ACC Player of the Year
There is little question that Duke combo guard Nolan Smith has been the best player in the ACC. Not only does he lead the league with an average of 21.6 points per game, but he's also second in the conference in assists per game with 5.2. Smith was counted on for much more of Duke's offense after Kyrie Irving went out with an injury, but he was able to remain efficient by shooting 46% from the field, 35% from behind arc and 82% from the free throw line. While his teammate, Kyle Singler, has been dealing with a bit of inconsistency this year, Smith has managed to be as steady as a rock; often stepping up when his team needed him the most (had a career high 34 points in their comeback win against North Carolina). Unlike many other high-volume scorers, Smith competes on the defensive end of the floor just as much. In the semifinals of the ACC tournament, he was not afraid of getting right in the face of a great scorer in Malcolm Delaney. Smith forced him into many tough shots, visibly frustrating the Virginia Tech Hokie. With the strong presence Smith provides on both ends of the floor -- and the return of Irving doesn't hurt -- you can expect to see a strong run this year by the Blue Devils. They have the right amount of ability, experience and toughness to beat anybody. Looking a little further down the line, Smith projects to be a first round pick. His complete game and scoring ability could be of great value to an NBA team's bench.
ACC Freshman of the Year
The Black Falcon fell short of his preseason AP All-American expectations, but he's still managed to put together a great freshman campaign. The 6'8" North Carolina forward is averaging 15 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, but those numbers don't really do justice to his ability to score in crunch time. I'll catalog some of Barnes' clutch performances, just in case you missed one. On January 13, Barnes scored eight points in the closing minutes to help the Tar Heels rally from 16 points down to beat the Virginia Tech Hokies. Barnes sank the go-ahead three-pointer with 6.6 seconds left to beat Miami on January 16 and another one to down Florida State with just 3 seconds remaining on March 2. In the ACC semifinals, Barnes scored a freshman tournament record, 40 points on only 17 shot attempts to beat the Clemson Tigers. On Friday, Barnes had 24 points and a career-high 16 rebounds to help North Carolina advance to the third round of the NCAA tournament. With his ability to step up in high-pressure situations, it's going to be exciting to see how the freshman plays for the rest of the tournament. If Barnes continues increasing his stock like this, he'll sneak back into the top-5 in the draft.
ACC Defensive Player of the Year
With all due respect to John Henson, Chris Singleton has been the best defensive player in the ACC this season. Singleton is unbelievably versatile. He has the strength and size to guard post players, the athleticism to contest forwards and the lateral quickness to stay in front of guards. He disrupts the opposing team with a freakish amount of steals (2.1 a game, second in the ACC) and blocks (1.7, seventh in the ACC)., but that versatility isn't his best asset defensively and neither is his outstanding athleticism, what separates him from similar players is his tenacity. He plays like the man he's guarding owes him money, showing an uncanny ability to pressure the ball. His rebounding ability (7.1 per game) just adds another dimension to his game. Singleton is the best defensive player on arguably the best defensive team in the nation and his offensive game is showing signs of improvement as well. If he declares (likely), he has a chance of being selected in the lottery of the draft this season.
ACC First Team
ACC Second Team
ACC Third Team
G: Malcolm Grant
G: Demontez Stitt
F: Chris Singleton
F: Joe Trapani
C: Jerai Grant
Notes: The above are only my personal picks... Kyrie Irving made his return to the Blue Devils in the second round of the NCAA tournament. He put up 14 points and 4 rebounds in 20 minutes of play... Chris Singleton made his comeback as well, with five points and four fouls in 16 minutes of play, as #10 Florida State upset #7 Texas A&M... Virginia Tech was tragically snubbed from the tourney for the fourth time in four years... #12 Clemson advanced past #12 UAB in the first round of the tournament, but lost to #5 West Virginia in the second round... John Henson had a career game in the second round of the NCAA tournament with 28 points, 11 rebounds and 6 blocks. He also made 8-10 from the free-throw line... Henson has been shooting 74% from the stripe in the past month... Thanks for reading, everybody!...
Harrison Barnes won the Kyrie Irving Award....
Barnes should thank kendall marshall because he looked like a whole different player when marshall took over the reigns.
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