averaging 26.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.0 blocks. The efficiency at which Alexander-Walker operates is also impressive, shooting 63% from the field and 50% from three. Despite the small sample size, Alexander-Walker has appeared to be everything the Hokies hoped he would be. Alexander-Walker has been able to guard multiple positions on the perimeter, partially due to his size but he also uses his defensive instincts to take advantage of the opposition. Flipping it over to the offensive end, Alexander-Walker has been able to get to the rim and knock down three pointers when the opportunity is there. He rebounds nicely for a guard and has done a solid job with finding open teammates and setting them up for scoring chances. The only wrinkle to his game would be his turnover rate, as he's averaging 1.5 turnovers per game. For a player who isn't lighting up the assist category, Alexander-Walker needs to do a better job with keeping the ball on offense. Regardless of his turnover tendencies, Alexander-Walker appears to be a problem for ACC teams down the road, and a top freshman nationally.

Who's Not?:

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

The entire Wake Forest team has been disappointing early on this season. The Demon Deacons are 0-2 versus mid major teams, which includes 85-83 and 79-66 losses to Georgia Southern and Liberty. Not that the expectations were high for the Demon Deacons, but the basketball program was thought to be a decent team after they appeared in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2010. The team did lose their best player Player: John Collins from last season after Collins decided to leave college his sophomore year to enter the NBA Draft, but there was still enough talent leftover that was able to make up for the loss.

During Wake Forest's defeat to Georgia Southern, the Demon Deacons managed to shoot 45.8% from the three point line. The fact that they were able to lose shooting that effectively is confusing. Player: Keyshawn Woods, Player: Chaundee Brown, and Player: Bryant Crawford combined to score 65 points. The rest of the team was only able to put up 18 points. Clearly Wake Forest is a top-heavy team that doesn't have many options to go to on offense. The Demon Deacons will need to clean up their inefficiencies on defense in order to keep the games close.

Speaking of terrible defense, Wake Forest played even worse on that end of the floor during their loss to Liberty. Even though they gave up less points in the process, the Flames were scorching hot from three, shooting 42.9% from behind the arc. Comparatively speaking, Wake Forest was ice cold from that aspect of the game, shooting an embarrassing 11.8% from the three point line. The vast discrepancy led to the downfall of Wake Forest once again, as the Demon Deacons will now have to play catchup to please over the committee come tournament decision time.

Top 5 Front Runners for the ACC Player of the Year:

1) Grayson Allen: There's a reason Allen is the player of the week for this blog. His shooting catapulted Duke over Michigan State. The Blue Devils look like a championship contender early on in the season. The team still has a long way to go, but if Allen is able to progress with the young roster Coach K has built around him, don't be shocked if Allen ends up running away with this award.

2) Bonzie Colson: Colson may lack the measurables scouts look for in NBA prospects, but the two things that can't be quantified are heart and leadership. Colson's plays hard every possession and has proven he can be an emotional and verbal leader. This will pay huge dividends for Notre Dame this season. Mike Brey has a very experienced team that will be competing for the top spot in the ACC all season long. If the Fighting Irish are to have any success, the offense and defense starts and finishes with Colson.

3) Ben Lammers: Georgia Tech remains winless after a tough 63-60 loss to No. 21 UCLA. Many would argue that there's no such thing as a "good loss", but the Yellow Jackets proved to themselves and to the rest of college basketball fans that they are not a team to mess with. Coming off a NIT championship loss from a season ago, head coach Josh Pastner is looking to build off the team's success and carry it over to this season. If the Yellow Jackets believe they can make the NCAA tournament, Ben Lammers must maintain the level of play that he displayed against the Bruins.

4) Marvin Bagley III: Yes there are two Duke players that make the cut, but based on the way the team has been playing it's rightfully so. Marvin Bagley decided to reclassify and leave high school early in order to play for Coach K and the Blue Devils' squad that looks loaded this season. Even though Bagley was forced to the sideline after an unfortunate eye injury against Michigan State, the big man figures to miss very little to no time down the road. Bagley posted 20+ points and 10+ rebounds in first two games at Duke. Perhaps the most talented player in the country, Bagley has the total package and skill required to propel Duke to the top of the ACC.

5.) Tyus Battle: Syracuse is being over-looked right now, which is a scary thing for the rest of their opponents. Despite losing key contributors from the previous season, the Orange intend to improve upon last season. After having a nice freshman year, Tyus Battle appears to be ready to be handed over the responsibilities of being the focal point of the team. Battle has not disappointed, as Syracuse stands at 2-0 with wins against Cornell and Iona. Battle has scored at a proficient rate, but will need to improve his playmaking and three point shooting percentage to further improve his team. That being said, Battle still has time to fix his issues and figures to improve as the season progresses.

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