Player of the Week:
Tre Jones (So., Duke)
While Cole Anthony was out with a lingering knee injury for a couple of months, Duke point guard Tre Jones stepped his game up and took Anthony’s place as the top point guard in the ACC for this season. Jones, who was a part of the famous Duke recruiting class featuring Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, and Cam Reddish, did not receive the same hype that his fellow freshman teammates got after a decent freshman campaign, and as a result chose to forgo the NBA draft and exercise another year of NCAA eligibility. This season, with a year of experience under his belt, Jones has greatly improved his game in all facets and really become the leader of this year’s Blue Devils team. He is playing his best basketball as a college player right now, and this stretch of strong play was highlighted with his strong performance against UNC and Cole Anthony. Jones went for 28 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals in 42 minutes in the Duke win over rivals North Carolina, with two of those points coming at the final buzzer of regulation, when the sophomore guard knocked down a jumper to tie the game and move it to overtime. Tre Jones has played himself into definite first round consideration in the next draft and continues to improve with each passing game.
Duke Blue Devils
Every year, the college basketball community comes together to celebrate the “Blue Blood Rivalry” between two of the most historic and decorated programs in not only college basketball, but in all of sports; the Duke Blue Devils and North Carolina Tar Heels. This rivalry started in 1920, and has remained extremely close over the years, as both schools have boasted some of the best teams in college basketball history over the years. While UNC is in the midst of one of their worst seasons ever and have been struggling to find their footing, they knew they weren’t going to let their biggest rivals just embarrass them in the matchup on February 8th. The Tar Heels controlled the game for virtually both halves, and were even up by 13 with 4:30 left in the game and 5 with 20.9 seconds left, but could not close the game out. First, Tre Jones nailed a mid-range jumper to send the game to overtime, and then Wendell Moore Jr. put-back a Jones air ball in OT at the buzzer to give Duke the win. This was a huge win for Blue Devils, as they are able to avoid a major momentum-stopping loss to a major rival, and did it in a spectacular fashion.
Coming into a school with as rich a football history as Florida State, and taking over a basketball program, and building and sustaining a winning culture there is no easy task. If it were easy, more coaches would be successful. But, in reality, only the best coaches are able to do such a thing, and it is exactly what Leonard Hamilton has done with the Seminoles since he began coaching there in 2002. Hamilton has prided himself in consistently having his teams among the top defensively year in and year out, which has led to many wins over the 18 years Hamilton has spent in Tallahassee. With the win on Saturday against Miami, he earned his 354th career win with FSU, tying former Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins for 5th all time for ACC coaches. He is only behind Coach K, Dean Smith, Roy Williams, and Gary Williams. Leonard Hamilton has seemingly flown under the radar for his entire tenure at Florida State, but this is no small achievement, as he now only trails four Hall-of-Fame coaches in terms of wins. With one of the best teams in the country so far this season, a deep tournament run could help Leonard Hamilton become a more household name in the college basketball landscape.
While the emergence of Landers Nolley II has turned Virginia Tech from a team with little-to-no expectations to a team with a real chance of reaching the NCAA tournament, the Hokies poor play of late as a team is hurting their chances of post season play. With their four-point overtime loss to 11-12 Boston College on Saturday, February 8th, the Hokies find themselves at 14-10 this year, and losers of their last five, with some of those losses coming against struggling ACC teams such as two losses to BC, Miami and Georgia Tech. This has been an extremely promising season in Blacksburg so far, and we will find out a lot about this team with their response to this bad losing streak they currently find themselves in the middle of.
Michael Devoe, (So., Georgia Tech)
Devoe was one of the best players in the ACC for the first month of the season, as he was top 5 in scoring average per game and was carrying the Yellow Jackets while they waited for point guard Jose Alvarado to return from his injury. Since the time of Alvarado’s return, though, Devoe has struggled to keep his form. He finally was able to find his shot again on Saturday, going for 22 points against Pitt, but that was the first time he scored over 20 points since 1/22. Michael Devoe is an extremely important piece for Josh Pastner and Georgia Tech, and when he plays well, the team usually plays well. He has shown his potential to be one of the top scorers and impact players in not only the conference but entire country, but it is all about consistency for the guard from Orlando. If he can figure out how to put the ball in the hoop game in and game out, Devoe definitely will get looks from scouts and teams at the next level.
Top 5 Freshman in the ACC so far this season
5. Manny Bates (NC State)
Bates is currently averaging 5.4 points, 4 rebounds, and an astonishing 2.7 blocks in 19.6 minutes per game this year. While he does not make the biggest impact on the offensive side of the ball, his efforts on the defensive end get him on this list. He has swatted 63 shots on the season, most by any freshman in NC State history, and 5th all time by any NC State player.
4. Justin Champagnie (Pittsburgh)
Champagnie is quietly putting together a fantastic season for Jeff Capel and Pitt so far. He is averaging 12.6 points and 7.3 rebounds in 31.8 minutes per game, and recently had his first career 30-point game against Georgia Tech. which helped him capture his first ACC Freshman of the Week title.
3. Landers Nolley II (Virginia Tech)
Nolley is a redshirt freshman who has been a revelation for Virginia Tech this season, seemingly coming out of nowhere and becoming the go-to scorer and playmaker for his team and putting himself the radars of NBA scouts across the country. He is averaging 17.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.7 assists in nearly 30 minutes of play.
2. Cole Anthony (North Carolina)
Cole Anthony was one of the most hyped-up freshmen coming into the season, and has not disappointed during his limited play time as a Tar Heel so far. The high-flying point guard from New York City is averaging 19.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.7 steals in 33.8 minutes, but has only appeared in 12 games this year after sustaining a knee injury which required surgery. Now that he is back, Cole Anthony has the green light to do whatever it takes to keep UNC relevant in this lost year for them and should continue to keep his name in the race to be the #1 overall draft selection in the next NBA draft.
1. Vernon Carey (Duke)
After starting the season out a little slow, Carey has come into his own over the past month or so and has become the toughest matchup in not only the ACC, but the entire country. Carey is putting up 17.8 points per game, 8.8 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game. The big man from Florida has become a premier double-double threat any time he steps on the court and has safely done enough to establish himself as the most dominant player in college basketball this year.