Predicting the 2014-15 ACC All-Conference Teams
Having spent the past seven Fridays projecting the standings for each of the major college basketball conferences, it's time to start back at the beginning and make predictions for the 2014-15 ACC All-Conference Teams.
But this isn't just a slide show of the five first-teamers. No, we wanted to go all the way by projecting second team All-ACC, third team All-ACC and even the honorable mentions who don't quite crack the top 15.
And why stop there when we could also do the Defensive Player of the Year, Newcomer of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year and Coach of the Year?
The only thing missing is the ACC Kitchen Sink of the Year.
In case you'd like to reference them in the discussion, here are the projected ACC standings from last month.
These are the players who won't quite get enough votes to get onto one of the three all-conference teams but will get enough votes to have their names mentioned at the bottom of the press release as "Others Considered."
Anthony "Cat" Barber, North Carolina State
Rod Hall, Clemson
Demetrius Jackson, Notre Dame
Codi Miller-McIntyre, Wake Forest
James Robinson, Pittsburgh
Angel Rodriguez, Miami
Aaron Thomas, Florida State
Devin Thomas, Wake Forest
Devin Wilson, Virginia Tech
The all-conference third team is typically some combination of secondary players from tournament teams and players who put up impressive numbers for teams with awful records.
We're definitely in the latter camp with Wilson, as Virginia Tech has minimal hope of playing in the postseason.
Last year as a freshman, Wilson led the Hokies in minutes played (34.9 per game) and had more than three times as many assists (148) as anyone else on the team. The point guard also attempted more than twice as many free throws (185) as any other Hokie.
Not bad for a kid who ESPN rated as the 108th-best point guard of the 2013 class.
Pat Connaughton, Notre Dame
Connaughton's name is plastered all over the ACC stats page from last season. He was the only player in the conference to rank in the top 20 in PPG, RPG and APG. As a result, he led the conference in Offensive Rating.
Despite all that hard work, Connaughton didn't even get an honorable mention when the all-conference teams were announced. And with Jerian Grant returning, it's only going to be harder for Connaughton to get noticed.
But hey, we see you, Pat. Keep kicking butt and taking names before starting your career with the Orioles.
Terry Rozier, Louisville
One of the biggest keys to the entire ACC hierarchy will be how effectively Rozier can replace Russ Smith. By putting him on the third team, we're simultaneously expressing skepticism and optimism.
Rozier had some quality games last season, but they all came against the likes of Houston, Rutgers, South Florida and Temple. Against teams like Kentucky and North Carolina, he was a no-show.
Of course, those were early season games, and he was a freshman. He has no doubt improved since then. But how much?
Justin Jackson, North Carolina
I try not to buy too excessively into freshman hype, but I'm all aboard the Justin Jackson bandwagon. He is exactly what the Tar Heels were missing last season without P.J. Hairston.
The only reason he isn't higher on the list is because North Carolina is overflowing with quality small forwards. Whether he starts at shooting guard or small forward, he'll inevitably have to share some minutes with J.P. Tokoto, Theo Pinson, Nate Britt and Joel Berry.
Olivier Hanlan, Boston College
Has a team ever gone winless in a major conference while simultaneously producing the conference's leading scorer? It should be a fun story to watch if the Eagles open ACC play with a prolonged losing streak.
Trevor Cooney, Syracuse
Do I think that Cooney is one of the 10 best basketball players in the ACC? Not by a long shot. But he might be the most important player in the country this season.
With Tyler Ennis, C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant all gone, Cooney is the top returning player on Syracuse's roster. He was already averaging slightly over 7.0 three-point attempts per game last season, but he may have to literally crank that up to an 11.
Unless Kaleb Joseph and/or Chris McCullough come in and immediately steal the show, Cooney will lead the team in scoring and be viewed as the primary reason the Orange make the NCAA tournament. Should be good enough for at least a spot on the second team.
London Perrantes, Virginia
Despite Virginia's sometimes painfully slow pace of play, Perrantes averaged 5.1 assists per 40 minutes as a freshman. He also shot 43.7 percent from three-point range and 86.0 percent from the free-throw line.
His accolades were hopelessly buried behind those of Jabari Parker and Ennis, but Perrantes should serve as the best sophomore in the conference with those two guys gone to the NBA.
