With a week still to go, this ACC season has the potential to produce a topsy-turvy all-ACC team that no one saw coming five months ago. Without even a consensus player-of-the-year candidate, it’s almost impossible to figure out who will end up being honored.
Mason Plumlee, once a national player-of-the-year candidate, is now facing competition within the ACC from Virginia Tech’s Erick Green and Miami’s Shane Larkin while Virginia’s Joe Harris makes a last-minute run.
N.C. State put two players on the preseason all-ACC team, but both have been surpassed by teammate Richard Howell. Across the league, it’s hard to figure out who’s up and who’s down.
First, a few certainties. Plumlee, despite his relative fall from grace, is still clearly worthy of a first-team place and a strong player-of-the-year candidate. The same can be said for Green and Larkin – one the nation’s leading scorer, the other the best player on the ACC’s best team.
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That leaves two spots open at the moment, and the breeze is blowing in the direction of Harris and Howell, with everything still subject to change in the final week.
What a fair, but strange, first team that would be – which is to say unexpected, not undeserving.
While it isn’t uncommon for there to be only one player on the first team from the regular-season champion – that happened to North Carolina in 2007 and 2008, and the Tar Heels were shut out entirely in 2011, when they placed three players on the second team – it’s quite rare when the preseason picks don’t resurface at the end.
That October primary has proven a reasonably good predictor of the March general election. In each season since 2004, at least three members of the preseason all-ACC team made first-team all-ACC. That seems exceedingly unlikely to happen this season.
In the preseason voting, there was such a clear first-team consensus featuring Plumlee, N.C. State’s Lorenzo Brown and C.J. Leslie, North Carolina’s James Michael McAdoo and Florida State’s Michael Snaer. Only Plumlee figures to return to that position when the season is over.
Leslie, the preseason player of the year, will be lucky to make third-team all-ACC given his inconsistencies. Rodney Purvis, the media pick as top newcomer, has been usurped by T.J. Warren on his own team.
Brown is still one of the best players in the league, but anyone who has watched N.C. State closely knows Howell is that team’s MVP, and the all-ACC vote should fall accordingly.
Duke has two other strong candidates in Seth Curry and Quinn Cook, but it’s hard to put either of them ahead of Green, Larkin or Harris.
Perhaps the biggest question voters face is what to do with Miami? Larkin is clearly the Hurricanes’ best player, but there’s a strong case to be made for Kenny Kadji as well, as dominant as the Hurricanes have been.
If one of the Triangle’s teams won the ACC in a landslide, there’d be widespread grumbling if only one player made the first team. (As happened, again, to North Carolina in 2011, 2008 and 2007.)
The Tar Heels pose a curious question this season as well. Clearly, they’ve played well enough in the second half of the schedule to merit serious all-ACC consideration, but for whom?
McAdoo hasn’t met preseason expectations, but he’s been far more explosive and dynamic since the Tar Heels went to a smaller lineup, with P.J. Hairston having the greatest impact. Still, the first votes for a North Carolina player will go to Reggie Bullock, the Tar Heels’ most consistent player throughout the season.
At the least, this year’s all-ACC voting figures to offer compelling drama. Rarely has so little been settled so late in the season.