ACC Basketball: 5 Things We've Learned So Far
The first two weeks of the college basketball season are incredibly important for any team regardless of the size of the program or the team's preseason expectations. For teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference, almost every opponent faced thus far is one that is expected to be defeated. While there is not a lot that can be derived from a handful of performances, here are some early impressions of the ACC that are expected to remain true for the entire season.
Gani Lawal has arrived for Georgia Tech
Most knew that the sophomore forward Lawal had the potential to breakout but few, if any, could've predicted he would average 22.5 points and 10.5 rebounds a game. Ha, ok, it's early. The Yellow Jackets only have two games under the belt after two weeks into the season but Lawal sure looks like a primetime player. There's a lot of grey areas on the team and while starting senior and perimeter shooter Lewis Clinch is academically ineligible for the forseeable future and starting point guard and team leader Maurice Miller is currently shooting 30 percent from the floor, Lawal, along with junior Zack Peacock, appear to have given Georgia Tech at least some peace of mind down low.
Sylven Landesburg will shine for a bleak Virginia team
If you followed Virginia's performance against Radford last week you found the preseason proclamations that the Cavs are the worst team in the ACC to be true. In a game in which they shot 37 percent, UVA trailed the Highlanders at halftime and through much of the second half only to squeak by the visiting team in the final seconds of the game. Don't try to play the it's-only-one-game card either because the Cavaliers barely defeated a South Florida team that is picked to finish in the cellar of the Big East by two points two nights before their debacle with the Highlanders. In other words, it's going to be a long season. Freshman guard Sylven Landesburg, however, is one of the very few bright spots on the team and appears to be the future of the program. Kudos goes to the Cavaliers who were able to bring in a guy who has the potential to produce Sean Singletary-type numbers. Once more, Landesburg has already proven that he does not need any time to adapt to the college game and has already made himself a legitimate scoring threat as he is currently leading the conference by averaging close to 24 points a game.
Wake Forest's freshmen are for real
Forward Al-Farouq Aminu was selected as the preseason choice as the conference's Rookie of the Year and has not disappointed in the least thus far. Aminu leads the Demon Deacons and is second in the conference with 11 rebounds averaged per game. As expected, he is a threat to score as well, averaging 16 points per game and shooting just over 60 percent from the field. Center Tony Woods is the other Deacon freshman that has taken to the college basketball court like a duck to water, averaging 11.5 points and 4.0 rebounds in this young season. A third freshman, center Ty Walker was almost as highly touted as Aminu and Woods were coming into the program, but has seen a more limited role thus far this season. The Deacons who also have another proven big man in Chas McFarland and are expected to assimilate Walker a bit slower than their other two freshmen.
Biggest surprise of the season thus far - Clemson
Most knew the Tigers were going to be good this season but these cats are looking like one of the top three or four teams in the conference right now. A hard fought win against a Dionte Christmas-led Temple Owls team that is picked by many to finish atop the Atlantic 10 combined with three double-digit margin statement wins over mediocre teams show that this is a team that has enough in the tank to win the close ones against formidable opponents and eliminate any hope for a comeback from teams they should beat handedly. What makes their hot start even more impressive is that the Tigers have not lost a step despite the departures of forward James Mays and guard Cliff Hammonds, two starters that accounted for over twenty points per game last season. Even though senior swingman K.C. Rivers has yet to find his shot beyond the arc this season, the Tigers are, as expected, still first in the conference in three point shooting percentage thanks to sophomore guard Terrence Oglesby and freshman guard Andre Young who has emerged as yet another threat. Down low, the Tigers sport junior forward Trevor Booker and unheralded senior forward Raymond Sykes who are both among the conference leaders in rebounds, averaging 10.6 and 6.0 respectively this season.
Biggest disappointment of the season thus far - Virginia Tech
The Hokies could very easily be 1-4 right now. Tech started off its season with two hard-fought wins against Gardner-Webb and Mount St. Mary's and shot less than 40 percent from the field in both contests. The Bulldogs and the Mountaineers each outscored the Hokies in select halves of their games and came within five points of upsetting a team that is widely picked to be a lock for the NCAA tournament. The Hokies looked good early in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off and finally seemed to play up to their preseason expectations as they easily defeated an above-average Fairfield team in the opening round. Tech, however, could not hold up that same intensity in their next two tournament contests. The issue with the Hokies in these two games was a familiar and reoccurring one that plagued the team for much of last season -- they could not finish. In their second round contest with Atlantic 10 favorite Xavier, the Hokies led the Musketeers by seven points with five minutes to go in the second half only to lose the lead in regulation and the game in overtime in the most exciting finish in the sport's young season. Poor and sluggish defense, in particular, was the one of the main reasons for the collapse. The Hokies followed that performance with a similar one in the consolation game of the tournament against Seton Hall as they held a lead with eight and a half minutes left in the game. This team will quickly need to figure out how to play for 40 minutes instead of 30-35 if they want to be dancing in March.