During rivalry week, there is plenty of hatred along the Atlantic Coast Conference landscape. Having Valentine’s Day interrupt the flow of vitriol seems like an odd juxtaposition. However, I’m determined to make the most of it by introducing my ACC Valentine’s Day Team!
What’s the Valentine’s Day Team, you ask? These five players are the five I love to watch the most. I’m not saying these should be ACC First-Teamers (although, in some cases, they should be). They are simply players I find entertaining or enjoyable to watch.
Without further ado, here is the team.
Erick Green, guard, Virginia Tech: This will come as a surprise to nobody who read earlier this week, when I made a case for Green to be the ACC Player of the Year. If you’re not watching Hokies’ games, I completely understand why you assume a guy averaging 25 points per game is just throwing up shots. However, that doesn’t begin to explain how this guy is making 47.3% of his shots as a guard while drawing the best every team’s defense has to offer every single night. This guy doesn’t force anything, or he would have more than two turnovers per game (or a lower shooting percentage). He’s the only player under 6’5” in the top 30 of ACC rebounders. Green does it all for Virginia Tech. I know it may be hard to stomach watching his team at times, but if you can, watch as many Hokies’ games as possible just to watch Erick Green. You’ll become a believer, too.
Michael Snaer, guard, Florida State: Full disclosure – I’m not as high on Snaer’s game as many. There are definitely better guards in the ACC, with better numbers to boot, like Shane Larkin or Lorenzo Brown. Yet, there comes a certain point in certain Seminoles’ games around the last media timeout when you realize Florida State is on the path towards another close finish. It seems ordained that the game will end with a Snaer buzzer-beater. There’s no way it can happen again, can it? Then it comes to the final possession, when everyone knows exactly what Florida State will try to do to win the game. Yet, every single time, Snaer gets the game-winner. Simply for those four minutes during certain FSU games, Snaer gets a Valentine.
K.J. McDaniels, forward, Clemson: Simply put, K.J. McDaniels has hops. Sure, he could stand to be more consistent offensively, but that’s a blanket statement for everyone on Clemson’s roster (and Milton Jennings gets three blankets). However, the joy in watching McDaniels comes from watching him play defense. More accurately, it comes from watching him block shots that nobody standing 6’6” should be able to block. Erasing fast-break layups? Sure. Rising up from the weak side to erase easy buckets by big men? Absolutely. He’s had at least one block in every ACC game this season, including five against NC State last weekend and seven against Wake Forest on January 15.
Richard Howell, forward, NC State: Probably one of the most eye-popping stats when you look at Richard Howell’s numbers is his 3.9 offensive rebounds per game, 0.7 more than any other player in the ACC. That number also perfectly describes Howell’s game. If there is a loose ball in a Wolfpack game, Howell is likely the first player to dive for it, jump for it, or tip it in for an NC State basket. It goes beyond outworking opponents, because he’s able to do it every time he steps on the floor. It’s a combination of motor and instinct that allows him to seemingly know exactly where to be on the court at all times. He’s also done a better job of staying out of foul trouble this year, which is a bit relative since that was his calling card in 2012.
Kenny Kadji, forward-center, MIami: It was difficult to choose just one Hurricanes’ big man (and leave Mason Plumlee off the list), but ultimately I landed on Kadji. There aren’t many 6-11 players who can shoot the way Kenny Kadji can. On the first possession of Miami’s game against North Carolina, Kadji knocked down a three from the corner of the “U” midcourt logo, setting the tone for that blowout. He also has explosive driving ability, which allows him to spread the floor for Miami and create open looks for everyone around him.
It’s not that I don’t love other ACC players (as you may have noticed by the not-so-subtle name dropping throughout). These are simply the ones I love most of all, like the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz.
Who would make your Valentine’s Day Team? Comment with the players you love to watch.