Holiday Catch-Up:The ACC

Holiday Catch-Up:The ACC
Dec 22, 2006, 10:21 pm
The Standings

(Projecting order of finish is always a dicey proposition, especially at this early juncture. I will order the teams in a general fashion, but I’m not going to force myself into making assumptions for the sake of a 1-12 ranking. Teams that haven’t clearly separated themselves from other teams will be grouped accordingly.)

1. North Carolina– The Gonzaga loss was overblown by many. Sure, a loss is still a loss. But the Tar Heels were up by double digits five minutes in when Roy Williams decided to put in five new players. It struck me that Roy Williams was at least part-way coaching for March (AKA, trying to teach his immensely talented, very inexperienced team a lesson) rather than going all-out for a Preseason NIT Championship. Roy’s rotations have gotten much better, right along with his youngsters’ understanding of how to play together. Much like 2005, expect this team to have “synergy” issues on some level the entire way. But that year’s Tar Heel squad also taught us that immense talent doesn’t have to play up to it’s potential to be successful. Is it any coincidence that we haven’t seen a Lawson-Ellington-Wright level trio in one recruiting class since the days of Felton-McCants-May? Tyler Hansbrough has struggled a bit, but is learning how to pass out of double teams – as soon as teams are getting burned for collapsing on him regularly and as soon as Roy Williams trusts Tywon Lawson enough to let him take over the point guard full time, this team gets scary good.

2. Duke – Yes, it has gotten pretty ugly for the Blue Devil nation at times. But in watching this team bounce back from the loss to Marquette, it is pretty obvious where Duke is going to be at the end of the year. Regardless of the offensive struggles, the defense is better than ever. Georgetown and Gonzaga both have backcourts that would prefer not to be pressured, and both teams really struggled with Coach K’s defensive schematics. I was down on Coach USA after the Marquette game, where he essentially used a 6 man rotation against a team whose only chance was to play fast and wear the Blue Devils down, as well as leaving a couple of his most athletic, most capable of bothering the James-McNeal two headed guard monster defenders on the bench most of the way. But as the Duke-UNC rivalry rages on, Coach K must be given credit in the same way that Roy was. Somebody obviously convinced Josh McRoberts that NBA teams will still like him if he plays with his back to the basket every once in a while, and the rotations have gotten better. Yes, it was still essentially a 6-man rotation against Gonzaga. But the pace of this one was much slower, and 9 players received minutes, minutes that were all meaningful.

3. Boston College – If the NCAA was a stock market and I was a broker, the headline of my advisory wire would have read BUY THIS TEAM for the past two weeks. Al Skinner’s teams almost always start slow, as his system relies on his players working together and not raw talent. Of course, the real reason the Golden Eagles should be rated in the Top 25 is one of the most significant “raw talents” out there, in national landscape-altering shot blocker Sean Williams. I wish somebody kept +/- stats for college basketball, because Williams would probably have the top number in the entire country. This team had some major adjustments to make, as offensive roles had to play out with the loss of Craig Smith. The player who could have helped ease that transition, sophomore Tyrese Rice, had to abandon his “instant offense” role to take over as distributor for the departed Louis Hinnant. It makes perfect sense that this team would struggle early in the season given the Skinner system’s history and intricacies, the major losses from last season, and with Williams suspended. They still aren’t completely there yet, but they certainly still look nearly “Vermont-awful” whenever Williams gets into foul trouble. This isn’t a lock, but go ahead and bet against the Golden Eagles if you want to – I’ll gladly take the other side.

