Co-Players of the Week
No, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets are not a good team. In fact, they rank among the Mike Scott-less Virginia Cavaliers and the ACC-bomination Wake Forest Demon Deacons at the bottom of the barrel. That’s why I’m so impressed they managed to win their last two games against North Carolina and Wake Forest by 20 and 35 points respectively. Now for a team that came into the week with a 7-8 overall record, that’s not too bad. Hardly bad at all, I would say. All (and I mean ALL) credit goes to the scrappy duo of Glen Rice Jr and Iman Shumpert. Glen Rice Jr. has always been a favorite of mine. At this point in his collegiate career, he’s a radical role player (hey, I just watched Brink!, alright?). His shooting ability isn’t off the charts, but he’s adequate enough to be the best shooter on his team. He’s also a talented defender, an unselfish passer, he runs the floor well, and rebounds at a high rate for a 6’5" guard. He’s a jack of all trades. His partner, junior Iman Shumpert, is playing just as well. This season, he leads his team in points per game (16.4), rebounds (5.5), assists (3.4) and steals (2.6). Though his stats on the season are good, both he and Rice turned it up a notch. Bam! (I’m watching too much TV.) In their two wins this week, Rice and Shumpert have combined for, get this, 47.5 points a game on 63% shooting. It’s hard to lose when your two best players put up those kind of numbers. Provided neither player declares for the draft this season (and they would be wise not to), the future of the Yellow Jackets isn’t all too bleak.
Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen get a lot of credit for the success of the Virginia Tech Hokies, and rightfully so. However, there’s another player on the team who should also be getting recognition for his play this season, and that’s sophomore Erick Green. At the beginning of the season many people pegged Virginia Tech as the second best team in the ACC and a top 25 team in the nation, but things were looking down after a 4-4 start in a tough non-conference schedule. Due to injuries, Erick Green was named the starting point guard against Penn State, despite only scoring 2 points in his previous game. Since he’s been named a starter, Green has scored double digits in all nine games and the Hokies have a 8-1 record during his tenure as a starter. On the season, the 6’4" guard offers another solid scorer (10.4 points per game), another ball-handler to pair with Delaney (2.2 assists) and a great in-zone defender (2.1 steals). He’s coming off a career high 24 points on 12 of 16 shooting in a 17 point win at Maryland. Green is a fantastic role player, and he’s helping the Hokies play at the high level that we all knew they were capable of.
Clemson caught me off guard a bit this season. I didn’t think to pay much attention to them after they lost Trevor Booker to the NBA draft last June, yet the Tigers are right in the thick of things this season with a very respectable 13-5 record. Eight of those wins came in a row before last week’s matchup against North Carolina, and the most valuable player during that time span for Clemson was Jerai Grant. The 6’8" senior provided his patented energy on the defensive end (2.4 blocks per game, 1.2 steals) and his team-leading rebounding (6.9 per game) with a newfound ability to put the ball in the basket (12.3 points per game on 59% shooting and 72% from the stripe). During the Tigers’ winning streak, Jerai Grant scored double figures in every game. Unfortunately, Grant’s double figure scoring streak (and Clemson’s winning streak to go along with it) was snapped last week against the North Carolina Tar Heels. The size and length of John Henson and Tyler Zeller forced Grant to a nightmare of a shooting performance, only making 1 out of his 12 attempts from the floor. The term "Cold" may be harsh, as it was only one bad game (so far). Let’s see if Clemson can rebound from this hiccup and continue to make some noise in the uber-competitive Atlantic Coast Conference.
Top 5 Teams in the ACC (Revisited)
1. Duke (17-1) – They are vulnerable, but they have more talent than anybody else in the ACC and are still a legit championship contender.
2. Florida State (14-5) – Their baffling (that’s right, baffling) defense and size are assets that makes them a threat to any team in the nation (Duke included).
3. Boston College (14-5) – With Reggie Jackson leading a diversified group of role players, the Boston College Eagles are in a surprisingly good position at this point in the season.
4. Virginia Tech (12-5) – The Hokies are winning basketball games now. They’ve been the victors eight of their last nine games (read above), including wins against Florida State and at Maryland.
5. North Carolina (13-5) – A strong (albeit inconsistent) frontcourt makes North Carolina one of the most dangerous teams in the ACC. Some of us are still waiting for Harrison Barnes to break out. Anytime now…
Notes: Freshman guard Kendall Marshall was put into the Tar Heel’s starting lineup after North Carolina lost in an embarrassing fashion to Georgia Tech. Larry Drew seemed to play well in his debut off the bench (8 points, 4 assists, 4 steals)… Jordan Williams’ double-double streak is now at 12… Wake Forest is the only remaining team in the ACC to be winless in conference play. No team is undefeated… Saturday’s Boston College @ Florida State matchup should be a good one… If you understood my Brink! reference then me and you need to meet up sometime…