Ranking the Top 10 Basketball Players in the ACC
Ranking the Top 10 Basketball Players in the ACC
The 2011-2012 season was as typical of a season as you’ll see in the ACC. Well, almost. While North Carolina and Duke respectively finished first and second in the conference standings at the end of the regular season as usual, Florida State continued their terrific season by winning the ACC Tournament.
The NCAA Tournament was quite as predictable as the regular season. With Duke being upset (to say the least) by 15-seed Lehigh, and Florida State going out in the third round, the two Carolina teams were set to carry the torch for the ACC. UNC could only get as far as injured point guard Kendall Marshall could take them, as their season was ended in the Elite 8 by Kansas.
The ACC surprise team of the tournament ended up being North Carolina State, and what do you know, they happen to be the favorites to interrupt the Duke/Carolina love fest and win the conference this season. NC State lost to Kansas in the Sweet 16 last season, but played them tough after pulling off one of the best upsets of the tournament and beating Georgetown. Forward C.J. Leslie is one of the front-runners to win ACC Player of the Year, and Lorenzo Brown just might be the best guard the conference has to offer.
Even though the Wolfpack have some of the most impressive talent, they’re not the only show in town. James Michael McAdoo is ready to prove why he was so highly touted heading into Chapel Hill, Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry want to end their Duke tenures on a high-note, ACC Tournament MVP Michael Snaer’s looking to build on the great season the Seminoles had, and Miami’s quietly put together quite a team.
Aside from the aforementioned game-changers, here’s a list of the ten players in the ACC this season.
Voted by the ACC coaches as the preseason Player of the Year, C.J. Leslie has a lot to live up to his junior season. Leslie had a terrific ACC Tournament, and played three fantastic NCAA Tournament games against top competition, averaging 16.5 points and 8.2 rebounds in six postseason games. Leslie was named Second-Team All-ACC, and led North Carolina State in scoring and blocked shots, while also finishing second in rebounding in the 2011-12 season. With tons of weapons around him this season in Lorenzo Brown, Richard Howell, Rodney Purvis and Scott Wood, Leslie should get the looks he wants, when he wants them, and be the best player on one of the best teams not just in the conference, but in the country.
You better get used to seeing Lorenzo Brown’s name next to C.J. Leslie’s, because it’s going to be happening a lot this season. As good as Leslie was last season, North Carolina State's point guard was about as important to the team's late season run as anyone. Brown dropped 17 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament against San Diego State, displaying poise, vision, and clutch shooting for a full 40 minutes. Brown led the way for his team all season, leading the ACC in steals and finishing second in assists, while being named third team all-ACC.
He might just be the best point guard in the conference with Kendall Marshall out of his way, and as I mentioned with Leslie, he should be even better this season with all of the weapons around him. Expect for NC State to finally get some payback against in-state neighbors/bullies UNC and Duke this season.
James Michael McAdoo
James Michael McAdoo was North Carolina's prized freshman last season, and didn't really have the big season the Tar Heels were hoping for, but he definitely came into his own during conference play and towards the end of the season. McAdoo averaged close to 12 points per game in the NCAA Tournament, and without John Henson and Tyler Zeller in front of him, all of the big man minutes (and touches in the paint) will belong to him.
McAdoo has a big body, but is incredibly smooth and deceptively athletic. He went to UNC to be the next great Roy Williams big man like Sean Mays, Tyler Hansbrough, and Zeller, and this year we'll start to see him breakout. The Heels will go as far as their star sophomore takes them.
In my opinion, Miami is most definitely the team not to get caught sleeping on in the ACC this season. With three senior starters who have each made a ton of progress, it’s easy to trace the Hurricanes success not just to coach Jim Larranaga, but guard Durand Scott. The ACC’s active leading scorer, Scott is a three-year starter who led Miami in both scoring and assists last season. Scott has really developed a feel for his big men, and fellow seniors, Kenny Kadji and Reggie Johnson, and he’ll be joined in the backcourt with two guards who came on strong towards the end of last season in Shane Larkin and Rion Brown, Jr.