Middle of the Pack (upper tier, 4-6)

Maryland – While it still isn’t clear whether the last several seasons of unfulfilled expectations were the sign of Gary Williams losing his touch, just a bad mix (in terms of personnel, personalities, coaching and system), or simply a fluke, Terp fans certainly have reason to optimistic after some solid early-season play. The underachieving upperclassmen are largely still underachieving upperclassmen – Mike Jones is maddeningly inconsistent, while James Gist and Ikene Ibekwe don’t complement each other well and tend to struggle when they are attempting something that involves anything beyond running or jumping. But the addition of ballhandlers in the backcourt has been huge. The program has been slowly suffocating ever since John Gilchrist went off the deep end, but lead guards Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes could be capable of providing the glue that was so lacking on recent Terrapin squads. Both players are pass-first creators, and their presence makes players like Gist, Ibekwe, and Jones – really nothing more than athletic finishers - much more effective. The freshmen have also allowed DJ Strawberry to play off the ball. Strawberry is one Terp returnee that did develop his body and offensive game in the offseason. So instead of Gary Williams going with a paddling-upstream point guard, a defensive specialist and a spot up shooter, he now has the luxury of playing a true point guard, a legitimate pass-first combo guard, and a slasher whose trial by fire at the point over the past two years has transformed him into an excellent facilitator from the wing. The losses to Notre Dame and BC were a bit discouraging, but the Notre Dame loss doesn’t look as bad now and nobody should have expected Maryland to win at Boston College.

Florida State – The boo-birds were up before dawn and chirping at newfound intensity after the Seminoles couldn’t stay in games at Pittsburgh and at Wisconsin, but headed south early this year after a stunning upset of Florida. Nobody really knows what to do with this team now. There is no shame in losing at Pitt and at Wisconsin, but the manner of defeat was quite discouraging. The ‘Noles were always going to take some time, while the Panthers and the Badgers were teams likely to look good in the preseason. At the same time, Leonard Hamilton is very perimeter-heavy, and I don’t think in a good way. The FSU guards are still going to play in that bi-polar fashion that caused a win over Duke and a loss to Wake Forest almost in the same week. Toney Douglas adds a much-needed shooting presence, but the Auburn transfer never was a point guard and never will be. Al Thornton put the nation on alert after dominant performance against Florida and is looking more like a SF every day. This is a good thing for the senior’s draft stock, but I’m not convinced it is a good thing for Leonard Hamilton. Uche Echefu just isn’t going to do well by himself in conference play. This team always appears to be one the verge of national ascension or complete collapse, and it is probably reasonable to expect the ‘Noles to toe the line once again this year. Maybe the win against Florida gets them into the show this year.

Georgia Tech – Things are pretty ugly for Paul Hewitt right now. For all the talk of added experience and elite talent, this team looks a lot like last year’s team – lots of experience, an overabundance of athleticism, but mistake prone and a ways off from putting all together. Hewitt has handed the keys to Javaris Crittenton and Thaddeus Young, but neither player is getting it done. Crittenton looks way in over his head attempting to run a team, while Young has been limited with knee issues and is much, much more effective as a PF at the moment. The Yellow Jackets looked great in the second halves of games against Purdue and Memphis in Maui, but easily could have come away 0-3 on the island. They barely beat a struggling Penn State team whose star was coming off an injury, and lost to a horrendous Miami team to open ACC play. Obviously, this group can’t play any worse as a group. Flashes are there from everybody on the roster. Expect Anthony Morrow and Ra’Sean Dickey to slowly work their way back into prominent roles, and expect that to be a good thing. As Crittenton adjusts and Young gets his quickness back, this is a team with the potential to put things together and make a run over the second half of ACC play.

Middle of the Pack (lower tier, 7-9)

Clemson – If there has been a pleasant surprise in the ACC thus far, it is Oliver Purnell’s Tigers. Yes, the schedule has been weak - and yes, I know the Tigers always seem to start out hot against a weak schedule. But wins at Old Dominion and over Mississippi State and blowouts at Minnesota and South Carolina shouldn’t be scoffed at. Plus, the loss of James Mays at the semester break was clearly a big reason for Clemson’s conference struggles a season ago as the reinstated junior’s play this year has proven. Mays is the equal of any big man in the conference athletically and does a lot of hustle-type things that really can’t be underemphasized. Freshman Trevor Booker has also made an immediate impact in the frontcourt. The Tigers need KC Rivers to continue making outside shots at a high clip (not a given) and still can’t free throws at an even near-respectable clip (unfortunately, this might be a given). But there is also enough here for Purnell to finally break through into the upper middle of the pack in the ACC.