Jerian Grant, Notre Dame
If the Irish bounce back and make the tournament, feel free to vault Grant into the discussion for ACC Player of the Year. Until that point, we're left to assume that he'll be the leading scorer for a team with a record somewhere in the vicinity of 18-14 overall (8-10 in conference).
Basically, he'll be this year's version of 2013-14 Yogi Ferrell, and Ferrell was a second-teamer in the Big Ten last year.
Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke
He could be Duke's leading scorer, or he could end up back in Mike Krzyzewski's doghouse in favor of any number of other options the Blue Devils have at shooting guard and small forward. To varying extents, Sulaimon will be battling for minutes with Tyus Jones, Quinn Cook, Matt Jones, Grayson Allen, Semi Ojeleye and Justise Winslow.
A lot of people seem to think that Sulaimon is headed for a huge season. Based on his play over the final 10 weeks of last season, I can't very well disagree with them. But I get the feeling that there will be enough point and minute distribution on this team that there will be five other ACC players who finish the season with better looking numbers.
Tyus Jones, Duke
Let's just say we're expecting to hear regular mention of the fact that T.J. Ford is the only freshman in college basketball history to lead the nation in assists per game.
First Team No. 5: Brice Johnson, North Carolina
I don't know where others have Brice Johnson in their hierarchy of juniors for the 2014-15 season, but he's certainly near the top of my list.
This guy is ready to explode.
His per-game numbers from last season were pretty average, but keep in mind that he only played 19.4 minutes per game. On a per-40-minutes basis, Johnson averaged 21.2 points, 12.6 rebounds and 2.6 blocks.
For sake of comparison, Jabari Parker averaged 25.0 points, 11.4 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per 40 minutes en route to a tie with T.J. Warren for most first-team votes last season.
And with James Michael McAdoo out of the picture, we can pretty safely assume Johnson will be spending less than 50 percent of the team's minutes on the bench this year.
According to KenPom.com, of the 10 Tar Heels who logged at least 185 minutes last season, Johnson ranked first in block percentage, first in effective field-goal percentage, second in true shooting percentage, second in O-rating and third in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage.
Other than avoiding occasional foul trouble, the only thing Johnson couldn't do was bypass McAdoo on the power forward depth chart.
With that no longer being a concern, look out.
First Team No. 4 and Freshman of the Year: Jahlil Okafor, Duke
(Trust me, we are as excited as you all are for the season to start, if only to stop seeing the same four pictures of every noteworthy incoming freshman.)
While Rasheed Sulaimon has to battle a plethora of shooting guards and small forwards to become Duke's MVP and Justin Jackson has to do the same at North Carolina on his quest for ACC Freshman of the Year, Jahlil Okafor merely needs to contend with Marshall Plumlee on Duke's depth chart—a competition that Okafor won roughly 1.7 seconds after signing with Duke.
By far, Duke's biggest issue last season was a lack of quality big men. According to KenPom.com, opponents scored 60.2 percent of their points against Duke on two-point field goals—the third-highest percentage in the country.
Jabari Parker and Amile Jefferson did what they could, but the Blue Devils simply didn't have a true center who could play regular minutes. And aside from Okafor, they still don't, so he should get all the playing time that he can physically handle.
There isn't a ton of room for improvement on this team. Though they infamously lost to Mercer, the fact remains that the Blue Devils had a good enough season to earn a No. 3 seed in the first place. But what improvement they do show will be accredited to Okafor.
He might not average a double-double, but he'll put up good enough numbers in the paint to be named first team All-ACC.
First Team No. 3: Montrezl Harrell, Louisville
If he plays like he did over the final 22 games of last season (32.5 minutes, 15.5 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game), I see no reason why Montrezl Harrell couldn't be the ACC Player of the Year—or even National Player of the Year, depending on how well Louisville does.
But to some extent, we have to contribute Harrell's success to a supporting cast that included departing seniors Russ Smith, Luke Hancock and Stephan Van Treese.
On the one hand, without those players around, Harrell's piece of the offensive pie theoretically gets larger. At the same time, stopping him becomes a much bigger focus for opposing teams.
