Every ACC Basketball Team's Most Underrated Player
Many ACC teams are experiencing a great deal of transition from last season.
Whether it’s due to graduation, transfers or departures to the NBA, coaches in the ACC are faced with the difficult task of replacing many key players going into the 2013-14 season.
This means certain players will finally get an opportunity to show how talented they are, even if that talent hadn’t been previously noticed.
Some players are well known to their own fans, but they’ve yet to receive the respect they deserve from the rest of the league. Other players will surprise their own fanbase with their ability.
Let’s take look at each ACC basketball team’s most underrated player.
Boston College: Ryan Anderson
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Ryan Anderson has been one of the most consistent players in the ACC over the past two seasons but he still doesn’t receive the respect he deserves.
At 6’8”, 220 pounds, he gives Steve Donahue and the Eagles a versatile weapon that can play in the post or extend out to the perimeter.
Anderson has averaged 13.1 points and 7.7 rebounds through his first two years at Boston College and provides consistent production.
He also appears to be a great fit with Olivier Hanlan, Boston College’s explosive young guard who was the 2013 ACC Freshman of the Year.
Clemson: K.J. McDaniels
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There aren’t many options when it comes to underrated players on the Clemson roster.
Based on the results the Tigers have had over the past couple seasons, part of their problem is that they don’t have enough guys who are underrated.
Fortunately, K.J. McDaniels has developed into a nice player for Brad Brownell.
McDaniels was relatively unnoticed last season because most of the attention for Clemson went to Milton Jennings and Devin Booker but McDaniels has a chance to become the best defensive player in the ACC next season.
Duke: Quinn Cook
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Quinn Cook never gets mentioned as one of the elite point guards in college basketball even though he’s held his own against many of the elite guards he’s faced.
The starting point guard for the Blue Devils made a significant leap between his freshman and sophomore seasons and many are projecting another big leap for him as he now enters his junior season.
Cook is one of the best in the country in transition and he’s improved his perimeter shooting to go along with an effective floater as part of his offensive arsenal.
Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood will likely get most of the headlines for Duke next season, but it will be Cook that serves as the catalyst for the team.
Florida State: Ian Miller
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Ian Miller suffered a foot injury in the preseason last year that hindered him for the entire 2012-13 season. He was unable to practice and never found any sort of consistent rhythm, which was emblematic of the entire season for the Seminoles.
Now, after having a full offseason to recover and serve as extra motivation for his senior year, Miller will have a chance to play a major role for Florida State.
He’s a streaky perimeter shooter but he provides Leonard Hamilton with the type of athleticism and toughness that have become synonymous with Florida State basketball.
A healthy Ian Miller will help make up for the loss of Michael Snaer.
Georgia Tech: Daniel Miller
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Daniel Miller is a throwback big man.
He’s a 6’11”, 257-pound big man who likes to play physical and gets most of his points around the basket. He’s also an effective rim-protector on defense.
Much is made about the young athletes that Brian Gregory is recruiting to Georgia Tech, but Miller provides the team with a reliable presence in the paint and he’ll serve as a veteran leader in the 2013-14 season.
His 8.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 2.1 blocks per game last season prove that he can do a little of everything.
Maryland: Charles Mitchell
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ACC fans should be glad Charles Mitchell is taking his talents to the Big Ten after this season.
At 6’8”, 260 pounds, Mitchell is an absolute load in the paint and he is relentless on the boards. He struggled with consistency last season as a freshman, but it’s obvious that he has a very bright future at Maryland.
Alex Len received the attention for the Terrapins last season but Mitchell offered Mark Turgeon a more physical presence and he doesn’t typically drift out to the perimeter.
As he continues to get stronger and improve his skills, don’t expect Mitchell to be underrated for very long.
Miami: Tonye Jekiri
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Considering that Miami lost its top six scorers from last season, the Hurricanes now have a collection of guys who haven’t received enough playing time to be considered underrated.
However, based on potential, the most likely candidate is Tonye Jekiri.
Jekiri only averaged 6.9 minutes per game last season but he’s 7”0”, 227 pounds and has the speed that would make him very effective in transition.
He proved to be a solid rebounder in limited minutes last season and he will be counted on heavily to make up for the loss of Reggie Johnson and Julian Gamble.