Virginia – Another team that was hard to figure out a year ago and is still leaving many scratching their heads. The win over Arizona was huge to start the year, but that was just as much about Arizona’s inability to manage a lead and control tempo than anything the Cavaliers did. Sean Singletary is a nice player, but remains one of the most inexplicably overrated guards in the country. The junior is very good when he’s playing well, but very close to a liability when he isn’t, or when opponents manage to slow him down in the open court. Considered the best PG in the country by many, Singletary is shooting 32% on the year, including a robust 8-36 over his last three games – double-digit losses to Appalachian State and Utah, and a nailbiter win over “national sleeper” Puerto Rico Mayaguez. Dave Leitao must find a way to keep the offense from bogging down in the halfcourt and how to get consistent scoring from somebody other than JR Reynolds. Sophomore Mamadi Diane provided a huge lift against Arizona with 25 points and 5 3-pointers in the opener, but hasn’t done much since – keep in mind, this is a player who shot 24% from beyond the arc a season ago. In the end, Virginia looks a lot like the team that beat Boston College and North Carolina, but fell to Clemson by 26 and got pasted by those same Heels later in the season by 45 points. The Cavaliers are going to win a couple of games they shouldn’t because teams will lose track of Singletary at some point, but the recent non-conference flops have made Virginia’s road to the big dance much more difficult.

Virginia Tech – Many expected the Hokies to put the all the tragedy and blown opportunity of last season and make a run at a Tourney bid. Virginia Tech is certainly improved, but haven’t done themselves any favors in non-conference play. There have been three more heartbreakers – a blown second half lead to a struggling Western Michigan team and a heartbreaker against Southern Illinois in Orlando, as well as a loss at the buzzer against George Washington. Seth Greenberg’s squad has looked better of late, with a wins over Iowa, Old Dominion, Wake Forest and Seton Hall. But none of these games are likely to score points with the committee, and it was very disturbing to see a team with such veteran experience in the backcourt give Wake Forest every opportunity to come back down the stretch last week in the conference opener. Hokie fans have been through this song and dance before. Greenberg’s team is clearly more viable in the conference this year – two ACC-caliber freshmen are getting consistent minutes and Jamon Gordon appears to have improved offensively, while wings AD Vassallo and Deron Washington certainly can take over on any given night. But at the same time, this team isn’t going anywhere if it can’t make its free throws and throw this nasty case of the crunch-time jitters.

10. NC State – First off, it must be said that Sidney Lowe is nothing short of a smashing success. He clearly knows how to relate to his players and get the most out of them, and appears to be a decent X’s and O’s guy as well. What he has done essentially with five scholarship players so far is really an achievement. Gavin Grant is doing well at the point guard, Brandon Costner appears to be emerging as a star, and the physical presence of Ben McCauley after a ho-hum freshman season is probably the biggest shock of all. Even in losses to Virginia, West Virginia, and Alabama, NC State has been competitive and acquitted themselves nicely. But at the same time, it is one thing to beat the basketball-allergic Michigan Wolverines early in the season and another thing to win consistently in the ACC. Even with the recent eligibility of Pittsburgh transfer Trevor Ferguson to help the backcourt, the lack of depth is going to be a factor the marathon that is ACC conference play. It is clear that the worst-case scenario types predicting a 1conference win type of season didn’t have the right of it, but it is still hard to see this team moving out of the bottom tier. Teams aren’t going to have the luxury of an off night in Raleigh, and the Wolfpack will certainly collect at least a few wins against those teams that do.

