ACC PPP: Duke's Plumlee, Sulaimon sit atop list - - Columbia, South Carolina

ACC Player Power Poll: (Blue) Devil inside

C.J. Harris and Wake Forest celebrate Saturday after knocking off No. 2-ranked Miami. (Source: ACC Digital Network) C.J. Harris and Wake Forest celebrate Saturday after knocking off No. 2-ranked Miami. (Source: ACC Digital Network)

(RNN) – It's time to get bold. Really bold. Bolder than Brent Musberger at a beauty pageant.

As the ACC PPP fan (singular) knows, the regular season is only a few days from its end. This time of the year is always a mixed bag of emotions.

On the one hand, you have the first excited jitters of March madness hit you; on the other hand, the thought of those players you follow saying goodbye can make you feel a little blue.

On the other, other hand, that pre-postseason bug always leads the PPPollsters to cough up a few audacious predictions.

Like neither Duke nor Miami will win the ACC tournament. But both will make the Final Four. You like that?

Well, if that went down smooth, here are a few more that only the most adventurous pundits, with little regard for any credibility, would dare to make.

North Carolina will win the ACC tournament.

Then, they will enter the NCAA tourney as a six-seed, knock out the three and two in their bracket before falling to the top seed in the Elite 8. But not before scaring the holy heck out of them.

Virginia will also make the Big Dance.

Not that bold of a prediction, but they will get in as an 11 or 12 and ruin a higher seed's dream of moving on. Defense wins in March, and nobody does it better.

NC State's C.J. Leslie will go two possessions (in a row!) without a turnover.

Just playing, C.J. Seriously though, six giveaways in the first half at UNC?

Erick Green will be the 2014 NBA Rookie of the Year, despite not being a first-round pick.

This one kind of blows the collective mind here. So-called NBA Draft experts still don't have the Virginia Tech senior even sniffing the first 30 picks. At worst, this guy is a better shooting, better dribbling Rip Hamilton.

Green is the most NBA-ready player in the ACC right now, which is saying something since Plumlee 2.0 is ready to go, too. Barring a really bad fit (e.g. backing up Chris Paul), he'll work his way into a lot of minutes on the floor right away.

Shane Larkin leaves for the NBA.

Would love to be wrong on this one, but we don't see his stock being any higher than it is after this season. Especially after (spoiler in 3 … 2 … 1 …) they win the national championship.

As for the 2014 ACC season, the champ will be:

Duke (but Wake and Florida State give them a serious run).

Speaking of Wake Forest, Devin Thomas' sideburns will grow in one day.

Don't worry kid, they'll get there. In the meantime, let's count them up.

ACC Player Power Poll: Feb. 22 to 27.

1. Mason Plumlee, Duke Blue Devils

Last game: 19 points, 15 rebounds, four assists, two steals vs. Boston College (W 89-68).

Somehow, neither Plumlee nor any other Dukie has topped the rankings this season.

"We'll have to remedy that." – Mel Gibson in a movie.

The PPPollsters have reason to believe there may be a Blue Devil subversive in our midst, based on the fact there are Blue Devil subversives everywhere. That team catches more negativity thrown its way than Ted Nugent at a Secret Service meet-and-greet.

Anyway, Plumlee 2.0 was his usual awesome self Sunday against the Eagles, stuffing the stat sheet with a bit of everything. One of the things he does best is get to the spot on the floor he wants to be, which is usually in the middle of the lane about four feet from the rim to shoot his jump hook.

Oddly, people have criticized him for over-relying on that. But when he needs to attack another way, he can and does. It's not his fault he's so good at working his defenders.

I guess when you're the biggest star reppin' Durham N-C, haters gon' hate.

"You %$%&#@! I'll %$&$ @#@!!" – Mel Gibson not in a movie.

2. Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke Blue Devils

Last game: 27 points, three assists, three 3-pointers vs. Boston College (W 89-68).

‘Sheed had been running hot and cold with the production, but he seems to have the tap pushed all the way over now. The 6'4" freshman put up double-digit points the last four games and has been going to the hoop more often instead of always settling for the 3-ball.

The balance has paid off. He looks more confident than at any other point in the season, and with defenses looking at him as more than a jump shooter, it will present better opportunities for teammates.

3. Marcus Paige, North Carolina Tar Heels

Last game: 14 points, eight assists, three rebounds, three steals vs. NC State (W 76-65).

