Player of the Week
Luke Maye, North Carolina
North Carolina forward Luke Maye has been the most improved player in the ACC this season. It was a struggle for head coach Roy Williams to crave out minutes for the big man last season due to the depth in the front court. With Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks no longer with the team, Maye finds himself in a new starting role. The former walk-on has come a long way, as he has become the leading scorer and rebounder on the Tar Heels this season. After a poor performance against Michigan State, Maye was poised to get back on track and prevent UNC from collapsing before conference play.
North Carolina won both of their previous two games, beating Davidson 85-75 and Tulane 97-73. Clearly the Tar Heels need to work of their defense, but the good news is that their offense appears to be back on track after scoring only 45 points against Michigan State. North Carolina has scored 85 or more points in their last three games, which can be attributed to the outstanding play of Maye. He posted 24 points and 17 rebounds at an efficient 55.6 field goal percentage in their victory over Davidson. Mays’s rebounding prowess is a plus for the Tar Heels, as the team has always tried to wins games off their dominance on the glass. The ability to score in the post and then shoot from the perimeter makes Maye such a dangerous offensive player. Maye proved that he is more than just a double-double machine in their win over Tulane. To go along with his 22 points and 10 rebounds, he also had four assists and four blocks. Now Maye isn’t the best passer or shot blocker on the team, but it’s nice to see that he is improving all areas of his game.
There’s still a lot of basketball to be played, but Luke Maye’s ascendance has been critical to North Carolina’s success this season. The Tar Heels will rely on him tremendously down the road so it’ll be interesting to see if he can remain their go-to player throughout the duration of the season.
Bryant Crawford, Wake Forest
After losing four of its first five games to start the season, Wake Forest seemed bound to become a disappointment in the ACC. The NCAA tournament appearance was a huge stepping stone for the program, but the loss of John Collins was a hard adjustment to overcome for the Demon Deacons to begin the season. On the bright side, Wake Forest has won four straight games and is ready to get back on track after their sluggish start. Junior point guard Bryant Crawford has been handed the responsibilities to lead the team after the departure of Collins. Crawford’s slow start left the offense stagnant and unable to generate points in a hurry. During the four game winning streak, Crawford overcame his shooting woes and is playing significantly better on both ends of the floor. Crawford’s success will translate into wins for the Demon Deacons if he keeps up his exceptional play.
Crawford was extremely efficient on offense in his previous two games. He scored 15 points and dished out seven assists in only 26 minutes en route to a 82-53 victory over Richmond. Crawford followed up with 17 points and 4 assists in 26 minutes during the 80-57 win versus Charlotte. The level of competition may not be the best, but Wake Forest has played much better on both ends of the court. The scoring totals aren’t necessarily different, rather it’s the shot selection and willingness to find open teammates that has changed. Crawford has set the tone to make the smart, unselfish plays instead of worrying about your own personal stats. Crawford has shot 50% or better from the field in each of his games during the win streak, in comparison to shooting only 50% once prior. The attentiveness to play hard on defense has been the main reason why Wake Forest has played better. Crawford has had two steals in each of his last two games, setting up transition opportunities for the offense. Being engaged on both sides of the ball has been a challenge for the Demon Deacons this season; nevertheless, the team has taken on the task and has been producing wins as a result. It’s up to Crawford to lead his team and keep them focus on both sides of the court if victories are to become a common theme for Wake Forest this season.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The Fighting Irish have looked substantially worse since the huge victory over Wichita State. They played poorly against Michigan State, as the size the Spartans presented was too much for them. This is a huge problem that isn’t going to be fixed anytime soon. Obviously, there’s no free agency pool in college basketball, so Notre Dame needs to work with what they have on their roster. One positive is that Bonzie Colson has been playing at an All-American level, and the backcourt tandem of Matt Farrell and TJ Gibbs have contributed immensely to the team’s success. That being said, the lack of depth has hurt Notre Dame, as four players are averaging 31 or more minutes per game. The Fighting Irish are about seven or eight men deep, which will cause fatigue down the road. After a hot start to the seasons, the regression of Notre Dame is not a good sign heading into conference play.