The Cellar (11,12)

Wake Forest – Skip Prosser continues to bring in talent, but this team is still struggling with many of the issues that last year’s squad did. The win at Bucknell to start the year was nice, but four consecutive losses to high-major teams put things back into perspective. They were dismantled by Air Force, lost a close one at home to Georgia, got pasted by DePaul, and fell in the conference opener to Virginia Tech. Prosser still isn’t teaching good team defense, and his young squad looked very choppy on the offensive end against DePaul and Tech. Meanwhile, Kyle Visser is averaging 19 points and 9 rebounds, while shooting nearly 70% from the floor. If you have the senior at all up to this point, you know the senior has almost always showed signs of emerging in non-conference play, but never really been a factor in ACC play. This team is probably a lot like Georgia Tech of a season ago, talented but even less ready to start winning games at the cutthroat ACC level. Individually, the freshman class does look good. Ish Smith and Jamie Skeen could develop into ACC standouts down the road, while the very talented Anthony Gurley has yet to get on track.

Miami – Sure, the Hurricanes beat Georgia Tech. But feel comfortable in writing the win off as part-fluke, part-Yellow Jacket dysfunction. Miami lost to Cleveland State, Buffalo before the ACC opener. Since then, they were blown out at home by Mississippi State and fell to Binghamton, of all teams. Anthony King is hurt, while Anthony Harris is quickly falling out of favor yet again. Jack McClinton should be able to put up some big numbers, but if he is leading your team in scoring by a wide margin and you play in the ACC, you’ve got problems. Brian Asbury is one of the more improved players in the conference and freshman Dwayne Collins has given Haith a bit of a second presence inside, but it could be an ugly season in Miami. Obviously this is a team capable of competing, but the ACC is looking very difficult top-to-bottom.

All-ACC Team

SF Al Thornton – Thornton’s performance in the win over Florida was big, both for his draft stock and for Florida State. Up to this point the senior has been more athletic ‘tweener than legitimate scoring force, using his substantial bounce and length to score around the rim. He would get hot from the perimeter at times, but there were only flashes of a true perimeter player. Against Florida, Thornton displayed legitimate go-to skill, breaking his man down off the dribble, creating shots in the midrange, and hitting from the outside while still pestering the Gators with his athletic gifts at every opportunity. It isn’t that he wasn’t an All-ACC caliber player before, but this new polish Thornton is showing has allowed him to take his game to an entirely new level. If he can consistently convert on the array of moves he showed off against the national champs, big things await.

F Jared Dudley – Dudley isn’t your prototypical, back-to-the-basket, go-to power forward. He’s a bit of a tweener, and doesn’t do a whole lot of traditional things on the low block. At the same time, he’s without a doubt one of the top couple of players in the conference – maybe in the country. Dudley is absolutely relentless as a rebounder, able to keep his body under control and avoid fouls when going after a loose ball. He finishes through contact, gets to the line, and plays with a truly special level of intensity. His ability to create his own offense has improved, but he remains a standout scorer more for his opportunistic nature around the basket than any sort of physical tool or tangible skill he has taught himself. Dudley will score on the low block when he is isolated against a defender he knows he can score on, he will put the ball on the floor against bigger defenders, and he will take the outside shot when he is open. Dudley is a great passer as well, currently sporting an absolutely sparkling 2/1 Ast/TO ratio. It isn’t clear how much better Dudley can get or what position he will play in the NBA, but players this good at doing the little things always get a shot and usually catch on somewhere for a long career.

PF Tyler Hansbrough – We have finally seen Hansbrough struggle a little bit, after a freshman season in which he appeared downright invincible down the stretch. Even with all talent around him, teams have committed to keeping Chapel Hill’s resident physical madman from going off around the rim. At times, he has done a great job of passing away from collapsing defenses, and at others he has struggled. It is sort of a catch-22, since even last year he was succeeding doing things that would be labeled “forcing it” if it was any other player. Nonetheless, it is clear that he is getting a lot more attention this season and that the presence of a true big man on the weak side has left an extra help defender around to bother him. My opinion is that he will adjust, and already has to a certain extent. I also think that he is averaging 20 ppg even while supposedly struggling. At the end of the night, he’s still the best player in the ACC. The only player who might have a chance to dethrone him would be his teammate, Brandan Wright.

