That Guy Kyle

Player of the Week

Kyle Guy, Virginia

Kyle GuyKyle GuyEntering a hostile road environment at North Carolina, the junior delivered in the most critical moments of the game for the Cavaliers. Kyle Guy scored 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting with 15 of his points coming from downtown. After trailing the majority of the second half, Guy drilled a pair of back-to-back 3-pointers with less than two minutes remaining to give Virginia a comfortable six-point edge. The 6-foot-2 guard rescued the Cavaliers from a potential losing streak for the first time in two years.

Guy’s hot shooting carried over into his next matchup against Notre Dame. Stuffing the stat sheet, Guy poured in 22 points, six rebounds, and three assists. Once again, the junior was clutch in high-pressure moments—this time from the foul line. Virginia was clinging to a slim two-point lead with under 30 seconds to play before Guy was fouled. He converted four free throw attempts in the final 25 seconds to lead the Cavaliers to their 10th conference victory.

Who’s Hot

Zion Williamson, Duke

The freshman phenom is the heavy favorite in the National Player of the Year race. In seven of his last 10 contests, the Spartanburg native has scored 25 or more points, while shooting 63% from the field. Williamson is one of the nation’s best defenders this season and is two blocks shy from being the third Blue Devil to record 50+ blocks and 50+ steals in one season.

Cameron Johnson, North Carolina

On Saturday, Johnson was nearly unstoppable from 3-point range, drilling seven of his 10 attempts. He scored 27 in a 38-point beatdown of the Demon Deacons. Johnson is shooting 48% from long range on the season and has made three or more 3-pointers against five of his last eight ACC opponents. The 6-foot-9 junior looks to continue his sharp shooting in his next matchup with the Blue Devils.

Who’s Not

Louisville’s Closing Ability

The Cardinals watched a 23-point lead vanish before their eyes against the Blue Devils early in the week—a game that was full of costly turnovers in the final five minutes. Five days later, Louisville found itself on the verge of another collapse. At home against Clemson, the Cardinals led by seven points with 17 seconds remaining, yet the Tigers had two opportunities to win at the end. Louisville escaped with a 56-55 victory, but the team’s poorly managed possessions in the final minutes is something that Chris Mack must address.

Danny Manning, Wake Forest

In 2017, Wake Forest head coach Danny Manning signed a six-year contract extension; however his future with the Demon Deacons does not look promising. Wake Forest is 9-15 overall with a 2-10 conference record. It is hard for any administration to overlook losses to Gardner-Webb, Houston Baptist, and Richmond this season. Over the weekend, the Demon Deacons lost to North Carolina by 38 points, making it Wake Forest’s second-worst home loss ever. Danny Manning’s team has won only one game since beating NC State on January 15th.

Top Five Storylines

1. ACC Teams Claim the Top NCAA Seeds

Last week, the NCAA selection committee revealed its top 16 teams. Four ACC teams nabbed the top four seeds—tied with the Big Ten for the most teams. The in-season bracket preview projected Duke and Virginia as 1 seeds, with Duke claiming the No. 1 overall spot. The following two teams, North Carolina and Louisville, were projected as a 2 and 4 seed, respectively. A lot of games are left to be played, but this projection is a great sign for the ACC moving forward.

2. ACC’s Elite Freshmen

Of the Power Five conferences, the ACC has the most talented batch of freshmen in the country and it’s not even close. Duke’s four impact freshmen occupy the headlines, deservingly so, but there are a lot of other ACC players making an immediate impact. North Carolina’s Coby White, a highly heralded scorer, is the only Tar Heel freshman to score at least 33 points twice in a season. White is teammates with the talented Nassir Little, who has established himself as an effective rebounder and sixth man. Wake Forest’s freshman forward, Jaylen Hoard, is averaging 13.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game. Georgia Tech has Michael Devoe, who ranks in the top four on his team in the following categories: total points, rebounds, assists, and steals. The Blue Devils have the conference’s two leading scorers in RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson.

3. Blue Devils’ Historical Comeback

On Tuesday night, the Cardinals absolutely dismantled the Blue Devils in the first 30 minutes and amounted a 23-point lead with 9:55 to play in the second half. That should be a wrap, right? According to ESPN’s win probability, Louisville had a 99.7% chance to win at that point. Duke was the lucky .3% that night. Zion Williamson returned to the court with four fouls and ignited a 35-10 Blue Devil run. In the final 10 minutes, Williamson recorded 11 points, four rebounds, three steals, and one block, while teammate Cam Reddish drilled four 3-pointers and the two winning free throws to cap off the 71-69 victory. Thanks to extreme pressure defense from Tre Jones and unlikely hero Jordan Goldwire, Duke forced nine Louisville turnovers in the final 10 minutes. The 23-point comeback stands alone as the largest regulation comeback with under 10 minutes remaining and was a reminder to the country how scary this Duke team is when it flips a switch.

4. Chris Mack is Changing the Louisville Culture

After being plagued with scandals and FBI investigations in the recent years, Louisville was a program in need of a desperate culture change. First-year head coach Chris Mack has done a phenomenal job taking over—a job that many people thought would take years to make Louisville basketball nationally competitive again. Entering the season, there were a lot of question marks surrounding the Cardinals. Sophomore forward Jordan Nwora has seen his playing time jump up 20 minutes from his freshman year and is the Cardinals’ offensive power, leading his team with 17.8 points per game. More experienced players on the roster include Dwayne Sutton, Steven Enoch, Christen Cunningham, and Ryan McMahon and have each improved tremendously from the season before. Of course the loss to Duke was heartbreaking, but Louisville played like a champion for 30 minutes and showed how dangerous this team can be. Chris Mack has done an incredible job at getting his team to gel fast and compete with nation’s elite teams. Don’t forget that Louisville was voted to finish 11th in the ACC Preseason Poll. Right now, the Cardinals are fourth in the conference with nine conference wins.

5. Virginia is a Final Four/Title Contender

Virginia entered last year’s NCAA tournament as the No. 1 overall seed just to see its season crumble in a stunning loss to 16-seeded UMBC. That is a game that no one will ever forget, but the Cavaliers can put last season’s misery behind them with a Final Four appearance this year. Tony Bennett’s team has assembled a 22-2 record with its only two losses to Duke. Despite the 10-point loss at home to the Blue Devils, the Cavaliers were in it until the very last minute. Two days later, Kyle Guy and his teammates rallied from seven down to defeat the eighth-ranked Tar Heels in Chapel Hill. Virgina, known for its defensive prowess, is much more than that this year. The Cavaliers have weapons who can score, too. Kyle Guy, De’Andre Hunter, Ty Jerome are all shooting above 40% from behind the arc. Right now, Virginia is one of only three teams ranked in the top 10 in both adjusted defensive rating and adjusted offensive rating.