ACC Stock Report: Volume III

Posted by Matthew Auerbach on January 8th, 2020

Stock Rising

MJ Walker is Having a Year (USA Today Images)

M.J.Walker. Once considered a possible one-and-done candidate, the former McDonald’s All-American may finally be living up to his immense potential. In Saturday’s upset win over Louisville at the Yum! Center, Walker led the Seminoles with 23 points while making nine of his 13 attempts (including a season-high five threes). Walker has now reached double figures in five of his last six games, and is seemingly rounding into form after missing some time earlier in the year with a nagging leg injury. Once again, Leonard Hamilton’s calling card is great balance, as Florida State sports eight players averaging more than 5.9 points per game, but Walker is the one player with enough upside to carry the team to a deep run in March. While Trent Forrest is the unquestioned leader of the unit, and Devin Vassell’s sophomore production jump has been a very pleasant surprise, the light coming on for Walker may be the development that has the Seminoles vying for a conference title that seems up for grabs.

Stock Holding

Georgia Tech. While the story coming out of Chapel Hill on Saturday was predictably and justifiably centered on the mess that is North Carolina, it is worth noting Georgia Tech’s performance as well. Josh Pastner’s team was ruled ineligible for postseason play before the start of the season, right before coming out of the gates with an opening night upset win at NC State. Since, it has been the sort of nondescript, under the radar season we have grown accustomed to from the Yellow Jackets, so Saturday’s whitewashing of the Tar Heels definitively stands out. The Jackets started the game on a 27-4 run, providing the home team with its largest halftime deficit in the 34-year history of the Smith Center. Point guard Jose Alvarado led the way with 25 points, as Georgia Tech picked up its first victory on the road over the Tar Heels in a decade. Granted these aren’t your grandad’s, dad’s, or even your infant baby’s Tar Heels — especially given the Cole Anthony injury — but nonetheless, it was a great showing by Georgia Tech in a season sure to be devoid of many others.

Stock Falling

NC State is Flailing Heading into the Meat of Conference Season (USA Today Images)

NC State. After starting 13-1 last season but ultimately failing to make the NCAA Tournament because of the worst non-conference strength of schedule in college basketball, the Wolfpack hoped that year three of the Kevin Keatts era would result in a return to the Big Dance. But, after a disheartening loss to a bad Clemson team this weekend, postseason hopes in Raleigh are looking surprisingly dubious with the team now standing at 10-4 overall including two ACC losses to a pair of probable doormats. The non-conference schedule rates a little better this year, but still checks in at a subpar 254th nationally — what’s worse, the Wolfpack dropped two of its three standout games to Memphis and Auburn, and the strength of its win over Wisconsin — while improving in recent weeks — is still very much in flux. The biggest albatross for Keatts’ squad to this point has been on the defensive end, as the Wolfpack clock in at 131st nationally, undermining an offensive unit that rates as the county’s eighth-best. The upcoming schedule sets up well, with three of its next four games coming in Raleigh and none against a top-half ACC team. Anything worse than three wins along that stretch and the Wolfpack will most likely be scrambling at the ACC Tournament to get on the right side of the bubble.

Matthew Auerbach (70 Posts)

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