Player of the Week
Luke Maye, North Carolina
On Tuesday, North Carolina pounded 114 points on its in-state rival NC State—its most points since 2003. Senior forward Luke Maye scored a season-high 31 points, connecting on 10 of his 15 field goal attempts. He finished perfect from the charity stripe (10-10), and added 12 rebounds, two assists, one block, and one steal to his most impressive performance of the season.
Following the win, Maye helped the eighth-ranked Tar Heels survive a scare from a weak Miami team. Maye added to his monster week with 20 points, six rebounds, two assists, one block, and one steal. With 10.2 seconds remaining in regulation, the 6-foot-8 forward drilled the clutchest 3-pointer of the game to force overtime. The Tar Heels prevailed and grinded out an 88-85 win in the extra minutes to move to 19-4 overall. Ever since the lopsided home loss to Louisville in mid-January, North Carolina has won seven straight and holds a 9-1 conference record—the team’s best ACC start in the Roy Williams era.
Mfiondu Kabengele and Terance Mann, Florida State
After compiling a brutal 1-4 record in the first three weeks of league play, it seemed like the Seminoles were far from matching its early-season success. Florida State teammates Mfiondu Kabengele and Terance Mann had other plans and has carried their team to five straight victories, including a huge overtime win against the Cardinals. Kabengele, the Seminoles’ 6’10’’ 250-pound forward, is averaging 17.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.6 steals in the win streak. Add in senior guard Terance Mann, who has shot 67% from the field the past four games, and the Seminoles are tough to crack. The duo combined for 42 points in the five-point win against Louisville over the weekend.
Duke Blue Devils
Nothing seems to shake the Blue Devils. Duke has won seven straight conference games, which includes a sweep of Virginia. On Saturday night, Duke traveled to Charlottesville and controlled the tempo for the entire 40 minutes, snapping the Cavaliers’ 13 home game winning streak. When the Blue Devils hit threes, they are nearly unbeatable. Duke’s four freshmen combined for 74 of its 81 points at Virginia and were red hot from downtown, draining 13 triples. Duke remains on the road with its next daunting test at Louisville.
Virginia Tech Hokies
After riding a three-game conference win streak, the Hokies went 0-2 this past week with losses to Louisville and Clemson. Virginia Tech competed in its third consecutive game without point guard Justin Robinson. His return remains uncertain as he is out with a left foot injury. The Hokies are in the midst of figuring out who the next man up will be, but it has been a puzzle as to how to replace Robinson—Virginia Tech’s career assists leader.
In the span of three weeks, the Panthers’ overall record quickly shifted from 12-5 to 12-12. The seven-game winless stretch reminded the team for as much as it has achieved this season, it still has a long way to go. The Panthers have dropped three straight games by nine or less, and are averaging nearly 14 turnovers per game in the losing skid.
Top Five Glue Guys
A glue guy is not not necessarily the star athlete, but it is a player every coach wants to have on his team. Each of these players below impact the game in a positive way by making hustle plays and igniting runs that do not always appear on the stat sheet.
1. Dwyane Sutton, Louisville
The redshirt junior impacts every aspect of the game and is a prime reason for his team’s hot and unexpected ACC start. Sutton, who crashes the offensive glass, has recorded fourteen double-figure scoring performances this season. Each game, the 6-foot-5 forward delivers an offensive or defensive spark for his team. Sutton has already made twice as many threes (38) as he did last season and has proven he can hit threes in late-game pressure situations. Several ACC coaches have emphasized how difficult it is to craft a game plan around guarding Sutton.
2. Braxton Key, Virginia
Braxton Key, the transfer from Alabama, has been a huge addition for the Cavaliers this season and will likely be a difference-maker come March. The junior can guard multiple positions, hit jumpers, and is a solid rebounder. Coming off the bench, the 6’8’’ guard is averaging 7.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game. In games when his teammates have struggled to score, Key has provided a necessary offensive spark. In a breakout performance against the Seminoles, Key poured in a season-high 20 points. He defends well and has recorded six or more rebounds in 10 of his last 11 games.
3. Jack White, Duke
The 222-pound from Australia is Duke’s all-around utility player. A glimpse at his modest stat line (5.0 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.3 blocks) does not exemplify how indispensable he is for the Blue Devils. Averaging 24.6 minutes per game, White has played more minutes than his first two seasons at Duke combined. With such a talent-laden team, White’s contributions as a sixth-man often go unnoticed. He chases after loose balls, makes the extra pass, and spaces out to the corner, which opens the lane for teammates Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett.
4. Kenny Williams, North Carolina
Williams is the ultimate glue guy for a North Carolina team that is currently playing like a Final Four contender. The 6-foot-4 senior is one of Tar Heels’ three veterans and has done an excellent job at filling the void of Theo Pinson and Joel Berry from the previous season. Williams’ 9.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game don’t jump off the stat sheet, but he provides consistent production each game. Although his shooting percentages have decreased from his junior year, Williams plays disciplined defense and is never afraid to draw charges.
5. Marek Dolezaj, Syracuse
The Slovakian forward is averaging just 20 minutes of playing time per game, but he makes every minute on the court count. Dolezaj, a 6’10’’ 180-pound athlete, creates a matchup problem for his opponents and is productive without needing the ball in his hands. Last season, Dolezaj was terrific in the Orange’s Sweet Sixteen run, shooting 60% from the floor and doubling his scoring average to 10.5 points. Although he does not shoot often, the sophomore is efficient when he does—shooting 57% from the field, including 50% from 3-point range. This year, Dolezaj is averaging 3.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 0.9 steals per game.