Ranking the Favorites in the ACC Basketball Player of the Year Race
With the Atlantic Coast Conference welcoming in three new basketball teams in Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse, the conference will be more crowded than ever before. This makes every race for supremacy, including the fight for conference player of the year, that much harder.
Will a player from one of the conference's old guard win the first player of the year award in the new-look ACC? Or will one from one of the conference's newcomers enjoy a warm welcome?
Perhaps a newcomer of a different kind, a freshman, will steal the show.
Without further ado, let's look at the preseason favorites to win ACC Player of the Year in 2013-14.
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Joe Harris, Virginia
Only three guys averaged more points per game in the ACC last year than Joe Harris, and all three of them have graduated. He's a great shooter who also happens to have the highest three-point shooting percentage of all ACC returnees.
The Cavaliers will need him to fill up the basket to be successful. While it may not always be enough for them to win games, it could be enough for him to earn all-conference honors for the second year in a row.
Okaro White, Florida State
The Seminoles lost Michael Snaer, who graduated, and they also came up short in the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes. But they still have Okaro White. Freshman Xavier Rathan-Mayes may fill the statistical holes left by Snaer's departure, but White will take over as the leader of the team.
With more minutes and touches likely in his future, White should expand upon last season's stats (12.4 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 51.1 FG%) and reach new heights.
James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina
The North Carolina forward was wise to pass on the NBA draft and stay another year in college. McAdoo will be pushed by incoming bigs Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks, but that may motivate him to play harder.
Also, this year's Tar Heels won't be playing as much small ball as last year's squad did. This means McAdoo will spend less time matched up against the opposing team's center, putting him in his more natural power forward position.
5. Rodney Hood, Duke
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After having to wait a year following a transfer from Mississippi State, Rodney Hood's Duke career suffered another potential delay. While the Achilles injury Hood suffered in June was not deemed serious enough for surgery, it certainly wasn't a good sign.
He has since been back in practice, and his new teammates are impressed. According to the team's Twitter account, guard Rasheed Sulaimon said of Hood, "Everything he does, he does it like he's not even sweating. That's the scary part. I'd hate to see him going hard."
Hood is expected to be a starter and key contributor for the Blue Devils. He earned SEC All-Freshman Team honors in 2011-12. This year, he could be looking at even bigger accolades.
4. Dez Wells, Maryland
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It was uncertain whether or not Dez Wells would get to play at Maryland right away following his departure from Xavier, but once he was cleared, he enjoyed a good season at College Park. Wells led the Terrapins in scoring with 13.1 points per game to go along with 4.9 rebounds and three assists.
Perhaps most impressively, Wells finished in the top 20 in scoring in the ACC while attempting just 9.5 field goals per game, thanks in large part to his 52.6 percent shooting from the field.
If Wells maintains his efficiency, he can be both one of the league's highest and most accurate scorers in 2013-14.
3. P.J. Hairston, North Carolina
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P.J. Hairston appears to be in good legal standing. The charges against him from an incident last month where he was found driving without a license and in possession of marijuana were dropped.
However his standing with the team is not as clear. According to Rob Dauster of NBC Sports, Hairston could face up to a 10-game suspension.
While that certainly wouldn't help his cause on the court, Hairston still has to be considered for conference player of the year.
According to kenpom.com (subscription required), Hairston had the highest offensive rating, which measures overall offensive efficiency, of all players who used at least 24 percent of their team's possessions. The keys to his efficiency were his solid three-point shooting (39.6 percent) and his ability to protect the ball (1.1 TPG).
With those kinds of numbers, no player returning to the ACC has more potential in 2013 than Hairston.
2. C.J. Fair, Syracuse
Of course, Hairston also has to compete with some newcomers to the conference, like Syracuse's C.J. Fair.
Fair led the Orange in scoring and rebounding last season, averaging 14.5 and seven, respectively. And even though he isn't a big long-range threat, Fair has developed his three-point shot in his three years at Syracuse, shooting from distance more each passing season.
Last year he took just 64 three pointers, but he hit 30 of them, good for a 46.9 shooting percentage. Fair could complement his strong mid-range game by being more of a three-point threat this season, giving Syracuse's do-it-all forward the complete package.
1. Jabari Parker, Duke
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Jabari Parker hasn't played a college game yet, but he should be considered the favorite to be named the ACC's best player.
He has shooting range out to the three-point line and solid dribbling skills for his size. At 6'8", 220 pounds, he can also post up and rebound. And unlike the stereotypical selfish superstar, Parker is great at getting his teammates involved, sometimes to his own detriment, says ESPN's Jeff Goodman.
The only knock on Parker is his athleticism, which isn't elite considering how great the rest of his game is. It clearly doesn't hinder him offensively, but it can defensively against quicker opponents.
Fortunately for Parker, the Blue Devils face a dilemma that may hide his weakness. Because Duke lacks a reliable big man, they will have to play a lot of small ball, with Parker at the 4 or 5. This would mean he'd have to go up against some bigger opponents, but it may be easier for him than chasing guards on the perimeter through multiple screens.
Ultimately, no matter what position Parker ends up playing at Duke, he'll look good doing it. That's why when the season is over, the ACC may be looking at its first ever freshman to win conference player of the year honors.