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My ballot for All ACC, and individual awards

The All ACC teams are set to be announced at 2:30 today and the individual awards tomorrow and here is my ballot and my reasoning for voting as I did.

ALL-ACC TEAMS

1st Team Tyler Zeller UNC
1st Team John Henson UNC
1st Team Kendall Marshall UNC
1st Team Mike Scott Virginia
1st Team Austin Rivers Duke

I couldn’t vote more than three players from any team on my 1st team and some say you only vote three if that team dominated the league.  Tyler Zeller, John Henson and Kendall  Marshall stood out for me, leaving Harrison Barnes as the odd man out despite being 2nd in the league in scoring.  Mike Scott tailed off a bit late in the season but take him away and Virginia would not make the NCAA Tournament and his last performance assured him of a spot on my team.  Austin Rivers came on strong midway through the season and earned his way on my ballot despite scoring just 25 points in his last two games.    He was the Blue Devils best player and that helped him edge out the leagues leading scorer in Terrell Stoglin. 

2nd Team Harrison Barnes UNC
2nd Team Terrell Stoglin Maryland
2nd Team Michael Snaer FSU
2nd Team Lorenzo Brown NCS
2nd Team Mason Plumlee Duke

The leagues top two scorers head up my 2nd team All ACC selections.  A testament to the Tar Heels talent is the fact that Harrison Barnes was pushed to my  2nd team.  Some will have him ahead of Kendall Marshall, but take away the captain of their ship and none of the big three stars would have the numbers they do.  Terrell Stoglin could have easily been a 1st team choice as well.  Michael Snaer was my first Florida State player selected and I am very comfortable with him on this team.  I am of the opinion that Lorenzo Brown of N.C. State was their most valuable player and his all around play made for a spot in my top ten.  As for Mason Plumlee, take him off the Duke front line and you would have seen many more losses.  He is one of the leagues top big men and the 2nd best player on the Blue Devils team from my vantage.

3rd Team Kenni Kadji Miami
3rd Team Travis McKie WF
3rd Team Erick Green VT
3rd Team CJ Leslie NCS
3rd Team Seth Curry Duke

Kenny Kadji had great stats in league play and he got better as the season progressed, so he represents Miami.  Many might go with Durand Scott on this team but he fell just short on my ballot and I felt Kadji earned this selection.  Wake Forest pushed C.J. Harris for 1st team or their lead player but to me, Travis McKie was more valuable with his all around stats.  Harris, like Scott was right there for me but Seth Curry gained the last spot in that he played for a team which won a lot more games in league play.  Erick Green could have easily made my 2nd team as well and he had a fine season for the Hokies.  I wrestled back and forth with the selection of C.J. Leslie, but he is 10th in scoring and rebounding or close to that going into the last game of the season, so that garnered him a spot. And Bernard James was the odd man out but he had a heck of a season and was quite valuabel to his team.

ALL-DEFENSIVE TEAM

Jontel Evans Virginia
John Henson UNC
Michael Snaer FSU
Bernard James FSU
Andrew Young, Clemson

The trio of John Henson, Michael Snaer and Bernard James were no brianers.  Jontel Evans gained a spot with his play and I felt good about his addition, while Andre Young of Clemson edged out the likes of Erick Green and Lorenzo Brown. 

ALL-FRESHMAN TEAM

Austin Rivers Duke
Ryan Anderson BC
Dorian Finey-Smith VT
Shane Larkin Miami
Nick Faust Maryland

In a very weak freshman class, Austin Rivers leads the way and a unanimous choice.  Ryan Anderson was an easy choice as well for me but I struggled with Nick Faust and some of his teammates and others for the last spot.  There are s a lot of freshman on the leagues better teams which have more talent and many of the players I voted for but their development was slowed by the talent ahead of them.

INDIVIDUAL AWARDS

Player of the Year – Tyler Zeller UNC – Tyler Zeller had a very nice senior season and he got my vote as the conferences top player. 

Defensive Player of Year – John Henson UNC – Henson altered a lot of shots and ripped plenty of defensive boards for the Tar Heels dominant front court.  Michael Snaer and Bernard Hopkins were right there as well and earned my consideration.

Rookie of the Year – Austin Rivers Duke – This was the easiest pick of the individual awards for me.  In a weak freshman class via production, Rivers stood out all season long, owning the weekly award as if it were velcroed to his chest.

