Posted: 3:16 a.m. Friday, March 8, 2013
My ACC ballot arrived earlier this week and while I won’t send it in until Sunday, I’m pretty set with my first two teams. I have Shane Larkin, Mason Plumlee, Erick Green and Joe Harris as locks for the first team. It kills me not to vote for Seth Curry, but right now I have Richard Howell of N.C. State in the fifth spot. I could change that, depending on the outcome of this weekend’s games. The one I don’t pick (from Howell and Curry) will head the second team, along with Lorenzo Brown, Kenny Kadji, C.J. Harris and Reggie Bullock.
My third team is still a bit tentative – Ryan Anderson, Durand Scott and Devin Booker will be on it. After watching Michael Snaer do it again Thursday night, I think I’ll include him. He hasn’t had that good a year, but four game-winners in the final five seconds has to earn some respect. Still thinking about Quinn Cook, C.J. Leslie and James Michael McAdoo and for the last two spots.
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Just one comment about the selection of Ryan Anderson over the far-more-hyped James Michael McAdoo. Both are 6-9 sophomore forwards, but Anderson is averaging more points, more rebounds, more assists and more blocked shots. He’s shooting a higher percentage from the field and from the foul line. He’s committed less turnovers.
I don’t see how you could pick McAdoo ahead of him.
A week ago, Shane Larkin was my player of the year, but with Miami losing three of four down the stretch, I don’t know. He hasn’t played badly – he was great in the loss at Duke and in Wednesday night’s loss to Georgia Tech, he still had seven assists and one turnover to go with his 12 points. I’ll still probably vote for him because there’s not another good candidate – unless you honor a guy from the last-place team.
It looks like I’ll keep Shane Larkin as player of the year with Jim Larranaga as coach of the year. I’m definitely in the to-the-victors-belong-the-spoils camp.
But Dave Glenn made an interesting point on his radio show earlier this week that made me head for the record books.
I’m always interested in voting patterns. A year ago, I wrote predicting that the voters would leave UNC’s Kendall Marshall – one of the great playmakers in ACC history – off the first All-ACC team because history shows that the voters do not reward playmakers – even great ones. Marshall ended up on the second team.
[Note: to that end, I predict that Lorenzo Brown - the 2013 ACC assist leader - will not make first team. And even if I vote for him, I don't think Quinn Cook, No. 2 in assists, will even make third team].
Glenn detected a strange pattern in the ACC Coach of the Year vote – basically, if Duke or UNC win the ACC regular season championship, there is only a slim chance that the Duke/UNC coach will be voted as coach of the year. If any other team wins (or shares) the regular season title, that coach is guaranteed the coach of the year award.
I tracked it since 1980 and Glenn is absolutely right.
Duke has won or shared the regular season title 12 times in the Krzyzewski era and the Duke coach has been honored as ACC Coach of the Year in four of those seasons – one third of the time.
UNC has won or shared the regular season title 13 times since 1980 … and has been honored with the ACC Coach of the Year Award just three times – LESS than one third of the time.
On the other hand, 15 non-Duke/UNC teams have won or shared the title since 1980. Twelve of those coaches won Coach of the Year.
The only reason it’s not a perfect 15 for 15 is that in 1985, UNC, Georgia Tech and N.C. State tied for the title. They couldn’t give it to Bobby Cremins AND Jim Valvano (no way they were giving it to Dean Smith even though he had successfully replaced national player of the year Michael Jordan, three-time Al-American Sam Perkins and three-year starter Matt Doherty). So they gave it to Cremins and Valvano got stiffed.
And in 1995, four teams tied for the regular season title – UNC, Maryland, Virginia and Wake Forest. Again, Dean Smith was eliminated from consideration because, hey, he’s supposed to win. That means the voters had to choose between Gary Williams, Jeff Jones and Dave Odom. That gave it to Odom, because he only had Tim Duncan and Randolph Childress to anchor his team. Hmm, Odom has two first-team guys, Dean has two first-team guys and Gary has the player of the year (Joe Smith). Jeff Jones gets the tie with one guy who barely makes the second team (Harold Deane, the ninth vote-getter). Why doesn’t he win?
