Ready to Rumble

Player of the Week

Terry Rozier, Louisville

Terry RozierTerry RozierWith senior star Russ Smith departing for the NBA last summer, it was wildly assumed that Terry Rozier would take a significantly larger scoring role for the Louisville Cardinals, and the sophomore has not disappointed. Rozier has put up averages of 16.7 points, 5.5 boards, 2.4 assists, and 2.1 steals on the season thus far. When teammate Montrezl Harrell recently lost a game-and-a-half due to an ill-advised swing, Rozier took his already increased scoring responsibilities even further, averaging 24 points on 56% shooting in two victories. Being a go-to scorer is hardly unfamiliar territory for him. He averaged 29.3 points per game during his senior year of high school, including a 69 point outburst in one double-overtime victory. During his freshman year at college, he was a highly productive bench player, capable of putting up a lot of points in limited minutes. In addition to his scoring prowess, Rozier is also an excellent athlete and a competitive defender. If he can develop his point guard skills (currently has a meager 1/1 assist to turnover ratio), he'll get a lot of looks by NBA scouts. In the meantime, I have to imagine Rick Patino would be happy if Rozier just continues to score and defend well, as he'll likely be needed to upset the Kentucky Wildcats this Saturday.


Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse

The Syracuse Orange have had a rough start to their season. Marred by horrific shooting, the team is performing far below their preseason expectations. While the majority of the team has been inconsistent at best, Rakeem Christmas has been an absolute rock. Previously considered a role-player, the 6'9" center has made huge improvements from a season ago. Despite only a modest bump in minutes (23.6 to 29.5), the senior has increased his scoring average from 5.8 to 16.5; his rebounding average from 5.1 to 8.7; his assist average from .7 to 1.5; and his block average from 1.9 to 2.3. Both his field-goal (61.1%) and his free-throw (73.3%) have remained steady, even after attempts in each have nearly tripled. His athleticism and length contribute to his outstanding finishing ability around the rim, though that's been present over the last few years. What has changed is how often he's looked for now by his teammates. Lacking a real go-to scorer (though Trevor Cooney's starting to show some positive signs), the Orange know they can count on a high-percentage shot if Christmas gets a clean catch in the paint. He's also recently developed a few decent-looking post moves (including a little jump hook), and looks more comfortable shooting from mid-range. The one thing really holding Christmas back at this point is foul trouble. He will play over-aggressive at times, and defenses look to take advantage of that. If he can stay on the court and a few of his teammates start helping him out, the Orange may be able to make some noise in the ACC again this year.

Pat Connaughton, Notre Dame

As the only player shooting under 50% from the floor in Notre Dame's rotation, you have to imagine that Pat Connaughton and his downright pitiful 49.2% field goal percentage were feeling a bit inadequate. Perhaps the recent spike in performance the team has seen from him is an attempt to compensate for this embarrassment. In any case, Connaughton has averaged 20 points on 51.9% shooting to go along with 12 rebounds in two games this week. 17 of his 27 field goal attempts during that time were from beyond the arc (8 of them connected), and this kind of ratio is not unusual for Pat. On the season, more than 58% of his total shot-attempts actually come from deep. I guess being the team's best, and most prolific shooter earns the man a pass for his relatively low overall shooting numbers. In fact, 49.2% is actually pretty remarkable for someone as perimeter-orientated as he is. Connaughton's skill level and hustle could have put him in NBA draft discussions as a potential second-rounder, but he's already been drafted (and signed) by the Baltimore Orioles, so I'm not sure that's entirely realistic.


Angel Rodriguez, Miami

No team in the ACC has been colder than the Hurricanes. The team has lost two in a row, and three of their last four. All three losses were against non-ranked (and non-ACC) opponents, the lowlight of which was a 28-point spanking at the hand of the 5-4 Eastern Kentucky Colonels. While it's totally unfair to put the fault of this streak on any one player, I've decided to single out Angel Rodriguez as particularly cold. He's been averaging 12.3 points over the last four games while shooting only 25% from the field. In the team's clunker against the Colonels, he was virtually absent, only managing a single point and missing all six shot attempts. The 5'11" guard has always been considered a bit streaky, so I'd expect him to bounce back sooner than later. When he's on, Rodriguez is an explosive scorer and a terrific shooter. The Hurricanes will need that from him if they intend to get back in the top-25 rankings.

