It’s not exactly breaking news that ACC men’s basketball wasn’t very good this past season. We got an inkling of that back in December, when the Big Ten toasted the ACC in the challenge.
No ACC team made it past the Sweet Sixteen. In fact, no ACC team won more than 18 games. The last time the ACC didn’t have at least one 20-win team was, well, never.
Another one for the record books.
Part of that can be attributed to COVID-19, which reduced the number of games actually played.
Then again, nine of the league’s 15 teams managed to find enough games to lose at least 10.
So, maybe not enough games were canceled.
But the ignominious ending to the season does allow us to look at the final stats. Post-season games, whether NCAA, NIT or CBI count, so none of the individual honors were finalized until the fat lady sang.
It’s also not breaking news that Duke was one of the ACC’s biggest underachievers, posting its worst mark since 1995.
Duke’s relative weakness is reflected in the final individual ACC statistics. Only two Blue Devils made much of a mark.
Matt Hurt was the obvious one. Despite a late rush by Syracuse’s Buddy Boeheim, Hurt led the ACC in scoring, at 18.3 points per game. Pitt’s Justin Champagnie was second, at 18.0, with the fast-closing Boeheim third, at 17.8.
Hurt becomes the 11th Blue Devil to lead the ACC in scoring. Danny Ferry (1988, 1989), Jason Williams (2001, 2002) and J.J. Redick (2005, 2006) did it twice, which means a Duke player has led the ACC in scoring 14 times. That’s more than any other ACC school. North Carolina is second, at 11, North Carolina State third, at nine.
That means a player from a Triangle school has led the ACC in scoring 34 times in 67 years. Add Wake Forest’s seven and the Big Four has 41 of 67.
All but two of these Duke players accomplished this feat during Mike Krzyzewski’s tenure. Vic Bubas had Art Heyman in 1963 and Bob Verga in 1967 but Duke came up empty in the 1970s. Tate Armstrong’s 22.7 points per game was the ACC’s best mark in 1977 but Armstrong only played 14 games due to a broken wrist.
The other Duke players to lead the ACC in scoring are Gene Banks (1981), Vince Taylor (1982), Nolan Smith (2011), Marvin Bagley (2018) and R.J. Barrett (2019).
However Hurt’s 18.3 average is the fourth-lowest mark to ever lead the ACC and ranks 60th in the NCAA, with some games still to be played.
Hurt ranks high in some other offensive categories. He finished second to Virginia’s Jay Huff in field-goal percentage (55.6) and fourth in made 3-pointers. He made 44.2 percent of his 3-pointers, which didn’t meet the ACC’s minimum-attempts-per-game threshold; only three players qualified.
But if we exclude Jalen Johnson’s 13-game cameo, D.J. Steward was Duke’s only other double-digit scorer. His 13.0 ranked 18th in the ACC.
This was only the fourth time since the ACC was founded that Duke has had only two players average in double figures in scoring average. Duke was pretty good in 1962 with Heyman and Jeff Mullins and 2006 with Redick and Shelden Williams, not so good in 1982, with Taylor and Chip Engelland.
And Hurt’s team-leading 6.2 rebounds per game ranked only 17th in the ACC. It is the lowest average to lead Duke since 2008.
In other words, Duke didn’t have a lot of offensive star power.
It’s no surprise that Matthew Hurt led in so many offensive categories. After all, this is a guy who averaged 37.4 points per game as a high-school senior on the way to being named a McDonald’s All-American and the number 10 player in the ESPN 100.
But one other Duke player made multiple appearances on the ACC stats leader board and he was a surprise.
Jordan Goldwire was one of the more lightly-regarded recruits to ever earn a scholarship offer to Duke. He was second-team All-Class 7-A as a senior in Georgia and played 169 minutes as a Duke freshman.
But in a tribute to hard work and a high basketball IQ, 2021 Jordan Goldwire finished seventh in the ACC with 4.0 assists per game, second in steals at 2.25 and first in assist to turnover ratio, at 2.82.
Those final two stat lines are pretty impressive, even by Duke standards. His steals-per-game average is the ninth best single-season mark in Duke history, while his assist-to-turnover ratio is the seventh-best single-season mark in Duke history.
Yes, Jordan Goldwire, top 10.
Mark Williams is the only other Blue Devil in any ACC top 10 category. He ranked seventh in blocked shots per game, at 1.39, which is pretty solid when one considers that Williams averaged only 15.2 minutes per game.
Williams certainly closed a lot better than that but those early games still count.
What to make of this? We all know what they say about lies and statistics. But Duke’s best teams have had really good players putting up really good stat lines. The absence of that is further evidence that Duke’s 2021 team just wasn’t up to Duke’s usual standards.
But while acknowledging that, we can also acknowledge that Matt Hurt and Jordan Goldwire, coming from very different places and in very different ways, did their best to uphold those standards.