My all-ACC ballot
Posted March 10, 2014
As down as this year may have been in the Atlantic Coast Conference, with just five teams that appear to be NCAA tournament quality as we head towards Greensboro, coming up with major award winners was certainly no bargain if you had things you needed to accomplish on a beautiful, spring-like weekend. Contrary to popular opinion, driven mostly by rabid Wolfpack fans who weeks ago stopped thinking about their team and shifted their focus towards flooding the zone with "T.J. Warren for league Player of the Year" honors, there were actually three excellent candidates for that award. Same goes for coach, rookie and defensive player of the year honors.
In fact, I can't recall a time when all four of the major awards in the ACC could have been so hotly debated around water coolers, on bar stools, or in barbershops. So, here's the way I see it and how I voted.
When it comes to the player of the year, there are three main protagonists. The best player, the most important player and the player who had the best season. In my opinion, those are three different players -- all of whom call the Triangle home.
Jabari Parker is the best player. He's the most versatile offensive player in the country, let alone the ACC, and as long as conventional wisdom holds, will be selected within the first 15 minutes of the NBA draft this June. He can score from everywhere on the floor, in every which way and with either hand. He can go coast to coast after grabbing a rebound in traffic (he led the ACC in rebounding) and is strong enough to finish at the rim against bigger players. His defense is not anywhere near where is offense is at this stage of his career, but his awareness is advanced and he'll get better over time.
If this were an MVP award, given to the player whose team would be up the proverbial creek without him, then Marcus Paige would be my runaway choice. On a roster that was supposed to have P.J. Hairston for one more year before jetting off to the NBA, Paige carried the Tar Heels. The sophomore from Iowa finished 7th in the league in scoring, 3rd in assists and made 39% of his 3-point attempts in spite of being his team's only reliable long-range shooter. On top of that, he was playing with the league's most mercurial teammates. There wasn't a single Tar Heels player not named Marcus Paige who was a reliable performer, day in and day out. In truth, going into the game at NC State, Paige was my choice, and his 35-point explosion in the season's best mano y mano duel with T.J. Warren, confirmed my belief. However, two single-digit scoring games and a less-than-his best performance at Duke -- in spite of a team high 24 points -- swung the pendulum enough to change my mind.
Riddle me this, how did NC State fail to win an NCAA tournament game last year? With four players now getting paid to play AND T.J. Warren, you're telling me that they couldn't scratch out at least one mid-March victory? Warren is a scoring machine. Granted, he blew away the league in shots, attempting 44 -- and making 50! -- more than the next highest total in both categories, Syracuse senior C.J. Fair, in spite of playing in one fewer conference game. He led the league in scoring by a little more than seven points and was the only qualified player to shoot more than 50% from the floor (.525). That he ended the regular season with back-to-back 40-point games was as much icing for him as anything. Warren's arsenal is vast, with the ability to hurt you inside and outside, though the perimeter game isn't quite to the level of his mid-range offense. Even so, Warren has scored at least 20 points in 15 of his 17 league games, 30 or more four times and THEN closed the year with 41- and 42-point flourishes to make his point.
How Virginia held him to four points -- FOUR POINTS -- in a home-loss in January will forever remain a mystery. I know, there are many who don't think so, but this was a very close call for me, but Warren is my choice for the Player of the Year in the ACC.
Tony Bennett led the Cavaliers to a 16-2 record, and a two-game margin of victory in the regular season. Part of that was the product of one of the easiest league schedules in the conference as the Wahoos only had to deal with the other four best teams a total of four times. But, with a freshman at point guard and a group that isn't wowing NBA scouts, this is a team whose sum far exceeds its parts, and that speaks to coaching. Roy Williams did a masterful job this year, coaxing a baker's dozen wins out of his team, but it falls just short of what Bennett was able to accomplish in Charlottesville, with UVA winning their first outright title in 33 years.
A month ago, you could have made a strong argument for Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis as the league's rookie of the year. No longer is that the case. Jabari Parker emerged from his late-January funk to easily be one of the three best players in the league. If the Duke forward doesn't win the award it's because voters made their decisions four weeks ago.
Now to my All-ACC teams, in order…(statistics from ACC games only)
1. T.J. Warren, NC State (25.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, .525 fg)
2. Jabari Parker, Duke (17.6 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 1.4 bpg)
3. Marcus Paige, North Carolina (16.2 ppg, 4.8 apg, .389 3fg)
4. K.J McDaniels, Clemson (17.4 ppg, 7.4 rpg, .825 ft, 2.6 bpg)
5. Malcom Brogdon, Virginia (14.8 ppg, .888 ft, 3.4 a/to ratio)
6. Rodney Hood, Duke (16.0 ppg, .423 3fg)
7. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse (12.8 ppg, 5.7 apg, 4.4 a/to ratio, 1.7 spg)
8. C.J. Fair, Syracuse (16.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg)
9. Lamar Patterson, Pittsburgh (18.2 ppg, 4.4 apg, .379 3fg)
10. Joe Harris, Virginia (11.6 ppg, .421 3fg, 2.5 apg)
11. James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina (13.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg, .475 fg)
12. Olivier Hanlan, Boston College (18.4, .460 fg, .818 ft)
13. Dezmine Wells, Maryland (15.4 ppg, .503 fg, .835 ft)
14. Eric Atkins, Notre Dame (14.4 ppg, 5.1 apg)
15. Jerami Grant, Syracuse (11.3 ppg, 7.4 rpg)
1. Jabari Parker, Duke
2. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
3. London Perrantes, Virginia
4. Kennedy Meeks, North Carolina
5. Devin Wilson, Virginia Tech
1. K.J. McDaniels, Clemson
2. Akil Mitchell, Virginia
3. Justin Anderson, Virginia
4. Malcom Brogdon, Virginia
5. Rodney Hood, Duke