Meanwhile, Louisville's in-conference competition will be much stronger than last season. The ACC might not be overrun with all-world centers and power forwards, but two games each against Miami, North Carolina, Pittsburgh and Virginia is a pretty far cry from double dips with Houston, Rutgers, South Florida, Temple and UCF.
Still, Harrell is one of the more freakishly athletic big men that we have seen since the days of Blake Griffin. He'll adapt to his new surroundings—both friend and foe—and serve as the best interior player in the conference.
First Team No. 2: Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia
Last year, there were nine ACC players who had at least .185 win shares per 40 minutes: Malcolm Brogdon ranked third at .208, and the other eight guys are no longer playing college basketball.
And let's not forget that Virginia plays at one of the slowest paces in the country. On a per-possession basis, he'd be even higher on the list.
Blocking shots was about the only thing Brogdon didn't do. He led the Cavaliers in points and steals and ranked second in assists and rebounds. He shot 37.0 percent from three-point range and almost led the conference in free-throw shooting at 87.5 percent.
With Joe Harris out of the picture, Brogdon's role in Virginia's offense only figures to increase this season. He averaged less than 10 field-goal attempts per game last year.
As a point of comparison, T.J. Warren only had one game last year in which he had less than 10 field-goal attempts: a nine-shot game in a 31-point home loss to Virginia.
I'm certainly not expecting Brogdon to average 20 points per game, but his numbers should increase marginally enough that he gets a good number of ACC Player of the Year votes if Virginia has a season anything like it did last year.
ACC Player of the Year: Marcus Paige, North Carolina
It's been just over three months since I declared Marcus Paige to be this year's favorite to win the KenPom Player of the Year Award, and I see no reason to back away from that now.
Paige was one of the most valuable players in the entire country last season. He averaged 1.4 points per field-goal attempt and 2.0 assists per turnover. He was the only player on the team to shoot better than 31 percent from three-point range (38.9 percent) and the only starter who shot better than 62 percent from the free-throw line (87.7 percent).
But perhaps most important and incalculable of all was his ability to just know when he needed to become a one-man wrecking crew.
In a six-point road win over Florida State, Paige scored 16 of his 20 points in the final 13 minutes. Nine days later on the road against North Carolina State, he had four points at halftime, and the team trailed by eight. By the end of the overtime victory, he had scored 35 points, draining seven three-pointers in the final 16 minutes of play and making the game-winning layup with moments to spare.
And that was back when he was clearly the best offensive threat on the team. Imagine what he'll be able to do with an improved supporting cast.
Anything short of 20.0 PPG and 5.0 APG would be a disappointing surprise.
ACC Defensive Player of the Year: Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse
When he could actually avoid foul trouble and stay on the court, Rakeem Christmas was one of the conference's top defenders last season.
His block percentage (11.34 percent) ranked 21st in the nation among guys who played at least 40 percent of available minutes, according to KenPom.com. He was best in the ACC in that category, with Florida State's Boris Bojanovsky coming in a somewhat distant second place at 9.58 percent.
However, because he played just 23.6 minutes per game and because opposing teams attempted 40.5 percent of their field goals from three-point range against the Boeheim Zone, Christmas only actually averaged 1.9 blocks per game.
But with C.J. Fair and Baye Moussa Keita gone—and still no word on whether DaJuan Coleman will be healthy enough to play—Jim Boeheim won't exactly have the luxury of removing Christmas after a couple of fouls. As one of the only viable options at center, the number of minutes Christmas plays this season should really just be based on how long it takes him to foul out.
That means more blocks, more rebounds and more time as the anchor of the best zone defense in college basketball.
With the four top vote-getters for last year's All-Defensive Team no longer in the picture, you have to like Christmas' chances of taking home the award if he can avoid whistles long enough to log 30.0 minutes per game.
ACC Newcomer of the Year: Angel Rodriguez, Miami
Rather than picking the most improved player, we decided to go with the most important transfer—seeing as how that's such a large part of the game these days.
The ACC doesn't actually have very many transfers who figure to start. Pittsburgh might go with JUCO transfer Sheldon Jeter at small forward, and North Carolina State will very likely start Trevor Lacey at shooting guard after his transfer from Alabama. But the rest of the conference is pretty much returning players and incoming freshmen.
