The ACC opened up last night and featured three league contests and seven conference teams in action. There were a few surprises and even some drama in what can only be considered a huge win for the ACC Network. So, what did we learn? Maybe a few things, maybe nothing, but here is what caught my attention.
This has to be the story of the night. The Blue Devils suffocated Kansas and turned them over 28 times. Four Duke players had at least two steals and Vernon Carey logged a couple of blocks. Myles Garrett was never comfortable and Devon Dotson even looked overwhelmed at times, logging six turnovers himself.
Joey Baker-Duke: It continues to be unknown to me both why this shooter is not playing on team that can’t seem to shoot,as well why he reclassified and burned his redshirt. At this point I have to believe it is his defense.
Kristian Sjolund-Georgia Tech: This one is not so surprising as we know that the reason is his defense and North Carolina State was, at times, simply unconscious from the field. Khalid Moore is a better defender and the Jackets were pretty good on offense last night.
Branden Johnson-VPI: It was widely assumed that Johnson, a transfer from Alabama State, would get the first crack at the big man spot for the Hokies. Instead, head coach Mike Young decided to go small to start, played small the entire game, and the Hokies still out rebounded Clemson in their house by 8.
Jae’Lyn Withers-Louisville: I didn’t expect him to play a whole lot, but I really wanted to see him in action. I don’t think he was injured, but the Cardinals are incredibly deep, so it could just be a factor of that.
Landers Nolley has arrived
After losing his true freshman season to an NCAA decision, Landers Nolley, a former top 100 recruit, finally put his skills on display for fans last night. We were not disappointed. I speculated in the offseason that coach Mike Young would use him in the same manner he used Fletcher McGee at Wofford, and that proved true. Nolley had the green light all night and put up 23 shots. More than 3x the second leading shot takers PJ Horne and Isaiah Wilkins. The Hokies were running him off of double screens, posting him up and dribble hand offs to get him looks. He could put up massive numbers.
NC State has roster issues
We talked on the podcast the other evening about North Carolina State being a bit thin as far as available bodies. Well the Pack just got thinner as Lauren Brownlow dropped this bomb:
So for those keeping score at home, DJ Funderburk is suspended and didn’t play last night, Blake Harris has left the program, Markell Johnson has a bum wheel, and Dereon Seabron won’t play at all this season. Add to that fact that Jericole Hellems is dinged up and Braxton Beverly has to be sore this morning, and NC State fans have to be a bit worried.
Now, all of that said, I fully expect to hear that Funderburk is going to return soon. If not for the Detroit game, probably the FIU game though they can make it through both without him. That is complete speculation on my part, but he is an integral part of this team and after James Banks went for 20-14 last night, they need him back, though Manny Bates was pretty awesome.
Individual Players to Watch
This is just a list of guys who caught my eye lat night that I’ll be paying attention to a bit more closely.
Chase Hunter-Clemson: I liked his aggressiveness, needs to make free throws.
Anthony Walker-Miami: 9 points and 5 boards, struggled at times, but had a couple nice moments in back to back possessions in the second half. Big time athlete.
Ryan McMahon-Louisville: The talk of the town was Fresh Kimble coming into the season, but it was McMahon who received the minutes last night. He started and played 4 more minutes than Kimble while outscoring him 16-6.
Alex O’Connell-Duke: He received plenty of run (25 minutes) in a big time match-up with a top 5 team last night. He looked ok at times and seems to have improved on the defensive end as noted above. AOC could be the answer to the Joey Baker question as well.