Player of the Week
Jordan Nwora (Louisville)
While Louisville hasn’t exactly faced tough competition yet this season, with their toughest opponent so far being Western Kentucky, who they beat by 17. With that being said, the Cardinals have done what they are supposed to be doing, avoiding upsets and beating lesser teams in convincing fashion. With no team seemingly being able to hold on to the #1 ranking, Louisville is primed to be the next team to take on the challenge. A large part of Louisville’s success can be attributed to Jordan Nwora. The 6-7 junior forward is second in the ACC in scoring at 21.9 points per game, is sixth in field goal percentage, and has improved on the defensive side of the ball and as a rebounder as well. After breaking out last season as a sophomore, Jordan Nwora has solidified himself as a top NBA prospect. With the red-hot, undefeated Michigan Wolverines coming into town on Tuesday, followed by games versus Pittsburgh and last year’s runner-up, Texas Tech. Strong performances by the team as a whole, and Nwora individually could really solidify Louisville as a premier team in the country, and Nwora as the top player in the country and future NBA first-round pick.
Michael Devoe (Georgia Tech)
While the Yellow Jackets basketball team hasn’t exactly been reliable for their fans this year, sitting at 3-2, Michael Devoe has been exactly that for coach Josh Pastner and GT so far. The sophomore from Orlando leads the ACC in scoring at 22.5 points per game, and has been extremely efficient in his scoring ways, sitting at 4th in the conference in field goal percentage, 1st in 3-pt field goal percentage, and also leads the conference in minutes played per game. This hasn’t been against lollipop competition, either. Matched up against freshman sensation and potential #1 pick Anthony Edwards, Devoe showed out, going for 34 points on 12-20 shooting, including 5-7 from three.
With junior point guard Jose Alvarado, who Pastner refers to as the team’s “quarterback” not fully healthy as he deals with a lingering ankle injury, Devoe has stepped up and proved to his team, opponents, fans, and NBA scouts that he is a legit player. He has also proved to be a reliable bucket-getter down the stretch, as he went for 27 points against Bethune-Cookman, with 3 of those coming from a go-ahead and-one bucket to put his team ahead with only seven seconds left in the game. While he is still relatively unknown this early in the season, if Devoe can continue to be lights out on the offensive end, while showcasing and improving the other areas of his game and elevating his team’s performance as a whole, he could get consideration for the 2020 NBA draft.
Death, taxes, and Tony Bennett’s Virginia Cavaliers being the best defensive team in the country: three things in life you can always count on. Last year’s national championship team proved to college basketball fans around the world that defense does in fact win championships, as Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy, and the rest of the team weren’t anything special offensively, but were virtually unstoppable on the defensive end. This year’s Virginia team is following that same blueprint. While they haven’t scored more than 65 points in a game this year, they haven’t given up more than 55. Against Maine on 11/27, the Cavaliers held the Bears to an astonishing 26 points for the game, with their leading scorer finishing with 9 points. Seniors Mamadi Diakite and Braxton Key serve as the team’s leaders as well as their best players, and have this team clicking so far.
After beginning the season with a bad loss to a lesser Pittsburgh team, Leonard Hamilton was able to steady the ship for his team, as they followed that game with a huge win over rival Florida. That win got the Seminoles back on track, as they have not lost since, winning their next seven games. The first five of those seven have come from mid-major opponents, with the only “hiccup” being a narrow five-point victory against Western Carolina. The ‘Noles, led by sophomore guard/forward Devin Vassel and senior guard Trent Forrest, don’t feature a dominant, go-to scorer, but instead play a more spread-out, team style of basketball. They entered the Emerald Coast Classic Preseason tournament as underdogs, seen as the third best team in the field behind Tennessee and Purdue, but picked up wins against both teams en route to the tournament championship. It may be early in the season, but the two victories against very respectable opponents should help the Seminoles case for postseason play come March.
It has been a rough start to the season for Jim Boeheim and the Orange. After putting up only 34 points against a stingy Virginia defense in the season opener almost a month ago, they were able to rattle off a four-game win streak during an easy part of their schedule in which they won each game by at least 20 points. When they finally faced better competition in a good Oklahoma State team, they were outmatched by the Cowboys, losing 86-72 in a game in which they shot 19-56 from the field, 8-31 from three, and missed 11 of their 37 free throws. They followed that lackluster performance with a 21-point loss to Penn State in which they once again struggled to score the ball efficiently. They play Iowa in the Big Ten/ACC challenge next, then go to Georgia Tech, and then Georgetown. These games are by no means easy games for the Orange. If they continue to struggle to get things going offensively against these tough opponents, it could spell trouble and set the tone for the rest of the season.
