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Tech’s Erick Green has a shot at ACC top honors, but votes often go to players on winning teams.
Virginia Tech's Erick Green is the top scorer in the nation, but his team is in last place.
Duke's Mason Plumlee averages a double-double for the nation's sixth-ranked team.
Miami's Shane Larkin is a standout on a team that sits atop the ACC standings.
Thursday, February 21, 2013
There are three contenders for ACC men’s basketball player of the year, but one of them is not like the others.
Duke forward Mason Plumlee, whose team visits Virginia Tech tonight, is averaging a double-double for a squad ranked sixth in the nation and occupying second place in the ACC.
Miami point guard Shane Larkin is a standout on a team that is ranked second in the nation and atop the ACC standings.
And then there is Virginia Tech point guard Erick Green. He is the nation’s leading scorer, but he plays for the conference’s last-place team.
Will voters opt for the star of one of the league’s top squads, as they usually do? Or will they choose Green despite his team’s losing record?
Adding to the intrigue is that this year there will be two groups crowning a player of the year. The Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association will once again name a player of the year. But for the first time, the ACC coaches will do so as well.
The media group will name its winner March 12, two days before the ACC Tournament begins. The coaches also will vote before the tournament, but they won’t reveal their winner until the following week.
Green, a senior who has led the nation in scoring since early January, is averaging 25.3 points and 4.1 assists for the Hokies (11-14, 2-10). He has a very good field-goal percentage for a guard — 47.3 percent.
TV analyst Dan Bonner said that if he were casting his ballot this week, he would vote for Green even though he normally votes for the best player on the ACC’s best team.
“I would not be surprised at all if Erick Green won the player of the year, just because he’s been so outstanding,” said Bonner, a member of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association. “What you have with Erick Green is not only the nation’s leading scorer but he is a guy who is in the top [six] in the ACC in assists, and that may be more miraculous than being the nation’s leading scorer because just who the heck is scoring when he passes them the ball?
“He is the nation’s leading scorer without being the least little bit selfish, … without really forcing too much. His shooting percentage is outstanding. It’s not like he scores 30 points a game taking 35 shots a game.”
But other voters might decide that a winning record is more important. TV analyst Mike Gminski, who is not a member of media association, said that if he had a vote, he would choose Plumlee or Larkin.
“I usually grade on the winning teams,” Gminski said. “Green’s obviously going to be first-team All-ACC, but I would probably put him behind the others right now, just based on that.”
Plumlee, a senior who is the ACC’s second-leading scorer and rebounder, averages 17.6 points and 10.4 rebounds for Duke (22-3, 19-3).
Larkin, a sophomore, averages 13.1 points, 4.3 assists and 2.0 steals for Miami (22-3, 13-0).
“I think winning is the most important criteria, so Larkin and Plumlee are right there. But Green is pretty special,” said Maryland coach Mark Turgeon, who has yet to make up his mind.
Only one player from a team with a losing ACC record has ever been named the league’s player of the year: Maryland’s Len Bias in 1986. But his team did have a winning overall record, and made the NCAA tournament.
“You start thinking about guys that have elevated their team to … the top of the standings,” said North Carolina State coach Mark Gottfried, an undecided voter. “But Erick Green, … he’s not putting up those points in 20- and 30-point losses. It’s every night against really good teams in really close games. So I don’t want to be the guy that penalizes him for the fact that their team just hasn’t … won very many games.”
Green, whose average is more than two points per game higher than anyone else in Division I, is on track to become only the second ACC player to be the Division I scoring champ. Grady Wallace of then-ACC member South Carolina did so in the 1956-57 season.
“Erick is a phenomenal scorer and a guy who’s really put them on his back,” said Clemson coach Brad Brownell, an undecided voter. “The other two guys are playing for successful teams, which I think is important, too.
“But I don’t know, because Erick, … he’s just had an All-America type season.”
Green would become the first player from one of the six major conferences to finish as the Division I scoring champ since Purdue’s Glenn Robinson 19 years ago.
“With the defenses keying in on him every single game with two or sometimes three guys, it’s amazing what he’s been able to do,” Tech coach James Johnson said.
“To draw that attention and still score the way he does is remarkable,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He’s one of the best players in the country.”
Despite the tough defenses in the ACC, Green is averaging 26.3 points in league play.
“He’s getting my vote because he’s been tremendous all year long,” Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory said. “And he’s just not a scorer — he creates shots for other people. He’s unselfish.”
Green said he would love to be named player of the year.
“Looking back, … that was a dream, not to just to play in the ACC, that was one of my dreams, but also to win player of the year,” Green said. “There’s some great players in the conference — Mason, Shane Larkin — but I definitely think I am one of best ones up there.”
Tonight, Green has a chance to impress voters in a prime time showcase on ESPN.
“This is every kid’s dream, to play against Duke, national TV, prime time,” Green said. “This is a big moment, not only just for myself but just for the team.”
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