On the road to Greensboro
I suppose my ACC preseason ballot was in trouble from the very first game, when Florida State lost to South Alabama. Id picked the Seminoles third in the league. Not a good start.
Then N.C. State, which Id picked to win the league, lost big to Oklahoma State. Meanwhile, Duke, which I foolishly listed fourth, kept beating top-ranked teams.
Shows what I know.
But now were at the midpoint, essentially, of the conference season and what better a time to reflect on the silliness of preseason predictions? If the season ended today, none of the medias official preseason projections would be reality.
N.C. States C.J. Leslie, the ACC Player of the Year? No. Florida States Michael Snaer, a first-team All-ACC player? Doubtful. Miami, finishing in fifth place? Not unless the Hurricanes go on a long losing streak. At least we have some clarity now. With another month or so left in the regular season, here are my midseason ACC awards if only for the sake of future ridicule:
• ACC Player of the Year: Duke F Mason Plumlee. He went through a bit of a lull after a dominant start, but 30 points in two of his past three games nudges him ahead of Erick Green, the Virginia Tech guard who leads the nation in scoring. Plumlee is the most important player on the conferences best team.
• All-ACC teams: First Plumlee, N.C. State F Richard Howell, Miami F Kenny Kadji, Virginia Tech G Erick Green, Duke G Seth Curry; Second N.C. State F C.J. Leslie, North Carolina F James Michael McAdoo, Miami G Durand Scott, Miami G Shane Larkin, N.C. State G Lorenzo Brown; Third Boston College F Ryan Anderson, Wake Forest F Travis McKie, Virginia G Joe Harris, North Carolina G Reggie Bullock, Florida State G Michael Snaer.
• ACC Freshman of the Year: Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke. Sulaimons numbers are nearly identical to those of N.C. States T.J. Warren, but Sulaimon has been the better player in conference games.
• ACC Coach of the Year: Jim Larranaga, Miami. Barring a Hurricanes collapse, this should be the most clear-cut of the ACCs postseason awards. With its full complement of players, Miami has yet to lose. The Hurricanes have been one of college basketballs best stories.
So there you have it. For a good laugh, check back after another impossible-to-predict month.
More disappointing: Pack or Noles?
Florida State and N.C. State entered the season with grand aspirations. For the first time in nearly three decades, N.C. State was the ACC favorite. For the first time ever, the Seminoles were the defending league champions.
At the midpoint, both teams find themselves in the middle of the standings. Whats gone wrong?
At Florida State, Snaer has continued his knack for game-winning shots. Hes made three in the past two weeks. But he hasnt been able to lead a team thats reliant on a lot of new players. During the past few seasons, the Seminoles might have had the best chemistry of any team in the league. FSU is missing that this season.
At N.C. State, Lorenzo Browns injury hasnt helped. Maybe the Wolfpack wins at Virginia if Brown doesnt get hurt. Maybe it gives Duke a better game in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Thursday night.
Even before Browns injury, N.C. State looked perplexed. Losses in close games against less talented teams. Prolonged defensive lapses. The best news for both States: Theres still time to get it right.
Fast break ...
No team in the conference has more to gain during its next two games than North Carolina. The Tar Heels were once 0-2 in the ACC, but since have won six of their past seven. Up next: Road games at Miami and Duke. UNC can force itself into the conference race, or remain closer to the NCAA tournament bubble than the top of the league standings. Dukes Cameron Crazies took a beating nationally after the Blue Devils victory on Thursday against N.C. State. After the game, speculation persisted on Twitter that the Duke student section mocked N.C. States Tyler Lewis for the death of his grandmother. Lewis father told The News & Observer that he heard the chants, but that they were isolated to a few. What it definitely wasnt: a widespread chant in which most or even a good number of the student section participated.
• Final Four: (the four games, in chronological order, in which Miamis nine-game conference winning streak are most likely to end): 1. vs. North Carolina, Saturday; 2. at Florida State, Feb. 13; 3. vs. Virginia, Feb. 19; 4. at Duke, March 2.
Carter: 919-829-8944 Twitter: @_andrewcarter