T.J. Warren might win the ACC’s player of the year award. The N.C. State sophomore is not oblivious to the world around him.
Even if the Wolfpack star wanted to tune out the hype, it follows him on Twitter.
“I try not to pay attention to it but it’s in my ‘mentions’ constantly,” Warren said.
Warren, who leads the ACC in scoring and field goal percentage and ranks in the top 10 in both steals and rebounding, has his sights on a bigger prize than the ACC player of the year.
“I’m aware of what’s going on but I’m focused on the team and finishing up strong and making the NCAA tournament,” Warren said.
N.C. State (18-12, 8-9 ACC) can only get into the NCAA tournament field with more wins. Warren understands this. The Wolfpack knocked off Pittsburgh on Monday, with 41 points from Warren, and is looking for another win on Sunday in the regular-season finale against Boston College.
There are no givens for this N.C. State, which is seeking its third straight NCAA bid under coach Mark Gottfried. The Pack has followed up strong efforts with weak ones throughout conference play. That’s part of being a young, inexperienced team.
Last Saturday, the Wolfpack came out flat in an 85-70 home loss to Miami. N.C. State is hoping to avoid such a lull against the Eagles (8-22, 4-13 ACC). The win over Pitt was State’s best in ACC play. The Panthers began Saturday ranked No. 54 in the RPI.
Gottfried is still holding out hope the Pack can put together a winning streak and play its way into the NCAA tournament. And maybe get a little help from Pitt, Florida State and Tennessee. N.C. State is 1-6 vs. the RPI’s top 50 but Pitt and FSU (No. 57) are on the edge of the top 50. The Pack, which beat Tennessee on the road in December would prefer the Volunteers stay in the top 50.
“We still have a lot to play for,” Gottfried said. “Our guys want to play in the NCAA tournament and we have to figure out how to get there.”
The postseason is Warren’s only goal. Sunday’s game could be his last game at PNC Arena if he decides to leave for the NBA after his sophomore season. If the Wolfpack does fall short of the NCAA, it would play any possible NIT home games at Reynolds Coliseum.
Warren said he’s focused on the future of this N.C. State team, not his own decisions. And he’s considered what it would mean to win the ACC player of the year, mainly because it would put him in elite company.
Warren, who grew up in Durham and whose father played at N.C. State, has an appreciation for the legacy of the ACC and the traditions of N.C. State. A Wolfpack player hasn’t won the ACC POY since Julius Hodge in 2004, and only five other N.C. State players have taken the top individual award in league history.
“It would be an honor, for sure,” Warren said, “but it’s not my main focus.”
There are two different sets of postseason awards in the ACC since last season. The media and coaches have separate votes. Gottfried will get a vote in the coaches’ postseason awards but he’s not allowed to vote for his own players.
Virginia Tech guard Erick Green won the media’s player of the year award last season while Miami guard Shane Larkin won the coaches’ award. Gottfried said there’s no doubt in his mind that Warren should win both this season.
Warren leads the ACC in scoring with 24.2 points per game, he averages 24.5 in ACC play, which is almost seven points per game better than the next player. He also leads the ACC in field goal percentage (52.8) and ranks third in steals (51) and 10th in rebounding (6.9 per game).
“I think he’s earned it,” Gottfried said. “I don’t think anybody has done what he has done as efficiently.”