Player of the Year
Malcolm Brogdon – Virginia
The Virginia Cavaliers star edges out UNC PF Brice Johnson for our pick. The senior guard was named Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year, and the league’s Defensive Player of the Year for the 2015-16 college basketball season. Brogdon, one of the best two-way players in the country, is the first player in ACC history to win both awards in the same year. He’s an effective scorer on one end and an elite defender on the other who’s often tasked with defending an opponent’s best player. The Atlanta, Georgia, native was the Cavaliers best all-around player throughout the season, leading the team in points per game at 18.7 (19.9 PPG in conference play), while adding 4.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists. He finished the season as one of the two unanimous selections for All-ACC First Team – the third consecutive season in which he selected for the team. He’s also one of 15 finalists for the John R. Wooden Award, presented to the nation’s top player. The fifth-year senior is one of the most decorated players in Virginia history. A high-volume and dynamic scorer, Brogdon has led the team in scoring for the last three seasons and helped the Cavaliers win at least 12 ACC games in that same span, which hadn’t happened since 1983. Virginia’s 45 ACC wins over the past three years are the second most in league history. This season, Brogdon led the Cavaliers (24-6, 13-5 ACC) to the second seed in the ACC Tournament. Virginia defeated Georgia Tech and Miami before falling to North Carolina in the ACC Championship Game 61-57. They were still able to earn the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region of the NCAA Tournament. Brogdon averaged 21.6 points on 45 percent shooting, 3.3 assists, 2.6 rebounds and 1.0 steals during the ACC Tournament.
Brice Johnson – North Carolina
Johnson was absolutely monstrous for the Tar Heels throughout his senior season, averaging 16.6 points, 10.6 rebounds (second in the ACC) and 1.3 blocks from the start of the season through the end of the ACC Tournament. Johnson, the other unanimous selection for All-ACC First Team, shot 61 percent from the field (second in the ACC) and 77 percent from the free throw line. His senior season was perhaps the best of his four-year career with the Tar Heels. He finished the regular season with an ACC-leading 19 double-doubles. Behind his strong efforts, UNC ended the 2015-16 season 25-6 overall and 14-4 in conference play before going on to win the ACC Championship over UVA. Johnson may not be done racking up accolades as he hopes to wrap up his collegiate career with an NCAA Title. UNC is the No. 1 seed in the East Region. Johnson is also a semifinalist for the Naismith Award.
Freshman of the Year
Brandon Ingram – Duke
There were a handful of freshmen in the conference who had terrific seasons for their respective teams, but none of them ended being more qualified for ACC Freshman of the Year than Duke’s Brandon Ingram. After a slow start to the season, Ingram finished with averages of 16.8 points on 44 percent shooting, including 41 percent from the three-point line, and 6.8 rebounds. He upped those averages to nearly 19 points and eights rebounds during conference play. Ingram has given observers good reason to believe that he could end up being the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft over LSU’s Ben Simmons. The lanky 6-foot-9 forward is a great shooter and versatile scorer, who can cause disruption as a defender and make a significant impact on the boards thanks to his length and toughness. That’s despite the fact that he has physical limitations because of his skinny frame. Ingram is one of the top prospects in the country because of his combination of high skill level and elite athleticism, making him tough to contain on both ends of the floor. He had a great freshman season, but you can add him to the list of Blue Devils to leave after one season as he’ll likely be a top-two pick in June.
Damion Lee – Louisville
Lee has already played his final collegiate game thanks to Louisville’s self-imposed post-season ban. Although his fifth and final season ended prematurely and with much disappointment, Lee does have pro career to look forward to and should be considered a 2016 NBA Draft sleeper. The redshirt super senior who transferred out of Drexel averaged just over 18 points per game at the midpoint of the season before conference play began. He finished the season averaging 15.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 2.0 assists, stringing together a few 20-point games along the way. Lee is a draft sleeper because of his dynamic ability to score the ball and get to the basket. His is a polished scorer, good defender and can ready to contribute right away at the next level given his experience. He was selected as an All-ACC Third-Team honoree, finishing 10th in the ACC in scoring, 5th in the ACC in steals and shot 84.3 percent from the charity stripe.
Team of the Year
As expected, the Tars Heels played their way to a first-place regular season finish in the ACC. After overcoming the absence of the point guard Marcus Paige in their first six games of the season – winning five of the six games – the Tar Heels won 14 of their next 15, including 12 straight (8 straight to open ACC play). UNC had a few slip ups here and there throughout the season. A two-game losing streak in early February (at Louisville and at Notre Dame) and a heartbreaking loss to rival Duke on Feb. 17. were among those bumps in the road. But they finished the season strong and defeated Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, and Virginia en route to their first ACC Title since 2008. UNC is now the No. 1 seed in the East Region of the NCAA Tournament. Although the Tar Heels haven’t been to the Final Four since winning its second national title under head coach Roy Williams in 2009 – which feels like a lifetime for the folks in Chapel Hill – they expect to reach the National Championship Game and cut down the nets when it’s all said and done.
Coach of the Year
Jim Larranaga – Miami
Roy Williams? Tony Bennett? Mike Krzyzewski? These are all very good coaches with proven track records who led their teams to great seasons. However, Miami’s Jim Larranaga gets the nod as ACC Coach of the Year. Although the Hurricanes entered the season with the majority of their lineup intact, there were expectations that they would struggle to find their place behind the conference’s powerhouses in North Carolina, Virginia, and Duke. But this year, the Hurricanes were able to prove that they belong with the ACC’s elite. Larranaga’s Hurricanes finished the regular season with a 24-6 record, including a 13-5 mark against ACC competition. They were in the running for at least a share of the ACC regular-season title up until their final game of the season at Virginia Tech – a 77-62 loss. Larranaga won Coach of the Year honors for the second time in four years as the Hurricanes exceeded preseason expectations for the fifth consecutive season. They were picked to finish fifth before the season began but entered the ACC Tournament as the No. 3 seed and in second place in the conference. The Hurricanes are now the No. 3 seed in the South region of the NCAA Tournament.
The Hurricanes aren’t the only team who finished the season exceeding expectations. The Virginia Tech Hokies also fit that bill. The Hokies were projected to finish near the bottom of the conference standings before the season. A few preseason media members even had them finishing last. However, they were in seventh place by season’s end (19-14, 10-8 ACC). Virginia Tech was ousted by Miami 88-82 in a quarterfinal loss in the ACC Tournament but they’ll be making their first appearance in the NIT since 2011 as the No. 3 seed in the BYU Quadrant.
North Carolina State
Despite a terrific season from one of the country’s best players, junior guard Cat Barber, the NC State Wolfpack were an overall disappointment during the 2015-16 season. After finishing the season 16-17 overall, 5-13 in the conference, and in 13th place, the Wolfpack missed out on an NCAA Tournament bid that many believed was attainable for them. Cat Barber put the team on his back for much of the season, averaging 23.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game, but didn’t receive nearly as much help from his teammates on a regular basis. The Wolfpack lost three key games early in the season (William & Mary, ASU, Michigan), and suffered four losing streaks during conference play, including a season long five-game losing streak to open up ACC play.
Brandon Ingram – Duke
Malik Beasley – Florida State
Dwayne Bacon – Florida State
Malachi Richardson – Syracuse
Bryant Crawford – Wake Forest