Chris McCullough, Syracuse

Chris McCullough started his college career about as well as anyone could have expected, scoring in double figures in each of his first eight games while shooting an impressive 57% from the field. However, he's been in a major slump since. In his past three games, McCullough has only managed to average four points on 12.5% shooting. Ouch. A positive sign is that he's still been able to contribute in other ways (getting a lot of deflections and making an impact on the glass), but frustratingly, he's also fouled out of two of those three games. It would be unrealistic to expect a freshman to perform well all season, but with conference play rapidly approaching (and the competition getting significantly tougher), there's reason to be concerned about how he figures to produce through the rest of the season. McCullough remains an interesting NBA draft prospect because of his physical tools and versatility; but if he doesn't find his stride soon, we might not be talking about him as a 2015 draft prospect.

Top 5 Point Guards

1. Tyus Jones, Duke - Jones has taken over the reigns for Duke and done everything one can expect from a freshman point guard. He's making plays for teammates (5.3 assists per game), taking care of the ball (only 1.5 turnovers per), and scoring when he has the opportunity (10.9 points per). Bonus points for doing all of this on what's currently considered the second best team in the nation. Quinn Cook is playing shooting guard, but he should get some credit here as well.

2. Marcus Paige, North Carolina - Paige has been wildly inconsistent this season, but I still consider him among the top point guards in the conference. Oddly enough, he's playing at his best against the top competition. In the four games UNC has played against ranked opponents, Paige is averaging 16.8 points (on 41.3% shooting) and 4.8 assists in 32 minutes per. This is compared to 11.4 points (on 30.8% shooting) and 2.9 assists in 29.4 minutes per against non-ranked opponents. Go figure.

3. Demetrius Jackson, Notre Dame - Shooting guard Jerian Grant controls the ball more than anyone on the Notre Dame roster, but Jackson has still provided excellent production from the point guard position for the Fighting Irish. The 6'1" sophomore is averaging 14.2 points on 57.9% shooting (43.9% from deep), and 2.2 steals to go along with a better than 2/1 A/TO ratio.

4. Olivier Hanlan, Boston College - He's really more of a combo guard in my eyes, but Oliver Hanlan has assumed the point guard position this season for the Eagles. He's an excellent scorer, averaging 16 points per game on the season, and an improving playmaker, averaging 4.3 assists. He's also capable of making an impact defensively, currently averaging 2.4 steals per game on the season.

5. Angel Rodriguez, Miami - I discussed Rodriguez's struggles above, but he's typically a very dynamic point guard. Despite his inconsistent play this season, he's still shooting 39.1% from three (on 5.8 attempts, no less) and nabbing 2.5 steals per game. As he breaks out of his slump, I expect the Hurricanes will do the same.

Notes: Virginia flexed their defensive muscles against Harvard last week, squashing the Crimson 76-27 and holding their starters to 1/32 shooting. The trumped team only scored one field goal (eight points) in the first half and had only one assist in the entire game... Virginia guard Justin Anderson's absurd three-point shooting numbers are still climbing, now at a tidy 60%... Wayne Blackshear scored 31 points for Louisville against CS Northridge, stepping up alongside Rozier to help compensate for the suspended Montrezl Harrell... Harrell will be back for Saturday's game against Kentucky. Don't miss that one, folks... There are currently three undefeated ACC teams ranked in the top five, including: #2 Duke, #4 Louisville, #5 Virginia... #16 Notre Dame and #20 North Carolina are also currently ranked... I may have blown a golden opportunity to make Rakeem Christmas the Player of the Week... Happy Holidays!!...

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Dean Winchester Jacket NewAmericanJackets

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