In a tight, crazyfast-paced game Saturday against the Wolfpack, the man most responsible for the Heels breaking away in the second half was Paige.

After not scoring any in the first half, the first-year point guard hit a 3-pointer with 7:19 remaining to give his team a 57-55 lead. Then, he would score seven of his team's next 15 points and get an assist on a Reggie Bullock 3-point make in a 4 1/2-minute span that took the lead to 72-59.

3a. Reggie Bullock, North Carolina Tar Heels

Last game: 22 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, five 3-pointers vs. NC State (76-65).

UNC's string of three straight wins has come since coach Roy Williams decided to forgo the usual lineup and use a smaller, faster starting five. With four guards and James Michael McAdoo as the lone forward, the team speed compared to its opponents went from "much faster" to "it's not even close."

The potential downside to that was the lack of rebounding. But Bullock and friends have crashed the boards more than enough to tilt the games their way. His turn Saturday as mini-Moses Malone did not hinder his accuracy on the long ball either, making three in the second half.

5. Akil Mitchell, Virginia Cavaliers

Last game: 18 points, eight rebounds vs. Georgia Tech (W 82-54).

After a rough night against the Miami bigs Feb. 19, Mitchell came back strong with an 8 for 9 shooting performance at Georgia Tech. He outworked the young Yellow Jackets on Sunday, getting to the rim quickly with the ball and getting in position for rebounds or to tip in a missed shot.

So with the big game Thursday (9 p.m. ET), how about one more medium-sized prediction?

Sure, since you asked. Virginia controls the tempo against Duke and wins the game in impressive manner.

6. C.J. Harris, Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Game before last: 23 points, four rebounds, five 3-pointers vs. Miami (W 80-65).

On Saturday, C.J. Harris looked like a player on the old NBA Jam video game. The only thing missing was computerized Marv Albert yelling "razzle dazzle" and "he's on fire" as smoke rose from the senior guard's fingertips.

Harris hit 5 for 5 on 3-point attempts in the first half during a stretch that the mighty Hurricanes could not match. Harris also put his free throw shooting skills on display late, ending any last-ditch effort of a Miami comeback.

That would have been good enough for the PPP top spot and "Certificate of Excellence" this week. Unfortunately, Wake went to Florida State on Tuesday and left their game at home.

7. Travis McKie, Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Last game: 15 points, six rebounds, two blocks at Florida State (L 76-62).

In their defense, the team looked emotionally spent three days removed from the upset. McKie was the only Deacon who had a decent game. It should be noted he played a big part in bullying the larger Miami guys on Saturday, blocking five shots.

8. Shane Larkin, Miami Hurricanes

Last game: 22 points, six assists, lockdown defense vs. Virginia Tech (W 76-58).

Game before last: 13 points, four rebounds, three assists, three steals at Wake Forest (L 80-65).

Call us crazy, but we think the loss Saturday was a good thing for the ‘Canes. A long win streak (14-0 in ACC until then) can become a weight over a team's head, and Miami needed to get rid of it.

On Wednesday, they stunk it up for about the first 12 minutes against Virginia Tech but found the groove eventually. Larkin fully returned to form, hitting three 3-pointers and flying past defenders to the hoop. He also held the Hokies' Green to 16 points, down from his nation-leading 25 points per game average.

9. C.J. Barksdale, Virginia Tech Hokies

Last game: 12 points, seven rebounds at Miami (L 76-58).

Barksdale has put together some nice performances lately, finding an increased intensity without it resulting in over-aggressive play or turnovers. His shot selection – even his misses were ones he should have taken – has been excellent.

Barksdale also had a 17 and nine game Sunday in the Hokies' win against Florida State. All of that came after play so bad this season the coach benched him for an entire game.

10. Michael Snaer, Florida State Seminoles

Last game: 24 points, five rebounds vs. Wake Forest (W 76-62).

The ‘Noles blew any hope of getting an at-large bid to the Dance when they got beat by Virginia Tech. Then Jekyll turned into Hyde again (or Hyde into Jekyll, not sure about that one) and they looked strong Tuesday against the fresh-off-the-upset Demon Deacons.

Snaer had trouble being "the guy" at times this season, but he turned in some great performances along the way. Look for Mr. Clutch to add one more buzzer beater to his resume before he bids the ACC goodbye.

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