20 At The Top: ACC Player Rankings

Posted by zhayes9 on July 9th, 2010

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.

For the entire 20 At The Top series, click here.

Over the next six Fridays this summer, I’ll have the honor of taking you through the top 20 players in each major conference in college basketball. The list is a combination of many factors:  production, expectations, ceiling, skill set, statistics, efficiency, basically anything under the sun that a college basketball fan like myself obsesses over during the dog days of summer. Hopefully healthy debate is opened up in the comments section. Without further ado, here’s my ACC edition:

1) Kyle Singler, Duke — Singler will top many prognosticators’ preseason national player of the year rankings, and his decision to return for a senior campaign at Duke instantly vaulted the Blue Devils to repeat-or-bust expectations. With a more guard-oriented transition attack planned for Duke this season, Singler will only see his scoring opportunities skyrocket and he’ll be the centerpiece of what should be a ferocious offensive attack. He’s a tremendous competitor, can make shots in spurts and will have another full season at the collegiate level to adjust to the small forward position.

2) Harrison Barnes, North Carolina — Barnes seemingly has no flaws on the basketball court and has the potential to make the type of impact Evan Turner had on Ohio State during what will be Barnes’ one and only season in Chapel Hill. He’s the favorite to go #1 overall in the 2011 Draft — a silky smooth shooter with a confident mid-range game and a fantastic attitude/basketball IQ to boot. Barnes will have to deal with the unparalleled expectations of resurrecting one of the premier programs in the sport.

3) Nolan Smith, Duke — Smith has come a long way since being demoted to the bench in favor of Elliot Williams midway through his sophomore season. If anything, Smith will prove even more lethal this season playing alongside Kyrie Irving in a transition attack and Kyle Singler on the wing. He could top 40% with his three-point shooting and is also the type of poised floor leader that Coach K adores. He’s an undersized 2-guard at 6’2, but played the position last year when Jon Scheyer ran the offense and it didn’t seem to deter Duke come March.

4) Kyrie Irving, Duke — Irving is the truest and most refined point guard at his age that scouts have seen in years. The biggest Duke recruit since the Paulus/McRoberts combo entered Durham, Irving immediately has the responsibility of running the offense of the defending national champs. Blessed with innate court vision and basketball IQ, Irving can also score in bunches, thrives in transition and is especially productive in a pick-and-roll game. Think a reincarnation of Jay Williams, although Irving will only be around for one season.

5) Malcolm Delaney, Virginia Tech — Delaney enters the season as the hands down favorite to win the ACC scoring title. The combo guard is comfortable both slashing to the basket and shooting threes, although we’ve seen his outside shooting numbers plummet the last two seasons in Blacksburg. The main reason Delaney went off for 12 25+ point performances during his junior year is an incredible ability to get to the free throw line (32nd in nation in fouls drawn per 40 minutes) where he knocks down 85% of his freebies.

6) C.J. Leslie, NC State — Leslie surprised the college basketball world when he spurned John Calipari and decided to save Sidney Lowe’s job in Raleigh. He instantly becomes the best player on an intriguing Wolfpack squad that will look to climb out of the ACC cellar. Leslie is insanely skilled and loves to run where he can show off his athleticism. The perimeter shot needs work and Leslie tends to lose focus, but Lowe reeled in a special talent with a very high ceiling.

7) Chris Singleton, Florida State — Singleton has all of the physical gifts and athletic ability to dominate and should transition to the next level as a 6’8 small forward with the wingspan to defend power forwards. As for the college game, it remains boom-or-bust for Leonard Hamilton’s most talented and most frustrating player. As a prime example, Singleton sandwiched 22 and 23 point performances with a two point showing during ACC play last season. Free throw shooting and a mid-range game also need improvement.

8) Mason Plumlee, Duke — With Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas moving on, the younger Plumlee brother should have more room to shine as the primary option in a somewhat thin Duke frontcourt. The jury’s out on whether he can match the rebounding and toughness that Zoubek provided, but the athletic spurts that Plumlee showed last season lead me to believe he can become deadly on the boards. He does have considerable development in terms of a low-post offensive game.

9) Tracy Smith, NC State — Smith flew way under the radar last season on a downtrodden NC State team, but should see more publicity this winter with an improved supporting cast. Smith scored in double figures in all but two games during his breakout junior campaign in which he averaged 17/7 as the centerpiece of any opposition’s game plan. Now aided by C.J. Leslie, Ryan Harrow and Lorenzo Brown, Smith has the chance to enter the vernacular of more casual college basketball fans.

10) Tyler Zeller, North Carolina — A near-seven footer with a smooth mid-range jumper, Zeller just needs to stay healthy for a full season to maximize his potential. Extend Zeller’s stats from last season per 35 minutes and he was a near double-double performer. Zeller and incoming frosh Barnes could create some serious matchup problems for ACC competition.