PF Josh McRoberts, Duke – I was very critical of McRoberts’ play early in the season, largely because of his unwillingness to operate with his back to the basket and the obvious negative effect it was having on the Blue Devil offense. But by the same token, his ability to pass and create offense for his teammates was really the best thing Duke had going in terms of how to score. As the season developed, McRoberts has shown more willingness to receive the ball with his back to the basket. His mid-post jump hook is very effective, and his passing is almost more deadly because the defense’s top shot blocker is usually the one guarding McRoberts. He has been somewhat inconsistent defensively, but looked great in contesting with Josh Heytvelt in the paint and altering almost every shot he took. Sometimes it is easy to forget that McRoberts missed the entire offseason with a back injury, and the low scoring totals can be partially explained by the slow pace that Duke has played at so far this season. He’s still making the key baskets for his team, and can still become that go-to scorer as long as he realizes that facing the basket when there are already four other perimeter players on the court just isn’t a good thing.

C Sean Williams – I don’t want to go overboard with Williams, and he is the second BC player on the First Team. But it is hard not to get a little amped up about the junior. His off the court issues are a concern, but he appears to be developing rapidly on it. Al Skinner now trusts him enough where he gets a handful of back to the basket looks every game, and to be honest, the once offensively helpless Williams has shown solid fundamentals and great touch every time he has attempted a post move. His effort and aggression level comes and goes, but if he can play with the intensity he did in the season opener against Maryland the entire season, watch out ACC. He could be the most dominant college shot blocker of the past decade – his averages are impressive, but his affect on opposing offenses doesn’t fully show up in his individual stat line. Skinner is probably already prepping Williams for how to deal with offenses directly attacking him, because it is getting to the point where opponents have two choices: either get Williams off the court, or lose.

2nd Team – G Lewis Clinch, Georgia Tech; G/F Gavin Grant, NC State; G/F DeMarcus Nelson, Duke; PF James Mays, Clemson; PF Brandan Wright, North Carolina

All-Freshman Team

PG Tywon Lawson, North Carolina – Williams is being overly cautious with his Baby Ray, though with other capable ballhandlers in the mix he probably is justified in doing so. Still, it has been Lawson that has been the backbreaker in many of UNC’s wins thus far. He is literally impossible to stay in front of off the bounce, and while he might not be able to create at full speed quite as well as Felton, but he’s just as fast at that top level – and that’s saying something. It took Felton some time to learn how to manage his speed, and Lawson will take his lumps in this area as well. Still, he is probably the ACC’s best all-around floor general by year’s end.

G Greivis Vasquez, Maryland – Yes, Vasquez was given a rude welcome to the ACC by Sean Williams and BC. However, all-around play at this early stage has been a revelation and he has a lot of room to grow. Vasquez took over down the stretch in front of a hostile crowd at Illinois, slashing to the basket, finding his teammates, and sealing the win with an emphatic steal and finish. He lets the game come to him, and his ability to slash and see the floor makes him very tough to contain going to the basket in a Brandon Roy sort of way. He did a 180 and really started forcing the action against BC, but his fiery demeanor is exactly what the doctor ordered for Gary Williams. If he continues to add weight and polish up his skill set, he’s an NBA player someday.

SG Wayne Ellington, North Carolina – His first national moment was a bit of a let-down, as he struggled in the loss to Gonzaga and rushed a couple of early outside jumpers that really seemed to quash UNC’s comeback momentum. His second national moment was nothing short of spectacular, putting on a spot up and shot creating clinic down the stretch in North Carolina’s big win over Ohio State. Ellington is averaging over 13 points in 24 minutes per game, and would be at 20+ for just about any other team in the country. He needs to develop as a defender and add some muscle to his frame, but his game reminds of a cross between Ben Gordon and Ray Allen. (AKA, Wayne Ellington is lottery bound within the next two seasons).

