Player of the Week
Joel Berry – North Carolina
There are very few, if any, point guards in the country that I’d take over Berry right now. I don’t mean potential and I don’t mean what they might become in the pros one day. But right now, if I was building a team to win a National Championship, Berry would be the guy I would want leading my squad. He had 31 points on 7-10 from distance against Clemson earlier in the week, a game that they don’t win without his clutch shooting, then followed that up with one of the best defensive performances I’ve seen against NC State fab freshman Dennis Smith. He was up in Smith’s grill from the tip, forced him into some really bad shots and spearheaded an attack that left the Wolfpack down for the count less than eight minutes into the game. He’s the engine that makes this Tar Heel team go and fans got a glimpse of what life would be like without him earlier in the season when he went down with an injury. The results weren’t good even though the team didn’t actually lose a game since they were playing inferior competition. The team just didn’t look the same on either side of the ball with him in street clothes only magnifying how important he is to this team’s success.
Jayson Tatum – Duke
With most of the attention on Grayson Allen‘s inability to not flail his legs and Coach K’s back surgery, the play of Tatum since returning from an early season injury has gone by the wayside. He’s Duke’s second leading scorer at 17 points per game, second on the team in rebounding at 7.1 per contest and along with Luke Kennard have managed to keep this team in Final Four contention even with all of the outside noise that has been surrounding this program since the beginning of the season. His jumper needs work and he isn’t consistent from beyond the arc as much as I would like him to be but he’s a gifted scorer and can do it from anywhere on the court. Watching him play, he is one of those guys who don’t realize is having a great game until mid way through the second half when you look at the box score. It wouldn’t surprise me if the team went to an even more small ball approach with Amile Jefferson set to miss some time with Tatum playing a lot more PF wtih Harry Giles at C against smaller teams. They could struggle to defend the paint but would create matchup nightmares on the other end.
The Seminoles saw themselves crack our Power 16 Top 10 for the first time this week coming in at #7. They sit at 3-0 in the ACC with a hobbled Duke team coming into Tallahassee on Tuesday night. And while Duke may be the more talented team, they haven’t been the better team so far this year. The guard combo of Dwayne Bacon and Xavier Rathan-Mayes along with the superb play of Jonathan Isaac up front have vaulted this team to the top of the ACC and have them primed for one of the biggest wins in program history if they were to pull it off against the Blue Devils.
Omer Yurtseven – NC State
After starting his college career off strong with double digit performances in three of his first four games, the Uzbeki big man hasn’t played well since the start of ACC play failing to score more than five points in any of the three contests. And while this NC State team is extremely guard oriented on the offensive end (too much so at times), limiting his opportunities, he hasn’t really defended well or been the type of rebounder that most thought he could be in the ACC. He’s had a bit of trouble with no fouling over the last few games which has limited his minutes and he doesn’t really assert himself on the glass or in the flow of the offense like he should be doing by now. His ability to come in and be an impact player all while setting himself up to be a potential lottery pick this season was a huge question mark coming into the season and he’s done very little to silence those critics. As did most of the NC State team, he had an absolutely abysmal performance against the Tar Heels on National Television Sunday afternoon. He just isn’t quite there in terms of his development and it is looking more and more like he’s falling out of that potential one and done category.
Top Individual Performance
Normally this is some sort of "Top 5" list but this week’s ACC Recap couldn’t happen without mention of Dennis Smith‘s triple-double against Virginia Tech last week. It was the second triple-double in NC State history, the first by a freshman and the first every in ACC play. Julius Hodge was the other. In a season where he has faced a lot of scrutiny from both scouts and fans for his poor play at times (see UNC game), Smith’s performance was one for the ages. There is no shortage of talent with him and he will be a Top 5 pick this summer without question but it is if/when he can put it all together consistently that will be the determining factor in whether or not he goes number one overall. The potential and ability to score anywhere at anytime at his strengths but his lack of effort and defensive lapses are his weaknesses. But neither of those weaknesses were on display against the Hokies as they delivered what will likely end up being the performance of the season by an ACC player.
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