11) Durand Scott, Miami — Scott was a hyped freshman out of Rice High in New York City when he entered Coral Gables and his first year was certainly a learning experience. Scott struggled out of the gate but his Hurricanes marched to the ACC semifinal before falling to Duke by three. Scott scored in double figures eight of his last nine games (including 20+ games vs. Duke and Carolina) and will look to carry that momentum, along with considerable upside and room to grow, into the 2010-11 season.

12) John Henson, North Carolina — Henson has the chance to really break out this season. He looked completely overmatched for most of what was undoubtedly a disappointing freshman campaign, but coach Roy Williams saw him making strides during Carolina’s NIT run. A lanky four who can run the floor, Henson just needs to add bulk. He has the wingspan and instincts to be a superior defender eventually.

13) Joe Trapani, Boston College — The former Vermont standout should mold into the most reliable offensive weapon for BC during his last go-round at the Heights. Trapani can push and shove with the big bodies down low or step outside and consistently drain a mid-range or three point jumper. I could see Trapani and Reggie Jackson working well together in what BC hopes is a more fruitful season under new coach Steve Donahue.

14) Reggie Bullock, North Carolina- — You know that Carolina must have a pretty special recruiting coup when the #2 shooting guard in the entire class (according to Scout) is flying well under the radar. Along with Barnes, Bullock has an excellent chance to start immediately for the Heels. His three-point range is simply off the charts and he may instantly be the deadliest shooter in the ACC. Add some strength and more confidence going to the rim and Bullock could become special in Carolina blue.

15) Dorenzo Hudson, Virginia Tech — Much like Scott, Hudson really came on consistently during the latter half of the ACC slate. Overall, he upped his scoring average nearly 11 points and his FG% by over 7% last season, giving coach Seth Greenberg more than one option for his Hokie attack. His signature performance came against Seton Hall: 9/22 FG, 20/21 FT, 3/7 3pt, 41 points. Key on Delaney and Hudson will make you pay.

16) Jordan Williams, Maryland — One of my soon-to-be household names from last Friday’s column, Williams instantly transforms from role player beside Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes to the number one scoring option in College Park alongside Sean Mosley. After averaging a near double-double last season in his freshman year — including 15/11 against Duke and 21/17 in their NCAA Tournament win over Houston — my money’s on Williams being able to carry the load both scoring and on the glass.

17) Iman Shumpert, Georgia Tech — Shumpert is now Paul Hewitt’s go-to player with Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors both departed. He should be able to play more freely without having to worry about touches for the Tech big men. Shumpert has been a bit of an enigma during his time in Atlanta — his assist totals actually went down last season despite playing with loads of talent — but this winter could be when he figures it out.

18) Seth Curry, Duke — The rich get richer. Curry scored over 20 a game at Liberty as a freshman and will come off the bench for the guard-heavy Blue Devils this season. He’s got a chance to become a game-changer and could see crunch time minutes if Duke elects to play small. Curry doesn’t quite have the outside shot of his older brother, but it’s still more than acceptable and Curry has international experience playing with the best.

19) Demontez Stitt, Clemson — Stitt vastly improved his floor game as the lead guard of a fierce Clemson attack last season. At 45/78/39, Stitt is efficient and dependable. The jury’s out on how he adjusts to new coach Brad Brownell’s slower offensive mentality during his senior campaign.

20) Reggie Jackson, Boston College — Evaluators are enamored with Jackson’s raw athleticism, but can he harness his abilities and become a consistent force for BC? Jackson will convert an earth-shattering dunk ,then on the next possession make a head-scratching turnover.  His three-point shot is improving and Jackson does possess the quickness to burst to the rim. He has the potential to become a special piece on an Eagles squad that could be sitting on the bubble this season.

Also considered: Corey Raji (Boston College), Andre Young (Clemson), Michael Snaer (Florida State), Ian Miller (Florida State), Sean Mosley (Maryland), Mychal Parker (Maryland), Malcolm Grant (Miami), Will Graves (North Carolina), Larry Drew II (North Carolina), Ryan Harrow (NC State), Mike Scott (Virginia), Sammy Zeglinski (Virginia), Jeff Jones (Virginia), Jeff Allen (Virginia Tech), C.J. Harris (Wake Forest).

zhayes9 (301 Posts)


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15 Responses to “20 At The Top: ACC Player Rankings”

  1. JR says:

    I am not sure what Duke is going to get from Curry. On one hand, he looked solid on a weak Liberty team where he was the best player by far. Now though, he comes into the ACC on a team that is absolutely loaded with guards. How much PT will he get? Coach K is not going to play anybody substantial minutes that does not play great defense and I am not sure whether Curry can do that (mainly because of his size, he might prove me wrong).