Notre Dame’s first game of December resulted in a 71-53 victory over St. Francis (BKN). On paper, an 18-point win seems solid; however, the Fighting Irish played terrible, shooting 41.4% from the field, 21.4% from three and 69.0% from the free throw line. For a team that takes pride in shooting, the ability to only make three three-pointers and fail to convert at the free throw line is a glaring problem for the Fighting Irish. Now, there are capable shooters on the team, so it’s quite possible that the team overall is going through a shooting slump. However, the absence of Steve Vasturia and V.J. Beachem has effected the perimeter advantage Notre Dame had last season, as both players were able to spread the floor and make shots behind the arc.
In perhaps the biggest upset of the season, Ball State traveled to Notre Dame a came out with the 80-77 upset win, due to a game winning three by the Cardinals. Ball State is not a powerhouse basketball school by any means, so the loss is embarrassing for Notre Dame, especially since the team was home for the game, too. The key difference in the game was rebounding, as Ball State had the advantage of 40-26 over Notre Dame. The shooting woes of the Fighting Irish still linger, shooting 35.3% from three and 73.1% from the free throw line. Head coach Mike Brey is one of the best coaches in the ACC, so he’s capable of fixing the problems at hand for the team. It may seem like Doomsday in Notre Dame, but there’s still plenty of time to fix the issues at hand.
Top 5 Senior Prospects
It’s never too early to look ahead to the NBA Draft. Despite the current one-and-done era, the ACC features a slate of talented seniors that will be looking to make an NBA roster next year. Let’s look at the five best senior prospects in the ACC.
1) Grayson Allen, Duke
Grayson Allen’s draft stock is about the same as it was his junior year, yet he opted to finish out his collegiate career at Duke with one last chance to win a championship. Allen was a role player when the Blue Devils won a championship his freshman year, so he intends to conclude his college legacy with a championship where he had a more featured role with the team. While most seniors have a difficult time increasing their draft stock, Allen actually has the chance to do so if he improves on some of the aspects of his game. Allen is a passionate player who can score on all three levels as well as distribute the basketball effectively. That being said, the two areas that Allen needs to work on is his maturity and leadership. Everyone who follows college basketball is aware of the tripping incidents that have haunted Allen over the last few seasons, and rightfully so. He is booed every game that is not at Cameron Indoor Stadium and joins the exclusive list of hated Duke players. Allen will face scrutiny with NBA teams during the draft process, as they will question him about why he decided to trip those players and if he will own his mistakes. The good thing is that Allen has avoided on-court controversy this season, and it appears that he has learned from the mistakes. Being that he is the sole captain of the the youthful Duke team this season, Coach K has instilled all the leadership responsibilities on Allen’s shoulders. Coach K revoked Allen of his captain duties after tripping a player last season, but decided that Allen was ready to reclaim the position. Duke features four freshman alongside Allen, and a bench that features predominantly underclassmen, too. Allen’s vocal leadership must be reminiscent to former Duke player Quinn Cook if the Blue Devils are to fulfill their championship aspirations. If Allen can improve on those two aspects, there’s a very good chance that he will hear his name called in the first round of the draft.
2) Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame
With a game similar to Draymond Green, Bonzie Colson is a do-it-all player who is determined to win a national championship in his final season with Notre Dame. Similar to Green, Colson is an undersized yet sturdy big men. He’s listed at 6’6" and 225 lbs, which is undersized for a NBA big man. However, Colson has freakishly long arms, boasting a 7′ plus foot wingspan. His long arms, surprising agility, and high basketball IQ make him a beast on defense. On the collegiate level, he’s capable of guarding all five positions on the court, which is extremely rare. Colson is also able to get his hands on loose balls, and he’s a terrific shot blocker, too. On the flip side, Colson is a versatile offensive player who can effect the game in an array of ways. For instance, Colson is a big man who can lead the fast break due to his vision and balling handling abilities. He can score and pass in the post and can stroke it from behind the arc. Colson has taken tremendous strides at Notre Dame, improving his stats significantly every season. He’s taken advantage of his increased role and uptake in minutes, proving to the country why he’s one of the special talents in college basketball. The concern with Colson is that he may be a jack-of-all-trades type but a master of none. As it stands today, Colson is most likely a mid second round pick, but it’ll be interesting to see if he can garner first round consideration come draft night.
