Player of the Week
Seth Curry - Duke
Curry's performance in the first half of Duke's game against UNC was one for the ages. Curry and the rest of the Blue Devils came out swinging and the Tar Heels never could recover. Curry hit shots from everywhere on the floor as Duke jumped out to an early lead on their hated rivals. He was a one man wrecking crew for the first 20 minutes of play. He was hitting from long range, short range and even managed to make a shot while falling to the ground. He ended the game with 20 points on 8 of 13 shooting which seems low considering the way he started off the game. He set the tone early while teammate and fellow senior Mason Plumlee led the way in the second half as the Blue Devils swept the season series against the Heels. For Curry, it was his second straight 20 point performance and a good way to end the regular season heading into what looks to be one of the more wide open and exciting ACC Tournaments in recent years.
Kenny Kadji - Miami
While Shane Larkin gets a lot of the credit for Miami's success this season, Kadji has been arguably the most consistent player on the 'Canes' roster. He ended the regular season with three straight double doubles even with the team losing two of their last three. The 6'11 senior hit at least two three's in each of his last five games and provides the "Canes with an inside-outside threat that is matched by few in the country. He was the best player on the floor in the team's last regular season game against Clemson in what proved to be the deciding game between an outright ACC title and a shared one with Duke. While this Miami team has a lot of experience on the roster, few have played in any meaningful games in March. If Kadji can continue his string of solid play into the ACC Tournament, the 'Canes could run the table and bring home both titles for the first time in school history.
Marcus Paige - North Carolina
Paige hasn't quite had the impact that most thought he would coming into the season. He has struggled on both ends of the floor against some of the ACC's bigger and quicker point guards. Lorenzo Brown took him to school in late January as did the aforementioned Seth Curry and Shane Larkin. But all freshman point guards struggle defensively in the ACC. It was Paige's jump shot that has been the biggest disappointment so far this season. He's shooting barely over 32% from three, which isn't terrible but he shoots just .2% higher overall which ranks him dead last among starting ACC point guards. With more and more attention from defenses focusing on Reggie Bullock, [Player: P.J. Hairston] and James McAdoo, it will be up to Paige and Dexter Strickland to help relieve some of the pressure and stretch out the defense.
Top 3 Players to Watch in the ACC Tournament
1. Shane Larkin - Miami
After finishing second in the voting for ACC Player of the Year, Larkin is no longer a guy who can fly under the radar. Every team will be game planning against the sophomore point guard and every team will be turning their attention to slowing him down and forcing someone else on the floor to beat them. Miami is the #1 seed and favorite to win the ACC Tournament so watching how Larkin responds on a big stage will be interesting to watch.
2. CJ Leslie - NC State
There is arguably not a single more frustrating player in college basketball than Leslie. He can wow you with his quick first step and amazing athleticism one minute but then bring you back down with a rash of turnovers and bonehead plays a minute later. Call him the Josh Smith of college basketball. Leslie came back for his junior year in hopes of improving his draft stock but has fallen short and is still a fringe first round pick. Every year there always seems to be that one player who has a tournament run where everything just starts clicking. Leslie could use one of those and so could the Wolfpack who have underachieved for much of the season.
3. Erick Green - Virginia Tech
Green and his fellow Hokies match up against NC State on Thursday at 2:00 pm. They took the 'Pack into overtime the last time they met in Raleigh. Green is the type of player who can carry a team, even one as bad as the Hokies, to four victories in four days. He is a lethal scorer and can have his team up double digits in no time. He led the NCAA in scoring this season even though other teams focused their defense around stopping him. He's just that good offensively and could wreak havoc on teams in need of a good ACC Tournament like NC State and Virginia.
Follow me on Twitter @CroweClayton