ACC Roundup: Conference bracing for primetime week

Duke's star freshman Jabari Parker averaged 25 points and 12 rebounds in two games last week, and could be working himself back into the ACC Player of the Year race.

Mark L. Baer/Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t always pretty, but the powers that be in the ACC did what they needed to do this week and held on to beat the lesser teams, even as some — ahem, Pittsburgh — made it more difficult than it needed to be. (The Panthers edged the worst team in the league, Virginia Tech, in double-overtime. At home.)

This week, though, will pit the ACC’s top seven teams against each other a total of six times. With more and more eyes turning toward the league, and many of those games on in primetime, it would behoove the ACC teams to reward the viewing public with some entertaining basketball.

Jabari Parker, Duke: So, the freshman is back, and with a vengeance. In two games last week, he had 50 points on 27 shots, averaging 25 points and 12 rebounds (and 2.5 blocks) in 32.5 minutes. His ACC efficiency numbers were down from non-conference, but he’s no longer settling for jumpers and is attacking the basket, as evidenced by his 8.5 free-throw attempts per game last week. Keep up this pace, and he’ll be back where everyone thought he’d be: in the conversation for ACC Player of the Year.

Trevor Cooney, Syracuse: He did most of his damage in one game, but that one game was pretty spectacular. He poured in 33 points against Notre Dame the Monday after the huge win over Duke, putting the Orange on his back in a close game. On the week, in two games, he averaged 22 points and knocked down 12-of-19 3s with fire shooting out of his fingertips. No, like the ball was practically on fire, NBA Jam-style. Blue flames. And he added 3.5 steals a game, which is not too shabby.

T.J. Warren, N.C. State: It was just one game, but Warren was just one of two N.C. State players to make a second-half field goal in the Wolfpack’s narrow win at Miami, and he was at his best down the stretch when it mattered most. He had 27 points in that game on 8-of-14 shooting, adding seven rebounds and a steal in 29 minutes. (He was limited by foul trouble early.) And he did it against one of the better defenses in the ACC, in a game N.C. State absolutely had to have.

Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia: He’s making a real push for First-Team All-ACC at the moment, and with numbers like he had last week, it’s easy to see why: he averaged 15.5 points on 7-of-23 shooting (15-of-16 free throws), 11 rebounds, five assists and a steal in 34.5 minutes a game. He turned it over just once. His 5-of-18 shooting from inside the arc nearly kept him off the list, but his stat-stuffing versatility was so impressive that he had to have a spot.

Seth Allen, Maryland/Marcus Paige, North Carolina: This is more or less a tie. Allen’s explosion, like Cooney’s, came in just one game but he did average 21.5 points and shoot 10-of-20 from 3-point range in two games last week, led by his 7-of-10 performance from beyond the arc against Florida State. He just didn’t really have many other statistics to speak of. But Paige, UNC’s best scoring option still, averaged 20.5 points on 46.2 percent shooting in two UNC wins, and is getting to the foul line more and more now as well. He’s starting to become the Paige we saw at the beginning of the year capable of taking over games when his team needed it, and it’s pretty good timing. He also averaged 6.5 assists and two steals in 36.5 minutes a game as well.

Yes, the Terps went 1-1 this week and didn’t look all that sharp in a loss at UNC. But after a disastrous beginning to ACC play for Maryland, it is back on track as of late, winning three of its last four games, including crushing a Florida State team (sans one of its better players). Florida State crushed Maryland the first time around less than a month ago, and it’s clear the Terps have come a long way since losing at a T.J. Warren-less N.C. State team on Jan. 20. Since, they nearly knocked off Pittsburgh at home and then won three of four. Not too shabby, but the worst is yet to come for the Terps: three of their final four games are against the top three teams in the league. Can that talented, but erratic, bunch put it together and play spoiler?

N.C. State over Miami, 56-55. There weren’t too many choices this week, but the young Wolfpack managed to pull out an ugly game on the road, and it was a game they had to have if they wanted to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive. Miami fought like crazy, as the Hurricanes have all season, and N.C. State had to hold off a hard charge from them at the end. But they did, and they did just enough to win the game. N.C. State has combined tough, hard-fought wins like that one with head-scratching stretches of play where the team seems to wilt, and it’s going to need to be a lot like more the hard-nosed bunch it was Saturday the rest of the way.

How could a team that went 2-0 last week qualify for this? Well, the Panthers sure tested the love of even the most diehard ACC hoops fan in two ugly overtime wins at Miami and over Virginia Tech at home. TVs were no doubt set on fire across the ACC footprint. In 95 minutes of basketball, the Panthers managed 121 points and hit a total of 26 field goals. In two games. And three overtimes. That’s … ew. The games were ugly to watch, and the fact that it took Pitt two overtimes to escape the worst team in the ACC in Virginia Tech — at home, no less — is a sign that if Lamar Patterson doesn’t get healthy, this Pitt team might be in a bit of trouble here.

Just when the sophomore had really hit his stride, he hit a pothole. Or several. In two games last week, Georges-Hunt averaged eight points, but shot just 4-of-22 from the floor (3-of-20 from INSIDE the 3-point line), getting most of his points from the foul line (7-of-16). What’s worse is he added averages of three rebounds, two assists and a steal but 3.5 fouls and 3.5 turnovers in 34.5 minutes a game, both in Georgia Tech losses.

Virginia Tech’s Devin Wilson shot just 2-of-17 this week and had four fouls and eight turnovers in 77 minutes, so, better luck next time. Same to you, Virginia’s Mike Tobey, who was 1-of-9 shooting in 20 minutes and had five fouls, and you, Donnavan Kirk (Miami), with one point on 0-of-10 shooting.

And if I may, a nod to the Foul All-Stars this week: Josh Hairston (Duke) played a total of eight minutes and had five fouls. So he wins in a landslide. And he missed his only two shot attempts. Jonathan Graham of Maryland at least had nine rebounds, but he also had seven fouls in 24 minutes of action. Not quite Hairston levels, but he’ll get there. And Boston College’s Patrick Heckmann saw just 13 minutes and committed six fouls, not to mention two turnovers (or his 0-of-6 shooting in that span).