What are some surprises for your team so far? Some disappointments?
BDB: Surprises: Quinn Cook. He has shown greatness in his game lately and that has earned him significant playing time against tough opponents such as Virginia, Clemson, et cetera. I knew he would be a great player, but I didn’t know that he would flourish so early in his college basketball career. It is going to be very fun watching him as the seasons go on.
Austin Rivers has also surprised me as of late. I still love him at Duke no doubt, but I don’t know what is up with him. Ever since the Blue Devils played Western Michigan back on December 30th, Rivers has seemed to hit a wall. Over the last five games, the freshman sensation has averaged 8.6 points per game on 36.4% shooting from the field. Over his first 12 games, though, Rivers averaged 16 points.
Everyone experiences slumps at some point, and this is definitely his slump period. Maybe Duke’s opponents are working on containing Rivers better? Not exactly sure, but that would be my guess at this point.
A disappointment would have to be Duke’s defense. That is the Blue Devils’ greatest area of concern right now. Watching Duke’s game against Clemson a few days ago was a bit frustrating because of the defensive performance. The Blue Devils allowed the Clemson Tigers to take too many wide-open shots and too many free throws. Fortunately for Duke, Clemson missed quite a bit of those free throws and wide open shots. If Andre Dawkins did have the best game of his college career against the Tigers, and if Clemson didn’t miss tons of those shots that should’ve went in, the Blue Devils would’ve lost the game.
By the end of the season, I would love to see improvements on defense. I think it can be done. If Duke can improve their defense, they’ll be a tough team to beat in the tournament.
UNC: The biggest surprise is our lack of mental toughness. The blowout at FSU was unacceptable and it’s surprising this team allowed itself to get humiliated like that. The play of Harrison Barnes is also a concern. While he has played well, he hasn’t played up to his preseason all American label. The biggest surprise has to be Reggie Bullock. A hyped freshman coming in last season before a knee injury cost him the year. Bullock has come back this season improved in all facets of his game and has become the Heels top threat off the bench.
Maryland: Some positive surprises have been the development of Stoglin and the play of Sean Mosley. Last year, Stoglin was a great scorer, but he often took stupid shots and wasted possessions. This year, it seems that Turgeon has been able to calm him down his shooting guard, and it’s made him one of the more effective players in the country. He’s still able to put the team on his back when he needs to (see: the first half of the game against Florida State as well as many, many other games this year), but is also able to help the offense run and take a backseat when he needs to. For Mosley, he is still inconsistent with his scoring, but he’s had more good games than bad ones this year. What he does, however, is absolutely everything else. He’s a top-notch defender, gets key rebounds, and makes big-time passes on a regular basis. He’s the senior leader this team needs, and will sorely miss next year.
Another surprise has been the play of Mychal Parker, who has mostly been used as the seventh or eighth man in the rotation. He’s showing the talent that made him a high-three/low-four star prospect out of high school, but still has hints of the rawness that kept him from climbing even higher. The rumor is his high school didn’t really run plays (I’m imagining a “Give the ball to Mike and get out of the way” scenario a-la the 90′s Bulls), and that’s essentially how he plays. He’s averaging 4.8 points and 3.6 rebounds per game, but he adds a lot of needed athleticism to the team.
In terms of disappointments, it’s hard because not much was expected of this team. If you have to pick some, though, it’s got to be the recent play of Pe’Shon Howard and Alex Len, as well as the early season play of Nick Faust. The former two are only disappointments due to their earlier season performances – Howard returning from a broken foot extremely early and Len coming into the fold after a ten-game NCAA suspension. Both got off to fast starts against non-conference opponents, and both have come to a grinding halt once ACC play came around. With Faust, he’s picked up his game in recent contests, and he’s a hell of an athlete. The only reason he can remotely be considered a disappointment is the high expectations he carried coming into this year. I think Maryland fans were expecting a high-volume scorer, maybe someone who could be the second option after Stoglin on the team, and Faust isn’t that – yet. What he is is an excellent defender with great athletic and basketball ability. Once he becomes more accustomed to ACC-level basketball, he’ll be a force to be reckoned with.
Boston College: A surprise might be how Dennis Clifford and Ryan Anderson seem to be growing up quickly and evolving into serviceable ACC players. As they get older, more seasoned, and stronger, I think both will pose big problems for opponents.
It’s hard to have many disappointments when your team was expected to lose (approximately) one jillion games, but right now I’m discouraged that Patrick Heckmann, whether by injury or just an extended slump, hasn’t been much of a factor for weeks now. Further, Matt Humphrey has been a little too inconsistent and is either really good or really bad. Neither is a long-term concern at this point.