Player of the Week
Less than a week after crowning Iman Shumpert my ACC Co-Player of the Week, he goes and gives statisticians everywhere hand cramps with a triple-double explosion in last Tuesdays victory over Virginia Tech. On Tuesday, Georgia Tech was hosting a game against a very good Virginia Tech opponent. They were coming off a loss at Virginia, but had won their two previous home games against North Carolina and Wake Forest in an impressive fashion. I'll let the 6'5" junior tell the rest of his story with his unreal stat line of 22 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists and 7 steals. Shumpert also took control of one of the best scorers in the ACC, Malcolm Delaney, holding him to a season low 8 points on 3 of 11 shooting. Shumpert also forced Delaney into 8 turnovers. With Delaney getting eaten alive, the Hokies didn't stand a chance, falling 72-57 to the suddenly respectable Yellow Jackets. Shumpert still has his weaknesses. His efficiency/shot selection is questionable, and his attitude has been considered a red flag by some. The potential is there though. He has good size with long arms. He's quick, explosive and powerful enough to be effective on both ends of the floor. If he can put it all together then he'll be a great NBA prospect.
Whether you choose to include Kyrie Irving or not, there is no denying that Duke's backcourt is one of the strongest in the nation. Nolan Smith, Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins along with hybrid forward Kyle Singler give Duke a great chance to repeat as national champions this season. However, they have a weakness and it's the overall depth of their frontcourt. The Plumlees are athletic and doing some things well, but alone they can't make up for the departures of flop-wizard Lance Thomas and lumberjack Brian Zoubek. Where, oh where will they find a little depth? Enter 6'11" Ryan Kelly, the skinny sophomore sharpshooter who's suddenly becoming a very helpful role player for Coach K and the Blue Devils. His averages on the season are very modest (18.7 mpg, 7.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg) but recently he's seen a great improvement, averaging 28.3 minutes, 15 points and 6 rebounds a game in his last three games. He's been very efficient during this period, shooting 84% from the floor and 80% (8/10) from behind the arc. What Kelly does on the offensive end is open up the court. A big man with such a potent shooting stroke requires attention, which gives Dawkins, Smith and Singler more space to penetrate. Defensively, Kelly's length provides a good shot-blocking presence (1.6 blocks in 18.7 minutes a game). Overall, Kelly is becoming more important than we thought he would be earlier in the season. He's been a pleasant surprise for Duke, and they surely hope he can continue to make a significant impact.
Malcolm Delaney wasn't the only electric combo guard that struggled last week. Boston College guard Reggie Jackson has hit a bit of a wall as well. The ACC's second leading scorer (averaging 18.5 points per game on the season) is only averaging 10 points a game. He's also only shooting 29% over his last two games, a sharp contrast to his usually efficient ways (51.5 FG% on the season, good for second in the ACC). Without Jackson playing well, the Eagles have lost two games in a row. Both are understandable losses, as Florida State and Duke are the two best teams in the ACC, but it doesn't bode well that the team is so dependent on one player. Interestingly enough, Reggie Jackson was pulled from the starting lineup against Duke. Jackson did not respond well, scoring a season low 7 points. I sincerely doubt that coach Steve Donahue continues to use this lineup. Boston College is falling from their relatively comfortable perch in the standings, and they can't afford an unproductive Reggie Jackson.
Top 5 Point Guards
1. Kyrie Irving - He's been out, and we don't know when we'll see him play again. Still he's the best prospect overall in the ACC, and a sure-fire future NBA point guard.
2. Malcolm Grant - I do consider Malcolm Grant a point guard. He's an excellent playmaker with good scoring instincts. Maybe he's not the most natural point guard on the list, but he's a great leader for his Miami team.
3. Derwin Kitchen - Kitchen brings size and spearheads the mighty Seminole defense. His season-high 22 point performance against Duke was the key to Florida State's upset earlier in the season.
4. Erick Green - He's really more of a co-point guard, sharing ball-handling duties with his backcourt partner, combo guard Malcolm Delaney. Virginia Tech has only lost two games since Green was inserted into the starting lineup over six weeks ago.
5. Kendall Marshall - Marshall is top five in the ACC in assists, averaging 4.5 a game despite only playing 16.5 minutes a game. UNC coach Gary Williams recently made him the starting point guard on a rapidly improving Tar Heel team.
Notes: Jordan Williams’ double-double streak was broken at 13 against Virginia with a 4 point 6 rebound outing... Harrison Barnes proved clutch by nailing the game winning three-pointer off a pass from Kendall Marshall with only 6.6 seconds left in North Carolina's win against Miami... Florida State hasn't lost since before their triumphant win against Duke... Oh, and give some credit to grandpa Bernard James of Florida State, who is shooting 86% from the floor in his last four games... CJ Leslie is only averaging 1.5 points (1/7 shooting) and 2 rebounds a game since he was removed from the starting lineup last week...
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