Player of the Week:
Devon Daniels (Jr., NC State)
Daniels, a redshirt junior from Battle Creek, Michigan, added to what has been a successful season with two monster performances for NC State this past week. He led the way for his squad against #6 Duke, putting up 25 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal in the 22-point upset win. He followed that strong performance by showing out against the other top team in the conference, going for 18 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist, and 2 steals against #8 Florida State. While Daniels made a name for himself this past week with his play, he has been playing at an extremely high level for an extended period of time now. He has scored in double figures in 10 of his last 11 games, and is averaging 15.5 points per game during that streak. NC State is currently 17-10 (8-8 in conference), and sit tied for fifth in the conference standings. With only a couple of games left before the end of the regular season, the Wolfpack will need Daniels to continue his strong play if they want a chance to play in this year’s NCAA tournament.
Isaiah Wong (Fr., Miami)
It has been a forgettable season for Miami basketball, as they sit a 14-13 (6-11) and find themselves near the bottom of the ACC standings. With that being said, freshman guard Isaiah Wong has been a pleasant surprise for coach Jim Larrañega. The former four-star shooting guard from Trenton, NJ was named ACC freshman of the week for a second time this season this past week, thanks to strong performances against Virginia Tech and Notre Dame. Wong stared in his team’s triple-overtime victory against Virginia Tech on 2/19, as he went for 27 points and 12 rebounds in 42 minutes of the 102-95 win. The 27-point, 12-rebound effort was the first double-double recorded by a UM freshman since 2016, and put him in the driver’s seat to receive his second ACC Freshman of the Week award of the season.
Florida State Seminoles
Once known as one of the premier football schools in the country, it seems as if the tide is changing in Tallahassee, and the Seminole faithful starting to care more about the hardwood instead of the gridiron. There is good reason for that, of course, as the football team has struggled mightily over the past couple of years, and Leonard Hamilton has turned the basketball program into a consistent tournament team. This year’s FSU team will undoubtedly be in the postseason, as they have consistently been near the top of the rankings throughout the season and also sit third in the ACC with 13 conference wins so far. The 13 wins already ties the program record, and they have four more conference games left to set their own record. It has been a great season for the defensively-sound Florida State Seminoles, and winning at least one more conference game will establish this team as one of the best FSU teams in a very long time.
After falling to Virginia at home by a score of 59-56 on 2/22, Pitt finds themselves currently riding a four-game losing streak and are at their lowest point of the season so far. This Pitt team was 11-4 on 1/8, with wins over quality teams such as Florida State and Rutgers, but have gone just 4-9 since that span, and sit only two games over .500 now. With three games left in the regular season, head coach Jeff Capel must do whatever he can to inspire his troops to turn their play around in time for the conference tournament if he wants to make this season count for anything.
Duke Blue Devils
In rare fashion, Duke was utterly dominated on 2/19, as they went into Raleigh and got their backsides handed to them by NC State by a score of 88-66. Vernon Carey was seemingly the only player who showed up for Duke that night, as he accounted for 27 of the teams 66 points, which is nearly half at 41%. As a whole, the team put up some horrendous shooting numbers, as they were 26-69 (37%) from the field, 4-17 (23.5%) from three, and a miserable 10-22 (45.5%) from the free throw line. While they couldn’t get anything going on offense, they couldn’t stop anything on defense. They allowed three NC State players – Markell Johnson, Devon Daniels, and DJ Funderburk – combine for 74 points, 27 rebounds, 7 assists, and 6 steals against them. While this does not change the fact that Duke is still considered one of the top teams in the country and a serious NCAA tournament contender, it is never good to get utterly dominated by a lesser team, especially late in February, with the end of the regular season and start of the postseason rapidly approaching.
Top 5 Toughest Places to Play in the ACC
5. NC State
NC State have been a consistently good program for many years now, and the large, loyal fanbase of Wolfpack loyal made the transition from coach Mark Gottfired, who they experienced success under, to Kevin Kneatts a smooth one. They share PNC Arena with the Carolina Hurricanes, and consistently are among the national leaders in attendance to their games. This year, they average about 12,000 fans per home game, good enough for fifth in the conference.
While the Orange haven’t experienced the success in recent years that they have enjoyed in the past, the Carrier Dome remains an integral piece of college basketball history, as well as an extremely tough place for opponents to play well at. The historic sports complex holds an average of 20,739 fans per ‘Cuse home game, which is most in the ACC by nearly 3,000 people. When Syracuse basketball is playing well, there are very few tougher places to play in the entire country.
It is extremely difficult to play against Virginia regardless of the location, as the Cavaliers are consistently one of the hardest working, disciplined, and most active defense teams in the country year in and year out. It doesn’t help opponents that John Paul Jones Arena is one of the biggest arenas in the conference, and usually one of the most packed for Virginia home games, with a 2019-2020 average of nearly 14,000 fans per game.
2. North Carolina
The Dean E. Smith Center, better known as the “Dean Dome”, is one of the most iconic basketball arenas in the world. Iconic players like Jerry Stackhouse, Vince Carter, Rasheed Wallace and Tyler Hansbrough have called the Dean Dome home over the years, and have kept the Tar Heel fan base coming back game after game for years now. The arena holds 17,952 fans per game, good for second in the conference. The rich history of NBA players, the iconic Carolina-blue jerseys, and the Tar Heel-crazed fanbase makes North Carolina the second toughest place to play in the ACC.
They say size matters, but when it comes to college basketball venues, that is not necessarily true. Cameron Indoor Stadium, home to the Duke Blue Devils basketball teams, holds and average of 9,314 fans per game, which is good for sixth in the ACC, but the unique set up of the stadium, where the fans are basically right on top of the sidelines to the point where they can almost touch the players when standing on the sideline, as well as the amount of noise the Cameron Crazies are able to produce, makes Duke easily the toughest place to play in the ACC. Duke’s historic home winning streak, which was broken earlier this season, backs up the claim that Duke is one of, if not the toughest place to play in all of college basketball.