North Carolina: Marcus Paige
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Roy Williams knows how to develop great point guards.
Whether it’s Raymond Felton, Ty Lawson or Kendall Marshall, point guards have flourished under Williams’ fast-paced system that requires the guard to be smart and aggressive.
Marcus Paige was inconsistent last season but the light appeared to come on near the end of the season and he showed great potential.
Everyone will talk about James Michael McAdoo and P.J. Hairston going into next season, but Paige could be the player who surprises with his play.
N.C. State: T.J. Warren
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T.J. Warren was one of N.C. State’s most productive players last season but he was overshadowed by Lorenzo Brown, Richard Howell and the enigmatic play of C.J. Leslie.
All three of those players, along with Scott Wood and Rodney Purvis, have now moved on from N.C. State and the team will be built around Warren.
He averaged 12.1 points and shot over 62-percent from the field last season while often serving as the third or fourth offensive option for the Wolfpack.
With such a young team, Warren could suffer in the 2013-14 season. In effect, he is a great player with strong numbers who doesn’t receive the attention he deserves because his team struggles.
Notre Dame: Pat Connaughton
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The backcourt tandem of Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant will serve as the leaders and playmakers for the Irish this season but Connaughton is the spot-up shooter that makes Mike Brey’s offense so effective.
Connaughton is a rising junior who averaged 8.9 points last season while shooting over 37-percent from beyond the three-point line.
His perimeter shooting ability was on full display last season when he knocked down 15 three-pointers in three games in the Big East tournament.
With Grant and Atkins attacking off the dribble, Connaughton is often the forgotten man in the Irish offense who makes the defense pay.
Pittsburgh: Talib Zanna
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Talib Zanna is one of those tough, physical frontcourt players that Jamie Dixon regularly develops with the Pittsburgh Panthers.
He won’t grab any headlines but Zanna provides the Panthers with consistent play and does whatever the team needs.
Zanna, a 6’9”, 230-pound rising senior, was the team’s third-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder last season while playing 23.9 minutes per game. He’s improved every season at Pittsburgh and become a quality role player.
He’ll likely spend more time at center this season to help replace Steven Adams, who left school early for the NBA.
Syracuse: Jerami Grant
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Jerami Grant is a long, athletic forward with a great deal of raw ability. In other words, he’s the perfect fit for Jim Boeheim and the Syracuse Orange.
Grant gained experience last season sitting behind guys like James Southerland and Brandon Triche and now he’ll have the opportunity to step up as the Orange move to the ACC.
He is a 6’8”, 203-pound wing player who will serve as the perfect complement to C.J. Fair.
Grant’s length will also make him a dynamic wing player in Syracuse’s vaunted 2-3 zone defense.
Virginia: Akil Mitchell
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When healthy, Akil Mitchell is one of the most productive frontcourt players in the ACC.
He’s undersized at 6’8”, 230-pounds, but he was extremely effective last season in shutting down guys like Mason Plumlee, Alex Len and James Michael McAdoo.
Mitchell is also a rebounding machine. He averaged 8.9 rebounds per game last season to go along with 13.1 points per game.
He’ll enter the 2013-14 season as an underrated player on a team that is likely to be underrated.
Virginia Tech: C.J. Barksdale
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It’s hard to be underrated at Virginia Tech.
For a team that only had two guys average in double figures last season, most players on the Hokies roster deserve the label they’ve been given.
C.J. Barksdale averaged 5.6 points and 4.7 rebounds last season but he has the ability to average in double figures, which Virginia Tech will need from him to help account for the loss of Erick Green.
He doesn’t have a variety of offensive moves, but Barksdale is at his best when the Hokies are allowed to play in transition.
Wake Forest: Devin Thomas
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Devin Thomas was one of the brightest freshman in the ACC last season but he flew under the radar because of Wake Forest’s poor season.
He averaged 9.1 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game last season and he could emerge as a double-double machine as a sophomore.
As Thomas continues to improve, it’s only a matter of time before he’s viewed as one of the best players in the ACC, regardless of where the Demon Deacons are in the standings.
And the more Jeff Bzdelik gifts Thomas the ball, the more likely Wake Forest is to climb in the ACC standings.