Player of the Week
Rasheed Sulaimon - Duke
It wasn't that long ago that Sulaimon had hit that proverbial "freshman wall" that so many others have hit mid-way through their freshman seasons. After going 0-10 from the field and scoring only 4 points in a loss at NC State back in January, 'Sheed has busted through that wall and is now back to providing Duke with an athletic scoring and defensive presence on the wing. In two games last week against Virginia Tech and Boston College, the freshman looked like anything but going a combined 17 for 26 from the field including 6 for 9 from distance. Both games were Duke blowouts and Sulaimon was a big reason why. With Mason Plumlee dominating down low of late and Seth Curry shooting the lights out, Sulaimon has been able to let the game come to him. He's attacking the basket with more confidence, playing with great intensity on defense and not forcing anything like he was doing during the beginning of conference play. Duke is a legitimate title contender this season and will be a force to be reckoned with if Sulaimon continues his stellar play and if Ryan Kelly comes back from a foot injury that has had him sidelined for close to two months.
Erick Green - Virginia Tech
Green is a guy who could realistically have his name cemented on this list. The senior guard continues to lead the NCAA in scoring by more than two points per game. Barring a complete collapse, he will become the first Hokie ever to do so. Green has scored 20+ points in 25 of his 27 games this season and has topped the 30 point mark 3 times. Green can score from anywhere on the floor. He is shooting above 40% from three, has a nice mid-range game and gets to the rim consistently. He isn't getting the attention that he should for what he is accomplishing due to the fact that his team dead last in the ACC. What's amazing with Green is his efficiency despite being his team's only true offensive threat. He's shooting over 47% overall from the field which is unheard of considering how many minutes he plays, shots he takes and how much the ball is in his hands throughout the course of the game.
Richard Howell - NC State
Howell is far and away the MVP of State's squad this season. Lorenzo Brown and [Player: C.J. Leslie] might get most of the attention but without the rebounding, defense and steadying presence of Howell down low, this team would find themselves fighting for an NCAA tournament birth. Howell is the leading rebounder in the ACC and is in the top 5 overall in the NCAA. His 17 rebounds in a losing effort against North Carlina on Saturday was his second highest total of the season. The senior forward from Marietta, Georgia has played himself into All-ACC conversations and has provided leadership for a team built around players who have had a somewhat difficult time adjusting to their roles. He won't wow you with any part of his game, he isn't flashy and he isn't a great athlete but what Howell does bring to the table are the intangibles that seem to go overlooked in this highlight reel era that we live in. He has transformed both his body and his style of play each and every year at State based on what the team needs. He has a great motor and plays with intensity on a nightly basis.
Dez Wells - Maryland
Maryland's offense as a whole has been difficult to watch for much of the season. Even with guys like Alex Len, Wells and Nick Faust, the offense just hasn't clicked for most of the year leaving Mark Turgeon to deal with bad shots and a plethora of empty possessions from game to game. Wells, a transfer from Xavier, is the most talented offensive player in the group. His combination of size and athleticism makes for quite a few matchup problems on the wing. But he has struggled with his own shot the past few games. He has scored in double figures just once in his last five contests and is coming off of two of his worst performances of the season. He 4-12 (0-3 from 3) in a loss against Boston College and was 1-6 (0-2 from 3) in Saturday's win at home against Clemson. Thankfully the team didn't need him in the game against the Tigers but that won't be the case going forward. The loss on the road at Boston College negated virtually everything that the win against Duke did for the Terps tournament chances. They will need to win at least 3 of their remaining 4 and win a game in the ACCT to feel good about their NCAA chances.
Top 3 Story Lines Heading into the ACCT
1. Can Miami rebound?
Miami was undefeated in the ACC until Saturday's loss at the hands of Wake Forest. The 'Canes had been dodging bullets left and right since throttling Duke in January. They survived on a last second Reggie Johnson tip-in against NC State, needed a big 3 by Kenny Kadji against Clemson and a big bucket by Reggie Johnson with under 6 seconds to play against Virgina. The story now will be how this team rebounds after suffering their first loss in two months. Most of their players haven't played in pressure situations so watching them down the stretch and in the ACCT where they will likely be the favorites will be a huge story line. But if anyone knows a little something about winning big games in March it is Jim Larranaga. Just ask UConn.
2. Will Roy Williams continue to use the 4 guard lineup?
Ole Roy has never really been one to tinker with his lineup mid-season but his inserting of [Player: P.J. Hairston] into the starting forward role and going with a four guard lineup might have saved North Carolina's season. The team is 3-1 since experimenting with the "small" lineup and they have looked worlds better on the offensive end. Hairston and Reggie Bullock have both been lights out from three in the last four games as the Tar Heels have vaulted themselves into the upper third of the conference in hopes of getting that first round bye. The team knows that this lineup gives them the best shot at winning and should stick with it for the remainder of the season.
3. Can NC State regain their swagger?
Picked in the pre-season to win the ACC, the Wolfpack has struggled to reach their potential due to injuries, lack of depth and inconsistent play by their best player [Player: C.J. Leslie]. Pack fans are disappointed with this team so far (what else is new?) but a ACCT Championship would be the cherry on top of a roller coaster season. The team is talented enough and well coached but it is up to the players themselves to accept their roles and to play as a team. These last few weeks will the last in a Pack uniform for possibly four of the team's upperclassmen. It will be up to those four to decide whether they want to make a name for themselves in Wolfpack history or overlook the next few weeks as they have their eyes set on playing at the next level a year from now.
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It is amazing to me how much better of an all-around player Rasheed has been for Duke in comparison to that #1 ranked player last season.
Sheed has been better offensively, a better team player (looks to pass), and MUCH better defensively. Hope he can keep this up the remainder of the season because I truly do not see Ryan Kelly coming back this season. Coach K would never put a professional career in jeopardy, and if Ryan has a chance to get drafted, I do not see him risking it.