With the Game on the Line, Which ACC Players Get the Call?Posted by Christopher Kehoe on February 1st, 2014
The ACC is chock full of great athletes and even greater coaches. In such a highly competitive environment, there is bound to be a plethora of close finishes. Even the elite coaches can’t physically will their teams to victory, but instead have to rely upon the players who have ice in their veins. Some coaches prefer a heady point guard who can wind the clock down, penetrate into the paint at the right moment, and then fire off a pinpoint pass to a shooter on the wing for the win. Other coaches prefer a more traditional route of isolation basketball, putting the ball in the hands of the best player, someone who can rise up over the defense or break down his defender one-on-one.
The list of memorable ACC finishes could fill an entire book, provoking court rushes and jubilant celebrations for one team and a traumatic letdowns for another. The most recent that comes to mind from Tobacco Road was Duke’s Austin Rivers buzzer-beater in Chapel Hill two years ago. That same season, and only a month prior to Rivers’ game winner, Duke was shocked at home by Michael Snaer‘s three at the horn to snap a 45-game Duke home winning streak. Flash forward to the present and both Snaer and Rivers are long gone from their respective campuses as new faces and even a few teams litter the ACC landscape. With that in mind, who are the players that ACC coaches most want with the ball in their hands and the game on the line this season? Here are 10 players who have their coaches’ trust in those game-ending situations.
- Tyler Ennis, Syracuse: The freshman point guard from Canada has won Jim Boeheim as well as his teammates’ confidence and has solidified himself as the go-to presence for this year’s undefeated Syracuse team. Look no further than Ennis’ play in the final minutes of Syracuse’s home win over old rival Pittsburgh, as the Orange eked out a victory late, largely thanks to Ennis.
- Jabari Parker, Duke: Another freshman, the 6’8″ forward has an NBA-ready offensive arsenal to go with his imposing frame. He is adept at creating off the bounce and hitting long range shots, although he has been somewhat streaky of late. His isolation game is quite advanced for the collegiate level, allowing him to overpower smaller defenders and blow by larger opponents.
- Dez Wells, Maryland: The Xavier transfer has had to endure Maryland’s overall struggles this year but that hasn’t impeded him from thriving in the clutch. In Maryland’s most recent win over Miami on January 29, Wells drilled the game-winning three-pointer with less than six seconds to go.
- T.J. Warren, North Carolina State: Warren is arguably the most skilled scorer in the conference, averaging 22.5 PPG for the Wolfpack. Defenses key on him throughout the game and send persistent double-teams his way in the waning moments, but Warren is talented enough to persevere despite all the attention.
- Marcus Paige, North Carolina: While UNC has been up-and-down this season (understatement of the century), Paige has been a steadying influence for Roy Williams. A patient point guard with a high basketball IQ, Paige has taken on a larger scoring role this season and makes opposing defenses respect his long range ability. Look no further than Paige’s play in a December overtime victory over Davidson in which Paige tallied 11 of his 17 total points in the extra period.
- Joe Harris, Virginia: Joe Harris is an extremely tough cover. The savvy senior veteran plays as a guard with a forward’s body. While his numbers may not be as staggering and eye-popping as expected, he is capable of magical moments for the Cavaliers and will have some game-winning opportunities in the next two months.
- Olivier Hanlan, Boston College: BC has been dreadful this season and the blame game is already in full effect. Hanlan, however, is still performing at a high level and doing what he is best known for, scoring the basketball. Last year’s ACC ROY is crafty, slippery and explosive and is exactly who the Eagles want with the ball in his hands down a bucket.
- Codi Miller-McIntyre, Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons have by most accounts had a surprisingly positive season up to this juncture, and Miller-McIntyre is a large reason why. His heroics have led Wake Forest to victories over N.C. State and Richmond.
- Ian Miller, Florida State: Miller leads the Seminoles in points per game and the senior guard has helped propel the Seminoles toward a potential NCAA Tournament bid. Each ACC win matters even more to a bubble team like FSU and its January 21 victory over Notre Dame was a close one. This game ended with an Ian Miller floater in the lane with four seconds remaining.
- Trae Golden, Georgia Tech: Trae Golden is a seasoned veteran who can be counted on as a leader. The former Tennessee player is a valuable extension of coach Brian Gregory at the point guard position. A 58-55 December win over a mediocre Charlotte squad would not have been possible without Golden’s game-winning three with 3.6 seconds left. Players like Golden can often be the difference between a much-needed close win and a disparaging black mark on a team’s résumé.