A new year is here, technically, but if you live ACC Country your calendar likely centers around college basketball meaning January isn’t the beginning, it’s simply when the season really starts to get interesting. Each week in this space we’ll take a look at the most interesting and important happenings around the league that made college hoops a national phenomenon.
FROM BONZIE TO THE BUBBLE?: Bonzie Colson was carrying Notre Dame in a way no other single player in the ACC was carrying his team. The Fighting Irish got off to an 11-3 start behind Colson’s 21.4 points and 10.4 rebounds per game.
Luke Maye and Marvin Bagley III have put up similar numbers for North Carolina and Duke respectively, but both are surrounded by other stars on those Blue Blood rosters. Colson, who was playing 34 minutes a game before injury sidelined him for at least two months, offered production it is very difficult to imagine the Irish coming close to replacing in his absence.
And Notre Dame was already struggling a bit even before Colson broke his left foot. The Irish peaked with a dramatic comeback victory against Wichita State in late November, then were blown out by Michigan State the next night. Since then Notre Dame lost to Ball State and Indiana (which turned around and got blown out by Fort Wayne) and struggled against Dartmouth.
After spending early weeks ranked in the Top 10, it’s now fair to wonder if Notre Dame has what it takes to make the NCAA Tournament.
Fortunately for the Irish, as loaded aa the ACC is, Mike Brey’s team has an opportunity to dip its toe into the conference schedule a bit before facing the league’s top teams. The Irish get Georgia Tech twice along with Syracuse and N.C. State before facing any of the ACC’s ranked teams.
Perhaps that’s enough time to adjust to life without Colson, but Notre Dame needs to add some more quality wins to its resume and that won’t be easy without its senior superstar.
SOAR EAGLES: Much like its football team, Boston College basketball has come a long way since going winless in ACC play a couple years ago.
Could the Golden Eagles be an actual contender in the league race? Don’t count them out. BC has already beaten ACC favorite Duke at home and over the weekend took Virginia to the wire at John Paul Jones Arena, arguably the second toughest place to play in the conference.
You couldn’t knock Boston College right now if its players and coaches believe they can win any game they play from here on out.
NEWTON’S LAW: As younger players such as sophomore Bruce Brown Jr. and freshman Lonnie Walker IV grow into bigger and bigger roles, one of the interesting things to watch with Miami is what role senior guard Ja’Quan Newton settles into.
Newton has been a four-year contributor for the Hurricanes, but at a little more than 10 points per game his scoring is down about three points this season.
But that might not be a problem. The Canes have more scoring options this season and have been quite balanced this season with six players averaging at least eight points. As conference play ramps up, Newton might be the kind of savvy veteran who simply knows when to pick his spots to be assertive.
Since struggling with five points and no assists in the Canes lone loss to New Mexico State, Newton has averaged a steady 10 points and five assists in two Miami victories.