Syracuse Tyler Ennis

Conference Catchups: The ACC’s power lies in … Upstate New York?

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College basketball is now almost two months old. League play will be kicking off in the next week. Let’s get you caught up on all you need to know with some of the country’s best conferences. 

To read through the rest of our Conference Catchups, click here.

Midseason Player of the Year: Jabari Parker, Duke

At this point in the year, Parker is our National Player of the Year. So it only makes sense to name him the ACC Player of the Year, right? Parker is averaging impressive numbers — 22.1 ppg, 7.5 rpg — and doing so for a top ten team, but he also is simply the best, most versatile player in the country. Right now, that goes a long way.

All-ACC First Team:

  • Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
  • Marcus Paige, North Carolina
  • Rodney Hood, Duke
  • Jabari Parker, Duke
  • T.J. Warren, N.C. State

Midseason Coach of the Year: Roy Williams, North Carolina

I don’t care who they’ve lost to, so you can take that argument and head right out the door with it. North Carolina, and Williams in particular, has been through one of the most tumultuous periods of time for a program, and a coach, in recent memory. Read through this story by Jason King and tell me it doesn’t sound like the stress that’s been weighing on Williams has knocked five years off of his life. P.J. Hairston’s career at UNC is over, but Williams has somehow managed to guide this group — who, on paper, look like an NIT team — to wins over Louisville, Michigan State and Kentucky.

Favorite: Syracuse Orange

source: Getty ImagesIf it wasn’t for Jabari Parker’s sensational season, I think that Tyler Ennis would be the ACC Player of the Year through the season’s first two months. He’s just such a perfect fit at the point for what Syracuse needs. He controls the game, he doesn’t turn the ball over, he can score when he needs to but he’s content to just set the table for his teammates. Those teammates — C.J. Fair, Trevor Cooney, Jerami Grant — happen to be pretty good.

And three more contenders:

  • Duke is a national title contender if these defensive improvements of the last month hold through league play.
  • I don’t get it, and I’m not sure that I can tell you exactly why, but North Carolina can win this conference. They also could probably finish in eighth. I don’t think I’d bat an eye either way, which kind of makes them more fun to follow.
  • I know Pitt lost to Cincinnati. I know that might be the best team that they’ve played this season. I don’t care. The Panthers are good.

Most Surprising Team: Florida State Seminoles

Leonard Hamilton’s club has put together a pretty impressive non-conference resume, knocking off Atlantic 10 powers VCU and UMass without suffering a resume-killing loss. I don’t know how many people had Florida State being a potential tournament team back in October, but that’s precisely what they are.

Most Disappointing Team: Boston College Eagles

I’m going with B.C. over Maryland because at least with the Terps, I can tell myself that they’ll get better when Seth Allen gets back. Steve Donahue has himself one of the best 1-2 punches in the country with Olivier Hanlon and Ryan Anderson, but a lack of toughness and an inability to play any kind of defense has put B.C. in a position where making the NIT this year will end up being an accomplishment.

Most Important Player (in league play): Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke

The Blue Devils don’t need Sulaimon in order to be a good basketball team. The trio of Andre Dawkins, Matt Jones and Tyler Thornton can do some things. But Sulaimon is the most talented off-guard on their roster, a guy that can hit threes, drive through a defense and defend on the perimeter. Duke is a national title contender if Sulaimon works his way all the way out of the doghouse.

Who will slide?: N.C. State Wolfpack

I love what T.J. Warren is doing this season, and believe me, seeing the Wolfpack head into the holiday break with a 9-2 record is not something I’m taking lightly. Tennessee isn’t all that good this season, but going into Knoxville and pounding them is not an easy thing to do. But I’m still not convinced that this group is going to be able to make this last all season. They get Missouri at home on Saturday. Beat the Tigers and we’ll talk.

Who is the sleeper?: Virginia Cavaliers

They were a top 25 preseason team that a lot of people have forgotten about thanks to losses against Wisconsin, VCU and at Green Bay. But there’s a reason this group was a preseason top 25 team. They defend, they can control tempo and they have quite a bit of talent on their roster. Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell are too good not to be able to figure out their issues.

