I do this every year, and bubble fever has me enthused enough to do it again. But yes, I am still steamed about how the ACC promotes only the blues (and mangled l’affaire de Hess), and very much would like to join the SEC as soon as humanly possible. That said, here are my votes:
Coach of the Year: Mark Gottfried, NC State
Perhaps the happiest part of yesterday’s win is that it kept me from having to vote for Roy Williams. Although he had some raw talent to work with, Coach Gottfried undoubtedly inherited a hot mess. The most important thing he did was change the culture of selfishness, laziness, and losing (three factors that fed each other ravenously under Sidney Lowe). As I’ve said all year, wins are just gravy. 9-7 represents a whole lot of gravy. If you want a specific instance to use around the water cooler, it’s how expertly Coach Gottfried balanced carrots and sticks with Calvin Leslie, transforming a talented but aimless headcase into a hard-working dynamo and fan favorite. I never would have believed that if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes.
Player of the Year: John Henson, UNC
This vote doesn’t make me happy, as Henson is perhaps as big an asshole as you’ll find in the ACC. But, as with my vote for Toney Douglas a few years ago, defense counts when I cast my vote. It should count for everyone, but oh well. Henson elevated his offensive game this season, while unfathomably becoming an even better rebounder and interior defender. His first half performance against NC State (in Chapel Hill) was easily the most dominant individual effort I saw all season. Tyler Zeller will win this, but he’s no better than fourth on my ballot.
Rookie of the Year: Austin Rivers, Duke
Easiest vote on the ledger, I can’t imagine this being anything other than unanimous. Rivers is really good, and the only thing (well, along with referee protection) that keeps Duke from being a very average basketball team.
All-ACC (First Team):
John Henson, UNC
Kendall Marshall, UNC
Mike Scott, Virginia
Tyler Zeller, UNC
Calvin Leslie, NC State
Only one surprise here, but one which the uneducated might attribute to homerism. But Mike Scott and Austin Rivers both faded down the stretch, and Scott started in higher position. While those dual fades were in progress, Calvin Leslie was elevating his game to superhuman status. He was arguably the ACC’s best player the last three or four weeks. I gave Mark Gottfried significant credit for Leslie’s turnaround above…but remember, it takes two to tango. Calvin was challenged for maybe the first time in his young life, and he really, really responded (on offense, defense, and the glass). The other mild surprise is seeing Kendall Marshall listed second, but his gaudy assist and assist-to-turnover numbers are all-time great caliber. That impresses me more than raw scoring totals.
All-ACC (Second Team):
Austin Rivers, Duke
Harrison Barnes, UNC
Michael Snaer, Florida State
Kenny Kadji, Miami
Seth Curry, Duke
Kadji and Curry were very important players towards their respective teams’ success. Curry showed lots of poise, and had a penchant for making shots in really crucial situations. Again, that impresses me much more than raw scoring totals. Nothing else is the least bit surprising.
All-ACC (Third Team):
Terrell Stoglin, Maryland
Tanner Smith, Clemson
Ian Miller, Florida State
Lorenzo Brown, NC State
Bernard James, Florida State
Speaking of raw scoring totals…the ACC’s runaway scoring leader is on my third team. But he’s a one-trick pony, who relies on taking an unholy (and unhealthy) number of shots per game. He’s also a poor ballhandler and defender. So be lucky that I even list you first on the third team, Mr. Stoglin. Tanner Smith and Ian Miller are criminally underrated “glue guys” who do everything well, even if they don’t do any one thing great. Lo Brown is second in assists (albeit distant to Marshall, the ballhandling savant) during ACC play – not bad for a sophomore who played the two last season. Bernard James gets the last slot more or less by default – he was productive, though I think he’s fairly fungible.