F Brandon Costner, NC State – Costner was part of the 2005 freshman class, but the redshirt has fully recovered from the stress fracture and is playing at a level that nobody could have imagined. Not blessed with spectacular athleticism or exceptional size, Costner is a combo forward in the “versatile” way, not the “tweener” way. He probably wouldn’t be able to stand out at the ACC level as a low-block scorer or a traditional wing, but few teams have players capable of defending him in both roles. Much like Vasquez, Costner is content to let the game come to him and Lowe has designed an offense around maximizing his ability to do just that. Costner has fantastic offensive feel and touch on his shots, whether he is attempting a quick release hook on the low block, creating a look for himself in the mid-post, or spotting up from the outside. It is still early and the ACC is a different level, but it looks like Brandon Costner has found himself in the perfect situation to emerge as a top-tier player in the conference.

PF Brandan Wright, North Carolina – Everything he was cracked up to be, and a heavy favorite to win ACC freshman of the year. He is the perfect player to take advantage of defenses collapsing on Tyler Hansbrough, with his near Tyrus Thomas-level athleticism and physical attributes, and has displayed some very impressive skill both facing and with his back to the basket. Wright runs the floor aggressively and knows how to get the most out of slight frame as far as interior physicality. There isn’t much to complain about here at all. As he polishes his offensive game and bulks up, he could become a truly elite NBA power forward. Wright’s stay in Chapel Hill will be a short one, if that’s what he wants to do.

2nd Team: PG Ish Smith, Wake Forest; G Javaris Crittenton, Georiga Tech; SG John Scheyer, Duke; F Thaddeus Young, Georgia Tech; PF Shamari Spears, Boston College;


PF James Mays, Clemson – Everybody was quick to label Clemson’s collapse in the ACC last year as a choke job, but if you’ve seen the Tigers play this year you understand how losing a James Mays type could derail a season. Mays isn’t the most skilled player in the world, but he is one of the most athletic. He is active around the basket, and can defend just about anybody. Despite being raw in terms of skill, he has a great feel for how to make hustle plays. His numbers (12.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.5 apg, 2.5 spg, 1.3 bpg) are remarkably well-rounded, and he is probably Oliver Purnell’s most important player. Mays is going to make a name for himself in ACC play this year. If he can establish himself and then polish up his game over the summer, he should find himself in the 2008 draft picture.

PG Jamon Gordon, Virginia Tech – He hasn’t been able to calm his team in crucial moments, but there is a lot to like about Gordon as a playmaker and a floor general. He does a good job of distributing the ball and limiting mistakes, and absolutely has NBA-caliber size, strength and athleticism. The knock on Gordon has always been his horrid outside shot, but he appears to have made some strides there this season. He is only shooting 45% on his free throws, but has only attempted 19 so far on the season. Gordon remains one of the top on-ball defenders in the country, and is averaging over 3 steals per game thus far. If he can knock down a jumper every now and then to keep defenses honest, he might have a shot to make a career out of the NBA.

PG Greg Paulus, Duke – Has any player received more heat from fans and analysts than Coach K’s sophomore floor general? There can be no denying how awful he played over the first month of the season. His decision making was terrible, his jumper was off, and his defense was nonexistent. But did everybody forget the fact that he broke his foot in the preseason and originally wasn’t even supposed to return until mid-December? Is it any coincidence that Paulus has looked like a different player since, around, mid-December? Paulus is clearly getting his legs back, and Duke may very well have lost the last two games if not for his timely perimeter shooting. Paulus is always going to be somewhat limited as a player, but he should be able to play at a high level in the ACC over the next 2+ seasons. It wasn’t like his decision making and athleticism just disappeared overnight, anyways. Paulus isn't on here because he's improved in comparison to where he was at the end of last year, but because of what he was doing two weeks ago.