New Power Rankings:

1. Syracuse
2. Duke
3. North Carolina
4. Pitt
5. Florida State
6. Virginia
7. N.C. State
8. Notre Dame
9. Maryland
10. Georgia Tech
11. Clemson
12. Wake Forest
13. Miami
14. Boston College
15. Virginia Tech

Judge to review surveillance video in Appling gun case

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 30:  Keith Appling #11 of the Michigan State Spartans reacts against the Connecticut Huskies during the East Regional Final of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 30, 2014 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) A Michigan judge will review surveillance footage from the night former Michigan State basketball player Keith Appling was arrested outside a strip club on weapons and drug charges.

Appling’s defense attorney presented the footage at Friday’s preliminary examination. It includes security videos from the Pantheon Club parking lot and video from police dashboard cameras.

The hearing was adjourned until Aug. 5 to allow Judge William Hultgren time to review the footage.

The 24-year-old Appling played for the Spartans from 2010-2014 and had two 10-day contracts with the Orlando Magic this season.

He was arrested in May after two guns and suspected marijuana were found in a vehicle he was in.

Appling also faces a trial in Detroit where he was charged in June with carrying a concealed weapon.

Arkansas hoping for more backcourt depth and stronger press in 2016-17

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 27: Dusty Hannahs #3 of the Arkansas Razorbacks drives to the basket against Michael Humphrey #10 of the Stanford Cardinal  at Barclays Center on November 27, 2015 in Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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Arkansas is coming off of a disappointing 16-16 season in which they missed the postseason.

The Razorbacks lost two key guards in Anthlon Bell and Jabril Durham — who both exhausted their eligibility — but they’re hoping a couple of additions will bolster the depth of their backcourt and make their trademark press stronger.

In a story from Tom Murphy of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the Razorbacks are excited about the possibilities of their new backcourt.

Although Arkansas lost two talented seniors and a transfer in Jimmy Whitt, they return Dusty Hannahs, Manny Watkins and Anton Beard while also getting two of the best junior college guards in the country. Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon come in highly touted for next season and both junior college guards garnered a lot of praise from their play last season.

With Arkansas also bringing in some freshman guards like C.J. Jones and RJ Glasper, head coach Mike Anderson is hoping to have enough bodies to play fast and use his press. The team appears to be optimistic as well.

“I think we’ll have a lot more toughness at the guard position, and depth,” Watkins said to Murphy. “We’ve got a lot of guys. When we’re pressing and stuff, we’ve got bodies we can bring in.”

Arkansas also returns an SEC Player of the Year candidate in big man Moses Kingsley and they could be an intriguing team to track this season if Barford and Macon are as good as advertised. They’ll certainly have more bodies to throw at opposing guards and that should help Arkansas play faster than they did last season.

College career over for Nevada’s Hallice Cooke due to heart issue

DENVER, CO - MARCH 19:  Hallice Cooke #3 of the Iowa State Cyclones celebrates after hitting a three pointer in the second half against the Arkansas Little Rock Trojans during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Pepsi Center on March 19, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
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The college basketball career of Nevada guard Hallice Cooke is over, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com.

The 6-foot-3 native of New Jersey will stay with the program as a volunteer assistant as a heart issue will force Cooke to end his career prematurely.

Cooke started his career at Oregon State before transferring to Iowa State and eventually ending up at Nevada. During the 2015-16 season, Cooke was a role player for the Cyclones as he averaged 10 minutes per game off the bench.

Obviously it’s unfortunate to see someone’s career end early, but it’s also good that Cooke is still going to be involved with the game as an assistant. This could be the type of thing where Cooke eventually ends up coaching in college basketball and it’ll be interesting to see if he tries to stay in the game and get serious about coaching.

N.C. State’s Dennis Smith Jr. fully recovered, ready to go

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) Dennis Smith Jr. sure looks ready.

North Carolina State’s prized freshman point guard is pushing through a workout in the practice gym on a hot July afternoon, and there’s no sign of the knee injury that defined his past year.