It’s kind of silly. Dean Smith was a perfect 14-0 in the ACC in 1984 (despite losing point guard Kenny Smith at midseason), but the voters gave the award to Mike Krzyzewski, who guided a young Duke team to 7-7 in the conference. Three years later, Dean went 14-0 in the ACC, but Cliff Ellis of Clemson was honored for finishing second.
Krzyzewski has been honored five times, but never in one of his four national championship seasons. Dean Smith was 1-1 in his two title seasons, losing to Terry Holland in 1982 and winning in 1993. Roy Williams is 0-2 in his title years – he lost to Seth Greenberg (8-8) in 2005 and to Leonard Hamilton (fourth place) in 2009.
Gary Williams – the only non-Duke/UNC coach to win a national title in the modern era, naturally won ACC Coach of the Year that season.
But I’ve got to tell you, the strangest vote I can find in this category was 1958 and 1959.
In 1958, a Duke team that was picked fourth in preseason put it all together and won the ACC regular season championship (which was not recognized in those days), beating UNC’s defending national champs (and preseason No. 1 team) on the last day of the regular season to claim the title. It was a team without stars – senior Jim Newcome was the only first-team All-ACC pick, but he was the fourth vote-getter.
But it was a senior laden team that blossomed – much like Miami did this year. That group – basically the same lineup in 1957 and 1958 – improved from 8-6 in the league (and 13-10 overall in the regular season) to 11-3 and 17-6 overall (and 10th nationally in the final AP poll).
It was one of the great surprise finishes in ACC basketball history and it’s unbelievable to me that Harold Bradley did not win the ACC Coach of the Year Award.
Instead, the voters gave it to Everett Case. In hindsight, I can’t understand that. Case was coming off as down year (15-10 regular season in 1957). He had two bona fide superstars in point guard Lou Pucillo and center John Ritchter. They were both juniors, along with another future All-ACC pick in junior George Steponovich. A year later, that trio would lead State to Case’s last ACC championship.
But in 1958, picked to finish second, they finished tied for second – a game behind Duke in the standings and ranked 20th nationally – 10 spots below Duke.
How did Case get that award?
If they had given it to him in 1959, I’d understand. State finished 12-2 in the ACC (tied with UNC) and won the ACC championship, finishing 22-4 overall and ranking No. 6 in the nation.
But he didn’t win the 1959 ACC Coach of the Year Award – Harold Bradley did.
Bradley had to rebuild his team after losing five senior starters off the ’58 regular season champs. He started five sophomores and finished 7-7 in the ACC – 12-11 in the regular season.
That was good for a young team, but in a league that had just three teams with a winning record, going 7-7 in the ACC was hardly spectacular.
My guess is that enough voters felt guilty about the idiotic 1958 vote that they went the other way in 1959 – a makeup call.
` Okay, back to the 2013 ballot.
Rookie of the Year is going to be a tough vote. I think Duke’s Rasheed Sulaimon has been the most complete rookie this season, but he’s struggled the last three games (after a great stretch just before that). At the same time, Boston College freshman Olivier Hanlan has turned it on – he was the star of BC’s win at Clemson early this week. He’s also the leading freshman scorer in the ACC – and scoring counts a lot with the voters.
N.C. State’s T.J. Warren, the league’s most accurate shooter, is also going to get some votes. I think Sulaimon, Hanlan and Warren are locks for the all-rookie team. I think they’ll be joined by Wake Forest’s Devin Thomas, the best rebounder among the rookies. The fifth spot is up for grabs – Robert Carter or Georges Michael-Hunt of Georgia Tech? Joe Rahon of BC? Marcus Paige of UNC? Jordan Filer of Clemson? Charles Mitchell of Maryland?
Defensive player of the year is also up for grabs. Preseason, I thought FSU’s Michael Snaer was a lock for this award – he and John Henson were head and shoulders above the rest of the league last year. But Snaer has had a poor year – as the FSU defense has collapsed around him, his own defensive effort appears to have wavered. Against Virginia Thursday night, he did a great job on Joe Harris – he looked like the old Snaer at the defensive end.
