Joe Harris (12) and the Virginia Cavaliers have been winning big, including a 65-45 win over Virginia Tech on Saturday. (Source: Dillon Harding/VirginiaSports.com)
The Duke Blue Devils have cranked up the intensity on the defensive end. Pictured are Quinn Cook (left) and Jabari Parker (right) trying to take the ball from a Florida State player. (Source: Duke Photography/GoDuke.com)
Friday, March 21 2014 7:28 AM EDT2014-03-21 11:28:45 GMT
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(RNN) - The Blue Devils walked into Pittsburgh, had some pierogies, checked out some Frank Lloyd Wright architecture and showed the Panthers that this is their ACC.
We've hinted at this before - the PPPollsters really don't want to see the new guys come in and dominate. So it was a long month for us. It's not that we don't like Syracuse and Pitt. We're actually big fans, and we're even good with one of them taking the conference crown.
But the thought of them breezing through league play without dropping one game to someone other than each other? That made us madder than CNN in a snowstorm.
The hero role is a change of pace for the "bad guys." People dislike the Blue Devils. A lot. We Googled "Duke" and "hate," and we literally (figuratively) got punched in the face.
We never got where all that hatred comes from anyway (OK, we kind of get it). But we think everyone can agree that desperate times call for desperate enemies of enemies being our friends on Facebook, or something.
And with Duke playing as Duke-licious as ever, Syracuse may be in for a full-on Duke-tastrophe Saturday. All hail Duke.
Player Power Poll: Jan. 24 - 29
1. Jabari Parker, Duke Blue Devils
21 points, 11 rebounds, two 3-pointers Monday at Pitt (W 80-65)
PPP got an exclusive copy of coach Mike Krzyzewski's speech that he used to turn around the Blue Devils' season:
Coach K: Hey, Jabari, I need you to rebound more. The rest of you guys play a little defense, will ya?
Rest of team: OK.
It really was that simple: The freshman has been driving the lane and using that 6'8", 235-pound frame to get a little physical with the other bigs on the glass. He's had rebound totals of 15, 14 and 11 in the last three.
As for everybody else, they stopped napping half the game, caused some turnovers and speeded up the tempo. Boom, five-game winning streak.
2. Amile Jefferson, Duke Blue Devils
14 points, 5-5 shooting, 10 rebounds (six offensive) Monday at Pitt (W 80-65)
If he plays like that every night, Duke isn't losing again. Amile has the goods, and he's working on the consistency.
3. Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia Cavaliers
16 points, seven rebounds, six assists, five steals Tuesday at Notre Dame (W 68-53)
We're quietly excited about the Wahoos. But we predicted they would win the ACC in the preseason, and, well, we all saw what happened in nonconference play. So we're nervous - mainly because our boss is a superstitious Virginia alum who holds grudges.
Just remember there is more than one important game this weekend: UVA is at Pitt on Sunday.
4. Joe Harris, Virginia Cavaliers
Nine points, four assists, three steals Tuesday at Notre Dame (W 68-53)
Fine, we'll talk about them. The sanity of coach No Not That Tony Bennett was questioned by a few folks when he was tinkering with the playing rotation early on, but it looks like there was a plan all along. That or he was really lucky, but we'll give him the benefit of the doubt.
The Cavaliers are getting contributions on offense from a lot of different places, keeping Shooter Joe from forcing his shots. With that weight off him, he is doing what he does best: Running off screens to get open looks at the basket and hustling for loose balls.
5. James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina Tar Heels
22 points, seven rebounds, two assists Sunday vs. Clemson (W 80-61)
We're going to say something, but don't freak out until we explain. JMM has LeBron-like ability.
Everybody good? OK, what that means is the guy is an insane athlete. He is too big (6'9", 230 pounds) for guards to handle, and he blows by big men like they stepped in cement gum. Sure, McAdoo's jumper is spotty, and his free throw shooting is more awkward than robot guys crushing Taylor Swift's dreams. But when he wants to get to the basket, he is not going to be stopped.
6. T.J. Warren, NC State Wolfpack
20 points, six rebounds, two steals Sunday vs. Georgia Tech (W 80-78 OT)
Rule No. 1 - Hit a game winner, make Player Power Poll.
Rule No. 2 - DO NOT talk about Player Power Poll.
Rule No. 3 - Ignore Rule No. 2. Please pass this along to family and friends.
7. Dez Wells, Maryland Terrapins
21 points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals Wednesday vs. Miami (W 74-71)
It wasn't a buzzer beater, but Dez did knock down a 3 to break the tie with six seconds left. That, and going 7-7 from the floor, gets someone a seat at the table.
8. Ryan Anderson, Boston College Eagles
18 points, eight rebounds, five blocks Wednesday vs. Virginia Tech Hokies (W 76-52)
BC has struggled so much this season, so it's easy to forget they have some good players on the team. Anderson is one of those guys, and he took Virginia Tech defenders to school in the low post.
9. Jerami Grant, Syracuse Orange
14 points, eight rebounds, two steals Saturday at Miami (W 64-52)
"Mr. Fire" did his whole "how does he get there so fast?" thing all week, totaling 20 rebounds in two games. One of our favorite things about him is, despite his high activity level, he rarely turns the ball over.
10. C.J. Fair, Syracuse Orange
16 points, eight rebounds, three steals Wednesday at Wake Forest (W 67-57)
Here's a fun fact: C.J. is tired. Maybe not, but he did play 40 minutes in four of his last five. That other one, he only played 39.
"Mr. Ice" will probably be fine playing that much in nearly every game, but the Orange are only going six or seven deep on the roster, so we wonder if someone will wear down. The impact from the season-ending injury of DaJuan Coleman, and the 13 minutes per game he was playing, could be seen once tournament time comes.
Lucky for them, coach Jim Boeheim is one of the best coaches ever. We have faith he'll figure it out.
By the way, did we mention Duke and Syracuse play Saturday? Coach K and Boeheim - the only two coaches to get 900 wins with one team - going head-to-head? First matchup as ACC foes? Conference title and pride on the line?
Crowd of 35,000 people in the Carrier Dome? Jabari Parker vs. C.J. Fair? Rodney Hood vs. Jerami Grant? Quinn Cook vs. Tyler Ennis? Yeah, get your popcorn ready.
Copyright 2014 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.
Need something to help you get through two weeks of March Madness? Try playing Basketball Cliche Bingo. Mark off the words or phrases that are overused during each game of the tourney.More >>
Don't like basketball? Need something to help you get through two weeks of March Madness? Try playing Basketball Cliche Bingo. Mark off the words or phrases that are overused during each game of the tournament.More >>