He’s sprinting along the baseline to bury a catch-and-shoot corner 3-pointer. He’s dribbling between chairs and stutter-stepping his way to a pull-up jumper. He’s launching himself at the rim for a dunk off the dribble.

“I don’t expect to be rusty at all,” Smith said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I was feeling kind of nervous at one point, but I went in and did a workout and then I was thinking, `I’m putting in all this work so all the nervousness should be out of my mind.’ I had no reason to be timid.

“I just have to go out there and perform, no excuses.”

A lot has happened for Smith in 12 months. The Fayetteville native suffered a torn left anterior cruciate ligament in a game during the Adidas Nations event featuring top prospects. He had surgery, picked N.C. State, graduated from high school early and enrolled in college in January to rehab and learn the Wolfpack’s system before his debut later this year.

Tuesday marks one year since the injury for the 6-foot-3 Smith, ranked by ESPN as the nation’s No. 1 point guard when he signed last fall.

“We’ve tried to be real conservative with him as far as not letting him do too much too fast,” coach Mark Gottfried said. “At his age, he can’t wait. He’s dying to play every day.”

Smith started earning his leadership role as soon as he arrived in Raleigh, pointing out instructions to teammates or calling them to the gym for extra work even though he couldn’t play. He figures that time observing from the sideline has prepared him to replace high-scoring floor leader Anthony “Cat” Barber.

“I feel like I’ve gotten smarter, definitely,” Smith said. “I see the game totally different now. I read pick-and-roll easier. I feel like I’ve gotten more sound on defense because I understand angles better.”

The physical work to get back has been tougher.

Roughly a year ago, Smith was lying in a bed after surgery trying to stay positive. He asked trainer Ja-Rell Bailey to bring him some free weights for upper-body exercises even if he couldn’t do much else, an example of why Bailey described Smith as “a man determined.”

Smith’s father said the rehab emphasized building leg strength to protect and stabilize the injured knee, something his son said he will keep doing in both legs for years to come. Smith’s work has helped him go from 180 pounds to a college-ready 192-pound frame.

“He’s got his bounce back, so he can dunk and everything,” Dennis Smith Sr. said. “But what Junior has got, God gave it to him. . A lot of times you run into kids who are built off of hype because they do a fancy move or have a good game. Junior ain’t hype. He’s the real deal.”

Regardless, Gottfried expects Smith to have “a learning curve.”

“For me,” he said, “I think what you see in November is going to be much different than what you see in January.”

The Wolfpack will look much different, too, after missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five seasons. N.C. State welcomes Scout.com’s No. 6-ranked recruiting class that includes five-star Turkish big man Omer Yurtseven. Senior guard Terry Henderson returns from an ankle injury that sidelined him 7 minutes into last season. Charlotte transfer and former Conference USA freshman of the year Torin Dorn Jr. will play after sitting out last year.

Still, Smith is the guy stirring the most buzz for Wolfpack fans – something he has no trouble embracing.

“I really don’t feel that pressure though,” Smith said. “I feel like if you come in and you expect to play well, then you should have those expectations of people talking. It’s just playing basketball to me. I’ve been doing it my whole life.”

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap and the AP’s college basketball site at http://collegebasketball.ap.org

Washington lands commitment from Mamoudou Diarra

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For the second time this summer, Washington has landed a commitment from a forward in the Class of 2017.

On Friday, it was Mamoudou Diarra that pledged his future to Lorenzo Romar. Diarra is a 6-foot-8 combo-forward that is currently unranked by Rivals but was targeted by a number high major program.

Washington landed a commitment from Michael Porter Jr. earlier this summer, and given Porter’s standing as the potential No. 1 player in the class, the Huskies will be in the mix for the best crop of freshmen in the country in 2017-18. Romar has also landed commitments from four-star guard Jaylen Nowell and three-star guard Blake Harris.

RELATED: How the Michael Porter Package Deal came to fruition

Diarra played his high school basketball in St. Louis.