Earlier this week on the league’s weekly teleconference, I asked most of the ACC coaches which players jumped out at them as the league’s best defenders. A few guys ducked the question, but I was surprised by the consensus that emerged:
Almost every ACC coach that answered cited Miami’s Durand Scott as the ACC’s best defender. Miami’s Jim Larranaga, talking about his own team’s defense, agreed with that assessment, citing Kenny Kadji as his other key defender. Surprisingly, he never mentioned Shane Larkin, who is tied for the ACC lead in steals.
Next to Scott, the next most mentioned defender was Virginia’s Jontel Evans. After that, it was hard to tell – Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell of Virginia got mention; several coaches mentioned Mason Plumlee and one mentioned Tyler Thornton. Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory made an impassioned plea for center Daniel Miller, who does lead the ACC in blocked shots. Georgia Tech sent out a release promoting Miller for the All-Defensive team – the only such promo I’ve received so far.
I guess I’ll go with Scott for defensive player of the year with Evans and Miller also on my defensive team. Not sure of the other two spots.
Finally, I’d like to vote for an award that doesn’t exist.
The ACC has a Brian Piccolo Award in football to the league’s most courageous player. If there was a similar award in basketball, I think Duke’s Seth Curry – playing All-ACC quality ball all season with a leg injury that has kept him from practicing – would be a shoe-in for that award.
RUSHING THE COURT
When N.C. State upset No. 1 Duke in Raleigh on Jan. 12, the Wolfpack fans rushed the court and carried their conquering heroes off on their shoulders.
Four days later, N.C. State traveled to Maryland and lost to the Terrapins.
When Maryland upset No. 2 Duke at the Comcast Center on Feb. 16, the Terrapin fans rushed the court and carried their conquering heroes off on their shoulders.
Three days later, Maryland traveled to Boston College and lost to the Eagles,
When Virginia – which was favored by 1.5 points in Las Vegas – beat No. 3 Duke in Charlottesville, the Cavalier fans rushed the court and carried their conquering heroes off on their shoulders.
Three days later, Virginia traveled to Boston College and lost to the Eagles.
Anybody else notice a pattern here?
And it’s not just restricted to Duke – when Wake Forest upset No. 2 Miami in Winston-Salem, the Deacons rushed the court and carried their conquering heroes off on their shoulders.
Three days later, Wake Forest traveled to Florida State and lost to the Seminoles.
Then there is North Carolina, currently unranked but third in the ACC standings. The Tar Heels have lost five times in ACC play. Duke, Virginia and N.C. State all lost the next game after beating the Tar Heels.
Miami is the exception.
The Hurricanes beat UNC twice and won the next game on both occasions. Miami also beat Duke and won their next time out. Duke was also able to follow a win over one of the league’s Big Three with a victory – following last Saturday night’s victory over Miami with Tuesday’s homecourt win over Virginia Tech.
But those are the exceptions. Almost every big win in the ACC this season has been followed by a loss. The court has been rushed six times and the celebrating team has lost five of the next six games (Miami survived a court rushing vs. Duke). Is there a connection between the wild celebrations and the inability to sustain momentum?
“I think human nature comes into it,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said earlier this month. “In our situation, there was so much energy and passion from our crowd [against Duke], then you go on the road and you just don’t have that.
“I watched our game [with Boston College] closely, and I don’t think there was a lack of effort. I don’t think it was like we just laid an egg. We played well enough to win … but it’s a fine line.”
THE ACC BUBBLE
Going into the last weekend of the regular season, the ACC has just two teams on the bubble – Virginia and Maryland.
North Carolina, which looked like it might be a bubble team after it loss at Duke to fall to 16-8 (with just one top 50 win), has surged into the comfort zone. Six straight wins have lifted the Tar Heels into the top 20 of the RPI and no matter what happens versus Duke Saturday night or in the ACC Tournament, the Heels will be dancing.
The same goes for N.C. State, which never dropped far in the RPI rankings, but looked to be in a bit of trouble with three straight losses in early February. The Pack’s next two games turned into (1) a one-point win at Clemson on Scott Wood’s last-second 3-pointer; and (2) an overtime victory at home over Virginia Tech.
Losses in those two close games would have meant a five-game losing streak and real questions about N.C. State’s NCAA chances. Instead, State has won six of the last seven and is safely in the field.