Scott’s season ended on a sour note, as he was suspended for the team’s final six games due to receiving impermissible benefits, and as the leader of his team, wants to make up for that anyway he can as a senior. He’ll have a great chance this season.
Mason Plumlee has been one of, if not the, most talented big men in the ACC the last two seasons. The middle of the Plumlee brothers (watch out for RS-Freshman Marshall this year), Mason was third last season in the ACC in double-doubles, fourth in rebounds, and fifth in blocked shots. Every season he’s gotten better, and as pretty much the only post option on a team filled with shooters, he’ll have his hands full with Windex and paper towels because he’s going to be cleaning the glass on a nightly basis. Plumlee will also have plenty of space to go to work on the block, where he’s equally dangerous facing up or with his back to the basket.
This Duke team is undoubtedly one of Mike Krzyzewski’s least talented squads in years, but in a less than top heavy ACC, Duke will most likely once again contend for a conference championship with Plumlee leading the way in the middle.
With Austin Rivers moving onto the NBA, this is Seth Curry's year to flourish for Duke. Curry's skill set is perfect for Mike Krzyzewski's offense, as he's deadly from outside and has gotten better every year at penetrating into the paint, and moving the ball. Between Curry, Quinn Cook, Tyler Thornton, and freshman Rasheed Sulaimon, Curry stands the best chance of being the featured guard on offense in a rebuilding year for Coach K. With Rivers gone, Curry should end up taking more than the 9.9 shots he averaged a game last season, and if he can continue to shoot at around 42% (if not better), he'll definitely surpass his 13.2 points per game average, and be one of the more important players for the prominent Devils.
The only reason you may not know Virginia Tech senior Erick Green's name is because he's played for a team that won 4 of 16 conference games last season. The only second-team all-ACC member to return to the conference this season, Green led the Hokies in both scoring (15.6) and assists last season, and with six of the team's top ten scorers returning, Green is looking to thoroughly improve upon last year’s dismal season – well, for everyone but him at least.
Green plays with equal intensity on both ends of the floor, and will most definitely have some games this season where he fills up the stat sheet. Even if Virginia Tech finishes towards the bottom of the pack again this season, don’t miss out on this kid’s big game.
Travis McKie has started every game for Wake Forest since his freshman season, and put up an impressive 16.1 points and 7 rebounds per game last season. As a junior, McKie will probably see even more playing time, and have better scoring opportunities with C.J. Harris and Cody Miller-McIntyre tearing up the back court. McKie had his three worst games of last season against UNC, N.C. State, and Florida State, three tough teams in the interior, and will have a lot to prove this year with some of the powerhouse forwards gone. McKie's as deadly from three as he is in the paint, and with his size, toughness, and athleticism he's one of the more dangerous forwards in the ACC. Jeff Bzdelik's bunch has a bit more talent this year, with McKie and Harris creating a sleeper one-two punch in the conference.
In what was a disappointing year for the Demon Deacons, C.J. Harris was the ACC’s fourth leading scorer (16.7 ppg) and looks to pick up where he left off in 2011-12. Harris won’t have much (really any) veteran help this season outside of the aforementioned McKie, but he’ll share the back court with highly-touted freshman point guard Codi Miller-McIntyre, and if the freshman can live up to his hype, the two will already make for one of the more formidable back courts in the conference. If Harris can show Miller-McIntyre the ropes, and continue to force the tempo on opposing defense, he could potentially lead Wake Forest to a pleasant surprise of a season. I didn't want to pick two Deacons considering they have a ton of room for improvement, but Harris’ scoring ability just cannot be overlooked.
Michael Snaer led the defending ACC Tournament champion Seminoles in scoring, as well as minutes, three-pointers, and free-throw percentage, and has to be a favorite for ACC Player of the Year. Selected to the Preseason All ACC team, the former McDonald’s All-American will have the opportunity to lead a roster loaded with young and rather inexperienced players, and try to put the team on his back to keep Florida State as contender in what will be a competitive ACC, no doubt. Snaer drastically improved in just about every statistical category last season, and the same is expected for his senior year as he continues his road towards the NBA.