Player of the Week
John Mooney (Sr., Notre Dame)
It has become increasingly clear with each passing day that John Mooney is one of, if not the most underrated player in not only the ACC, but the entire country. The senior big man has been an absolute savage in the paint and on the glass for the Irish the entire season, and this week was no different. In the lone game the Irish had this week, Mooney led his team to an 88-87 comeback victory against Syracuse with arguably with arguably the best performance of his career, putting up 28 points and 14 rebounds, on 11-21 shooting in 32 minutes. 19 of those 28 points came in the second half, including a clutch offensive board and put-back to put Notre Dame up 86-84 with 36 seconds remaining. Mooney now has 11 double-doubles this season, and 8 double-doubles in a row.
Matthew Hurt (Fr., Duke)
One of the sought-after five-star recruits from last year’s recruiting class, Hurt has had to take a backseat role in the offense so far this season, as Vernon Carey and Tre Jones have emerged as the main focal points of Coach K’s offense. That all changed this week, as the 6’9 forward from Minnesota flipped the switch, and flashed his NBA potential in a dominant week. He put up a career-high 25 points on 10-16 shooting from the field, and 5-10 from behind the arc, 4 rebounds, and a steal against Boston College on 12/31. He followed that performance with another strong showing against Miami on 1/4, with a 13-point, 6 rebound, 4 assist, 2-block, and 3 steal stat line, while playing a team-high 27 minutes in the win. With fellow freshman forward Wendell Moore out with a hand injury, Hurt will have an opportunity to take on a bigger role as well. The timing for this chance couldn’t have come at a better time for him, as he seems to be coming into his own.
Garrison Brooks (Jr., UNC)
It was another abysmal week for his team, but absolutely none of the blame should fall on junior forward Garrison Brooks. In the 13-point loss to Georgia Tech on January 4th, Brooks put up a career-high 35 points on 9-18 shooting from the field and 17-18 from the free throw stripe, as well as 11 rebounds (7 offensive) in 36 minutes. While UNC has not lived up to expectations so far, Brooks has quietly been putting together a nice season, averaging 13.9 points and 8.7 rebounds.
While Chris Mack’s team is sitting at 11-3, and features one of the top scorers in the country, Jordan Nwora, as well as a strong supporting cast, there are reasons for concern for the black and red faithful this season. They have had four games so far against ranked opponents (#19 Michigan, #22 Texas Tech, # 14 Kentucky, #10 Florida State), and are 1-3 in those games, with the lone win coming against Michigan early on in the season. Jordan Nwora struggled in the losses to Michigan, Texas Tech, and Kentucky, but in the loss to Florida State on January 4th, Nwora was the only person who could get things going against a stingy Seminoles defense, putting up 32 points on 11-15 shooting, including 5-6 from three-point. The Cardinals have not been able to pick up wins against the tougher opponents they have faced so far, a trend that is not good for any team who many people believe have a legitimate shot at winning the NCAA tournament.
North Carolina Tar Heels
With Cole Anthony out, things have pretty much hit rock bottom already this season for Roy Williams and his team. In fact, things have gotten so bad that Williams had to apologize to Tar Heel fans and everyone associated with the program following the team’s 96-83 loss to Georgia Tech, saying, “I apologize to all the North Carolina fans that care about our basketball program, former players, everybody who cares about us cause we stunk it up tonight. It’s gotta be my responsibility. It’s the most negative I’ve ever been about myself, most negative I’ve ever felt about a team. We weren’t ready to play. Most disappointed, most upset I’ve ever been in my life coaching a basketball team.” There is still a lot of time left in the season for the Heels to turn it all around, but a resurgence is looking less and less likely with each day.
Top 5 ACC NBA Draft Prospects so far
5. Tre Jones
Jones is averaging 14.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 7.2 assists so far, and has showed he is fully capable of efficiently running an offense and making plays without being completely ball dominant.
4. Landers Nolley II
Nolley, a redshirt freshman, has been a revelation for the Hokies this year. He came into the season essentially unknown in the college basketball world, and has played himself into a likely late first round pick. This year he is averaging 17.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game.
3. Jordan Nwora
Nwora burst onto the college basketball scene last year as a sophomore, and has solidified himself as one of the best scorers in the college game this year. He is averaging 21 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.2 assists this year, and will be of high interest to NBA teams looking for an offensive-minded wing player who has tons of potential.
2. Vernon Carey
While the NBA has shifted away from the traditional back-to-basket, paint-patrolling big men that ruled the 80’s, 90’s, and early 2000’s, Vernon Carey has showed there is still room for that type of player in the game of basketball. The 6’10, 270-pound freshman is averaging 18.4 points and 9 rebounds this year, and should be taken in the mid-late first round by a team looking for a true paint-protector. A common theme for NBA big men such as Brook Lopez and Marc Gasol has been the development of their three-point shot, and if Carey is able to follow their footsteps and develop his own, he could be a future superstar in the Association.
1. Cole Anthony
Over the course of the season, it has become abundantly clear that no player in college basketball means more to their team than Cole Anthony does to the North Carolina Tar Heels. Anthony has not played since going down with a knee injury on December 15th, and the Tar Heels have mightily struggled in his absence, sitting at 8-6 so far with notable losses coming to Wofford and Georgia Tech. Before his injury, Anthony served as the go-to ball handler and all-around playmaker, and was averaging 19.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 3.4 assists in 9 games. A team with a top-5 pick in the upcoming draft will be lucky enough to have an opportunity to put Cole Anthony at the helm of the offense and watch him find creative ways to score and also make his teammates better.