Last year’s pre-season media poll had two teams slotted correctly in the standings when the season ended: #12 Wake Forest and #15 Virginia Tech. Duke led the way with 41 of 64 first place votes and finished 2nd behind Virginia, a team who picked up just 7 votes to win the league back at 2014’s ACC Operations Basketball. North Carolina was the favorite to finish 2nd behind Duke, and the Tar Heels ended up 5th by the time the season ended. Two members of the media picked Syracuse to win the league, and the Orange finished 9-9 in ACC play. Picking teams pre-season is hard because the schedule is unbalanced, there’s always a team emerging from the middle to make a run like Notre Dame did a year ago, and let’s be honest, there’s probably going to be a coach popped for cheating at some point during the season that we don’t even know about yet.
What we do know … the top third of the league will be really quite good, the middle third dangerous, and the lower third will be some variation of Boston College, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Clemson, and Virginia Tech. Pretty much all you need to know at this point.
Marcus Paige is probably going to be picked (again) to be the ACC Player of the Year, and he probably (again) won’t be the ACC Player of the Year. One, Paige plays on a deep team with two or maybe three other players who could just as easily win that honor instead of Paige by splitting the “UNC vote”. That brings up point #2, which is a pretty significant point, the process in which the ACC Player of the Year is selected. Credentialed members of the media pick the pre-season All-ACC teams. Paid members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association pick the actual All-ACC teams at season’s end. With the event held in North Carolina nearly every year and with the ACC doing a tremendous job to make sure live-streaming and informational materials are available electronically, NC media dominates the crowd at ACC media days with many outlets choosing to cover it from home. Pre-voting was done online this year, but still only by credentialed media. Post-season voting will include the NC crowd, the outlets who didn’t send reporters to Charlotte, and bloggers and message board owners who are members of the ACSMA.
Still, NC media is pretty smart and they know the league well. Last year’s pre-season honors:
Marcus Paige (Pre-season POY), Montrezl Harrell, Jahlil Okafor, Malcolm Brogdon, Jerian Grant.
Last year’s post-season honors:
Okafor (POY), Grant, Brogdon, Olivier Hanlan, Rakeem Christmas. Three out of five. Not awful.
Tony Bennett is done winning Coach of the Year Awards
There are two ways to win a Coach of the Year award in the ACC. First, finish a lot higher in the standings than you were projected to finish pre-season. Second, don’t be an obvious winner. Tony Bennett has won the award twice in a row now, finishing first both seasons after being picked to finish first in neither of those two seasons. Think it will happen again? History says no. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski won back-to-back awards in ’98-99 and ’99-00. He’s won three National Championships since, but has not won ACC Coach of the Year in now 16 league seasons.
Who has won? Seth Greenberg has won twice (with a combined 17-15 record in the two years he won the award), Dave Leito scooped up an award in 2007, and Leonard Hamilton has won twice by finishing 4th and 3rd, respectively. He might pick up a third this season as the talented Noles will probably be undervalued in Charlotte, which would put him past guys like Roy Wiliams and Gary Williams who have two each, and would tie him with Dave Odom, Norm Sloan, Vic Bubas, Bobby Cremins and Everett Case. Welcome to Mount Rushmore, Coach Hamilton.