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ACC Player Of The Year From A Duke Perspective Part II

Duke Blue Devils v Maryland Terrapins
COLLEGE PARK,MD - JANUARY 15: Danny Ferry #15 of the Duke Blue Devils takes a jump shot during a college basketball game against the Maryland Terrapins on February 15, 1988 at Cole Filed House in College Park, Maryland.
Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

(Continued from Part I)

The most controversial POY awards took place in 1969 and 1970. South Carolina’s John Roche won both years over North Carolina’s Charlie Scott. Scott openly claimed that racism was a factor.

There certainly was some inconsistency. Roche averaged 23.6 points per game in 1969 to Scott’s 22.8. But the Tar Heels led the ACC at 12-2 to South Carolina’s 11-3.

But Roche out-polled Scott 56 to 39.

Individual stats trump team success?

Scott averaged 27.1 points per game in 1970, Roche 22.3. But South Carolina was undefeated in the ACC at 14-0, while North Carolina went 9-5.

Roche got 51 votes for ACC POY, Scott 47.

Team success trump individual success?

Roche was the first non-Big Four player to win ACC POY. Wake Forest’s Charlie Davis (86 votes) became the first African American to win the ACC POY in 1971, despite the fact that the Deacons finished 7-7. Roche got 30 votes for a 10-4 South Carolina team, while Dennis Wuycik got only four for first place UNC.

Does this disprove Scott’s allegations of racism? Or did the voters become “woke?”

Duke wasn’t involved in any of this of course. The Blue Devils didn’t have any credible ACC POY candidates after Mike Lewis until the late 1970s. Duke’s marvelous run to the 1978 title game came well after the conference voting. North Carolina’s Phil Ford (86) and Wake Forest’s Rod Griffin (33) got all of the votes. Still, it’s a bit of a surprise that Jim Spanarkel’s 20.8 ppg for second-place Duke didn’t garner a single vote.

Mike Gminski ended Duke’s 13-year POY drought—the longest in school history-in 1979, when he led Duke to a share of the ACC regular-season title.

Danny Ferry was Mike Krzyzewski’s first ACC POY, winning easily in 1988 and 1989. He was the first of two Duke players to win the award twice; J.J. Redick won in 2005 and 2006.

But he wasn’t Krzyzewski’s first national player of the year. That distinction went to Johnny Dawkins, who won the 1986 Naismith Award. However, Dawkins did not win the ACC POY award, didn’t even come close.

Krzyzewski’s first great team was in 1986. At the time of the voting Duke had finished first in the ACC at 12-2 and was ranked number one in the national polls. Dawkins gave Duke 20 points per game and was a first-team All-America.

But so was Maryland’s Len Bias, the ACC’s leading scorer at 23.2 points per game. Bias had won the award in 1985 and he repeated in 1986, with 81 votes to Dawkins’ 40.

Bias was a great college player in 1986. But so was Dawkins. And Maryland finished 6-8 in the ACC, six games behind Duke. Bias became the first ACC POY to come from a team with a losing ACC record. It has happened only once since then; more on that later.

So, team success matters. Until it doesn’t.

And don’t get me started on the seven voters who somehow managed to leave Dawkins off their first-team All-ACC ballot.

There was some controversy in 1991 when NC State’s Rodney Monroe (54 votes) defeated Christian Laettner (32 votes). Krzyzewski certainly was outspoken in his disbelief. We need to keep in mind that Duke’s title run was irrelevant to the voting and Monroe did average 27 points per game. Then again Duke finished first in the ACC at 11-3, while the Wolfpack tied for third at 8-6.

The only surprise in 1992 was that Laettner’s win wasn’t unanimous. The nation’s top player got 81 votes but somehow Maryland’s Walt Williams garnered 23 after averaging 26.8 ppg for a 5-11 team.

Wake’s Rodney Rogers (51 votes) edged Duke’s Bobby Hurley (47 votes) in 1993.

Grant Hill won in 1994, Elton Brand in 1999, both overwhelmingly. But neither was unanimous. Somebody voted for Maryland’s Terrence Morris in 1999. Shane Battier even got a vote. He averaged 9.1 points per game in 1999.

