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Like A Lion

As the first week of college hoops comes to an end, all attention is on the ACC. The ACC has seven teams ranked in the Top 25, including three in the Top 10. The ACC is the only remaining undefeated Power Five conference, posting a 25-0 record this week.

Player of the Week

Zion Williamson, Duke

Zion WilliamsonZion WilliamsonWilliamson and fourth-ranked Duke put all of college basketball on notice after a 34 point rout against #2 Kentucky to open the season. Whether you like to hear it or not, Duke is scary. And Zion Williamson makes the team that much scarier. After a 28-point performance in his freshman debut, it is safe to say that that Williamson is not afraid of the national spotlight. The 285-pound Spartanburg native was nearly perfect from the field (11-13), grabbed 7 rebounds, and dished out 2 assists in only 23 minutes of
playing time. The 6-foot-7 forward proved to be much more than a dunker. With unreal athletic abilities and a body built like LeBron James, Williamson used his size to make great defensive plays. Five minutes into the second half, Williamson effortlessly blocked and snatched the ball out of Nick Richards’ hands as he attempted a layup. Seconds later, the freshman sprinted to half court to complete the transition play with an incredible bounce pass to RJ Barrett who scored the layup, extending the Duke lead to 30.


On Sunday, Duke’s defense struggled in its first home game against Army. The Blue Devils pulled away in the last ten minutes of the second half to secure a 94-72 victory. Every time Army cut into Duke’s lead, Zion Williamson was there to make the next key play for the Blue Devils. Whether it was dunking, blocking shots, or diving after loose balls, he sparked the necessary energy in his team that ended the game on a 25-11 run. The forward recorded his first double-double of the season, leading Duke with 27 points, 16 rebounds, and 6 blocks. Duke’s first two games of the season are just a preview of what Williamson is capable of and what ACC opponents will have to face come January. The talented freshman is living up to the hype and more. If Williamson continues to play the way he has in his first two games, no player in the country will be able to stop him. He affects the game on both ends of the floor, which makes him one of the most dominant players in the ACC.

Who’s Hot

Cameron Johnson, North Carolina

The Pennsylvania native faced hip surgery during the offseason. Now, with a healthy Johnson, the Tar Heels seem to have found their go-to scorer. Last season, Johnson was the third scoring option for the Tar Heels behind Joel Berry and Luke Maye, but this season the fifth-year senior has emerged as an offensive leader. Cameron Johnson has been red hot from threes in the Tar Heels’ first two games, making 7 of 10 attempts. The 6-foot-9 guard averaged only 12.4 points in the 2017-18 season, but has averaged 19 points in Carolina’s road wins against Wofford and Elon this season. In an impressive 17-point performance at Wofford, Johnson hit critical threes against the Terriers in a hostile road environment. Aside from proving to be an efficient spot-up scorer, Johnson is tied for first in steals (2.0) and is second in rebounding (6.5) for the Tar Heels. Although North Carolina has only played two games, Johnson’s shooting performance is something for Roy Williams and Tar Heel fans to be excited about. North Carolina should be on every opponent’s radar in March if the senior continues to shoot lights out. Johnson and his team will be tested in the upcoming weeks with tougher games against Michigan, Gonzaga, and Kentucky.

Who’s Not

Louisville

The Louisville Cardinals survived a scare in the first week of college hoops. Louisville made late free throws to win 85-72 at home against Nicholls State. Louisville looked lost defensively. Throughout the entire game, the team struggled to defend the three, which allowed Nicholls State to score 36 points from behind the arc. With 3:40 remaining in the
second half, the Colonels hit a three to cut the Cardinals’ lead to two, making the score 66-68. Foul trouble plagued Nicholls State, resulting in the elimination of five players. Louisville took advantage at the free throw line, making 12 free throws down the stretch to seal the win. The Cardinals received 733 votes to finish fifth in the ACC, but the team’s first game raised legitimate concerns. Louisville Head Coach, Chris Mack, is going to have to make changes defensively if he wants his team to be a top contender in the toughest basketball conference.

Top Five Wins

1. Duke Blue Devils

#4 Duke defeated #2 Kentucky 118 to 84 in the Champions Classic on Tuesday night to tip-off the college basketball season. Duke securing a victory over Kentucky was not surprising, but no one in the country predicted the Blue Devils to dominate the Wildcats in the fashion that they did. Kentucky’s roster features top-rated point guard Ashton Hagans, stud transfer Reid Travis, and two returning five star prospects in PJ Washington and Quade Green. It did not make a difference if the Wildcats’ talented lineup switched from man-to-man or zone, Kentucky was unable to do anything to stop the country’s top three ranked freshmen in RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson, and Cameron Reddish. Duke’s four freshman outscored the entire Kentucky team 89-84. As a team, Duke had 22 assists, only 4 turnovers, and shot 54.4% from the field. The Blue Devils handed John Calipari the greatest margin of defeat in his coaching career.

2. Florida State Seminoles

#17 Florida State kicked off its season with a comfortable 81-60 win over Florida. The Seminoles were in control of the game from the opening-tip. The team was on fire from behind the arc, making 47.8% of their 23 three-point attempts. Christ Koumadje’s height (7’4’’) proved to be problematic for the Gators and senior guard PJ Savoy was unstoppable in his 20 point performance. Terance Mann dominated the glass, grabbing 9 rebounds, including 3 offensive ones. Florida State defeated its in-state rival by the most points since 1969 and look to be a legitimate threat in the ACC.

3. North Carolina Tar Heels

This year, North Carolina did not take Wofford lightly. North Carolina opened its season with a 78-67 road win over the Terriers—a team that upset the then fifth-ranked Tar Heels in Chapel Hill last season. The Tar Heels’ chemistry was evident in their 21 total assists. Senior forward Luke Maye led the team with 24 points to begin his ACC Player of the Year campaign. Although Kenny Williams did not score, he was perhaps the most effective player for North Carolina. Williams locked down on Wofford’s best scorer, Fletcher MaGee, and held him to a poor 3-16 shooting performance from the three-point line. After a late second half surge by the Terriers, the Tar Heels had an immediate answer on the offensive end to ice the game.

4. Virginia Cavaliers

Coming off arguably the biggest upset in college basketball history to 16-seeded UMBC in last season’s NCAA tournament, the Cavaliers were determined to start this year the right way. Virginia blew out Towson in a 73-42 victory and clicked on both ends of the court. Returning Junior Ty Jerome scored 20 points and was 6 of 9 from behind the arc. DeAndre Hunter, who missed last season’s ACC and NCAA tournament due to a wrist injury, recorded a double-double to push the Cavaliers to a 31 point win. At a point in both halves, Virginia’s stingy defense held Towson scoreless for over eight minute periods.

5. Pittsburgh Panthers

After an abysmal 0-18 record in the ACC last season, the Pittsburgh Panthers are looking to redeem themselves. New head coach Jeff Capel hopes to rebuild the Pittsburgh basketball program and that starts with winning. Pittsburgh held Youngstown State to only 24 points in the first half in a 69-53 win. Xavier Johnson and Trey McGowens had notable freshmen debuts with 17 and 16 points, respectively. The Panthers started the second half hot with a 12-0 run and had an impressive defensive performance, forcing 20 Youngstown State turnovers. For a team that is voted to finish last in the ACC this season, Pittsburgh deserves credit for their 2-0 start.

Follow Kailey Jackson on twitter @kaileyjacksonn.

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