The same can’t be said for Virginia, despite a an overall and ACC record that very closely mirrors the UNC and N.C. State resumes — 20-10, 10-7. It’s not that Virginia’s RPI (63 before the game at FSU) is so much lower than the Heels (18) and the Pack (26). The committee does not slavishly follow the RPI rankings.
But the RPI is the single most important tool that the Selection Committee uses and there are two items in Virginia’s RPI resume that makes the Cavs a unique bubble team. One is very positive … the other very negative.
First the good news – Virginia has four top 50 victories: No. 1 Duke, No. 18 UNC, No. 26 N.C. State and No. 43 Wisconsin – the latter on the road. Overall, Virginia has seven top 100 wins and it could be eight if they take care of Maryland Sunday in Charlottesville.
Very, very few bubble teams have that kind of success on their resume. In itself, those bad losses would be more than enough to overcome a horrific loss to No. 315 Old Dominion.
But there’s something else – something far more troubling.
Virginia’s overall strength of schedule is a passable 132, thanks to the ACC. But the Cavs non-conference strength of schedule is 300 – one of the worst in the country.
Anyone who has followed the Selection Committee over the years understands that non-conference SOS is an extremely important factor for bubble teams. Time after time, we’ve heard the chairman of the committee explain the exclusion of a team by its non-conference SOS – the infamous “It’s who they choose to play.”
Now, Virginia’s non-conference SOS was weakened this year by an unforeseen problem – an unexpected homecourt loss to Delaware in the first round of the preseason NIT. Virginia was supposed to get two games in New York against top teams – Delaware ended up playing Kansas State and Pitt, both now in the top 25. One ACC official calculated that if Virginia had played those two teams, its non-conference SOS would have improved by 81 places.
Of course, that’s a might-have-been. Maybe the committee will concede that Virginia tried to play a better schedule … the plans foiled by an early season injury to senior point guard Jontel Evans, who has returned to full speed.
Or they might not.
That uncertainty is why Virginia hurt itself so badly last week when the Cavs followed that amazing win over Duke with an inexcusable loss at Boston College and last night’s close loss at FSU. That’s why Virginia needs to finish the regular season with a win Sunday and have some success in the ACC Tournament.
To me, Virginia passes the eye test and should get in. But I’m not on the committee.
Maryland is in far worse shape, especially after the Terps rolled over and died Wednesday night against North Carolina. The record – 20-10, 8-9 ACC – isn’t horrible, but the non-conference SOS is almost as bad as Virginia’s (294) without the excuses. And the Terps don’t have anything like the good wins that Virginia has on its resume – Maryland has just 3 top 100 wins.
To me, Maryland doesn’t pass the eye test. Obviously, they could change things with a road victory at Virginia Sunday or a deep run in the ACC Tournament, but I don’t expect either of those things to happen. I guess if either one does happen, my eye is not so good.
If neither happens, Maryland will be playing in the NIT.
Duke and Miami are contending for a No. 1 seed, but all the speculation (and all the angst) about the bracketologists and their opinions is kind of silly. There are still quite a few games to be played – the lineup of No. 1 is going to change several times between now and Selection Sunday.
Duke is very much in the mix, but the only way the Devils can guarantee themselves a No. 1 seed is basically to win out. That could very well make Duke the No. 1 seed in the entire tournament field.
Duke MIGHT get a No. 1 with another loss, but that depends on the performance of so many other candidates. After losing at home to Georgia Tech, Miami is now an extreme long-shot for a No. 1 seed. The ‘Canes have now lost three of their last four games – and two of the three losses were to teams that are not in the top 100.
That’s the kind of thing that even a No. 4 RPI and a No. 3 SOS can’t overcome.
A CLOSE RUN THING
Duke had a chance to put the Miami game away in the last two minutes, but a couple of turnovers and some missed free throws made the final seconds tense.
Still, the Blue Devils held on for the 79-76 victory.
It was the seventh Duke game this season that was within one possession in the final three minutes. The Blue Devils have won six of those seven – Louisville, Ohio State, at Wake Forest, at Boston College, North Carolina and Miami. The only loss was at Maryland, where a potential game-winning 3-point shot by Quinn Cook (actually from midcourt) bounced off the rim as the buzzer sounded.
