ACC PPP: UNC's Paige, Duke's Hood among top sophs - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

ACC Player Power Poll: Head of the class

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Devin Thomas (2) and Codi Miller-McIntyre (0) have shown significant improvement in their second year of play for Wake Forest. (Source: WakeForestSports.com) Devin Thomas (2) and Codi Miller-McIntyre (0) have shown significant improvement in their second year of play for Wake Forest. (Source: WakeForestSports.com)
North Carolina sophomores Marcus Paige (5) and Brice Johnson (11) have been essential to the Tar Heel's victories over top-ranked teams. Also pictured is junior James Michael McAdoo (43). (Source: Jeffrey A. Camarati/UNC Athletic Communications) North Carolina sophomores Marcus Paige (5) and Brice Johnson (11) have been essential to the Tar Heel's victories over top-ranked teams. Also pictured is junior James Michael McAdoo (43). (Source: Jeffrey A. Camarati/UNC Athletic Communications)

(RNN) - The ACC is sophomoric this season. By that, we mean there are a lot of sophomores. Pretty sure we're using that word right.

Second-year guys really get the short end of the prestige stick in college hoops. People always love the freshmen, and this year's class - Duke's Jabari Parker, Kansas' Andrew Wiggins and a slew of other talented guys - has gotten plenty of attention.

Meanwhile, juniors and seniors get to be upperclassmen. They're thought of as leaders, and they can grow full beards and mustaches.

Sophomore even sounds bad, like, "Hey, you're soft. We want more."

Merriam-Webster states the word originally came from the Greek "sophos," meaning wise, and "moros," or foolish. So "wise fool."

Merriam-Webster is also wrong (it's an alteration of the 17th century word sophumer), but no one cares to fix it. Why would they, it's only sophomores we're talking about, right?

So the PPPollsters took it upon ourselves to call attention to the Class of 2016. We feel it is the crop to watch this season.

Plus, it enables us to avoid the flaming bag of non-conference schedule left on our doorstep for the past seven days. It's the end of the semester, what can ya do?

Player Power Poll: Sophomores

1. Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson, North Carolina Tar Heels

Paige: 18.8 points, 4.5 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 87 percent free throws

Johnson: 13.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 62 percent shooting

Marcus looked timid on offense for much of his first go-round. Now, he has the poise and confidence of a player who knows he's the best on the floor every night. And it's not like UNC hasn't played anyone; they beat the No. 1 and No. 3-ranked teams in the country.

With all due respect to guys like Jabari and C.J. Fair of Syracuse, there is not a player more important to his team right now than Paige.

Coach Roy Williams has also found a low-post scoring machine in Brice. The 6'9" second-year man is equally good scoring when facing the basket or with his back to it, and he has the speed to hang with the little guys when the Heels are running the fast break.

2. Codi Miller-McIntyre and Devin Thomas, Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Miller-McIntyre: 17.9 points, 4.4 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 48 percent shooting

Thomas: 11.1 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 54 percent shooting

Miller-McIntyre's aggressiveness has him scoring more than twice as many points per game as a year ago. He can create his own shot off the dribble, and his passing gets his teammates open looks at the basket, too.

Thomas is a classic big man. He's a rebounding beast, has power and finesse moves in the post and brings intensity to both ends. The sophomore duo, along with senior Travis McKie, give the Demon Deacons a lot of options.

3. Rodney Hood, Duke Blue Devils

19.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 58 percent shooting, 54 percent 3-pointers

He's a sophomore in name only, as he sat out a year after transferring from Mississippi State. Hood is impressive not only for his ability to get buckets in bunches but to do it at such an efficient rate from all spots on the floor.

The Devils have come up short in two contests with top-5 teams, but Hood and the other newcomers to the team should learn quickly how to play together. By the end of the season, they could be in the top ecehelon of the ACC and national rankings.

4. Olivier Hanlan, Boston College Eagles

19.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 85 percent free throws

His shooting from long distance hasn't been quite as good as a year ago, but the 2012-13 ACC Freshman of the Year makes up for it by getting shots in the lane and getting to the line. The Eagles' bad start (3-7) has little to do with Hanlan; it comes from a competitive schedule and a porous defense.

If head coach Steve Donahue can find the combination of stoppers to go with his scorers, BC could still turn their season around.

5. T.J. Warren, NC State Wolfpack

22.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.8 steals, 54 percent shooting

Coming into the year slimmer and ready to work, T.J. has taken the reins of the Wolfpack offense. He's an expert at getting to the right place for a pass or rebound, and he's a natural when it comes to putting the ball in the basket.

6. Jerami Grant, Syracuse Orange

13.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 52 percent shooting

Jerami is in a constant state of "controlled frenzy" - always active but rarely out of place. He's the guy to keep watching during a game, as a highlight play may be coming at any time.

7. Robert Carter Jr. and Marcus Georges-Hunt, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Carter: 10.6 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, 1.2 steals

Georges-Hunt: 13.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 51 percent shooting

These guys have two different skill sets that are equally effective when they get going. Marcus is one of those guys who makes it look so easy to get past defenders, one wonders why he doesn't do it more. Carter can leave an opposing big man looking like his feet are stuck to the floor with his inside offense, but he has a tendency to look for the outside shot instead.

8. Mike Tobey, Virginia Cavaliers

7.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.1 blocks, 51 percent shooting

Mike is the first of our buy-low guys - their stats aren't blowing anyone away so far, but expect them to get a whole lot better by season's end.

Tobey has so much skill and size (6'11, 253 pounds) that we figure he'll come around eventually. The only things holding him back are his lack of aggressiveness at times and head coach Tony Bennett's apparent "To Be Determined" strategy on who gets playing time.

9. Landry Nnoko, Clemson Tigers

4.0 points, 6.6 rebounds 1.8 blocks, 62 percent shooting

Landry's lack of playing time, at less than 21 minutes per game, is mostly self-induced. He has been forced to sit with early foul trouble several times. When he's out there, he shows great timing when blocking shots and creates additional scoring chances with his offensive rebounding.

10a. Montay Brandon, Florida State Seminoles

9.6 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 0.9 steals

He's 6'7, can handle the rock like a point guard, can bang inside for rebounds and has a decent shooting touch around the basket. With a consistent effort on his part, FSU could end up well above preseason expectations.

10b. Michael Ojo, Florida State Seminoles

4.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.2 blocks, 65 percent shooting

Sure, he gets fewer than 14 minutes per game. And he hasn't been playing basketball long. And, at times, he looks like he only started playing that day.

But when you look like a 7'1, 290-pound Conan (the Barbarian, not O'Brien), that counts for something. He's still a project, but there are few guys on the planet with the kind of raw tools he has.

By Crom, that's one big sophomore.

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