ACC Basketball Tournament 2011: Ranking the Top 25 Players

Mike KlineAnalyst IMarch 9, 2011

ACC Basketball Tournament 2011: Ranking the Top 25 Players

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    The ACC tournament brackets are set. Aside from the fact that North Carolina is the No. 1 seed and ACC regular-season champion, there are no real surprises.

    Most teams are coming in with a full assortment of players and while the tournament may not be what it once was, it still should provide for some exciting basketball with many talented young and veteran players on display.

    Here is a look at the top 25 players who will be expected to put up big numbers in efforts to lead their respective teams to the title.

All-ACC Injury Team

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    This slide is dedicated to the players who, if they were able to play in this tournament or for even a majority of this year, might have made for a different season.

    The first one worth mentioning is Duke's Kyrie Irving. He not only was on pace to be the ACC Rookie of the Year but the national freshman of the year and a real All-American candidate.

    The next is Virginia's Mike Scott, who was averaging a double-double before suffering a season-ending injury.

    Georgia Tech's Brian Oliver would have certainly helped the Yellow Jackets down the stretch and in the upcoming tournament.

    Florida State's Chris Singleton's injury was supposed to sink the Seminoles, but they have managed to remain confident and are NCAA tournament bound. Think about if they get him back.

No. 25 Assane Sene

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    Some feel that Sene isn't even close to being among the top 25 players in the league, and they may be right.

    But as of now he is of great importance to his team and without him Virginia has no one else to play in the post.

    Sene doesn't light up the stat sheets but his presence in the post is a necessity for Virginia to have any chance of winning a game or two in the ACC tournament.

No. 24 Scott Wood

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    Wood may not be the Wolfpack's best player, but he is certainly their best shooter.

    The only problem has been getting him consistently open. NC State will have to hope he lights it up from downtown if the Pack has any chance of making a run in the ACC tournament.

    They have to win it all to make the NCAA tournament and perhaps save the job of coach Sidney Lowe.

No. 23 Travis McKie

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    It has been a historically-miserable season for the Demon Deacons which aren't that far removed from having been a top-five team nationally.

    One of the only bright spots has been Travis McKie and he would have to have an out-of-this-world performance to give Wake Forest any chance of winning the tournament.

No. 22 Mustapha Farrakhan

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    If a team loses its best player for the season to injury and has only one post player to speak of, it better have at least one good guard.

    The Cavaliers have that in Farrakhan who, if he gets hot, could help the team, which has done surprising well considering the level of adversity, pull off one or two more surprises.

No. 21 Malcolm Grant

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    The Hurricanes are a quick and athletic team that probably should have done better this season than they did.

    Once again they are in need of an ACC tournament championship to make it to the Big Dance and unless Grant and perhaps one or two of his teammates really catch fire, it will be NIT or nothing for the Canes.

No. 20 Glen Rice Jr.

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    Rice is not as good as his father and he is not Dennis Scott, a former Yellow Jacket great, but he is a scorer and a shooter.

    He has had his ups and downs this season, but if he can get hot in the tournament, Georgia Tech has the talent to pull off an upset or two.

No. 19 Mason Plumlee

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    If Plumlee were more consistent he would be higher on this list. Given that he isn't, he drops off and he is probably only ranked in the top 25 based on potential.

    But what an upside.

    He has shown glimpses and he has become a very good rebounder. If he can polish his offensive game by next year, we could be talking All-ACC first team.

No. 18 Tracy Smith

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    If State has any prayer of getting out of the first round, the Wolfpack needs Tracy Smith to be the absolute beast he has shown he can be.

    Smith played a good deal of the season with a knee injury, and he even missed a few games because of that. He will need to summon his ability to play as close to 100 percent as possible come Thursday.

No. 17 Jerai Grant

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    Grant is a solid inside threat for the Tigers, except when they play North Carolina.

    The good news is that it looks like the Tigers are in the NCAA tournament. The bad news is a quick exit from the ACC tournament could hurt them.

    They will need Grant to play well for them to avoid the worry come Selection Sunday.

No. 16 John Henson

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    Henson is about 30 pounds of muscle away from being one of the most dominant big men in the country.

    He is a formidable shot blocker and he has the ability to finish around the basket when not guarded by stronger big men.

No. 15 Jeff Allen

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    Allen has nice touch and he can finish in the lane.

    Fortunately for the Hokies, he is playing well and he is healthy. Unfortunately for them, they are once again on the bubble in a spot in which they will likely have to win at least one game in the ACC tournament to have a realistic chance of making the tournament.

