RALEIGH — If there was ever a case for a player on a last-place team winning ACC player of the year, Erick Green keeps on making it. He’s done everything he can for Virginia Tech, even helping take N.C. State to overtime Saturday in a game where the Hokies probably should have been run off the court.
He leads the nation in scoring at 25.3 points per game and has such a big lead in the ACC he could go scoreless the rest of the way and no one would catch him at their current pace. And still the Hokies are 2-10 in the conference, which makes Green’s case for player of the year tenuous at best.
“I’ve heard the talk, that I probably won’t win it because we’re not doing so well,” Green said. “That’s OK. I feel like I should be up there, in the running.”
N.C. State used four defenders on the 6-foot-4 guard – Rodney Purvis, Lorenzo Brown, Scott Wood and Tyler Lewis – and Green scored 29 points anyway. When C.J. Leslie switched onto him on the perimeter, Green spotted Leslie’s hands hanging low and lobbed a 3-pointer over the 6-foot-9 forward.
Green’s best play might have been a miss, the free throw to the right side of the rim that allowed Jarrell Eddie to swoop in for the tip that sent the game to overtime. Green faltered then, missing the front end of a one-and-one and dribbling the ball off his foot to essentially seal the 90-86 win for the Wolfpack, but Virginia Tech coach James Johnson admitted there’s a price to be paid for relying so heavily on Green.
A week ago, Johnson ran Green so hard in a game against Georgia Tech that Green had to be helped off the floor and nearly passed out on the bench. Saturday, Green played all of the second half and overtime.
“Fatigue set in on him a little bit,” Johnson said. “We were up one and he missed a front end, and he turned the ball over. It is what it is. He has to play those minutes for us to be in a game like this.”
Only Len Bias in 1986 has won the award from a team with a losing record. Maryland went 6-8 that season; Virginia Tech is a long, long way from that.
“It would look a lot better if he was the leading scorer in the country and we were winning games,” Eddie said. “They should definitely recognize what he’s doing, because he’s having a phenomenal year.”
Still, it’s hard not to give Green a long look – because he’s such a statistical outlier and because none of the other candidates have taken control. N.C. State’s preseason contenders, C.J. Leslie and Lorenzo Brown, have been as erratic as the Wolfpack has been underwhelming, with Richard Howell emerging as State’s best player anyway.
Duke’s Mason Plumlee looked like a lock at one point, but has come back to the field. There might be a candidate from 11-0 Miami, maybe Shane Larkin or Kenny Kadji, but the Hurricanes’ strength is their balance.
Meanwhile, Green keeps doing everything he can to keep his chances alive. He has “Dream Big” written on the back of each of his low-top Nikes, and he knows player of the year is a big dream.
“They’ll take it away because of how our team’s been doing,” Green said. “But it would be a great accomplishment, and hopefully things work out and I can win it. If I don’t win it, Mason Plumlee, Leslie, Brown, Larkin, they’re all good ballplayers too.”
They are, and they all play for better teams. All Green can do is continue to do what he did Saturday, and hope his numbers speak for themselves.
DeCock: email@example.com, @LukeDeCock, (919) 829-8947