The ACC men’s basketball tournament starts Tuesday in Brooklyn with a three-game slate. It’ll open with No. 12 against Clemson against No. 13 N.C. State, No. 10 Wake Forest against No. 15 Boston College and No. 11 Georgia Tech against No. 14 Pitt.
The bottom finishers in the league will tip things off in New York, but don’t discount Day 1. There are some pretty talented players to watch in the bunch.
Here is a snapshot of just a few of those guys playing Tuesday and beyond:
Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson, r-senior forward: The 6-7, 220-pound third-team All-ACC selection is second on the list of the league’s active leading scorers with 1,668 career points, behind Pitt’s Michael Young (1,804). Blossomgame leads the ACC with 30 20-point career games.
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John Collins, Wake Forest, sophomore forward: Collins, 6-10, 235 pounds, led the league in shooting percentage with 62.3 and was third with 19.1 points a game. He was the second-leading rebounder behind Bonzie Colson and could terrorize anyone inside on the offensive end. He led the league with 3.8 offensive rebounds. Collins averaged 22 points a game in contests against Virginia, Miami and Louisville, the top three scoring defenses in the ACC.
The first-team All-ACC team selection was also named the ACC’s most improved player. His shooting improvement was a league-high 11.8 points; he had 16 20-point games this year and was third on his team in minutes. Collins also posted 15 double-doubles this season, the firsts of his career.
Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame, junior forward: Colson, a first-team All-ACC selection, was the only player to average a double-double of 17 points and an ACC-best 10.4 rebounds. The 6-5, 225-pound forward posted 18 double-doubles. Colson is first with 7.5 defensive rebounds, also. He grabbed 322 boards total, and the next closest, Wake’s Collins, had 293. Colson was a returning starter who averaged just 11.1 points and 6.7 rebounds a season ago. He made his case early for All-ACC.
Colson now has 25 10-rebound games of his career with 19 coming this season.
Justin Jackson, UNC, junior forward/guard: The ACC player of the year led UNC, the conference’s top scoring offense, with 18.3 points a game with 84 assists on the season. As one of the best three-point shooters in the league, the 6-8, 210-pound Jackson made 85 3-pointers, including a late, back-breaking triple from the top of key over Duke in the regular-season finale on Saturday. Only Syracuse’s Andrew White III made more 3s than the Tar Heels’ forward with 101. Jackson last season made just 35 triples.
He got 45.3 of the panel’s vote for player of the year (24 of 53) and was a first-team selection.
Luke Kennard, Duke, sophomore guard: Kennard was the only unanimous All-ACC First Team selection and was in the running for Player of the Year. He finished the regular season leading the conference with 20.1 points a game, up from his average of 11.8 last season. Kennard has carried Duke in several defining moments this season, including nailing a 3-pointer against Wake Forest on Jan. 28 to help turn around Duke’s season.
Kennard, at 6-6, 202 pounds, has stamina, leading the Blue Devils with 35.6 minutes a game with eight 40-minute games this season (he played 80 in Duke’s Hall of Fame Tip-Off tournament run in November).
Ben Lammers, Georgia Tech, junior center: Lammers was voted the defensive player of the year. Three of the conference’s top five scorers were held under their averages after facing Georgia Tech (the exceptions were Wake Forest’s John Collins and N.C. State’s Dennis Smith Jr. in a split series). The Yellow Jackets upset UNC, the conference’s top scoring offense, and held the Tar Heels to 63 points in the ACC opener on Dec. 31.
A second-team selection, Lammers, who’s 6-10 and 227 pounds, led the ACC with 3.3 blocks a game, while his team was best with 6.1 blocks. Lammers added 14.6 points to his defense this season.
Donovan Mitchell, Louisville, sophomore guard:
The first-team All-ACC selection averaged a team-best 15.9 points and 2.1 steals, the latter leading the league. He also led a Louisville team that was second in field goal percentage defense (39.5) and third in scoring defense (65.4) with 31.9 minutes.
Mitchell, who is 6-3 and 200 pounds, played in 18 of the Cardinals’ 31 games last year with 13 starts and 27.9 minutes per appearance.
The all-defense pick swiped seven steals against Old Dominion on Nov. 23 and had five on three different occasions, including twice in ACC play.
Dennis Smith Jr., N.C. State, freshman guard:
The star rookie provided the freshman year everyone anticipated, with plenty of highlights to go around. He was the lone freshman on the All-ACC second team and was the first Wolfpack player to take home freshman of the year honors since 1977. “DSJ,” as he’s called, led the league with 6.3 assists and was fourth with 18.5 points this season. Smith, who’s 6-3, 195, passed out a career-high 16 assists against Rider on Dec. 28. He also captured a league-high four 30-point games to go with 12 20-point games in his first season.
Smith was second in steals and headlined the All-Freshman team.
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan