Player of the Week
Ky Bowman, Boston College
Boston College’s 89-84 victory over No. 1 Duke put college basketball on notice. After being the bottom feeders in the ACC last season, the Eagles currently boast a 9-3 record, and are winners of their last four games. In order for Boston College to maintain their hot start, the team must rely on the continued stellar play of sophomore point guard Ky Bowman. The upset win over Duke proved that the Eagles are ready to compete with the top teams in the country; at the same time, the game was pivotal for the growth of Bowman. The Blue Devils’ roster features potential NBA draft picks, yet Bowman outplayed all of them and took over the game in the second half. Bowman showcased his well-balanced skillset on the national stage, scoring 30 points to go along with 10 rebounds and 9 assists. The near triple-double effort did not go unnoticed, but the most important factor of the game was Bowman’s willingness to put the team on his back and carry them to a victory. When the Eagles needed a bucket, Bowman was the one to shoot the ball, whether it was taking it to the hoop or shooting from the perimeter. Another critical part to Bowman’s performance was getting teammates involved, as he hit his three point marksmen in stride to shoot in rhythm shots from behind the arc. After the huge victory, Boston College looked to ride the wave and bring the same intensity to their next opponent.
The following two games resulted in a 81-66 win over Columbia and a 84-65 victory over Central Connecticut. Although the two teams weren’t nearly as talented as Duke, Boston College was able to execute on both ends of the floor. Bowman particularly had his way on the defensive end, acquiring two blocks against Columbia and two steals versus Central Connecticut. The Eagles love to play in transition, but in order to do so, they must play hard on defense and generate turnovers. Bowman’s attention to both ends of the floor makes him one of the most complete guards in the ACC. Despite only scoring 13 and 14 points in the last two games, Bowman effected the game in other ways, as he grabbed 12 boards and 7 boards in each of the contests. Head coach Jim Christian relies on Bowman to play heavy minutes, which leads to Bowman becoming foul and turnover prone. That being said, those flaws have been cleaned up recently, as Bowman has only totaled two fouls and 2 turnovers the last two games. If Bowman can maintain his impact, Boston College will be in a position to compete towards the top of the ACC.
Tyus Battle, Syracuse
The 9-1 Syracuse Orange have been shattering expectations this season, as most believed the team wouldn’t be able to recover from the significant losses from the previous season. The departures forced Tyus Battle into a premier scoring role for the Orange. The sophomore guard has been sensational this season, and his extraordinary play has led to victories. Battle’s last four games has propelled him into being the scoring leader in the ACC. Frank Howard‘s playmaking ability complements Battle’s score first mentality. Battle was asked to do more as a passer last season, which prevented him from exhibiting his scoring potential his freshman year. Head coach Jim Boeheim came to the conclusion that Battle is better served off the ball and should focus more on effecting the game with his scoring rather than his passing.
After their loss to No. 2 Kansas, the Orange have gone on to win three straight games, with victories over UConn, Colgate, and Georgetown. Syracuse has been battled tested thus far, which will only be beneficial to the growth of the team’s confidence and on-court chemistry. During Syracuse’s tough out-of-conference schedule, Battle has been a scoring machine. He scores in an array of ways. He gets to the foul line using his length and athleticism and can shoot it from anywhere on the court. He’s a streaky shooter but is virtually impossible to stop when he catches fire. Battle has scored 22 or more points in each of his last four games, including 29 in the overtime victory over Georgetown. Battle is very active on defense, as he totaled five steals against UConn and two against Kansas. His three point percentage improved progressively in each of his previous four games, and he got the free throw line often, too. The most eye-opening number to look at is Battle’s minutes, as he hasn’t sat out once during this four game stretch. Hopefully the heavy usage won’t cause wear and tear on Battle’s body, as he’s been a treat to watch this season. Battle must keep up his scoring dominance if Syracuse is to be one of the best teams in the ACC.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Georgia Tech has talent on their roster, yet the team is stumbling towards a .500 record. The team appeared to be hitting their stride after starting the season at 4-1, but their struggles began immediately after the 52-51 victory over Northwestern. Following that win, the Yellow Jackets went on to lose their next three games. The three game skid included losses to Grambling, Tennessee, and Wofford. While Tennessee is currently ranked No. 20, the other two teams aren’t nearly at the level of Georgia Tech.
