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The Courtmaster Awards

Hear ye, hear ye! Court is now in session, and it’s time to hand out some hardware as I announce the CourtMaster’s ACC basketball awards. There’s not actually any hardware to hand out, but that phrase sounds cool, doesn’t it. Anyway, enough of my wit—it’s time for the awards. Not all the winners will be happy about it, though.

Player of the Year—J. J. Redick, Duke. Duh! If you checked out my blog—cue shameless plug (www.thecourtmaser.net) you would see that I voted him National Player of the Year on my USBWA ballot, so this was easy. Redick, at least up until the last couple of weeks, had the best offensive season I have seen in the ACC since NC State’s David Thompson back in the mid-70’s (I was a kid at the time so I’m officially an old fart yet).

Coach of the Year—Roy Williams, North Carolina. I certainly hope there isn’t any serious debate here either. While I was in the minority who felt the Tar Heels could return to the NCAA’s this year, I never seriously thought they would finish second in the ACC. ‘Ol Roy never accepted the fact that this was a rebuilding year, and he never allowed his players to buy into it either. He also received my USBWA vote for national honors.

Freshman of the Year—Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina. If you’re following the trend here, you probably already know that Hansbrough also received my USBWA vote. The only others I’ve seen who would even be in the conversation are Brandon Rush at Kansas and Shawne Williams at Memphis. Hansbrough has amazed me with the mature low-post game he has displayed all season, and unlike many freshmen who start fast, he never seemed to hit the wall and suffer a slump.

Disappointment of the Year—Wake Forest. I know they made a nice little run in the ACC Tournament, but my reaction to that was “it’s about time.” I’m sure that view is echoed by many Demon Deacon fans. This is a talented team. Justin Gray is a very good shooting guard, Eric Williams is a solid low-post player, Trent Strickland is a fantastic athlete, and Chris Ellis has come on as a strong rebounder. So how can a team with a roster like this finish last in the ACC? Up until this week, there was a serious lack of chemistry and toughness. Very disappointing.

Bonehead of the Year--Chris McCray, Maryland. Why does a senior team captain with the academic support resources available to him at a major university manage to let himself become academically ineligible and miss the end of the season? Because he’s a bonehead, that’s why.

Play of the Year—Sean Dockery’s 40-foot buzzer-beater that pulled out a 77-75 Duke victory over Virginia Tech on December 4th. Nothing else was even close.

Game of the Year—Duke’s 97-96 overtime victory over Florida State on February 4th. J. J. Redick scored 36 points for the Blue Devils while Al Thornton matched his career high with 37 points for the Seminoles. This was an exciting, well-played game that was played at a very high level and featured plenty of drama. This one had it all.

Surprise of the Year-Virginia. I was among the masses who thought the Cavaliers would do well to win two conference games this season. While a 7-9 conference record is nothing to brag about, it is a lot better than anyone had a reason to expect. Virginia Coach Dave Leitao had a strong first year in the ACC and, with all of his key players scheduled to return next year, is in a good position to build on it.

All-ACC

First Team: J. J. Redick, Duke, Shelden Williams, Duke, Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina, Justin Gray, Wake Forest, Craig Smith, Boston College

Second Team: Eric Williams, Wake Forest, Sean Singletary, Virginia, Al Thornton, Florida State, J. R. Reynolds, Virginia, Jared Dudley, Boston College

A Peek at the Brackets

Congratulations to Duke for being the top #1 seed in the tournament. The Blue Devils did it the old-fashioned way—they earned it with their ACC tournament championship while UConn and Villanova lost early in the Big East tournament. As a result, they will enjoy the friendly and familiar confines of the Greensboro Coliseum in the first two rounds. There are several teams in their region that could give Duke trouble, but I like the Blue Devils to return to the Final Four.

Few teams dropped as far and as quickly as NC State. The Wolfpack, which I thought were in line for a #4 or #5 seed last month fell to a #10 and drew a tough first round matchup with California. If they find a way to stop Golden Bears’ star big man Leon Powe, which I don’t see happening, they would likely get crushed by #2 seed Texas.

Despite losing in the ACC tournament semi-finals, North Carolina still pulled down a #3 seed. The loss probably cost them a chance to join Duke in Greensboro, but they still have a nice draw. They should roll in the first round over Murray State, and while a second-round game with Michigan State looks interesting, the Spartans have not played well down the stretch. The #2 seed in that region, Tennessee, is also another team that is staggering into the NCAA’s. I believe the Tar Heels will reach the Elite Eight and fall to Connecticut.

The selection committee did Boston College no favors by designating them a #4 seed. After playing in Greensboro Sunday afternoon, they have to travel to Salt Lake City for a Thursday game—Friday would seem a lot more reasonable. They should reach the Sweet 16 but fall there to Villanova—the Wildcats have too much firepower for the Eagles. Besides, Digger Phelps loves the Eagles and Dick Vitale picked them for the Final Four, so they’re doomed.

To see Air Force make the field as the lowest at-large seed at the expense of Florida State and even Maryland really upsets me. They did NOTHING to earn a bid ahead of those ACC schools and others including Cincinnati from the Big East. CBS analysts certainly felt that there were some serious errors and let committee chairman Craig Littlepage, Virginia’s Athletic Director, know about it in a tense interview that ended somewhat abruptly. At least no one can say he showed favoritism, but perhaps he and the committee overcompensated.

My pick for the overall champion is Connecticut, beating Duke in the championship game. I like Memphis and Ohio State, a #2 seed, to fill out the Final Four.

Six ACC teams will play in the NIT. Maryland is one of the #1 seeds in the tournament, now run by the NCAA. Florida State also received a first-round bye, and is joined by Miami, Wake Forest, Clemson, and Virginia. The Terps could make a return trip to the semi-finals in New York, but a second round match with the winner of Colorado-Old Dominion could be troublesome.

Florida State also would have a tough second-round challenge from either South Carolina or Western Kentucky. Wake Forest is playing well, but I can’t see them getting past Cincinnati in the second round. I don’t expect Miami, Clemson, or Virginia to win their opening games.

With so many ACC schools involved, now I have to explain to the CourtMrs why I have to follow the NIT. She’ll just LOVE that.

The CourtMaster’s Briefs

I respect the way Boston College played in the ACC tournament, but I just can’t warm up to them. They have tried too hard to make the ACC seem like it was no big deal, and their star Craig Smith tries too hard to be “California cool” (he’s from the left coast). It was obvious when Louis Hinnant’s last second shot missed at the end of the championship game how much winning that tournament meant to them. I would have liked them a lot more if they had shown some of that before the season was over.

During the tournament, I saw two reasons why so many fans dislike J. J. Redick. After he hit a big three in the second half vs. BC, he went into his brief routine where he throws his arms in the air (not a big deal) and practically preens as he runs back down the court (very annoying if you’re not rooting for Duke). When things were not going his way late in the first half of the semi-final vs. Wake Forest, the TV cameras caught him shouting two big-time f-bombs at “everybody.” It’s hard to fault him for the latter transgression, though. He was just following the example of his coach.

That’s what I think; let me know what you think by e-mail to thecourtmaster@aol.com.

Next week, I’ll see where the ACC stands in the NCAA tournament and revisit my preseason predictions.

Until then, court is adjourned.