Fresh Start

Player of the Week

DeAndre Hunter, Virginia

DeAndre HunterDeAndre HunterOn Friday night, the Virginia Cavaliers obliterated Coppin State in a 57 point beatdown—the program's third largest margin of victory. It should be no surprise that Virginia is the conference’s best defensive team once again. But if the team continues to shoot lights out like it did on Friday, the Cavaliers are the team that every ACC opponent hopes to avoid.

A good sign for Tony Bennett and every Hoops fan: De'Andre Hunter is back. Hunter, who watched his team from the bench compete in the ACC and NCAA tournament last season, is fully recovered from his broken wrist and has been a weapon both offensively and defensively. In a stellar 20-point performance against the Eagles, Hunter was without a doubt the best player on the court. The sophomore outscored Coppin State for the majority of the first half thanks to two early three-pointers and several buckets in the paint. It was not until the 6:10 mark in the first half that Eagles guard Ibn Williams hit a three to give Coppin State more points than Hunter, though the Eagles still trailed by 13.

Along with 3 assists, the 6-foot-7 guard was a perfect 4-4 from behind the arc. As is every player coached by Tony Bennett, Hunter was consistently aggressive on defense, evident by his three steals. The Pennsylvania native is averaging 14.3 points, 5 rebounds, and 1.3 assists on the season. Although the sophomore forward could improve his shot and develop a quicker release, he had no problem against the Eagles. Friday night was a strong indicator of what Hunter can contribute to this year’s Virginia team. So far as a starter, the returning draft prospect is making the most of his minutes.

Who’s Hot

NC State Wolfpack

Second-year head coach Kevin Keatts seems to have the right pieces for a successful college basketball season. The Wolfpack secured its third victory of the season on Tuesday in a dominating 100-49 win over UNC Asheville. NC State won by at least 46 points in its first three games of the season, becoming the first ACC team to do so. Averaging 19.5 points, 8 rebounds, and connecting on 50% of his three-pointers, 6-foot-5 guard Torin Dorn has emerged as the Wolfpack’s senior leader. Another key contribution to NC State’s early 4-0 start is sophomore DJ Funderburk, who has converted on nearly 90% of his field goal attempts at the rim. The team ranks ninth in scoring defense and sixth in the country in offensive efficiency, averaging 1.272 points per possession.

Who’s Not

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Radford pulled off a huge upset in South Bend on Wednesday night to stun the Fighting Irish 63-60. Notre Dame’s team features two experienced seniors in Rex Pflueger and Elijah Burns, four 4-star freshman, and transfer big-man Juwan Durham. Although this is considered to be a rebuilding year for the Irish, it is no excuse to lose at home to a mid-major team. Those are the must-win games, especially before ACC play begins. Mike Brey is known for coaching teams with a fluent half-court motion offense, in which players are constantly ready to shoot behind the arc. For a team that is expected to be offensively gifted this season is converting on only 28.6% of its 91 three-point attempts. After suffering a knee-injury last season, 5-star guard DJ Harvey is looking to have a strong sophomore campaign. Harvey, who the team relies on for scoring and rebounding, needs to be more productive on the offensive end if Notre Dame wants to get back on track.

Top Five Offenses in the ACC

1. Duke Blue Devils

The Blue Devils have weapons at every position that are incredibly difficult to slow down. Averaging 25.3 points per game, Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett set the Duke freshmen record in most points scored in the first three games of a season. In the shadows of Williamson and Barrett is 6-foot-8 freshman Cameron Reddish, who is an elite scorer with a quick release. Perhaps the player who is the glue of this team is Tre Jones, the younger brother of the talented point guard Tyus Jones. Jones has exceptional court vision and leads the ACC in assists at 7.3 per game. What makes this Duke team so challenging to compete with is its ability to score in transition. The Blue Devils have college basketball’s highest ceiling and its offense will only improve as the season goes on.

2. North Carolina Tar Heels

ACC Preseason Player of the Year, Luke Maye, is doing exactly what is expected in his last year wearing a Tar Heel uniform. The senior is two rebounds shy of averaging a double-double on the season. North Carolina teams are known for grabbing offensive boards. Four games in, that is still the case. The Tar Heels rank first in the conference in offensive rebounding with a total of 65 on the season. Averaging 11.5 points in only 21 minutes of playing time, highly touted 5-star freshman Nassir Little is a serious scoring threat in the league. In addition to Maye, guard Cameron Johnson has proven to be a sharpshooter for the team. Maye, Little, Johnson and talented point guard Coby White make a convincing argument to be the conference’s top offense.

3. NC State Wolfpack

In its first four games, NC State is third in the ACC in scoring with 95.5 points per game. Kevin Keatts has a very versatile basketball team and has not been playing conventional basketball. With a limited frontcourt, at times NC State plays small with three ball handlers—Blake Harris, Braxton Beverly, Markell Johnson—who are quick and athletic scorers. Johnson, who averaged 7.3 assists his sophomore year, continues to be an important facilitator for his team this season. NC State has many scoring options and are difficult to defend. So far, the Wolfpack have been excellent offensively; it will be interesting to see how the team adjusts when they face better defensive opponents.

4. Miami Hurricanes

With four players averaging double figures in scoring, the Hurricanes could easily finish in the upper tier of the ACC. The offense is run through returning point guard Chris Lykes, who already has 16 assists in three games. Lykes has scored 22, 20, and 21 points in the Hurricanes’ first three victories. Center Ebuka Izundu made a statement Tuesday night after a career-high 22 points and 18 rebounds against Stephen F. Austin. The 6-foot-10 senior has provided a formidable presence inside the paint this season aftera fairly unproductive junior year. Miami has three returning starters, along with Lykes and Izundu who both played a considerable amount of minutes last season. The experience is there. Miami’s offense has been clicking so far and with three players over 6’10’’, the Hurricanes should be hard to score on.

5. Clemson Tigers

After last season’s unpredictable Sweet 16 run, the Clemson Tigers are a force to be reckoned with once again this year. The 19th-ranked Tigers are converting on 51.3% of its field goals in its first three games. The Tigers are led by terrific senior guard Marcquise Reed who was named second-team All-ACC last season. The best sign for the Tigers is that senior David Skara seems to have found an offensive rhythm. After struggling to score last season, the forward is averaging 10.3 points per game—7 points up from the previous season.

Follow Kailey Jackson on twitter @kaileyjacksonn.

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