Difficult choices for the 2014 All-ACC Team
Posted February 27
In about ten days, members of ACSMA, the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association will submit ballots for the All-ACC Teams.
Picking the top players in the league, especially the top five players, is always a challenge. With expansion, identifying those top five will become exponentially more difficult.
Here are the candidates as I see them, broken down by school and listed in alphabetical order. Barring a dramatic change in the last ten days (i.e. if Maryland finishes 10-8 and Pitt falls to 9-9), I’m looking primarily at players from seven schools, for reasons that will become evident later in this column. Also, I would note, that the numbers I’m using here come from the ACC’s February 26 stats, involving CONFERENCE GAMES ONLY. These numbers will change slightly between now and “Election Day.”
K. J. McDaniels: 4th in scoring, 10th in rebounding, 6th in free throw percentage, 2nd in blocked shots.
Rodney Hood: T9th in scoring, 6th in field goal shooting percentage, and 4th in three point shots made.
Jabari Parker: 5th in scoring, 1st in rebounding, 7th in field goal percentage, 1st in offensive rebounds, 6th in blocked shots.
James Michael McAdoo: 13th in scoring, 4th in rebounding, 2nd in field goal percentage. 2nd in offensive rebounds.
Marcus Paige: T9th in scoring, 9th in field goal percentage, 9th in three point shots made, 3rd in free throw percentage, 2nd in assists, 7th in steals.
T.J. Warren: 1st in scoring, 1st in field goal percentage, 16th in rebounding, 4th in steals, 5th in offensive rebounds.
Lamar Patterson: 2nd in scoring, 9th in three point shots made, 7th in steals.
James Robinson: 1st in steals, 3rd in assist-turnover ratio.
Talib Zanna: 20th in scoring, 2nd in rebounding, 3rd in offensive rebounds.
Trevor Cooney: 3rd in steals, 6th in three point field goals made.
Tyler Ennis: 1st in assists, 4th in assist-turnover ratio, 6th in steals.
C.J.Fair: 6th in scoring, 12th in rebounding, 10th in field goal percentage.
Jerami Grant: 6th in rebounding, 8th in offensive rebounds.
Malcolm Brogden: 11th in scoring, 4th in field goal percentage, 1st in free throw percentage, 19th in rebounding, 10th in steals.
Joe Harris: 3rd in three point percentage, 7th in three point shots made.
Akil Mitchell: 3rd in rebounding.
ESPN analyst and former Maryland star Len Elmore has come up with a power rating system for evaluating player of the year candidates that awards five points for scoring and lesser amounts for rebounding, assists, steals, and blocked shots. Elmore also awards five points for wins. I think he is on the right track, and you can apply his principles to All-ACC voting, although I suggest voters look at some other factors as well:
Conference Only Stats
Some of what must be considered goes beyond numbers, but I believe statistical evaluations should be made on conference only stats. Does it really matter what somebody did in December against Ball State or William & Mary? In most cases, the good players show well statistically in both full-season and ACC games only stats, but sometimes you see players who excel in the non-conference games, only to disappear in the conference rivalries that matter most.
To me, a top player influences the game in more than one area. Top scorers should also be high percentage shooters, or good passers, or rebounders. Players that impact the game on offense and defense deserve close consideration.
Low Possession Adjustments
If you look at pure numbers, the low possession teams are at a disadvantage. For example, to look at the impact of Malcolm Brogden, who is 11th in scoring, you should make allowances for the fact that he posted those numbers in games that typically have 10 to 15 fewer possessions than higher possession teams like UNC or Duke-that’s 10-15 fewer chances to score per game. You can make the same argument for Syracuse players, like C.J. Fair. For them scoring 15 points has the same impact on a game as someone scoring 20 in an up tempo style. This applies to other stats as well. We need to look beyond the raw numbers and measure how players influence games.
It’s critical that All-ACC voters watch the games. Just looking at the stats of Tyler Ennis probably wouldn’t earn him that many votes. But although he is not a top scorer, he is a top passer and defensive player; over the course of the season, he has made critical plays that are a major reason why Syracuse is 26-2.
Last year I voted Virginia Tech’s Erick Green on the All-ACC first five, even though he played for a losing team. That’s the first time I can remember doing that since voting for Tom Gugliotta on a seventh place NC State team in 1992. There are occasions where a player on a losing team puts together such an extraordinary season, that you have to put his name on the ballot. But that’s rare. This is not fantasy football or baseball rotisserie league play. It’s not a selection of the five flashiest players or the five who would be most fun to watch in an all star game. The All-ACC vote is recognition of the highest level performances over the course of the conference season. To me, individual achievement correlates with team achievement to a large degree.
ACC analyst Mike Gminski said this week Virginia has had a great season although it probably doesn’t have many All-ACC candidates. He’s right - Virginia could win the ACC regular season title (the Syracuse game looms large) without placing a single player on the All-ACC first five, given the way most voters think. Call me an iconoclast, but if a team goes 17-1 or 16-2 it must have players worthy of strong consideration. No coach is good enough to roar through the ACC with 16 or 17 wins using average players. But all too often we in the media are swayed by scoring, athleticism, pro potential, and pre-season hype.
Who Gets Left Off?
No matter how you approach this, some deserving players will be left off the first team. Following Wednesday night’s UNC-NC State shootout, it would be very hard to leave either Marcus Paige or TJ Warren off the first team. Both are among the ACC’s statistical leaders, both play on winning teams, and I believe anyone who watched the game would say these two players pass the eye test. Many analysts have talked about Duke’s Jabari Parker being the ACC’s best player this year. I don’t know if that’s the case, but he’s right up there.
Who do you put on from Syracuse? C.J. Fair? Tyler Ennis? Both? What if Syracuse winds up tied with Duke for second place in the conference standings? Do you put two Syracuse players on the first team and only one player from Duke? Fair and Ennis instead of Rodney Hood? Really? And what about Virginia? It seems to me Malcolm Brogden has the numbers to make the first team (remember the low possession factor) especially if UVA wins the regular season.
If you scroll back up the page to see some of the others listed, you’ll see some really good players. And yes, there are some really good players not listed here (guys like London Perrantes of Virginia and J.P. Tokoto of UNC who have come on late in the season as well as players from teams in the bottom half of the standings). The competition is close enough that voting should not take place until all of the key games have been played. I’ve given some of my thinking today, but that could change next week.
Impact of the Voting
Back to Len Elmore - he understands as well as anyone the impact of the All-ACC voting. In 1974, NC State’s Tom Burleson was left off the All-ACC first team, announced as always, just a few days before the start of the ACC Tournament. Burleson played tournament games in Greensboro like a man possessed, pouring in 38 points against one of the greatest interior defenders in the history of the conference - Len Elmore.
To my fellow ACSMA voters, I would say this - there are nine or ten really good choices and only five spots on that first team. Who are we going to fire up this year?