Player of the Week:
Terquavion Smith, PG/SG, NC State Wolfpack
One of the biggest surprises of the 2022 NBA Draft build up was the decision by standout freshman Terquavion Smith to return to NC State for another season. He Was not convinced that he was a lock to be a late-first round pick, so he made the wise choice of betting on himself, and he’s out to prove that he has a lot more to show as a sophomore.
He’s off to a great start.
The young combo guard is averaging over 22 points to start the season and his elite 3-point shooting was on full display as he made close to half of his long-distance shots on over seven attempts per game. Smith’s decision to return was questioned, but it’ll likely pay off with a selection in or around the lottery if he remains on his current pace.
Armando Bacot, C, No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels
For the second time in two games, the Tar Heels found themselves on upset alert against College of Charleston. That was until Bacot, a preseason All-American, poured in 27 of his 28 points in the second half to help the Tar Heels pull away.
Much like UCLA last year, there are many doubters questioning whether North Carolina should be ranked so high after a Cinderella run clouded a less than impressive regular season. Maybe they shouldn’t be first, but if this version of Armando Bacot shows up all year, I know there isn’t a team in the country that will want to face them.
Kyle Filipowski, PF, No. 7 Duke Blue Devils
Much of the conversation around Filipowski in preseason camp was negative, but that noise was silenced by the seven-foot freshman in week one. The New York native registered a pair of double-doubles for the Blue Devils and showed off his range with a pair of triples on opening night. The 2022-23 Blue Devils will go as far as their freshmen take them and if Filipowski plays like he did this week, they’ll be right back in the hunt this spring.
Tyrese Proctor, PG, No. 7 Duke Blue Devils
Not many teams can ever say that the 27th overall recruit is the fifth best in a recruiting class, but that shows just how special Jon Scheyer’s first group of freshmen is in Durham. Proctor might be the fifth best recruit, but he is projected to be the second off the board this summer.
Weeks like this won’t help that projection. The Australian guard shot just 1-12 in the first two games and missed all five of his 3-point jumpers. I expect him to bounce back in a big way during the upcoming weeks, but his first week with the Blue Devils will be one to forget.
Pete Nance, PF, No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels
There is a lot of pressure on Nance to provide a similar level of production to Brady Manek, who carried the Tar Heels to the National Championship game last season. So far, not so good.
The Heels struggled with both UNC Wilmington and College of Charleston, in part because Nance was unable to knock down any of his 3-point attempts and scored a meager 13 points combined in those two contests. Hubert Davis will need more from his star transfer moving forward if his team is going to live up to the top overall ranking they earned this preseason.
Freshman of the Week:
JJ Starling, PG, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
As Blake Wesley exited one door, JJ Starling entered another as the next exciting true freshman in South Bend. The only visible difference between the two is that Starling was a starter from opening night and it’s a role he’s unlikely to surrender in his time with Mike Brey. The five-star freshman made five of his eight threes during the opening week and established himself as a legit first-round prospect either this season or next.
Top Five Teams in the ACC:
1. Duke Blue Devils
I know North Carolina was in the title game last season, but the Blue Devils boast one of the best recruiting classes in college basketball history this year. Jeremy Roach is the only player back from last season who played consistent minutes, so it might take some time to figure out, but come postseason time, I expect this talented group of freshmen and transfers to be clicking on all cylinders during March Madness.
2. North Carolina Tar Heels
It’s almost the exact same group running it back in Chapel Hill, which can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on which months you remember from last season. The loss of Brady Manek can’t be overstated, but a late transfer addition of Pete Nance should ease the pain of that loss if he gets back to the form he had at Northwestern. Puff Johnson and the incoming freshmen off the bench will have to step up, but this is a national championship contender either way.
3. Virginia Tech Hokies
Some of the pieces are gone, but the reigning ACC Tournament champions are lethal from beyond the arc once again. Justyn Mutts is one of the top glue guys in the country and he is surrounded by sharpshooters at every turn. When this team is on, they can beat anyone in the country and in another weak ACC, they should be right back in the NCAA Tournament.
4. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Depth could be a major issue for Mike Brey, but this is an elite starting lineup in South Bend. All five players can shoot it from beyond the arc and true freshman JJ Starling already looks like a difference maker. It’s easy to forget this was a 24-win team last season and they have the pieces to do it again and get back to the big dance.
5. Miami Hurricanes
The same depth issues in South Bend could surface for the Hurricanes, but the starting lineup here is just as strong as last season when Miami surged to the Sweet Sixteen. Nijel Pack is one of the best transfers in the nation and alongside Isaiah Wong in the backcourt, it will be difficult to stop the Canes from getting to the basket this season.
Honorable Mention: Virginia Cavaliers