Brand did get 70 votes, while teammate Trajan Langdon got 17. This was the first time since Vacendak and Marin in 1966 that Duke went 1-2.

Battier was a more legit candidate in 2000 when he finished second to teammate Chris Carrawell. Carrawell got 82 votes, Battier 16.

The next year saw the only tie in league history. Battier and North Carolina’s Joseph Forte each got 32 votes.

Again Duke’s title run was in the future and Forte did average one point per game more than Battier and Carolina did tie Duke for the ACC regular-season title.

But still. Battier was national player of the year, national defensive player of the year, the nation’s top player on the nation’s top-ranked team at the time of the voting.

Over the years I’ve heard from a few voters who assumed that the Tar Heels would beat Duke in the regular-season finale that Sunday afternoon—Duke’s first game without injured Carlos Boozer—and voted accordingly.

Jason Williams got eight votes in 2002 and won the one national POY award that Battier didn’t, the NABC Award.

Give one of those Williams votes to Battier and we have a different story.

With Battier gone Williams emerged as the nation’s best player in 2002. He led the ACC with 21.3 points per game and captured all of the national POY awards, sharing the NABC award with Kansas’ Drew Gooden.

However, Duke finished second in the ACC at 13-3. Maryland was 15-1 and Terps star Juan Dixon edged Williams 41 to 38. But there’s a rub. Duke’s Mike Dunleavy picked up four votes. Dunleavy was a very good college player in 2002 but how anyone could vote for him over Williams still puzzles me. Switch those four votes to Williams and again we have a different outcome.

It became straight forward for awhile. Redick had those two wins. His 2006 season was one of the great seasons in ACC history. He led the ACC in scoring, led Duke to first place in the ACC, won every national POY award, sharing the USBWA award with Gonzaga’s Adam Morrison. But he only got 105 of 108 votes for POY. North Carolina freshman Tyler Hansbrough got the other three. First team All-American Shelden Williams got zero votes, Hansbrough got three.

Gee, wonder how that happened.

Chris Duhon finished second to Julius Hodge in 2004 and Jon Scheyer finished second to Greivis Vasquez in 2010. Nolan Smith got 73 of 75 votes in 2011; Kyle Singler and Maryland’s Jordan Williams got one each.

Maryland was 7-9 in the ACC that year.

By this time the coaches and media were each picking teams and 2013 saw split winners. The media went for Virginia Tech’s Erick Green, the nation’s leading scorer. But Tech was a woeful 4-14 in the ACC. Miami’s Shane Larkin was second in the media voting but first in the coaches poll. Miami was 15-3 in the ACC.

Score one for the coaches. IMO.

Up to this point no freshman had ever been a serious ACC POY contender. Duke’s Jabari Parker (25 votes) finished second to NC State’s T.J. Warren (48 votes) in 2014 and then the Duke freshmen took over, Jahlil Okafor in 2015, Marvin Bagley in 2018 and Zion Williamson in 2019. R.J. Barrett finished second in 2019, giving Duke its fifth 1-2 finish, after 1966, 1999, 2000 and (technically) 2011.

Virginia’s Malcolm Brogdon won one for the old guys, capturing the ACC POY award in 2016 as a redshirt senior, while UNC junior Justin Jackson won in 2017.

Which brings us back to Jones, not a freshman but a sophomore who is leaving for the NBA. In fact Hansbrough is the last winner of the ACC POY award to return to college the following season, when he won in 2008 and came back for the 2009 season. That’s right the last 12 ACC POYs (counting Green and Larkin) have gone to the NBA. Some were seniors. But since Warren in 2014 all but Brogdon have left with eligibility remaining.

It’s hard to see that changing anytime soon. There may be a J.J. Redick or Tyler Hansbrough out there somewhere who will dominate and stay four years. But 2008 seems like an eternity. Every member of the 2020 ACC first-team will be in the NBA next season and the allure of the NBA suggests that anyone good enough to be ACC POY will not be long for college basketball. That’s just the basketball universe we live in.