League Honors... One Man's Opinion
With just a week of regular season games remaining, Atlantic Coast Conference Awards will be announced in the near future. Who has the inside track for ACC Player of the Year? Is there a favorite to win the ACC Rookie of the Year Award? Will the league's Coach of the Year surprise some folks?
Here are my thoughts on the honors, but remember, there are still a couple of games left to be played.
ALL-ACC FIRST TEAM
C Tyler Hansbrough - North Carolina: No-brainer... might be the nation's top college player. 23.4 points per game and 10.4 boards will get you that type of recognition.
PG Tyrese Rice - Boston College: Is there a better individual talent than Rice? He's unguardable and if he had any help at BC he would be even better. 46 against UNC? What a player. Averages 21.4 points per game and as a point guard he's in the top 10 in the league in field goal percentage.
PG Sean Singletary - Virginia: Without the explosive senior, Virginia might not win a game... seriously. 19.8 points per game and 5.8 assists. He's good, really good.
PG Greivis Vasquez - Maryland: Fourth in the league in scoring (17.5), first in assists (6.7), and plays as hard as anybody. Vasquez has really emerged this season.
SF DeMarcus Nelson - Duke: Others might have better numbers, but ask Coach K and he'll likely say Nelson has been his best player this year. The best player on the league's top team should be recognized, plus, 15.5 points per game and 5.8 boards isn't shabby. Also, Nelson is third in the league in field goal percentage at 51.4%, a very impressive number for a wing player... he doesn't take bad shots.
ALL-ACC SECOND TEAM
PG Jack McClinton - Miami: Leading Miami's surprising season has been McClinton, the ACC's top shooter. Scoring 17 a game, McClinton leads the league in 3-point shooting. Also, if Miami's ahead late in the game, it's over as their point guard is the ACC's best free throw shooter.
SG Wayne Ellington - North Carolina: Very efficient, Ellington is averaging 16.9 points per game while hitting 46.9% of his shots. Whenever North Carolina's needed a big shot from the perimeter, Ellington has normally come up big... remember this year's game in Littlejohn?
SG K.C. Rivers - Clemson: A lot like Duke's Nelson, Rivers is under the radar but extremely productive. Clemson's leading scorer (15.1 points), Rivers is 4th in the ACC in 3-pointers made (2.36), 8th in field goal percentage (45.2%), 9th in steals (1.79), and 11th in rebounds (6.6).
PF James Gist - Maryland: Gist has had some huge games this season, and normally his play dictates whether the Terps will win or lose. He's expanded his range and is now dangerous out to the 3-point line. Gist is the only player in the league in the top 10 in scoring (8th-16.1), rebounding (4th-7.9), field goal percentage (4th-50.4%), and blocked shots (2nd-2.24).
PG Toney Douglas - Florida State: Edging out A.D. Vassallo for the final spot on the second-team, Douglas's overall versatility gets him the nod. While Vassallo's 16.3 points per game is strong, Douglas is right behind him, averaging 15.9. However, FSU's floor general is first in the league in steals (2.83), third in minutes played (35.2), and 7th in field goal percentage (45.7). Douglas is the fifth point guard listed on the All-ACC team, and Ty Lawson could easily have been the sixth. Think that position is a little important?
ALL-ACC THIRD TEAM
SF A.D. Vassallo - Virginia Tech: Vassallo's junior year has been vital to VT's success. Averaging over 16 points per game, ranking seventh in the league, the wing is fourth in 3-pointers made (2.36) and fifth in minutes played (34.43). Without his solid play, the Hokies aren't 8-6 entering the final week.
SG Cliff Hammonds - Clemson: Hammonds value to his team far exceeds his numbers. The senior has made big shots all year for the Tigers, and he's been a steady influence on the league's third-place team. Averaging nearly 12 points a game, he is also second in the league in assist/turnover ratio (2.0), fourth in steals (1.96), and seventh in assists (3.89).
