Friday, March 21 2014 7:28 AM EDT2014-03-21 11:28:45 GMT
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(RNN) – It's the last hurrah. The final bow. Say goodnight, Gracie. You sank my battleship.
Senior night is one of the better traditions in collegiate sports, and basketball does it as well as anyone. Usually, the players come out in pregame with family or other loved ones, get a framed jersey and are recognized by their coaches and fans.
With the final weekend of the regular season coming up, it's a last chance for the guys in their final year to shine in front of the home crowd. The only question now: Do any of them have surprises left?
Exactly seven ACC games remain before the conference tournament, and we at PPP expect at least one more shocker. Here are our three favorites for a little more pre-tourney madness, from least to most likely.
Seminole shake: Not one but two upsets down the homestretch for senior Michael Snaer and the Florida State boys.
On Thursday, the ‘Noles host a Virginia team that left the interior light on after its Duke win and had a dead battery when it showed up at Boston College. It remains to be seen if they got a jump.
On Saturday, FSU invites an improved-of-late NC State squad to town. They have improved just enough that people are talking about them again. Last time that happened, they swooned.
Miami gets another "burn notice" at home. This one would come from Clemson, who comes to town Saturday. Call Sam and Fiona; tell them to get the mojitos going early.
The ‘Canes could have claimed the ACC's regular season throne with a home win against Georgia Tech, but they let a second half, double-digit lead slip away. A win on their own floor against the Tigers would also grab the crown jewels outright, and they have every advantage over their opponent … kind of like they did when they played Georgia Tech.
But Miami is still league champs if they lose because North Carolina is going to beat Duke on Saturday.
Not only will they win, the Heels will send the Blue Devils packing with their pointy tail tucked firmly between their hoofed legs. Duke has gotten a lot out of Ryan Kelly since he got back, but he looked badly out of game shape against Virginia Tech – with the up-tempo way the Heels play, he won't be a factor.
Add to the fact the game is in Chapel Hill, and UNC wants to make up for the awful second half it had at Duke earlier in the season. Multiply it by the Heels having, by far, the most potent offense in the conference right now.
This beatdown won't be pretty, but it will sure be a lot of fun to watch.
Do you smell rank(s)? We sure do.
ACC Player Power Poll: Feb. 28 to March 6.
1. Senior Ryan Kelly, Duke Blue Devils
36 points, seven rebounds, seven 3-pointers Saturday vs. Miami (W 79-76).
He had an amazing game. And he had it against the No. 5-ranked team in the country. And yeah, he did it in his first game back after missing nearly two months of action with a foot injury.
But let's get to something really important: Kelly's nickname is "White Raven." Let that sink in.
First of all, worst superhero name ever. Second, really??!? All those smart people at Duke, and that's the best you got?
The PPPollsters are split on this – half of us hope he fully embraces it, bleaches his hair and beard, wears nothing but white tracksuits and gets "WHYT RAVN" tattooed across his fingers. The other half would like this to get brought up nevermore.
Oh, and Kelly was no slouch on Duke's senior night Tuesday either: 18 points, nine boards and five assists in the 85-57 win over Virginia Tech.
PPP proudly bestows upon the senior its weekly title, a commemorative keychain and induction into the Bimbo Coles Awful Nickname All-Stars.
1a. Joe Harris, Virginia Cavaliers
36 points, seven rebounds, two blocks Feb. 28 vs. Duke (W 73-68).
He and the Cavaliers got caught in a classic letdown game on the road against Boston College, falling 53-52 on Sunday. The win against the Blue Devils should still be enough to get them in the NCAA tournament field, though.
Harris turned in maybe the best performance of the season by anyone in the ACC … for about two days (see: Kelly, Ryan). He was borderline ruthless against Duke, shutting down any momentum they tried to gather by burying jump shots or driving to the hoop and drawing fouls.
The 36 points were a career high, and possibly a late push for Harris into the ACC Player of the Year race.
3. Reggie Bullock, North Carolina Tar Heels
19 points, 12 rebounds, four 3-pointers, three steals Wednesday at Maryland (W 79-68).
North Carolina has finally figured out Bullock is the team's best player. His averages in the last four: 18.3 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, 63 percent field goal shooting with 3.5 makes from behind the arc.
The smaller lineup has freed Bullock to show off how good a rebounder he is, and he has been a big part of turning the Heels from a "rebuilding" lineup to a favorite in the conference tournament.
4. Olivier Hanlan, Boston College Eagles
24 points, five rebounds, three assists Tuesday at Clemson (W 68-61).
Two wins in a row isn't that big of an accomplishment, until you realize the team only won four of its first 15 ACC games this year. Hanlan scored 21 of his 24 in the second half to get his team ahead Tuesday after scoring 13 points in the Eagles' 53-52 upset of Virginia on Sunday.
BC has one of several young rosters in the conference that, with a little luck, will stay intact for the next couple of years. With Hanlan running the point, the Eagles may be in the best position to break out as a contender next year, or even knock off some higher seeds in next week's tournament.
5. Quinn Cook, Duke Blue Devils
15 points, five assists, four rebounds Saturday vs. Miami (W 79-76).
The three Duke seniors – Seth Curry, Kelly and Mason Plumlee – get the majority of the spotlight. But the sophomore point guard has emerged as the one who should have the ball when they need a key basket.
Cook dropped in 11 points in the second half Saturday in addition to his usual tough defense on the perimeter. And his on-court demeanor has to be unsettling to opposing teams and fans alike, as he plays with a quiet confidence that leaves you thinking he won't ever make a mistake.
6. Senior Erick Green, Virginia Tech Hokies
29 points, five 3-pointers, two rebounds Saturday vs. Clemson (W 69-61).
Senior night was good to the hardest-working man in the conference, and the Hokies took care of the Tigers to give Green a proper Cassell Coliseum sendoff. Tuesday at Duke, he was brilliant again (25 points, 10 of 19 shooting, four rebounds) but got little scoring help from his teammates in the second half of an 85-57 loss.
7. C.J. Leslie, NC State Wolfpack
19 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, four blocks Wednesday vs. Wake Forest (W 81-66).
Following an outing Feb. 23 at UNC with as many turnovers (six) as points, the junior has reeled off three straight strong performances with only four combined TOs. Leslie has the ability to carry his team for long stretches when he doesn't give the ball up; a hot streak by him gives the Pack a chance to make noise in this year's NCAA tournament.
7a. Senior Richard Howell, NC State Wolfpack
18 points, six rebounds, three steals Sunday at Georgia Tech (W 70-57).
Howell and his fellow senior Scott Wood both got their proper due at senior night Wednesday. Then Howell got most of the night off with his team taking a big lead early. It was well deserved for the big man, as he has worked hard all season to get his team the ball and get himself in position for easy baskets.
9. Chris Bolden, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
21 points, four rebounds, four 3-pointers Wednesday at Miami (W 71-69).
A first timer to PPP, Bolden led the Jackets' comeback against the Hurricanes. He scored 16 of his 21 in the final frame, including eight during the 19-8 run that gave his team the lead with 3:40 remaining.
10. Senior Devin Booker, Clemson Tigers
19 points, eight rebounds, two blocks Tuesday vs. Boston College (L 68-61).
Senior night was not so good for the outgoing Tigers, as the team fell to BC. Booker has stepped up his game recently though, and he has shown how dominant he can be on both ends of the floor.
Booker's final game of the regular season comes at Miami, and going against the Hurricanes' bigs gives him another chance to show everyone (including NBA scouts) how good he is. If the Tigers can get back injured starter K.J. McDaniels, he and a determined Booker could give them enough to pull off the upset against a reeling team.