Duke’s Shane Battier and North Carolina’s Joseph Forte shared 2001 ACC basketball player of the year honors as media balloting deadlocked at 32 votes each. If ever another season was going to produce such an improbable tie, it’s this one.
Indeed, in 30 years of covering the conference I can’t recall a group of candidates as large and cluttered.
Last year, for example, North Carolina’s Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes and John Henson, plus Virginia’s Mike Scott, received votes. But Zeller was the landslide winner with 45 to Scott’s 14, Barnes’ two and Henson’s one.
As Sunday’s voting deadline and this weekend’s regular-season finales approach, four players again figure to draw support, though with a much less-conclusive result.
Miami’s Shane Larkin, Virginia Tech’s Erick Green, Virginia’s Joe Harris and Duke’s Mason Plumlee all merit consideration, and choosing from among them has generated considerable debate among media and fans.
Larkin is the best player on the conference’s first-place team, often an overriding consideration for voters. A jet of a point guard, he’s Miami’s top scorer (13.8 points per game), most accurate 3-point shooter (40.6 percent) and a quality defender.
He would also be the second-lowest-scoring player of the year in ACC history. Duke’s Steve Vacendak averaged 13.3 points in 1966.
Conversely, Green is all but certain to become the first ACC player since South Carolina’s Grady Wallace in 1957 to lead Division I in scoring. He’s averaging 25 points per game, shooting 48.1 percent (Larkin’s at 48.8) and has an assist-turnover ratio of nearly 2-to-1.
According to Ken Pomeroy’s ratings, among players used in at least 28 percent of their team’s possessions, Green ranks fifth nationally in offensive efficiency.
But Green toils for the conference’s last-place team, and only once has the player of the year come from a squad in the bottom half of the standings. Maryland’s Len Bias won the honor in 1986, but despite a 6-8 league record and sixth-place finish, the Terrapins reached the NCAA tournament.
The Hokies are 13-17, and never has a team with a losing record produced the player of the year.
Harris’ candidacy began to percolate when he scored a then-career-best 27 points on 10-of-13 shooting in a Feb. 16 loss at North Carolina. Scoring 36 in last week’s victory over Duke hammered home the point.
Harris leads the league in 3-point percentage (46.3) and ranks second to Green in scoring at 17.2. He’s also a much-improved defender and is the primary reason the Cavaliers, despite myriad injuries, are contending for a second consecutive NCAA tournament bid.
The ACC’s No. 3 scorer, No. 2 rebounder and No. 5 shot-blocker, Plumlee was the clubhouse leader for much of the season. But recent sub-par performances in losses at Maryland and Virginia dented his chances.
I won’t finalize my vote until Sunday night — the Maryland-Virginia game tips at 6 p.m. — and much hinges on how my colleagues interpret the award.
Voters who consider this a most valuable player honor figure to dismiss Green. Those who see it as most outstanding player probably will give him a long look.
Also worth noting: Unlike the Heisman Trophy and some professional league MVP awards, this ballot does not ask for a first, second and third choices, with points designated accordingly. We pick one guy.
And finally, to add to your confusion: This marks the first season in which the conference’s coaches also vote on all-league teams and honors. Coaches are not permitted to select their own players, and with a much smaller sample, the chances of a tie increase.
As these recent results show, a close media vote among more than two players would be unusual, if not unprecedented. Only once since the 2001 tie have four players received at least 10 votes.
2012: Zeller 45, Scott 14, Barnes two, Henson one.
2010: Maryland’s Greivis Vasquez 39, Duke’s Jon Scheyer 12, Virginia Tech’s Malcolm Delaney two.
2009: North Carolina’s Ty Lawson 31, Florida State’s Toney Douglas 27, North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough 13, Duke’s Gerald Henderson and Wake Forest’s Jeff Teague two each, Miami’s Jack McClinton one.
2008: Hansbrough was unanimous with all 90.
2007: Boston College’s Jared Dudley 45, Florida State’s Al Thornton 30, Hansbrough 19 and Virginia’s Sean Singletary 12.
2006: Duke’s J.J. Redick 105, Hansbrough three.
2005: Redick 68, North Carolina’s Sean May 34 and Wake Forest’s Chris Paul 11.
2003: Wake Forest’s Josh Howard was unanimous with all 92.
2002: Maryland’s Juan Dixon 41, Duke’s Jason Williams 38, Duke’s Mike Dunleavy four.
2001: Battier and Forte 32 each, Williams eight.
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