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(RNN) – You take a long-term love affair with Atlantic Coast Conference hoops. You combine it with an admiration for the entire musical catalog of Eddie Money.
What do you get? An ACC PPP that practically writes itself, that's what.
Home-court advantage always plays a big role in conference wins and losses. Duke's Cameron Crazies and North Carolina's Dean Dome dwellers are two of the best fan bases at Shakin' the opponents, but the league is full of other tough venues and rowdy undergrads.
Still, the collective futility of teams away from the abode seems even more absolute than usual.
Miami is the lone exception (8-1 on the road, 5-0 ACC), but they have done everything short of Walk on Water this season. No one else (combined 20-48, 11-37) has a winning record away from home.
PPP has put extensive thought into this for at least 12 to 13 minutes, and we can't figure it out. Do plane rides affect depth perception? Itchy hotel blankets? An overpowering feet smell in the visitor locker rooms that makes them lose consciousness?
But Baby Hold On before you offer the excuse of so many young players this season. Hope you don't mind if we call you baby, baby.
NC State typically starts four seniors on the floor and came into this season as the favorite to win the ACC: They are 5-1 at home, 0-3 away. That's with trips to Duke or North Carolina yet to come, too.
Halfway through conference play, the Wolfpack and other NCAA tournament hopefuls in the ACC need to learn how to win outside of their own neck of the woods. If they don't, they won't need a travel agent to book anything past the first weekend of March Madness.
Player Power Poll, Jan. 30 to Feb. 5. I can feel your heart beat faster …
1. Michael Snaer, Florida State Seminoles
Last game: 15 points, four assists, two steals, three 3-pointers at Georgia Tech (W 56-54).
PPP's winner this ‘home'-themed week is, of course, a guy whose team won on the road Tuesday. It's like you're trapped in a riddle wrapped in mystery surrounded by … a lack of anything better to read, I suppose.
Snaer takes the title belt by knocking in last-second game-winners in the ‘Noles' last three victories. He would have made it four Saturday against Duke, but they haven't invented the 20-point shot yet (L 79-60).
Against Georgia Tech on Tuesday, he drove down the right side of the lane and dropped the ball in off the glass as time expired, giving FSU a 2-point win. The senior guard sunk a 3-pointer at home Jan. 30 against Maryland, finishing off the Terps 73-71.
The first of the trifecta came Jan. 24, when he hit a 3 in the final seconds to give his team a 3-point win against Clemson. Snaer has not been efficient in his field goal selection this season, making only 41 percent of them, but he has made the big shot when the moment called for it.
2a. Reggie Johnson, Miami Hurricanes
Last game: Four points, nine rebounds, two assists vs. Boston College (W 72-50).
Johnson and the rest of the Miami interior players dominated against BC's smaller lineup Tuesday, outrebounding them by 12.
But Big Reg makes the big list for his big-time game-winning rebound and putback Saturday at NC State with .8 seconds left. It was his best performance (15 points, eight rebounds) since returning from an eight-game absence for a broken thumb.
Johnson's lost time may have been to the team's overall benefit; 6'10" senior Julian Gamble got extra minutes with him out and made an impact in points, rebounding and defense. With those two and this next guy, Miami has the deepest frontcourt in the ACC.
2b. Kenny Kadji, Miami Hurricanes
Last game: 16 points, eight rebounds, two 3-pointers vs. Boston College (W 72-50).
The embarrassment of riches was showcased Tuesday against BC, as the Hurricanes simply reached over the smaller Eagles to out-rebound them by 12.
With his fellow skyscrapers hanging out in the low post, Kadji is free to display his all-around skills on offense. The 6'11" senior can shoot the 3 and create his own shot off the dribble, which leaves the other team the unenviable options of defending him with a small guy he can shoot over or a big guy he can run past.
The Hurricanes' success on the road is no accident; they are a team that can beat someone with offense or defense, playing slow or fast. If their current level of play keeps up, they may need more than Two Tickets to Paradise, aka the Final Four in Atlanta.
2c. Mason Plumlee, Duke Blue Devils
Last game: Eight points, five rebounds, three blocks, two steals at Florida State (W 79-60).
Plumlee got his numbers in only 25 minutes Saturday against Florida State, as an early Duke lead allowed him to rest and watch. The physical big man also dominated Jan. 30 at Wake Forest, helping his squad to its first true road victory with 32 points, nine boards, two blocks and two steals.
The Blue Devils have come around after a stretch of subpar play – by their high standard – since Ryan Kelly got injured. Plumlee has great footwork and speed for someone 6'10", and he can recover quickly on defense to alter shots.
2d. Quinn Cook, Duke Blue Devils
Last game: 18 points, six rebounds, five assists at Florida State (W 79-60).
The Dukies point guard has continued distributing the ball well even as he had some struggles with his shot.
He seemed to find the stroke Saturday at Florida State, going 4 for 6 from 3-point range after a statistical oddity of four straight games at 1 for 5 from distance.
2e. Marcus Paige, North Carolina Tar Heels
Last game: Seven points, six rebounds, four assists vs. Wake Forest (W 87-62).
In UNC's first 20 games, the freshman point guard had moments where he showed his abundant talent. Those moments were spread too thin between uninspiring play though, as he appeared to be over-thinking and hesitating much of the time.
If the last two games are any indication, Paige is coming around. He's been making quick decisions with his passes and his shots, and it is helping the Heels become an even better offensive team.
His best output of the season happened Saturday, when he had 19 points, five rebounds and five assists in the 72-60 win over Virginia Tech.
7. Alex Len, Maryland Terrapins
Last game: 12 points, nine rebounds, three assists, three blocks vs. Wake Forest (W 86-60).
The 7-footer still has some inconsistencies in his game, but he can make a huge impact on both ends of the hardwood when his teammates get him engaged.
Following an early dunk off an in-bounds pass, Len made life miserable Saturday for the Demon Deacons, intimidating nearly every shooter that came within five feet of the basket. He also was spectacular blocking out to prevent Wake from rebounding and trailed Maryland's guards on fast breaks, waiting to slam home any errant layups.
8. Robert Carter Jr., Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Last game: Four points, three rebounds, two steals vs. Florida State (L 56-54).
Carter and the Ramblin' Wreck had their chances to win in a tight game, but they fell victim to Snaer's latest last-second dagger Tuesday.
However, the freshman played a big role in the win Sunday over Virginia. In the final seven minutes, he grabbed several big rebounds, played sterling defense and scored four points as his team came from nine down to win, 66-60.
9. Joe Rahon, Boston College Eagles
Last game: Zero points, seven rebounds, two steals at Miami (L 72-50).
The freshman had a rough night like every other Eagle against "Hurricane Hurricanes." But Rahon found the basket three times its normal size Saturday against Clemson, hitting 6 of 7 from behind the arc on his way to a 26-point night.
10. Akil Mitchell, Virginia Cavaliers
Last game: 13 points, 12 rebounds at Georgia Tech (L 66-60).
The 6'8" junior tallied his second straight double-double in a losing effort Sunday against the Yellow Jackets, his eighth of the season. Mitchell's Cavaliers only made three free throws in the final eight minutes and gave up more than 60 points for the first time in conference play.
Expect Virginia to Wanna Go Back to the type of play that got them a four-game winning streak prior to the Atlanta trip.
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