ACC Stock Watch: Week Three

Posted by Lathan Wells on December 5th, 2014

After two weeks of some mediocre non-conference competition along with some enlightening Feast Week match-ups, the conference found itself in familiar territory battling its peers in the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The games featured there, along with the few that preceded it, continue to shine a light on the teams and players in the conference who are rising, falling, or simply standing still. Here’s the third weekly edition of our ACC Stock Watch.

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  • Tyus Jones, Duke. No one had a better week than the Blue Devils’ freshman point guard. After a sizzling 16 points and 10 assists in a win over Army earlier this week, Jones put the team on his back to help Duke defeat the nation’s fourth-ranked team on the road. His 22 points helped to offset an average game from the more-ballyhooed Jahlil Okafor, who posted 13 points while battling underneath with the Badgers’ Frank Kaminsky all night. More impressive than his numbers was his poise down the stretch and how efficiently he ran the Duke offense all night long. The first true road test was little test at all for this standout freshman.
  • Wayne Blackshear, Louisville. Terry Rozier hit the big shots at the end of the game in the Cardinals’ win over Ohio State on Tuesday night, but it was Blackshear’s breakout performance that made the biggest impact. Long a player with high upside but inconsistent production, Blackshear’s all-around game against the Buckeyes (22 points, 4-of-8 from three, six rebounds) was the kind of contribution that Rick Pitino and Louisville has been waiting for from the senior.
Wayne Blackshear's big night is hopefully a sign of more good things to come for Louisville (USAToday Sports)

Wayne Blackshear’s big night is hopefully a sign of more good things to come for Louisville fans (USAToday Sports)

  • Duke. What can really be said about the scariest team in the country not located in Lexington? Duke went into a very difficult road environment in Madison, Wisconsin, and merely shot 65 percent from the field and used its talented freshmen trio to overcome the veteran stars of the Badgers. They’re as efficient an offensive team as there is in college basketball right now.
  • Miami. While the buzzer-beater win over Florida has now lost some of its luster, the Hurricanes just keep on winning. After dispatching an overmatched South Alabama team, Miami held Illinois (a team averaging 90 points per game coming in) to only 61 in its win in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The transfers are everything Jim Larranaga could have hoped they’d be, and holders Manu Lecomte and Tonye Jekiri are flourishing in complementary roles.

  • Georgia Tech. It’s been well-chronicled that Brian Gregory is probably coaching for his job, so it was important to start strong before the torture chamber of conference play begins. The Yellow Jackets had a good week, topping a talented Rhode Island team before going on the road to dispatch an improving Northwestern squad. Charles Mitchell has been a huge addition, and sophomore Josh Heath is providing timely scoring off the bench. A 6-1 start is a great foundation for this season’s Yellow Jackets.


  • Syracuse. The loss to Michigan in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge game wasn’t unexpected, but the late turnover by Kaleb Joseph that iced the game away was emblematic of this team’s season. If Trevor Cooney isn’t on fire from long range, there just aren’t many dependable offensive options other than the vastly improved Rakeem Christmas down low. The Orange don’t really have a bad loss on their dossier, but there aren’t any credible wins of note yet, either.
  • Virginia. The Cavaliers are doing what they did a lot of last year: win games. Sometimes it’s not pretty (see: a scintillating 45-26 win over Rutgers on November 29), but they showed they can get out in transition and win by going on the road to Maryland and coming out with an 11-point victory. That win was made even more impressive by the fact that much of it was played without both Dorian Atkins and Justin Anderson because of in-game injuries. Either of those two, especially Anderson, missing extended time could be perilous.

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  • Marcus Paige, North Carolina. North Carolina’s puzzling loss at home to Iowa was a bad overall performance, but Paige’s inaccuracy and seeming unwillingness to penetrate made the offense that much more ineffective. He had seemed to put his slow start behind him, coming in averaging 15.0 points per game, but the preseason ACC Player of the Year suffered through a brutal 4-of-16 shooting night from the field against the Hawkeyes, including just 3-of-12 from behind the arc. He also added three turnovers and zero assists to boot.
  • North Carolina. Only one reliable three-point shooter, head-scratching losses after promising wins, and questions of toughness and desire? That could just as easily characterize last year’s Tar Heels or the one performing right now. Paige is still the only game-in/game-out threat from behind the arc (until he’s not; see above) and the trend of smaller teams outrebounding the long North Carolina frontcourt on the offensive glass (16 offensive rebounds in the second half for Iowa) shows that this is a still a team trying to find an identity, a sense of toughness, and consistency.
  • Florida State. Three weeks in a row, Seminoles? Florida State has played itself on to the fringe of the NCAA Tournament bubble before conference play has even begun, sporting a meager 3-4 record. Losing to Nebraska in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge is somewhat forgivable, but with a couple bad losses already on their resume, the Seminoles needed to show more fire in Tallahassee this week. Things need to turn around in a hurry, starting tomorrow versus UCF.
  • Clemson. Brad Brownell’s five-year extension prior to the season was based on continual improvement, but this year looks like it might be tougher than even he imagined. Yes, K.J. McDaniels is gone, but in the last week the Tigers barely beat High Point by three points, and lost at home to a Rutgers team picked to finish last in the Big Ten. There’s just not enough offense for the Tigers right now, and they’ll need to find someone who can show he can create his own shot. They can’t be satisfied sitting at 4-3 to date.
Lathan Wells (77 Posts)

A 30-year old unabashed college basketball fan, I currently reside in Richmond, Virginia. I especially enjoy following the ACC and the local teams, VCU and the University of Richmond. I hope to continue my journalistic pursuits in the sports arena full-time in the future, but in the meantime I am really enjoying covering the greatest sport there is for RTC. Follow me on Twitter @prohibitivefav.

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