Player of the Week
Zion Williamson, Duke
Once again, the freshman phenom proved why he should be crowned National Player of the Year. In a showdown in South Bend with the Fighting Irish, Williamson scored 26 points on 10 of 12 field goal attempts, tallied nine rebounds, four assists, four blocks, and one steal. He led the Blue Devils to an easy 22-point road victory.
Williamson followed up with a more impressive performance on Saturday against an explosive St. John’s team. Naturally, he added to his season of highlight-reel plays—spiking blocks into the stands, flying above the rim, and diving for loose balls. Scoring 29 points, the freshman forward shot 76.4% from the field, marking his fourteenth game this season scoring 20 or more points. With three minutes remaining in the first half, Williamson scored 10 straight points for the Blue Devils to give his team a comfortable lead heading into the locker room. Against the Red Storm, he added six rebounds, five steals, and two blocks in the 30-point blowout.
The 285-pound freight train is the face of college basketball this season for good reason. Williamson and his teammates will see what they are made of with five of their next seven games against ranked opponents.
John Mooney, Notre Dame
It’s true that the Fighting Irish have not had the best luck this season, but one consistency has been John Mooney—Notre Dame’s double-double machine. The 6-foot-9 forward has recorded a double-double in each of his nine ACC contests this season, including a career-high 19 rebounds against North Carolina. The junior leads the conference in double-doubles (14) and rebounding (10.9).
Virginia Tech Hokies
A lot can change in one week. After getting demolished by the Tar Heels, the Hokies are back on track, picking up three straight conference wins. On Saturday, Virginia Tech’s defense made a statement, holding the Wolfpack to its worst shooting performance in ACC history (16.7%). The biggest takeaway for head coach Buzz Williams was how his team found a way to win without its most important contributor, point guard Justin Robinson, who was out with an ankle injury. The Hokies sit comfortably in 4th place in the ACC with a 7-2 record.
Cameron Johnson, North Carolina
In North Carolina’s last four games, the sharp shooter has connected on 14 of his last 25 three pointers (56%). Johnson, who ranks second in 3-point field goal percentage in the conference, also sits in the top ten in scoring. The 6-foot-9 senior has scored 19 or more points in three of his last four contests, including a double-double in the Tar Heels’ 10-point victory at Louisville.
NC State’s Ice-cold shooting
In a highly anticipated top 25 matchup with the Hokies, the Wolfpack managed to score 24 in a 23-point loss. Yes, you read that correctly. 24 points. It was the fewest points scored by a ranked team in the shot clock era and the fewest by a Division I team since 2008. To start, the Wolfpack made just one of their first 17 shots and ended the game shooting 7.1% from downtown. A large factor in the ice-cold performance was the lack of NC State’s Braxton Beverly, who went 0 for 12 overall. The Wolfpack enter a demanding ACC stretch with two of its next four games at North Carolina and Duke.
Top Five Games That Could Determine the Conference Champion
Nearly halfway through ACC play, Virginia, Duke, North Carolina, Louisville, and Virginia Tech have separated themselves from the rest of the pack.
#2 Duke @ #3 Virginia (Feb. 9th)
On February 9th, the College Gameday crew is headed to Charlottesville in what should be another epic showdown between the conference’s top two leaders. The Cavaliers look to avenge its two-point loss from early January, this time in front of a rowdy home crowd. At Duke, the Cavaliers had one of their worst 3-point shooting performances of the season (17%), which is unlikely to happen again. This time around, Duke’s point guard Tre Jones is healthy enough to compete.
#3 Virginia @ #9 North Carolina (Feb. 11)
North Carolina is playing its best basketball of the season. Strong rebounding, hot shooting, and the emergence of freshman Nassir Little have headlined the Tar Heels’ five-game win streak. Every seat in the Dean Dome will be filled, making it one of Virginia’s toughest road games of the season. In this matchup, two very different styles of play collide. Tony Bennett’s squad loves to take teams out of its offensive rhythm and slow down the pace of the game, while the Tar Heels play fast and look to dominate the glass.
#2 Duke @ #15 Louisville (Feb. 12)
In the ACC, both Duke and Louisville rank in the top five in rebounds per game. Although Duke is clearly the more talented team, Louisville has made a lot of noise this season with its only home conference loss to North Carolina. Louisville’s forward, Dwayne Sutton, is the ultimate glue guy for the Cardinals and will pose a defensive challenge for any Blue Devil.
#2 Virginia @ #12 Virginia Tech (Feb. 18)
Hopefully the margin of victory is closer than the first game between the two rivals. Although the Cavaliers secured the first game in a 22-point blowout, the Hokies look for revenge at home in the upcoming weeks. In the first contest, Virginia held its rival to 33% from the 3-point line, which was a rarity for the Hokies who lead the conference from shooting beyond the arc. So far, Virginia Tech is undefeated at home.
#9 North Carolina @ #2 Duke (Feb. 20)
The two teams’ longstanding fuel always makes for a physical, back-and-forth game. Even in seasons when there seems to be a clear favorite, the Carolina-Duke rivalry never fails to disappoint. In each conference game, Duke and Carolina are improving on both ends of the court. Will Luke Maye, ACC Preseason Player of the Year, be able to stop Zion Williamson? Can point guard Tre Jones —one of the nation’s best defenders—slow down Coby White, who has developed into one of the conference’s most explosive scorers? There is absolutely no telling what will happen in this rivalry.