I must admit, I have been on edge about all these All-ACC awards this season. I guess it is because NC State has actually played itself into a position to be considered for some recognition. At the same time, if NC State has played it's way into the balloting, then Duke should of played it's way off a few ballots. Correct? Wrong! That's where the proverbial shaft begins.
Now, before the hammering begins, let me give kudos to a great second place team, Duke. They may eventually be the best team in the nation for 2002. One thing is for sure, they will soon have a chance to prove as much.
Also, some kudos to the ACC media for past votes for their pre-season selections. In the 32 years they have prognosticating the pre-season standings, they have only been completely wrong on 2 occasions. The media's No. 1 or No. 2 ACC Operation Basketball pre-season picks have gone on to win the ACC's regular season championship 27 times (including ties). The media's No. 1 pick has won outright, or tied, for the regular season title 15 times while the No. 2 choice has gone on to finish first on 12 occasions. Only twice in the long and distinguished history of ACC Operation Basketball has the assembled multitudes of ACC media been fooled. In 1980 and 1996, Maryland and Georgia Tech, respectively, finished first after being penciled in by the media for the sixth spot.*
The history of the voters is duly noted. They obvious have some knowledge of what they have witnessed and are able to forecast their picks fairly accurate based on their observations of the past. There in lies my complaint. How could anyone who watched the ACC season unfold, vote three Duke Blue Devils on the first team All-ACC? Do the ACC sportswriters not have the ability to vote for what is in the present? Did they fill themselves with bias based on Duke's tremendous national championship run of a year ago? The answer is obvious, you bet they did.
The first team votes went like this:
Jason Williams, Duke (84) - 252
Juan Dixon, Maryland (84) - 252
Mike Dunleavy, Duke (81) - 249
Anthony Grundy, N.C. State (57) - 220
Carlos Boozer, Duke (44) - 211
No school in the 49-year history of the league has ever placed three players on the top team. Not until Monday at least. Carlos Boozer, the bubble player on the team, beat Maryland's Lonnie Baxter by 12 votes from the media gone gaga over Duke. When casting their votes, how could they forget the 87-73 thrashing that Duke took at the hands of a determined Maryland team that established the Terrapins as the premier team in the ACC for 2002.
In that game at Cole Field house, Lonnie Baxter, the ACC's leading shot-blocker and senior Naismith and Wooden awards finalist had 11 points, 10 rebounds and four key blocks. The double double for the senior center was his eighth of the season and 31st of his career. Boozer in the losing cause had 19 points, 12 rebounds, 0 blocks. Similar stats, but those 4 key blocks in the pivotal ACC regular season match-up which Maryland won, should have been enough to make Baxter the 5th pick on the first team.
The ACC sports writers should be ashamed at their premeditated voting. The deal was done in early February when every sports writer this side of the Appalachians jumped on the Blue Devils bandwagon with their euphoric mid-season awards. They penciled in Duke's Jason Williams, Mike Dunleavy and bubble man Carlos Boozer at the cost of the yet determined regular season champions Maryland and the deserving first teamer, Lonnie Baxter.
There is something to the phrase, "the winner takes the spoils", but somehow, the AP writers missed the opportunity to make it a reality. Even in their official release of the All-ACC team, AP's David Droschak had a hard time containing his gaganess for Duke. His story was all about some Duke, with what seem like footnotes at the deep end of the story about Juan Dixon and Anthony Grundy. What a snowjob for Duke. Please Dave, save me the con job. I saw Duke buckle under the pressure at Cole on a CBS nationally televised game. What game were you and your AP buddies watching on February 17th? An ESPN Classic replay of the 2000-01 Championship?
The AP ACC sports writers in their enthusiasm for Duke, Coach Krzyzewski and national championships, failed the fans of the ACC and Maryland. But most of all they failed Lonnie Baxter. Instead, they chose to please themselves with their voting. Next year, they need to take note that the regular season ends sometime in the first week of March. They should hold their votes and exuberance to keep from embarrassing their group again in the future. Yogi Berra had no idea of the ACC writers when he quipped "it ain't over till it's over". When it comes to the voting for All-ACC, one can consider it is indeed over at mid-season if there is proverbial shaft in the process.
Tomorrow, don't miss Part 2 of The Proverbial Shaft: Illian Evtimov* ACC.Com