Except for Miami.
Between Angel Rodriguez (Kansas State), Sheldon McClellan (Texas) and Ivan Cruz Uceda (JUCO), the Hurricanes have three players who should see significant minutes this season.
Of the options available, Miami occupies the top two spots. Cruz Uceda checks in at second place, as he will immediately become one of Miami's primary interior scorers. But there's little question that Rodriguez will be the most impactful transfer this season.
Two years ago at Kansas State, Rodriguez averaged 11.4 points, 5.2 assists and 1.5 steals per game—while playing just 28.2 minutes per game. And it's not like he'll have much competition in the backcourt with Rion Brown and Garrius Adams both graduating this summer. Rodriguez will really just need to beat McClellan for a starting job, which shouldn't be an issue.
Also adding to the perception that Rodriguez is a crucial addition is the fact that Miami went 17-16 (7-11 in ACC) last season. If the Hurricanes even sniff 20 wins or a tournament bid this year, expect heaps of praise to be thrown in their starting point guard's direction.
ACC Sixth Man: Desmond Lee, North Carolina State
Without a doubt, the trickiest part of the Sixth Man Award is figuring out which players are good enough to be nominated without being quite good enough to start.
I contemplated either Wayne Blackshear or Shaqquan Aaron depending on which one doesn't get the starting small forward job at Louisville, but neither has the type of sixth-man flair that Luke Hancock had before ultimately replacing Blackshear in the lineup last year.
Both Duke and North Carolina will end up having one heck of a candidate for the award—likely Quinn Cook for Duke and Theo Pinson for North Carolina—but, come on, you're sick of hearing about those teams by this point in the article, and it's hardly a guarantee that either will actually be coming off the bench.
In the end, we're settling on the fourth man in what should be a very good North Carolina State backcourt. That fourth man may well end up being Ralston Turner, Cat Barber or Trevor Lacey, but we're guessing that those three guards start and Desmond Lee serves as the first one off the bench.
One of the top-rated JUCO transfers of last summer, Lee was a starter for the first half of last year until Mark Gottfried had seen enough of his plummeting shooting percentage and skyrocketing turnover rate. No clue what caused him to struggle after a solid start, but he never quite recovered, averaging just 17.4 minutes per game over the last six weeks of the season.
Lee was hardly a lights out shooter in JUCO, but he wasn't a 28.0 percent three-point shooter, either. If he can rediscover his stroke a bit this summer, he could be the type of guy who averages double figures off the bench.
ACC Coach of the Year: Mike Krzyzewski, Duke
Coach of the Year Awards are a lot like MVP Awards in professional sports, in that the voters eventually get sick of giving it to the same person every year. As a result, players like Charles Barkley and Karl Malone end up getting trophies that should have been given to Michael Jordan over and over again.
But now, we're reaching a point where it has been so long since Mike Krzyzewski won an ACC Coach of the Year (COY) Award that it makes you wonder what he did to upset the voters so dearly.
In the past 14 years, Seth Greenberg, Leonard Hamilton, Gary Williams and Roy Williams have each won two ACC COY Awards. Paul Hewitt, Skip Prosser, Herb Sendek, Dave Leitao, Jim Larranaga and Tony Bennett won one each.
In case you lost count, that's all 14 of the years accounted for. Krzyzewski hasn't been named ACC COY since the 1999-2000 season—despite winning two national championships, eight conference tournaments and at least a share of four regular-season ACC championships in that time.
Again, Seth Greenberg won the award twice. He led Virginia Tech to one NCAA tournament in eight seasons. He brought Virginia Tech zero ACC titles—regular-season or tournament. Heck, the Hokies never even finished second in the ACC or appeared in a conference championship game under Greenberg.
But I digress.
Provided Duke wins 17 games this season—which should happen in mid-January—Krzyzewski will become the first men's basketball coach to record 1,000 D-I wins. As long as Boston College doesn't miraculously go 18-0 in conference play, giving this year's ACC Coach of the Year Award to anyone other than Krzyzewski would be a tragedy.
In a nation where a 40-year-old Derek Jeter was voted to start in the MLB All-Star game, let's hope the media does the right thing here.
Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.
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