SG Mike Jones, Maryland – Yes, he’s still the same largely one-dimensional, up and down roller coaster of a prospect. But Jones is getting better looks created for him this season, and it is hard to deny that his natural tools are superb even at the NBA level. Jones still overly relies on the 3-point shot, still taking too many deep ones from outside the flow of the offense. But at the same time, he has shown a bit of an ability to get to the basket and finish this year, even if it is in an almost reluctant manner. With the extra space that the NBA affords, Jones will have to play very poorly in the ACC this year not to get NBA opportunities. And if puts in a solid senior season and can score at a high level a bit more consistently? Well, he does have every natural tool in the book…

Gavin Grant, North Carolina State – NC State is going to struggle without Engin Atsur, but his injury has been a blessing in disguise because of the experience Gavin Grant has gained playing point guard. Grant still isn’t an ideal ACC floor general – his turnovers are high and he isn’t going to do any better in the fast-paced ACC than he is doing right now – but he is getting the job done. The offense is running smoothly, and Grant has displayed the ability to get the ball to his teammates in an efficient manner. He contributes as a slasher, rebounder, and defender, even if his outside shot is still a little ugly. Basically Grant is a guy who isn’t great at one thing but has solid physical attributes for the NBA and does good things when the ball is in his hands. I’m no coach, but if I were Sidney Lowe, I might try Atsur off the ball a bit when he returns, especially if Grant can limit those turnovers.


PG Sean Singletary, Virginia – It hasn’t been a good season for widely hyped junior. He started the season with a bang, but has really struggled since. Singletary is one of the quickest players you’ll find on any level, but sometimes struggles to utilize his speed because of his inconsistent outside shot and the way he tends to run an offense. Teams have figured out that packing it in is the way to beat Virginia. Give Singletary space, and he will generally hang onto the ball and usually jack up way too many low-percentage outside shots. Singletary isn’t an overly aggressive defender, and is really only at his best in the open court. Slow the game down, and you’ve probably beaten Virginia. Singletary can drive and kick, but tends to be a shoot-first playmaker. The Cavaliers will go as far as Singletary takes them, and that doesn’t appear to be a good thing at this point in the season.

G Javaris Crittenton, Georgia Tech – One can never be too sure how a player is going to respond to a higher level of play. Just like Mustafa Shakur at Arizona a couple of years ago, Crittenton appeared to have every tool an NBA decision maker could ask for in a point guard. He has excellent size and strength for the position, is an explosive athlete, and was very good at finding his teammates on the summer circuit. But Crittenton has really struggled this year except for a few spectacular moments, and appears to be quite a ways off in terms of being able to run a team. At the moment, he struggles with routine parts of the floor general’s job, such as protecting the ball and operating against pressure, dictating tempo, and developing any sort of understanding on how to get his teammates the ball at the right time and in the right place. He has made mental mistakes at critical moments and isn’t a reliable defender at this stage. Crittenton’s numbers are still impressive, but take away what he has done against low-major competition and they start to get a little more worrying. He had nine turnovers in a 40-point win against Centenary, and it is hard to see him not struggling with decision making for a large chunk of ACC play. It isn’t that Crittenton is any less of a prospect – his potential as a defender and slasher is immense – but it might take the heralded freshman a bit more time to adjust than anybody originally anticipated.

PF Ekene Ibekwe, Maryland - Ibekwe arrived at Maryland as a raw, freakishly athletic big man with a chance to develop into a very special player. The problem is that he hasn't developed. He's still raw, still freakishly athletic, and has been unable to capitalize on an encouraging World Championships performance over the summer. Ibekwe still struggles with feel for the game, looking mechancial and forced any time he isn't powering home a dunk or flying down the court on a fast break. Ibekwe is good for his 12 and 7, but it doesn't appear that he will ever be more than that - at least not as a Terrapin. Ibekwe is explosive enough to earn NBA looks no matter how he plays the rest of the way, but a bit of skill development from Ibekwe would have gone a long way for the Terps this year.

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