Coach of the Year -Mike Krzyzewski Duke – It came down to three coaches for me, those being Leonard Hamilton of Florida State, Tony Bennett of Virginia and Mike Krzyzewski of Duke.  Hamilton led his Florida State team to their pre season predicted finish of 3rd and they demolished North Carolina with some home cooking.  But those early losses to weak teams at home, lands him in 3rd place for me.  Tony Bennett led his team to a 4th place finish despite losing transfers and Asanne Sene, their main post presence.  That earned him 2nd place in my voting.  As many of you know, Coach Mike Krzyzewski hardly ever wins the award but this is the year he is deserving and he got my vote.  Krzyzewski led his team to 26 regular season wins which include Kansas, North Carolina, Michigan State, Michigan.  Add wins over NCAA tournament bound teams Belmont, Davidson, Washington and possibly Colorado State and Tennessee and it is clear that the Blue Devils came to pay despite losing Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler and Kyrie Irving in the off season.  He coached an unusual roster by past standards and squeezed the most out of them.   I am very comfortable with him obtaining my vote.

In the end, selections are all subjective, but I pride myself on remaining objective and voting my conscience.  There is no true tried and true criteria for voting, so you will see ballots vary greatly.  As for Duke, Seth Curry was on my 1st team ballot in the pre season and he made that team, but he fell to my 3rd team at seasons end.  Kendall Marshall and Harrison Barnes flip flopped teams and the rest remained the same with the exception of Rivers.  Zeller ended up my Player of the Year but his teammate Barnes got my vote in the pre season.  My pre season predicted standings were very close to the actual finish, the top five intact as was the bottom.  I had Virginia Tech a couple of spots too high in the pre season, but overall I was very close.  My optimistic pre season projected record for Duke was the 26-5 record they own, another reason Krzyzewski got my vote.

Virginia Tech at Duke Game Notes

• Game 29 •

[5 AP / 4 Coaches] Duke (24-4, 11-2) vs. Virginia Tech (15-13, 4-9)

Saturday, February 25, 2012 • 12:00 p.m. • ACC Network

The Opening Tip

• Duke (24-4, 11-2) faces Virginia Tech in an ACC home contest on Saturday, Feb. 25 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Tipoff is set for 12:00 p.m.

• Tim Brandt (play-by-play) and Cory Alexander (analyst) will call the game for the ACC Network.

• Duke is ranked No. 5 in the AP Poll and No. 4 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll. The Blue Devils are 68-24 when ranked No. 5 in the AP Poll. Virginia Tech is not ranked in either poll.

• Duke is the only team in the NCAA to rank in the top 5 in RPI, Strength of Schedule as well as the AP and ESPN/USA Today Coaches polls. Duke has three wins against top 10 teams in the RPI.

• The Blue Devils are 12-2 at home this season with both losses coming against ACC teams. Duke has not lost more than two games on Coach K Court since the 2006-07 season.

• With Thursday’s win at Florida State, Duke has assumed first place in the ACC standings.

Duke-Virginia Tech Series

• Duke and Virginia Tech have met 46 times heading into Saturday’s game with the first meeting between the two schools coming on Feb. 16, 1912.

• The Blue Devils lead the all-time series 38-8, including a 9-3 ledger since the Hokies joined the ACC.

• Duke won the previous meeting this season 75-60 in Blacksburg, Va., thanks to an 18-point effort from freshman Austin Rivers. Duke has won two in a row in the series and six of the last seven meetings.

• The Blue Devils are 15-1 against the Hokies in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

• Mike Krzyzewski is 9-3 at Duke against the Hokies, including a 4-1 record in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

• Six of Duke’s last seven wins over Virginia Tech have been by at least 12 points. Duke’s last three losses to Virginia Tech have been by no more than four points.

Numbers Game

l Duke has been ranked in the top 10 of the AP Poll for 90 straight weeks, the third-longest streak in NCAA history.

l The Blue Devils are 13-3 on the year in games decided by 10 points or less. The Blue Devils have six wins in ACC play by less than 10 points. Duke’s 13 wins by 10 points or less are tied for the sixth most in school history.

l Duke averages 25.5 points per game off the bench with 11 games with 30 or more bench points. The Blue Devils have had a double-digit scorer off the bench in 21 of 28 games this season.

l Only four Duke teams have won their first seven ACC road games. The Blue Devils are 7-0 in ACC road games, joining the 2005-06, 1999-2000 and 1998-99 teams as the only groups to win their first seven ACC road contests. Duke has not gone undefeated in ACC road games since 1999-2000.

l Duke has hit at least eight three-pointers in seven straight games. During that streak, the Blue Devils are shooting 37.8 percent from three-point range while averaging 30.4 ppg. from three-pointers.

l Andre Dawkins leads the ACC with a .422 three-point shooting percentage. Dawkins is 65-of-154 from beyond the arc this season and ranks third in made three-pointers.

l Duke has a +15.7 scoring margin in Cameron Indoor Stadium and a +6.6 rebounding margin at home. The Blue Devils score an average of 82.9 points per game on Coach K Court while holding opponents to 67.2 points per game. Duke has outrebounded nine of 14 opponents at home.