Expectations weren’t exactly high for Boston College going into the season, as theACC.com had them finishing this season 13th in the conference in their preseason predictions, but the Eagles have still managed to fall short of expectations so far. They started the season with a nice win over conference foe Wake Forest, but since have disappointed to say the least. They have dropped their last three games, losing to DePaul by 5 on 11/23, giving up a 21-0 second-half run and losing to Saint Louis by 10 on 11/27, and giving up a 23-2 second-half run in a 20-point loss to Richmond on 11/30. While BC is semi-respectable on the defensive end, allowing 66.4 points per game so far and are third in the ACC with a team average of 8.75 steals per game, they struggle offensively and seem to falter in the second half, two things that are a recipe for disaster.
The Hokies, led by freshman forward Landers Nolley and his surprising breakout start, began the season 6-0, including a season-opening win against Clemson and a huge upset win against Michigan State. Nolley put himself on NBA scouts’ radar with his performance against Michigan State, putting up a monster stat line of 22 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 3 steals in 37 minutes of play. Since the upset, though, things have gone awry for head coach Mike Young and his squad. They were seemingly punched in the mouth in their next contest, a 27-point loss to Dayton on 11/26, a game in which the Hokies could not get anything going offensively, and could not stop a potent Dayton Flyers offense led by star Obi Toppin. The early season win-streak hangover carried over to the next night, when a Hokies second half cold-spell and a BYU second half surge allowed the Cougars to best VT by 13, 90-77. So far this year, the Hokies have found their one-two punch with Nolley and Wabissa Bede, one of the best all-around point guards in the ACC, but struggle to find production past those two and also have struggled defensively during this two-game skid. They play Duke next, on December 6th, in a game in which we will find out a lot about what this year’s Hokie team is made of.
My Top 5 Coaches in the ACC for the 2019-2020 season (so far)
5. Leonard Hamilton (Florida State)
Lacking a true star player, Leonard Hamilton has been able to get his team to start the season off hot, with a well-rounded offensive attack and a stingy defensive strategy. The Seminoles already have quality wins over Tennessee, Purdue, and Florida, as well as some hardware, as they recently won the Emerald Coast Classic Preseason Tournament.
4. Roy Williams (North Carolina)
The Tar Heels have an extremely talented team this year, headlined by the potential #1 pick in the NBA Draft, freshman guard Cole Anthony, and fellow freshman and future first round pick, big man Armando Bacot. The Tar Heels have picked up wins against Notre Dame, Alabama, and Oregon already, and would be in the running for the #1 ranking if they hadn’t lost to Michigan in Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.
3. Mike Krzyzewski (Duke)
With yet another loaded team, filled to the brim with five-star recruits of years past, Coach K and Duke had the #1 ranking in the country, but watched Nathan Bain and the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks steal that title from them and lay it in at the buzzer, in what was a shocking game through and through with an even more shocking finish. That terrible loss keeps Coach K out of my top 2 for now, but I expect Duke to get back on track and for them to obtain that #1 ranking once again at some point.
2. Chris Mack (Louisville)
While Louisville has yet to play equivalent competition so far this season, coach Chris Mack gets the nod at #2 for me due to their lack of slip-ups so far this season, which has them in good position to slide into the #1 ranking in the next top 25 release. With that being said, the Cardinals match up with Michigan in the Big Ten/ACC challenge this week, in a possible top-5 matchup, and follow that game with meetings with Pittsburgh and Texas Tech. We will find out a lot about Chris Mack, star forward Jordan Nwora, and the Louisville Cardinals team in this upcoming week.
1. Tony Bennett (Virginia)
While his team may not have the star power they had in years past, Tony Bennett has this years’ Cavaliers clicking on the defensive end in typical Virginia basketball fashion. They have held opposing teams to an astonishing average of 40.3 points per game. For reference, the ACC’s next best, Pittsburgh, gives up and average of 58.8 points per game. Virginia held Syracuse to 34 points in the season opener, and held Maine to 26 points. While they aren’t the best offensively, they do not need to be, as their defense allows them to hide their weaknesses. Tony Bennett has his squad defending at a historically good rate so far, which is why I have him slotted as the best coach in the ACC so far this season.