C J.J. Hickson - NC State: If his team won more games, Hickson would be even higher given his overall productivity. His numbers have dipped some recently as his touches have decreased, but his 14.5 points and 8.4 rebounds remain impressive. When you factor in that he ranks first overall in field goal percentage (59%) and fifth in blocks (1.59), Hickson fills a stat sheet.
PF James Johnson - Wake Forest: A mature freshman as Johnson recently turned 21, physically he certainly arrived at Wake ready to play and he's been superb. Averaging 15 points and 8.4 rebounds to lead all rookies, Johnson has emerged as Wake's go-to player. He should be even better as a sophomore.
PF Kyle Singler - Duke: Singler or Paulus? The numbers suggest Singler is having a better season and if you take him away it leaves Duke with virtually no inside presence. Averaging 14 points and six boards, Singler is hitting nearly 48% of his shots, almost 80% from the free throw line, and is a matchup problem for opposing centers. Take Paulus away and Duke can win with Nolan Smith at point guard. Can they win with just Lance Thomas, David McClure, and Brian Zoubek in the paint? I don't think so.
Others Under Consideration: Greg Paulus (Duke), Anthony Morrow (Georgia Tech), Danny Green (North Carolina), Jeff Teague (Wake Forest), Trevor Booker (Clemson), Ty Lawson (North Carolina)
ACC COACH OF THE YEAR
Frank Haith, Miami - Coming into the season Miami was picked to finish last in the league, and currently the Hurricanes are 19-8 overall and 7-7 in conference play. With a top-25 RPI and Strength of Schedule, the Canes are RIGHT NOW in the tournament. Winnable games against Boston College and Florida State remain. Look for the Canes to lock up their bid this week. Heckuva job by Frank Haith and his team.
Some consideration will go to Seth Greenberg, as the Hokies are 8-6, but the fact that their ACC schedule was much easier than Miami's, as of now gives Haith the edge. Should Virginia Tech defeat Clemson and Wake this week, this pick could change.
ACC PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina - No explanation needed here. Hansbrough has been unstoppable during his junior season and you can bet fans of the other 11 teams hope he chooses to head to the NBA following this year's NCAA Tournament.
ACC ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
J.J. Hickson, NC State - This is a three-player race with Hickson, Wake's James Johnson, and Duke's Kyle Singler. As of now, the nod goes to Hickson who, overall, has been the most productive player. Currently he's second (14.5) behind Johnson (15.0) in scoring and tied with Johnson in rebounding (8.4), however Hickson has hit 59% of his shots, easily leading the league. Due to poor guard play, his touches have been limited and he could have posted even better numbers with more touches. Despite playing two more games than Johnson, Hickson has attempted 59 less shots.
Singler will receive votes due to his importance to Duke's title quest, but he hasn't been as productive as the other two freshmen. His 14.3 points per game is right behind the duo, but he's well below them in rebounding (6.0) and isn't a presence defensively.
Johnson has teamed with Jeff Teague to give the Deacs an exciting freshman one-two punch. Like Singler, expect him to garner a ton of votes as well. All three players have games remaining and this week could decide the award. Remember, Wake Forest and NC State square off this weekend. Truth be told, all three players are deserving.
ACC Tournament -- A Week Out
If the ACC Tournament started today, seeds would look like this:
#4 Virginia Tech
#7 Wake Forest
#8 Florida State
#9 Georgia Tech
#11 Boston College
#12 NC State
FIRST ROUND GAMES
#5 Maryland vs. #12 NC State
#6 Miami vs. #11 Boston College
#7 Wake Forest vs. #10 UVa
#8 Florida State vs. #9 Georgia Tech
#1 Duke vs. FSU/GT winner
#2 UNC vs. Wake/UVA winner
#3 Clemson vs. Miami/BC winner
#4 Virginia Tech vs. UMD/NCSU winner