When attempting to make a claim that Maryland Terrapins' breakout center Alex Len is the front-runner for ACC Player of the Year, there's always going to be one seemingly unavoidable elephant in the room.
While he's not nearly as big as a real elephant, Duke's Mason Plumlee has been terrorizing quality big men with relentless interior play.
In fact, Plumlee has been receiving major recognition in National Player of the Year votes. Heck, I even put him No. 1 nationally in one of my recent articles.
He deserved it.
Plumlee's Blue Devils have faced off against six quality opponents, including three then-Top Five foes. He's been consistent in every facet of the game, dominating from the tip to the final whistle.
But sometimes, basketball fanatics have to look into the lens (no pun intended) of the future, and try to predict how the remainder of the season will play out rather than evaluate past performances.
If the season ended today, sure, Plumlee would take home top ACC player honors in a heartbeat.
But the season doesn't end today. It doesn't end in a few weeks or in a month.
It lasts throughout March, and Alex Len has displayed an abundance of promise that is impossible to ignore.
Len burst onto the national spotlight when Maryland battled No. 3 Kentucky at the Barclays Center in November. The 7'1'' product of Ukraine exploded for 23 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks against Nerlens Noel.
Since then, Len has drastically fallen off the national radar, save for one nationally televised game against Northwestern. It's simply impossible to impress people when they can't watch your games, which has been the case with Len due to Maryland's soft schedule.
In fact, many analysts have stated they don't care what Len does until Maryland plays Virginia Tech in early January to begin ACC play, and here's why:
While Len has certainly maintained his level of play since the opener in Brooklyn, Maryland has enjoyed substantial leads to the extent that Len loses minutes or receives less touches in order to give some of the more unproven players more experience.
His numbers? Not too shabby either. Totals of 13.9 points, 8.8 rebounds and more than two blocks per game are numbers you don't frequently come by, even if some of the opponents have RPIs in the 300s.
But the most impressive part is that he's only playing 25.4 minutes per night.
If you increase that total by just 25 percent up to about 32 minutes—which is what he'll most likely average during ACC play—his numbers are comparable to Plumlee's, who is averaging around 19 points and 11 rebounds per night.
Once Len competes against the likes of Plumlee, North Carolina's James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina State's Richard Howell and Miami's Reggie Johnson on a national stage, there's no doubt that he'll re-emerge as a top player in the nation, not just in the league.
The Plumlee versus Len battle on the court should be anticipated as much as any other individual matchup this season. Aside from Plumlee, no player in the ACC has the physical tools or skill level to contain Len.
Len does a tremendous job of using his length to seal off defenders in the post and turn entry passes into drop-step dunks. If he doesn't like the angle, he has the ability to step out for a 12-footer, which is rare for someone of his height.
In addition to offensive prowess, Len has asserted himself among the top shot-blockers in the ACC. When he's not swatting shots, he's altering shots—which happens almost every time an opponent enters the lane.
Or shall we call it "Alex Len territory"?
It's understandable that Len isn't receiving the same praise as Plumlee because Duke's schedule has put Plumlee in the spotlight, especially on television.
Stiffer competition leads to closer games, which lead to more touches for Plumlee. Len loses touches because Maryland has beaten up on the likes of University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Monmouth University.
Once the factors of touches, minutes and national spotlight become a common denominator between Len and Plumlee, Maryland's center should break through as the favorite. His skills are unprecedented, and his numbers should be unmatched.
Plumlee may be the favorite as of now, but Len has all of the makings, and then some, to push through as ACC Player of the Year.