    They will need Allen to bring his A-game to make that happen.

No. 14 Durand Scott

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    Scott, much like teammate Malcolm Grant, is going to need to get hot for the Hurricanes to have a chance to make some noise in the tournament.

    The good news is that they are capable. The bad news is it hasn't happened enough this season.

No. 13 Iman Shumpert

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    Shumpert is long, aggressive and probably the Yellow Jackets' best player. He has the ability to take over a game and present a tough mismatch for opposing guards due to his size.

    He will need to play with confidence, though, to give the Jackets a chance in the tournament.

No. 12 Seth Curry

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    Curry gets hot over time. Aside from Nolan Smith, few Duke players have played better in the last 10 games.

    Curry has gone from playing scarcely to starting. He has also made the most of it with his ability to score, particularly shooting threes.

    He also is capable of handling some point guard duties which allows Smith to do his thing, namely score points.

No. 11 Demontez Stitt

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    Stitt is another in a long line of good Clemson guards. He and his teammates have bought into coach Brad Brownell's system and they have done much better than expected.

    They are a team that looks NCAA tournament bound but could use at least one win to make things more comfortable.

No. 10 Derwin Kitchen

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    Kitchen came within a toe and a hair of helping helping Florida State beat Duke and UNC on their home courts.

    Still, despite having lost their best player in Chris Singleton, Kitchen stepped up and led this team to a likely NCAA tournament berth.

    The Noles have had some success recently in the ACC tournament. Could this be the season they get over the hump?

No. 9 Joe Trapani

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    Trapani, like Kyle Singler, is a forward with guard skills.

    He has shown the ability to hit the outside shot, put the ball on the floor and post up smaller defenders. In short, he is versatile.

    He will need to play strong and consistent if BC wants to win its first ACC tournament championship.

No. 8 Kyle Singler

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    Like the aforementioned Joe Trapani, Singler's greatest virtue is his versatility.

    He has been slumping of late, but he came on strong last year in the ACC tournament. If Duke wants to win its third-straight tournament title and get a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, Singler has to return to form.

No. 7 Harrison Barnes

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    What a turnaround Barnes has made. At the beginning of the year he was clearly not living up to the hype, but he has adjusted and he is arguably the best healthy freshman in the league.

    His shooting, aggressiveness and poise have helped North Carolina grab the No. 1 seed in the tournament with a chance at an NCAA-tournament No. 1 seed.

    Who would have thought that after Puerto Rico?

No. 6 Reggie Jackson

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    No one on BC's team has been better than Jackson. He is going to have to step his game up, though, against the top-tier ACC teams for the Eagles to make a run.

    That is something he hasn't done at times this season.

No. 5 Tyler Zeller

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    If there is a better big man in the ACC right now, he hasn't shown himself yet.

    Zeller is finally healthy and strong. He is living up to what many had projected when he first arrived in Chapel Hill.

    He has excellent foot work, he is strong with the ball and he has shown the ability to run the floor like a gazelle—just ask Duke.

No. 4 Malcolm Delaney

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    It has been quite a career for Malcolm Delaney, but he definitely wants to end it with a shot in the NCAA tournament.

    The Hokies are good enough, strong enough and, doggone it, people like them. But they still have to find a way to win at least one if not two games in this tournament.

No. 3 Jordan Williams

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    If Tyler Zeller is the best all-around big man, Williams is the best offensive big man in the league.

    He averages a double-double and no matter who he plays against, he typically dominates the boards. The only problem for him and Maryland is that the Terps don't have enough shooters to make a tournament run this season.

No. 2 Kendall Marshall

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    Many may not agree with ranking Kendall Marshall this high, but name another player in the league, aside from Duke's Nolan Smith, who has been more important to the success of his team.

    Since becoming a starter, the Tar Heels offense is clicking on all cylinders and the star players such as Zeller and Barnes couldn't be any more confident.

    Why? Because the floor leader can get them the ball in positions to be successful. That and his poise is the reason he deserves to be way up on the list heading into the tournament.

No. 1 Nolan Smith

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    There is no doubt that Nolan Smith is the league's best player heading into the ACC tournament.

    The ACC Player of the Year has put Duke on his shoulders like no other player since JJ Redick.

    Smith has done it all. From assists to scoring, he has led the Blue Devils following the injury to Kyrie Irving.

    Clearly Duke was the best team with Irving, but without him the Blue Devils are where they are mainly because Smith has stepped up his game and he is playing at a level above most everyone else.