l Duke’s perimeter defense has improved significantly over the last 13 games. Duke has held those 13 opponents to a .277 shooting percentage from beyond the arc and allowed just three of those teams to shoot better than .350 from three-point range.

l Austin Rivers leads Duke in scoring at 15.2 points per game and has reached double figures in 24 contests. He is attempting to become just the third Duke freshman to lead the team in scoring.

l Miles Plumlee is averaging 9.0 points and 11.5 rebounds over his last four games. He has two double-figure rebounding games and two double-figure scoring games during that span, including a Coach K-era record 22 boards against Maryland.

l Seth Curry has made 16 consecutive free throws and 35 of his last 38 free throw attempts. He ranks second in the ACC with an .884 free throw percentage, which would rank as the seventh highest single-season mark in school history.

l Duke has had at least four double-figure scorers in 16 games this season. The Blue Devils are 15-1 when at least four players score 10 points.

l Seven Duke players have started at least 10 games this season, tying the school record. Duke last had seven players with at least 10 starts in 2008-09.

Duke at Boston College Game Notes

• Game 27 •

[5 AP / 4 Coaches] Duke (22-4, 9-2) vs. Boston College (8-18, 3-9)

Sunday, February 19, 2012 • 6:00 p.m. • ESPNU

The Opening Tip

• Duke (22-4, 9-2) faces Boston College (8-18, 3-9) in an ACC road contest on Sunday, Feb. 19 at the Conte Forum. Tipoff is set for 6:00 p.m.

• Jon Sciambi (play-by-play) and Hubert Davis (analyst) will call the game for ESPNU.

• Duke is ranked No. 5 in the AP Poll and No. 4 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll. The Blue Devils are 66-24 when ranked No. 5 in the AP Poll. Boston College is unranked in both polls.

• The Blue Devils are coming off a 78-73 win over N.C. State on Thursday. Duke outscored the Wolfpack 37-12 over the final 11:33 of action to overcome a 20-point second half deficit.

• Duke is the only team in the NCAA to rank in the top 5 in RPI, Strength of Schedule as well as the AP and ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.

• The Blue Devils are currently 5-0 on the road in league play. Duke hasn’t won six straight ACC road games since the 2005-06 season.

Duke-Boston College Series

• Duke and Boston College have met 15 times heading into Sunday’s game with the first meeting between the two schools coming on Dec. 21, 1979.

• The Blue Devils lead the all-time series 13-2, including a 9-1 ledger since Boston College joined the ACC.

• Duke has won four straight and 12 of the last 13 games in the series.

• Mike Krzyzewski is 12-2 at Duke against the Eagles, including a 4-1 record at the Conte Forum.

• Seven of the 10 games since Boston College joined the ACC have been decided by 10 points or less.

• All five games in the series that have been played at the Conte Forum have been decided by 10 points or less.

• Duke and Boston College have met twice in the ACC Tournament with Duke winning both games.

Numbers Game

l The Blue Devils are 9-2 in ACC play and are one win shy of winning at least 10 conference games for the fifth straight season and the 20th time under Mike Krzyzewski.

l Duke has been ranked in the top 10 of the AP Poll for 89 straight weeks, the third-longest streak in NCAA history.

l The Blue Devils have had 10 or fewer turnovers in five ACC games and leads the conference with 10.1 turnovers per game in league play. Duke had a season-low five turnovers in Thursday’s win over N.C. State, including no turnovers over the final 13 minutes of play.

l Duke is 12-3 on the year in games decided by 10 points or less. The Blue Devils have five wins in ACC play by less than 10 points.

l The Blue Devils have held seven of their 11 ACC opponents to four three-point field goals or less. ACC opponents are shooting just 28.4 percent (44-of-155) from three-point range against Duke for the second lowest percentage in the conference.

l Duke has trailed at the half in three of the last four games and has had a second half deficit of 10 points or more in three of the last four contests. The Blue Devils overcame a 13-point second half deficit to beat North Carolina (Feb. 8) and a 20-point deficit to defeat N.C. State (Feb. 16).

l The Blue Devils average 25.1 points per game off the bench. Duke has gotten double-digit scoring from the bench in 19 of 26 games this season and the bench has scored 30 or more points in 10 games.

l Austin Rivers was named ACC Rookie of the Week for the seventh time overall and the fourth straight week on Monday. Rivers’ seven selections are the third most in ACC history, while his four straight selections tie three others for the ACC’s longest streak.

l Brothers Mason and Miles Plumlee combine to average 17.9 points and 16.3 rebounds per game this season. Either Mason or Miles has led Duke in rebounding in 24 of Duke’s 26 games. The duo has also combined for 19 double-figure rebounding games on the year.

l Seth Curry has scored in double-figures in five consecutive games and is averaging 18.6 points per game in that span. He is 16-of-37 (.432) from three-point range and is also averaging 4.4 rebounds per game in the last five contests.

l Austin Rivers leads all ACC freshmen in points per game (15.0), minutes per game (32.2), double-figure scoring games (22), 20-point games (6), field goals made (131), field goal percentage (.444) and free throws made (83). He ranks second in three-pointers made (45) and steals (24).

l Mason Plumlee ranks second in the ACC in rebounding at 9.9 rpg. He is also second in the league with 14 double-figure rebounding games and has grabbed 10 or more rebounds in four straight games and six of the last seven contest.

