Righting the Ship

Player of the Week

Jayson Tatum - Duke

Jayson TatumJayson TatumAs I've written a few times recently, the Blue Devils seem to be back on track and are starting to look more and more like the team everyone thought they would coming into the season. With the majority of their injuries and tripping suspensions behind them, this team has begun to click on all cylinders at the right time. A huge reason for that has been the play of Tatum. He was somewhat overlooked earlier in the season due to the stellar play of Luke Kennard but he has steadily become arguably the best player on the floor for Coach K on most nights. And that's no disrespect to what Kennard has and is currently doing. Kennard is probably their MVP to this point in the season but Tatum will be their most important player come NCAA Tournament time.

His importance to Duke was on full display last week in the team's two wins, at Virginia and home against Wake. He was a one man wrecking crew in the second half against what, to that point, had been a suffocating Cavalier defense. He scored 21 of his career high 28 points during the second half which allowed the Blue Devils to create a little space and head back to Durham with a double digit win. He's a one on one nightmare for any defender in the country and when he gets a head of steam he's hard to stop. His ability to rebound from the wing has also been big for a Duke lineup that goes small on most nights with he and Kennard playing a lot of three/four.

Who's Hot

Josh Okogie - Georgia Tech

There is no shortage of media members out there, including myself, that believe Josh Pastner should be the ACC's Coach of the Year. The job he's done in his first year has been nothing short of amazing with what was left after Brian Gregory was let go. His first order of business was to keep Okogie signed and that he did. The rest, as they say, is history. Okogie leads the Yellow Jackets in scoring this season and has been, along with Ben Lammers the biggest reason that the team has an outside shot at an NCAA Tournament berth, something that was laughable a few months ago after the team dropped a non-conference home game against Ohio.

I got to see Okogie play live for the first time recently and let me tell you that this kid is the total package. He looks the part physically, can score from anywhere on the court and is a plus defender. He struggles with shot selection at times but he's only a freshman and he's just scratching the surface of his potential. For his sake, I hope no one gets in his ear about the NBA too early and he's allowed to continue his development under Pastner for at least one more season, if not two. He's got NBA potential and should play himself into first round over the next few seasons.

Who's Not

Virginia

As wrong as I was about Louisville and NC State coming into the season, it seems like my thoughts on Virginia were spot on. I felt like they were playing above their heads early in the season and figured that the ACC schedule would start to give them fits as they really lack any sort of play making and scoring outside of London Perrantes. Tony Bennett has done a great job over the last few seasons with this program but I felt like that was going to be a "rebuilding" year of sorts. They are on one of the worst slides in basketball since late January. The team has lost six of eight after their loss Monday at home against Miami. They've scored less than 50 points in each of their last two games and couldn't buy a bucket down the stretch against the Canes. Save for a questionable foul or two and some free throws, the Cavaliers could get anything going. Davon Reed took Perrantes out of the game completely in the final minutes as he could barely get a shot off.

They still have to travel to NC State as well as welcome both North Carolina and Pitt into their house. None of those teams are going to lay down and the Cavaliers could very well end the season below or right at .500 in the regular season while limping into the NCAA Tournament. That's not the way you want to be trending as we head into March.

Top 5 ACC Final Four Contenders

1. Duke

The Blue Devils are peaking at the right time and have a great mix of players that can matchup with any team on a given night. With the way that the aforementioned Tatum and Kennard are playing along with the experience of Amile Jefferson and Grayson Allen, this team has what it takes to cut down those nets.
2. North Carolina
Love the way Justin Jackson is playing and Joel Berry has been the best PG in the ACC this season. They are extremely skilled offensively and can put up points on you before you can even blink. They are a team that is a tad banged up at this point in the season with almost every key player having missed time in the second half of the season.
3. Florida State
Dwayne Bacon is one of the best guards in the country. Having to deal with him if he gets hot along with the depth and rotations that Leonard Hamilton can throw at you is something I wouldn't want to see come March. Most coaches shorten their bench at this time of the season but with the success they've had with it so far, I don't see that changing anytime soon.
4. Louisville
I've been down on Louisville for most of the season so why start loving them now? There's just something about this team that I don't like. Donovan Mitchell should be the most improved player in the ACC this season and as we've seen, he can carry this team for stretches when others' shots aren't falling.
5. Notre Dame
The dynamic duo of Bonzi Colson and VJ Beachem isn't one that I would want to see on my side of the bracket in a few weeks. They are as good of a combo that the ACC has to offer. But they lack a lot of depth up front and play a lot of small ball. A bigger team with solid wings could give them fits as we get into the second round of the tournament.
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Robb_C
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Dukes lack of PG play will

Dukes lack of PG play will hurt them in the Tourney not a Final 4 team, this Duke team breaks under pressure and the tournament is a pressure filled affair.. Florida St will get bounced out early I see them losing in the 2nd round or maybe the sweet 16..

Joel Barry is a stud, he plays very well under pressure and I see him being a factor in a long Tournament run. Louisville has a very aggressive style of play, I knew this team was going to be a success due to the amount of depth and size Pitino has on this team this year, it allowed him pressure the ball nonstop without losing much on the offensive end.. Louisville has to perform better in the halfcourt to make a deep run, the achilles heel of this team is its passing ability

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