The ACC measures close games in another manner. The league tracks games decided by five points or less – or games that into overtime (which sometimes ending up being a wider margin than five points).
That standard is a bit arbitrary. For instance, the ACC counts Duke’s 73-68 loss at Virginia as a “close” game even though the Cavs maintained a double figure lead most of the second half. Duke made a late run, but never really threatened – the finale five-point margin was as close as it got down the stretch.
Still, the ACC makes it easy to track how teams have fared in close games. Going into the final week of the season its:
A couple of things jump off that list.
The first is Virginia’s poor record in close games. The Cavs should be battling UNC and N.C. State for third place in the standings, but Virginia’s inability to close out close games – in league games, Virginia is 2-4, UNC is 2-1 and N.C. State is 4-4 – has essentially locked them into fifth place.
The other startling fact is Florida State’s excellent performance in close games, despite a mediocre overall performance this season. The Seminoles are a lackluster 8-9 in the league overall, but are an eye-popping 7-1 in close ACC games.
Some of that, of course, is a reflection on Michael Snaer – one of the great clutch players in ACC history. Snaer had two outright game-winners a year ago (plus another 3-4 late-game baskets that were virtual game-winners), plus four more buzzer-beaters this season.
Contrast FSU’s record in close games with Boston College, which has played the most close games in the ACC this season. Eagles’ coach Steve Donahue thinks that’s a sign that his young team is close to getting over the hump.
“I would say in my 10 years at Cornell and my three years here, I don’t know if I played this many [close games] combined,” he said. “My last three years at Cornell, we had maybe one or two close ones each year.
“Maybe I’m spinning this as a positive. I just think with this young a team, to go out every night and really compete, it just shows you where we’re headed with the right guys because we probably don’t have enough to win all those close ones. There are a couple of one-point losses there that changes your whole season.”
Those two one-point losses came at the hands of Duke and Miami, the league’s two best teams.
Most of BC’s close losses have come at home, but the Eagles do have a 3-point losses at Wake Forest and Florida State (thanks to Mr. Snaer) and a five-point loss at Maryland.
“All those things are positive for us, in particular on the road,” Donahue said. “FSU was a one possession game, as was Wake Forest, basically as was Maryland. Those are three good road games we played that we have a chance to win in the last minute.
“It’s been an incredible season to go through.”
BC’s victory at Clemson Tuesday night doesn’t count as a close win – the Eagles won 68-61 – but it’s a sign that Donahue’s young team is growing up.
Duke will be trying to sweep the regular season series with North Carolina Saturday for the first time since 2010 and for the seventh time in Coach K’s tenure.
Since he been at Duke, the Devils have swept their rivals in 1988, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2010.
At the same time, K’s Duke teams have been swept nine times.
You can play with those numbers.
For instance, I didn’t count the 1984 season as a UNC sweep – even though the Tar Heels won both regular season meetings. But Duke beat that North Carolina team in the ACC Tournament. The same thing happened in reverse in 1991 – Duke won both regular season meetings, but UNC won in the ACC title game.
One interesting note about sweeps in the rivalry – Duke has won three games in a season versus the Tar Heels three times in this span – 1988, 1999 and 2002. UNC has not managed a three-game sweep in the Krzyzewski tenure.
In the old days, when Duke and UNC frequently met in the Dixie Classic or the Big Four Tournament, the two rivals would occasionally meet four times in a season. But I’ve never found a season when one team swept four games from its rival. Duke came close in 1950-51, winning three of four, but losing by 3 points in Chapel Hill. UNC seemed on track to do it in 1959-60 – Vic Bubas’ first season – winning the first three matchups by 20-plus points, but losing the fourth match 76-71 in the ACC Tournament semifinals.
Of course, even a Duke win Saturday won’t guarantee a sweep – the two teams could meet in the ACC Tournament.
And there’s always the remote chance for a meeting in the NCAA Tournament. That’s never happened, although the two teams came close in the 1991 Final Four – they might have met for the championship, but the Tar Heels were upset by Kansas in the semifinals.
Duke and UNC have met once in a postseason tournament – UNC beating the Devils in the semifinals of the 1971 NIT.