Player of the Year
Zion Williamson, Duke
Duke’s Zion Williamson has exceeded expectations, taking this season by storm. College basketball has never seen a player like him—a versatile 6-foot-7, 285-pound athlete that contributes in every possible way. The freshman phenom has had a remarkable year with the Blue Devils. Before sitting out nearly six full games with a sprained knee, Williamson was averaging 21.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game, shooting 68.3 percent from the field. His efforts have been awarded; he has earned ACC Player and Rookie of the Year, Sporting News National Player of the Year and Most Outstanding Player of the ACC Tournament.
The Blue Devils lost three games with Williamson sidelined, but the All-American returned for the ACC tournament, lifting Duke to a conference title. Averaging 27 points, 10 rebounds and 2.3 steals all while shooting 77%, the highflying superstar scored 81 points in the three-day span. Game after game, Williamson draws comparisons to the unparalleled LeBron James. The 18-year-old freshman is a prolific scorer and elite defender who puts together a jaw-dropping highlight reel every game. All eyes will be on Williamson this NCAA tournament.
Coach of the Year
Tony Bennett, Virginia
For the second consecutive season, Virginia men’s basketball coach Tony Bennett has been named ACC Coach of the Year. Once again, Bennett led the Cavaliers to another regular season title, finishing 16-2 in ACC play. Despite losing to Florida State in the semifinals of the ACC tournament, the Cavaliers have 12 Quadrant 1 wins, which was more than enough to secure a no. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Year in and year out, Bennett’s team is every opponent’s most difficult defensive challenge. The Cavaliers’ outstanding shooters and effort to commit on the defensive end are the right combination for a successful run in March.
Defensive Player of the Year
DeAndre Hunter, Virginia
Last year, Virginia senior Isaiah Wilkins took home the honor as the league’s Defensive Player of the Year. The Cavaliers entered this season without its returning dominant perimeter defender, but De’Andre Hunter erased any worries early on. Hunter, who has a 6-foot-7 frame and 7-foot-2 wingspan, was tasked with shutting down opponents’ best playmakers. The 225-pound sophomore has great defensive instinctive ability without committing many fouls. Hunter headlines the Cavaliers’ suffocating defense, which leads the nation in fewest points allowed per game.
Florida State Seminoles
The Seminoles were one of the bigger surprises of last season’s NCAA tournament and were only five points shy of reaching the Final Four. With a roster full of veterans, concerns arose when the Seminoles started league play 1-4, which included losses to Pittsburgh and Boston College. From that point on, the Seminoles flew under the radar. Head coach Leonard Hamilton quickly turned the season around, showcasing the Seminoles’ deep bench that helped win 14 of Florida State’s last 16 games. Florida State has been overlooked as a unit—no Seminole was named to the All-ACC first, second, or third teams.
Kerry Blackshear Jr., Virginia Tech
When his teammate and one of the league’s top point guards, Justin Robinson, suffered a foot injury on January 30th, Kerry Blackshear Jr. responded and has become the anchor for Virginia Tech. Blackshear Jr. entered February averaging 12.7 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists. Since then, the junior forward has averaged 18.1 points, 8.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game in 12 games without Robinson. Thanks in part to Blackshear Jr., a second-team all-ACC selection, the Hokies won a school-record 12 conference games.
After reaching the Sweet 16 one year ago, there were high expectations surrounding the Tigers.
Clemson’s two best guards, Marquise Reed and Shelton Mitchell, both returned for their final seasons. But the 2018-19 year was a disappointing and heartbreaking one for Clemson fans. Clemson’s closing ability was concerning all year—four of their nine ACC losses came within two or less points. To even have a shot at the big dance, the Tigers needed to defeat NC State in the second round of the ACC tournament. The Tigers took a 16-point lead at halftime, but once again saw another lead disappear, losing to two free throws in the final seconds. With a 1-10 record against Quadrant 1 opponents, the Tigers’ chances of a making an NCAA tournament appearance fell short.
Louisville’s Regular Season Ending
The Cardinals started out red hot in conference play, compiling an 8-2 record. Since then, Chris Mack’s team has dropped seven of its last ten games and is trending in the wrong direction at the wrong time. In this losing span, the Cardinals gave up a 23-point lead to Duke, lost by 20 to Syracuse, and were unable to get the job done at Boston College. Perhaps, the team is simply regressing to what was expected heading into the conference season. The Cardinals have struggled offensively in the past ten games, averaging less than 65 points and look far from a team built for a NCAA tournament run.
Most Improved Player
Jordan Nwora, Louisville
Jordan Nwora, a 6-foot-8 sophomore, is the second-most improved scorer this college basketball season with his scoring average up 11.5 points from his freshman year. The sophomore forward leads the Cardinals in points and rebounds per game with 17.2 and 7.5, respectively. Nwora has taken advantage of his expanded role this year, emerging into a catch-and-shoot threat with the ability to effectively finish at the rim.
2. North Carolina
4. Florida State
5. Virginia Tech
8. NC State
10. Georgia Tech
11. Boston College
14. Wake Forest
15. Notre Dame