The key factor in the losing streak was Georgia Tech’s inability to make free throws down the stretch. They also went four straight games without shooting over 40% from the field as a team. Those atrocious percentages can be due to the fact that the team lives and dies behind the arc. A possible change in the offensive gameplay may do wonders for the team, as the roster includes the likes of Tadric Jackson and Ben Lammers, two players who have proven to be more than capable scorers. The return of Josh Okogie may ignite a spark in the stagnant Georgia Tech offense.
The Yellow Jackets ended their three game skid by beating Florida A&M 79-54. Perhaps their best game of the season, Georgia Tech played a team-oriented game, going hard on both ends of the floor. The 25 point differential is the largest of the season, and a sigh of relief to a team that has had to play in so many close games. Josh Okogie made an immediate impact during his first game of the season, scoring 19 points in 28 minutes. The sophomore guard is looking to build off his solid freshman campaign, and will have to come ready to play every game in order for the Yellow Jackets to recoup and get prepared to begin conference play.
Top 5 Rim Protectors in the ACC
The list will featured the the top five shot blockers in the ACC and how their impact is able to translate into victories for their respected teams.
1) Anas Mahmoud, Louisville
Mahmoud may not be a household name, but his impact is undeniable. As it stands today, the Egyptian native is averaging an absurd four blocks per game. Louisville’s game against Indiana was the only time when Mahmoud didn’t record a blocked shot. Mahmoud has produced five or more swats in four games, including a season-high nine blocks against Siena. The 7-ffoter may be slim for his height, but his natural instincts helps put him in position to play help defense and force teams to run their offense on the perimeter. Louisville has always been a team who looks to build their offense through their stout defense, so having a player like Mahmoud gives Louisville an anchor.
2) Ben Lammers, Georgia Tech
The inside-out game of Ben Lammers is what makes him one of the best big men in the ACC; however, his ability to anchor his team on the defensive end usually gets overlooked. Currently averaging 3.4 blocks per game, Lammers’s shot blocking tendencies is what led to his uptick in minutes at Georgia Tech. Lammers may not be the longest, quickest, or most athletic guy on the court, but his high basketball IQ enables him to be in a position to make a play on the ball during defensive sequences. He has recorded a block in every game he’s played this year, including seven blocks against Grambling and eight versus Bethune-Cookman.
3) Paschal Chukwu, Syracuse
The former Providence transfer has been nothing but sensational for the Syracuse Orange. The 7’2" giant has been a shot blocking machine ever since his arrival to Syracuse. Averaging 2.6 blocks per game, Chukwu is the perfect big man for Jim Boeheim’s defense. The famous Syracuse 2-3 zone requires a substantial rim protector who’s able to protect the paint and grabs defensive rebounds. He doesn’t get a huge amount of playing time, but he’s able to make every minute count with his high intensity and motor. His staggering height allows him to see over the defense and bark out orders to keep the 2-3 zone functioning. Chukwu has five games with at least three blocks, including an eight block performance during the victory over Oakland. Although the ACC may feature a slew of talented big men this season, Chukwu will make it difficult for any of the bigs to score down low against Syracuse.
4) Ikey Obiagu, Florida State
The freshman phenom Ike Obiagu has put the ACC on notice with his impressive rim protecting abilities. While his offensive game is far from developed, Florida State plays the freshman for the sole purpose of his shot blocking expertise. Listed at 7’0" and 240 lbs, Obiagu enters his freshman year already well-developed compared to the rest of his peers. He’s averaging 2.6 blocks per game despite only playing 13.5 minutes per game. His defensive efficiency is outstanding, and he will definitely be a force to be reckoned with for the rest of his collegiate career. Florida State has won nine of its first 10 games, which can attributed to the hard-nose attitude brought every game. The Seminoles play with fire and intensity, giving it their all on both ends of the court. When Chukwu enters the game, he’s able to maintain and even elevate the team’s competitive fire. Obiagu’s minutes have been limited thus far, but may see an increase once ACC play begins, as Florida State will need someone to keep the other talented big men in check.
Louisville’s second player represented on this list. The 6’10" junior forward has had a improved season for the Cardinals, as he’s shown progress in his offensive game. On the other hand, the defensive ability has always been there for Spalding. He’s averaging 2.5 blocks per game. What’s makes Spalding such a remarkable shot blocker is his lateral quickness and versatility on the defensive end. While Mahmoud camps out in the paint, Spalding is able to stretch out to the perimeter and guard players. He uses his lateral quickness and length to lure opponents into shooting shots that he can contest and/or block. He can also play in the middle and protect the rim in the paint when asked to do so.