Media votes for ACC men's basketball honors will be released this coming Sunday. The first team All-ACC squad, the only one that really matters, seems pretty obvious: Duke's Jahlil Okafor, the leading candidate for league player of the year; Boston College's Olivier Hanlan, the ACC's top scorer; Notre Dame's Jerian Grant, the assist leader; Syracuse's Rakeem Christmas, among the conference's top four in scoring, rebounds and field goal accuracy; and Virginia's Malcolm Brogdon, leader of the league's top team.
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Making a choice for coach of the year is a more nuanced decision. There are three creditable candidates.
Notre Dame's Mike Brey has done an exceptional job bringing his club back from a 15-17 record in 2014. The Fighting Irish are assured a third-place ACC finish. They've already won 25 times, a total exceeded only once in modern program history. (Notre Dame went 27-7 in 2011.) They're fun to watch and formidable to face.
Mike Krzyzewski replaced last year's top two scorers, NBA first-rounders Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood. He's started three freshmen throughout the season, lost reserve Semi Ojeleye to transfer and dismissed sixth-man Rasheed Sulaimon. That took care of the depth Krzyzewski anticipated, drastically narrowing his team's margin of error.
Yet the Blue Devils are 27-3, clinched second place in the ACC, and are playing high-level ball, as Wake Forest discovered to its dismay the other night.
Also rather strikingly, despite his many achievements, including reaching 1,000 career wins this season, Krzyzewski hasn't been voted ACC coach of the year since 2000. During these past 15 years, while Duke won a pair of NCAA titles, 10 different men have gotten the award, including UVa's Tony Bennett, the best bet to win this season.
Bennett's Cavaliers have lost only once in conference and out - to Duke - with one game left in the '15 regular season. They've imposed their will on an entire conference, approaching the league record for scoring defense. And the Cavs have done all this despite losing a pair of key contributors from their 2014 ACC championship squad, Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell.
If Bennett does win the league's coaching award in 2015, he'll be the 9th man to be so honored two years in a row. Only Dean Smith enjoyed two runs of back-to-back awards. No one has ever won in three straight seasons.
Men Named ACC Coach of the Year Twice in a Row
|Everett Case, NCS||3||1954,55||3 of 5 (54,55,58)|
|Bones McKinney, WF||2||1960, 61||2|
|Vic Bubas, D||3||1963, 64||3 of 4 (63,64,66)|
|Dean Smith, NC||8||1967, 68||3 of 5 (67,68,71)|
|1976,77||3 of 4 (76,77,79)|
|Norm Sloan, NCS||3||1973, 74||3 of 5 (70,73,74)|
|Terry Holland, V||2||1981, 82|
|Dave Odom, WF||3||1994,95||3 of 5 (91,94,95)|
|Mike Krzyzewski, D||5||1999,2000||3 of 4 (97,99,00)|
|NOTE: Sixteen (16) men have been named ACC coach of the year at least twice during their careers.|