The ballots for the All-ACC teams and for player, coach, rookie, and defensive player of the year arrived on Monday. Ballots are due on March 9.
Actually rookie of the year is now called "Freshman of the Year" lest anyone get confused about who's eligible. There are also new awards for Most Improved and Sixth Man. Those last two are unexpected additions for most voters, timing that precluded a chance to give the matter much thought during the season.
We suppose there can be endless parsings to provide more honors for more players. Best Ballhandler, for instance, or Best Player Who Arrived With Limited Eligibility, which could cover jucos and the growing number of grad students and transfers from 4-year colleges.
Still, this categorical sorting is better than having 10-member rather than five-member squads for All-ACC first, second and third teams, a response to expansion that media voters have resisted.
The top awards, or at least the oldest, present intriguing choices this season.
Here's betting Virginia's Tony Bennett wins for 2014 ACC Coach of the Year. That's a solid choice given the Cavaliers' first-place finish. Exceeding expectations is a sure path to the honor; the Cavaliers were projected to end up fourth behind Duke, Syracuse and UNC.
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Actually a strong argument can be made for Carolina's Roy Williams. The Tar Heels lost their top returning scorer and sole upperclass leader, P.J. Hairston, after the season began, then recovered from a 1-4 league start to finish among the ACC's top four teams.
The Rookie, er, Freshman of the Year race is between Duke's Jabari Parker and Syracuse's Tyler Ennis. (It's frankly tough to think of three other high-quality freshmen this season.) Parker benefits from the heavy concentration of North Carolina-based voters in the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association, as well as from the late slide by the Orange.
The most interesting race may be for ACC Player of the Year. The preseason media pick was Syracuse senior C.J. Fair. Second was Virginia senior Joe Harris. Neither are apt to win.
The leading candidates appear to be Parker, Ennis, UNC's Marcus Paige and N.C. State's T.J. Warren, the league's premier scorer. (Paige is most deserving, considering what he means to his top-tier team.) UVa's Malcolm Brogdon stands a very outside chance because he's the leading offensive player on the ACC's leading team -- point production being a great media seducer.
Interestingly, if either Ennis or Parker win the award as the ACC's POY, they will become the first freshman so honored since first-year collegians became eligible for varsity competition in 1972-73.
In fact, only six underclassmen in the previous 60 years were voted Player of the Year, and that includes a tie in 2001. Obviously all were sophomores. Two - David Thompson and Ralph Sampson - also won the award as juniors and seniors and are among the ACC's greatest all-time players.
Coaches started voting for league honors in 2013 and picked Miami soph Shane Larkin as POY. The media went with senior Erick Green of Virginia Tech, the second ACC player ever to lead the nation in scoring (25.0).
NOT JUST YOUNG AT HEART
Rookie of Year
|John Roche, SC||1969||Guard||1970||NA|
|David Thompson, NCS||1973||Small forward||1974, 1975||NA|
|Ralph Sampson, V||1981||Center||1982, 1983||1980|
|Joe Smith, M||1995||Power forward||Went pro||1994|
|Elton Brand, D||1999||Center||Went pro||Injured, 15 of 36 games|
|Joseph Forte, NC*||2001||Guard||Went pro||2000|
|* Tied with Duke senior Shane Battier.|