A look back at another amazing Duke win – time to give the Devils their due

DURHAM, N.C. – Duke Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski entered a sweltering and packed media room in Cameron Indoor Stadium and he wanted no part of fielding questions about the Blue Devils perceived or real short comings or areas of needed improvement.  And who can blame him?  His team just pulled off an amazing comeback victory over a game N.C. State Wolfpack team that led his Blue Devils by 20 points with 11:33 on the clock in the second half.

Once again, Austin Rivers hit a huge three point shot with 2:26 left giving Duke a 73-71 lead and one they’d hold onto ending the game with a 78-73 victory keeping them in a three way tie atop the conference.  “When we made that run, I could just feel it.  I could just feel it.  I felt confident.  I love those games,” said an elated Rivers.

While he may have liked the outcome, he was quick to say as did other Blue Devils that they cannot keep digging holes and expect to comeback.  In a span of eight days, Austin hit two of the biggest shots of  the season with one being  a dagger to the heart buzzer beater over arch rival North Carolina.

To give you an idea of the ferocity of the comeback, it was the largest in the Krzyzewski era, down 14 in the half.   “That was an amazing win,” said the Hall of Fame coach who broke the all time NCAA win mark this season.  He continued, “I thought our fans were terrific, they never let us die.”

And Cameron did rock and it sounded like jet aircraft taking off the runway when Rivers nailed the three to put Duke ahead for good.  There were times when every fan in the old girl were standing and it has been while since the collective did that. 

While it seemed bleak for much of the game, the first 29 minutes to be exact, Duke kept the faith, their heart and never quit which payed off in a most big way.  “They thoroughly outplayed us for close to 29 minutes but we thoroughly outplayed them for 11,” said Krzzyewski.

And those 11 minutes were amazing (37-13 run to end the game) for a Duke team that has set the tone for ACC drama of late.  A quick look at the message boards, showed a lot of fans giving up, just as they had in the North Carolina game, only to all come back and dine on a crow sandwich as they celebrated another incredible and impossible to script win.

“Heroic,” was the word Krzyzewski used for Seth Curry in the post game and man was he on the mark.  The junior went to the sidelines with what seemed like a game ending injury and he was escorted to the training room by Duke trainer Jose Fonsesca.    Curry told Fonseca that he didn’t know if he could make a go of it according to Krzyzewski, but he was told he had to and he did and in the process had a story book 2nd half.

Curry dropped 21 of his team high 26 points in the second half in what I feel was his best game of the season.  He drew praise from his coach for his strong play with the ball in his hands and he was a match up nightmare for the befuddled Wolfpack team.  “That was a heroic performance by Seth,” said Krzyzewski.  Duke will scheduled to take a look at his injury today to see if he is a go for Boston College this Sunday.

Now back to Krzyzewski and that hot media room.  A mildly flustered Krzyzewski when questioned by media said, “No, no, no,”when questioned about his concerns.  “You know what I am concerned with today? A celebration of a great win.  Whatever string of things happened, we are 22-4 and ranked in the top five of the RPI all season long. We’re not a perfect team, but we’re a good team,” stated the long time Duke head coach.

And he is right.  Far too often the media and especially the fan base expect perfection yet overlook the fact of the seasons accomplishments to date.  The bottom line is Duke won and they are winning and they are competing with anyone.  Go back and harp on a loss at Ohio State if you like, but this is a better team now and a resilient one at that.

And keep in mind how tired Duke was after starting the season off in China and Dubai, then to Hawaii, New York and then Columbus where they faced a team that had nine days rest and had not played away from home with the Buckeyes.  Just sayin’

While there is no take charge leader on this years team, there is a perpetual will to get better and win and the Blue Devils continue to find ways of hanging around in the top five ranked teams in the country.  This Blue Devils team is finding ways to win in tough situations and that is the mark of a winner.

Pundits, critics and haters will continue to speak of the short comings of Duke while not recognizing their amazing success and a string of two memorable victories.  The media is just like that, some say doing there job, but the fan base should know better and if you haven’t noticed yet, this team is pretty darn good and still learning.

Sit back and enjoy the season as it winds down and leave the nit picking to others.  This team has been amazing and it is time to give the Devils their due.