3) Joel Berry II, North Carolina
Justin Jackson may have been the ACC Player of the Year and the leading scorer on the Tar Heels last season, but Joel Berry was perhaps the most valuable player on the team. The Tar Heels went to Berry every time they needed a bucket in close games, and he always seemed to make the shots when called upon. With many of the starters leaving from the championship team, Berry’s role will increase even more than it did last season. It’s a bad look that he broke his hand playing a video game with teammate Theo Pinson, causing him to miss the first few games of the season, but that ‘s an accident that NBA teams will probably not be too concerned about. It’s near impossible to teach a player how to be clutch, but there’s no need to worry as Berry has that clutch gene in him. As stated previously, Berry is not afraid of the big moments, rather he embraces them and takes it as a challenge. There’s no denying that UNC would have won the championship without Berry last season; that being said, there’s still room for improvement for the senior guard. Berry is a great leader, but his decision making on offenses can improve. He does a good job in taking care of the ball, rather his issue is making the distinction of when to create for teammates and when to score. He’s a more than capable scorer who can get his shot when he so desires, so it’s more about his passing abilities. He’s more Marcus Paige than Kendall Marshall, as his score-first mentality prevents him from reaching the levels he can get to. Berry’s underwhelming size and non-elite athleticism will be detrimental to whether he gets drafted or not. Berry can’t control his size or measurables, but he can certainly develop his game to new heights and prove to NBA scouts that he is capable of playing in the big leagues.
4) Ben Lammers, Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech may not be one of the top teams in the ACC, but senior center Ben Lammers is one of the most talented big men in the ACC. His ability to play on both ends on the floor makes him one of the more polished big men in the country. Lammers isn’t crazy athletic, nor is he physically opposing, but his skill set makes him the total package. On offense, he can score on the block and has multiple moves to create open shots for himself. His great touch around the rim and attentiveness to rebound helps develop second chance opportunities for him and teammates. NBA scouts will be intrigued that Lammers is a true stretch five who hits three points on a regular basis. Turning to the defensive ends, Lammers is an excellent shot blocker who’s averaging 3.4 blocks on the year. As dominant as Lammers is on the collegiate level, it hasn’t necessarily translated into wins for the Yellow Jackets. Although Georgia Tech is on the ups and is poised to breakout eventually, it’s curious to see if Lammers can takeover a game and win by himself. He must to be able to do that if he wants to get drafted. Lammers is averaging 35.9 minutes per game, so his conditioning is impressive; however, the NBA game is much faster than college, so Lammers needs to get stronger and quicker if he wants to keep up with NBA big men. His inferior athleticism finds himself in a peculiar spot. He’s undersized for an NBA center, yet he’s not quick enough to guard stretch fours. Lammers’s game is reminiscent to Henry Ellenson. Ellenson has had a difficult time carving out minutes with the Detroit Pistons, but he’s improved his body and has shown he can play either front court position. If Lammers can do what Ellenson did, then there’s a chance he could slide into the second round if he impresses during team workouts and at the NBA Combine.
5) Quentin Snider, Louisville
The Louisville program has had to endure numerous distractions this season, which has possibly taken a toll on the team. Senior point guard Quentin Snider is probably disappointed that the Cardinals are banned from the NCAA Tournament this season. Given that it’s his senior year, Snider’s captainship is extremely crucial this season particularly as the locker room will be a voice to keep the team focused and prepared for games. Despite not being able to play in the tournament, Snider is a competitor who will get after it every game. His leadership during his junior year was impressive, so expect his senior season to only improve. Snider has displayed flashes on takeover ability, as he’s made plays in important games before. However, his scoring overall needs work. He’s been struggling to score this season, shooting 31.7% from the field and 21.9% from three. It’s going to be an uphill battle for Snider to climb if he’s to improve those percentages. He doesn’t have physically imposing size, but he’s a crafty finisher around the rim who can handle the rock very well. Snider is a very stout defender who closes out on shooters and gets his hands on loose balls. His passing prowess and floor generalship helps keep Louisville on task and in games. Snider has an outside chance of getting drafted as of now, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can warrant any attention with the improvement of his game. Snider’s game is similar to undrafted player Yogi Ferrell. Both are undersized point guards who don’t wow with size and athleticism; however, the ability to score in a hurry and facilitate the basketball makes them both a factor on the floor. Ferrell went undrafted out of Indiana after playing four seasons with the team. He fought his way onto the Dallas Mavericks roster after lighting up the D-League and then played extraordinarily well on the Mavericks. Snider may have to go a similar route if he’s to play in the NBA.