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ACC Blog

Player of the Week

CJ Leslie

CJ LeslieCJ LeslieIt's that wonderful time of year again. The time that basketball turns into a scrum of turnovers, fouls and ugly, UGLY play. Everything becomes twice as competitive and three times as exciting for basketball junkies like myself. It's ACC play and a whole new season (cliché ahead) where the real stars come out to shine. Early results are in (game one, at least), and things look promising for CJ Leslie. The freakishly athletic forward has been featured on this blog several times (as both hot and cold), but seems to be responding well to the higher intensity of conference play. He played with a much better effort than he was earlier in the season and it showed on the stat-sheet. He put up 20 points and 11 rebounds in his team's win against Maryland on Sunday. The improved rebounding is a good sign, as he only averaged 6.2 rebounds during non-conference play, and that's extremely disappointing for a player with his athletic ability. Though billed as a combo-forward, I'm convinced that his position both now and in the future is in the post. While thin for the position, he's a monster around the hoop and will be an easy alley-oop target if paired with a quality point guard at the next level. In the meantime, the Wolfpack is a much better team when Leslie is dominating, so they'll be hoping he can keep this up.

Hot

Tyler Zeller

UNC's star center is also responding well to conference play. In the Tar Heels' two conference games (both wins), Zeller has averaged 18.0 points on 60.9% shooting from the floor, along with 9.0 rebounds per game. This kind of production is fairly typical from Zeller, and it will have to continue if the Tar Heels want to make a deep postseason run. Zeller's size is a very important asset for the team, especially when they’re playing ACC opponents. Bigs often seem to be what separates the upper-tier teams in the conference from the lower-tier teams. While I don’t think UNC is a lower-tier team with or without Zeller, a offensive big like that provides a huge advantage against teams like Boston College and Virginia Tech that don’t have an answer for him. This is a luxury only a few ACC teams possess.

Cold

Malcolm Grant

It's been a rough season for Malcolm Grant up to this point. He's spent the majority of the season struggling from the field (hasn't shot higher than 50% in any of the 13 games he’s played in) and is also averaging career-lows in both 3PT% (33.7%) and FT% (70.7%). A few weeks ago, he missed a few games following his older brother's death. That wouldn't be easy for anybody to recover from, so it's no wonder he hasn't been performing well in conference play. He's averaged 6.5 points and 1.0 assists per game this week, having only made 5 of his 20 shots from the floor (25%), and 2 of his 13 attempts from beyond the arc (15.3%). Grant was one of the more electric guards in the ACC just a season ago. His team is surely hoping he can pick himself back up after the recent hardships he's endured and play at that high level again.

Top 5 Rebounders in the ACC

1. John Henson - Henson is the best rebounder on the best rebounding team in the nation. His much-discussed length and athleticism allow him to collect rebounds that are simply out of everybody else's area. The weight he's added over the last few years helps him maintain position better, but he'll have to add more to not get pushed around in the NBA.

2. Mason Plumlee - Plumlee doesn't have to compete for rebounds with teammates as much as everybody else on this list, but that shouldn't suggest that he doesn't have to work for them. He's a big, athletic body and has done himself a favor by becoming more physical over the course of his career.

3. Mike Scott - Virginia certainly surprised a lot of people this season and with a double-double machine like Mike Scott, I expect them to continue surprising folks. He should be matched-up with Plumlee this Thursday, so that will be fun to watch.

4. Bernard James - He's averaging just over nine boards per game, and coming off a career-high of 15 rebounds in Florida State's matchup against Virginia Tech. The Hokies simply had no answer for James, as the former Air Force service man dominated the offensive glass and led his team to the win.

5. Richard Howell - Howell isn't a big name, but he's a big part of NC State's quality play this season. He's averaging 9.5 rebounds in 26.7 minutes a game. He's a big body that's extremely hard to keep off the offensive glass.

Notes:

Duke lost their final non-conference game of the season on Wednesday by a score of 73-78 against Temple ... Virginia Tech and Miami are the only teams to start conference play off with multiple losses so far ... Kendall Marshall is on the verge of leading the nation in assists per game (9.9 apg). He’s currently second to Iona’s Scott Machado (10.1) … #17 Virginia will play at #6 Duke this Thursday in a marquee matchup featuring two top-25 ranked teams ...

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