    Zeller is a bit too high in my opinion. Sure, if he can stay healthy he might justify that spot but he has not proven he can do that yet. I am from the camp that says while there is a definite luck aspect of staying healthy, there is something about the way you condition, train, play (along with some things you can’t control) that makes some players injury prone. Zeller might be that guy.

    Nice list all around though. I think it will be a battle between Barnes and Singler (with Delaney as darkhorse) for POY.

  2. Brian says:

    Hard to argue with the list but I’d be wary of ranking the freshmen so high.

    I’d rank Shumpert higher and Plumlee lower if I had to pick a couple disagreements.

  3. Ballatologist says:

    The list has no arguments from me, but I do believe the freshman are getting a lot of credit on the list. I especially worry about curry because Irving will be on the court for most of the time and we all know that smith will be logging a lot of minutes. I would have to agree with Brian and more Shumpert up the list because GT will go uptempo and he will have the ball in his hands a majority of the time. He will be the go to guy. Also, Jackson will have to move up the list for me with BC going to an open floor system and he will be logging more minutes than last year with the ball in his hands.

  4. zhayes9 says:

    I’m pretty high on this crop of freshmen, more so than any other conference. I can see Leslie being a couple spots too high, but not Barnes and Irving. These are special talents, potential ACC POY candidates immediately and likely top 5 picks in next year’s Draft. Those who have followed Irving are saying he’s the best PG to ever come from NJ which is saying something. They’ll both have the opportunity to produce right away on huge stages.

    I’ve always been a sucker for Zeller. I think he has a really impressive skill set. I hope that he’s not one of those players that constantly falls victim to the injury bug. Hard to believe a school like UNC doesn’t have the best conditioning and training staff in the country.

  5. Brian says:

    You are right, most have said Irving is the best PG to come from the area. Still, I have a hard time putting freshmen, who haven’t played a minute of college basketball, high up on any list. They may very well turn out to be there but I think we were all spoiled by the Durant and Beasley types who were already NBA-ready out of high school and proved it in their one year in college.

    I’m with you on Zeller. Tremendous talent and will be a major factor if he stays healthy. I think Zeller’s stock will suffer a bit from people trying to compare him to the last Tyler to play in the frontcourt at UNC.

  6. Cwolf says:

    Funny how Lorenzo Brown (going to NCSU) keeps getting overlooked….He is better than Bullock right now….more complete player who can do it all.

  7. zhayes9 says:

    Durant and Beasley were NPOY candidates. This is a list of the best players in the ACC. Barnes and Irving are a step below those two. I stand by my rankings. Of course I had BJ Mullens as a top-5 player in the B10 pre-2008-09 so what do I know, haha.

    I’m not overlooking Brown. I mentioned him in the Smith paragraph. I just feel Bullock is the better player. He can light it up with the best of ‘em.

  8. Brian says:

    A lot more than me, I’ll end up looking like a fool when Barnes wins ACC POY or something lol.

  9. DMoore says:

    I think this listing underrates players’ defense somewhat. Chris Singleton was the best defender in the conference last year and should be again.

  10. zhayes9 says:

    I absolutely did consider defense in my rankings. Singleton has the tools to be a great defender and FSU was a crazy good defensive team last season. His fundamentals on that end are still slightly lacking, but he has improved his effort. Athleticism and quickness have never been in question.

  11. Chris says:

    The only thing Bullock does better than Brown is shoot the 3. Other than that Brown can get to the rack and is a better creater off the dribble than Bullock. I don’t think either should be in the top 25, by the way. The freshman learning curve plays a big factor unless your are talking about super talents like Barnes, Irving and Leslie. Also Plumlee in front of Smith? Never. I think your top 5 is pretty spot on, but after that it’s anyone’s guess.

  12. Mark says:

    How is Malcolm Delaney not #1? He was all the Hokies had last year and nearly brought them into the dance. Oh wait, if he played for Duke, he would be #1. Why don’t you just go ahead and list the whole Duke team numbers 1 through 10. Yeah, I’m a hater when it comes to Duke, as if you couldn’t tell. Even still, Delaney smokes ‘em all down there on Tobacco Road.

  13. zhayes9 says:

    Anyone who knows me can attest I have a strong pro-Duke bias. For sure.

    Delaney needs to play defense before he can be #1 on any list. Kyle Singler pretty much does everything solidly on a basketball court and is the frontrunner for NATIONAL player of the year in 2010-11, not to mention his MOP of the Final Four a couple months ago. Not even really close, IMO.

  14. DMoore says:

    When the player who was clearly third best in the conference last year is projected as 5th best in the conference this year, I’d say that bodes well for the conference as a whole.

  15. TM says:

    Really enjoyed reading these. You’re reassessment of Leslie is accurate. He’s long and athletic, but aside from that, isn’t too spectacular. One of the top 5 NBA prospects? Oh definitely, but definitely not one of the 5 best players in the league right now.

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