On Sunday afternoon, the ACC will announce its postseason award winners, a very quick turnaround from the end of the regular season. The ACC hands out several postseason awards and also names five teams of players – three All-ACC teams, an All-Freshman and an All-Defensive team.
The awards are voted on by the conference’s head coaches, SIDs, 30 members of the media and one member from each school’s radio network. The conference will make the names and affiliations of the media members public, but not their ballots. However, as I have done with my CAA award voting and USBWA awards (coming soon, as ballots are due at 6 p.m. on Sunday, March 5), I share my votes as I find it a useful exercise.
As I went through this exercise for the first time, one thing really hit me: it is very, very tough to make an all-conference team in a 15-team conference like the ACC. It’s tough enough to do so given the high level of play, but considering there are 15 teams, it is that much tougher. And as good as the ACC is this year, it means some very good players will not make an All-ACC team. I could probably put together a very good starting five composed of players who I did not vote for on one of the three All-ACC teams, and a solid case can be made for a number of those players.
So whoever ultimately is named All-ACC, it should be seen as quite an honor.
And with that established, here is a look at how I voted, with some thoughts on each vote. On the teams, players are listed alphabetically.
First Team All-ACC
Dwayne Bacon, Florida State
John Collins, Wake Forest
Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame
Justin Jackson, North Carolina
Luke Kennard, Duke
Bacon led a well-balanced Florida State team that for a while was as good as anyone in the conference and never lost at home all season. Collins made a big jump as a sophomore into a regular double-double player to lead the improved Demon Deacons, and he led the conference in field goal percentage by a wide margin. Colson is the only player in the ACC to average a double-double on the season, though Collins came close, and he was in the top 10 in several other categories. Jackson harnessed a lot of his potential this season as he became the star many thought he would become coming out of high school, and he edged out one teammate for a spot on this team. Kennard started hot and stayed that way for Duke all season long, and he was their most reliable player in a relatively uneven season while leading the conference in scoring and coming in second in three-point field goal percentage.
Second Team All-ACC
Joel Berry II, North Carolina
Donovan Mitchell, Louisville
Davon Reed, Miami
Dennis Smith Jr., NC State
Andrew White III, Syracuse
There might not have been a more important player to his team than Berry was to North Carolina, and you couldn’t go wrong selecting him to the first team, especially if you were swayed by his terrific performance in the regular season finale. Mitchell emerged as a star at both ends of the floor for Louisville and got better as the season went along. Reed was a solid, steady veteran for Miami and did good work at both ends of the floor for a team that played its best basketball later in the season. Smith was the lone bright spot for a disappointing NC State team, leading the conference in assists and finishing fifth in scoring along the way. White was a big key for Syracuse as one of the conference’s top scorers and shooting just under 40 percent from long range, and he was also among the leaders in steals.
Third Team All-ACC
Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson
Matt Farrell, Notre Dame
Ben Lammers, Georgia Tech
Jerome Robinson, Boston College
Michael Young, Pittsburgh
Blossomgame had a solid senior season for probably the most hard-luck team in the country. Farrell is one of the most improved players in the country, and he edged out a couple of teammates that got serious consideration as he did so much to help the Fighting Irish win games. Lammers is another who came out of nowhere to be a star, doing it at both ends for a Georgia Tech team that was better than so many expected. Robinson was one of the few bright spots for a Boston College team that again struggled to win games, though they did look better. Like Robinson, Young was one of the few bright spots for Pittsburgh, as he was second in the conference in scoring and led the Panthers in rebounding as well.
ACC Player of the Year: Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame
This was a wide-open race all the way to the finish, and any of the first team selections has a good case. I expect this to be a close vote and can’t say I’ll be shocked by the winner. The nod here goes to Colson, who was a consistent double-double machine (he led the conference in that category) and the leader of a well-balanced team that was better than a lot of people expected. He was already a key player, but this year he took the next step to becoming a star. Notre Dame’s surge to where they had a chance to finish in second place outright (they finished tied for second and will be the No. 3 seed in the ACC Tournament) only further aids his case.
ACC All-Freshman Team
Ky Bowman, Boston College
Jonathan Isaac, Florida State
Josh Okogie, Georgia Tech
Dennis Smith Jr., NC State
Jayson Tatum, Duke
Bowman joins Robinson as one of the few bright spots for the Eagles, as he was fourth among ACC freshmen in scoring and third in assists while giving the Eagles a different look. Isaac led all ACC freshmen in double-doubles and instantly helped the Seminoles make a jump in the standings. Okogie was no small part of Georgia Tech being much better than pretty much anyone expected. Smith was as good as advertised, though NC State has had a season to forget, as he led all ACC freshmen in scoring and assists (leading the entire conference in the latter category) and posted a triple-double along the way. Tatum missed some early action, but clearly got better as the season went along and was second among all freshmen in scoring, highlighted by his big game at Virginia in February.
ACC Freshman of the Year: Dennis Smith Jr., NC State
Smith was the preseason pick for this award, and he didn’t disappoint while no other freshman outshined him. Team success generally matters less in voting for this award than for Player of the Year, so the Wolfpack’s season shouldn’t hurt him in the voting. He led the conference in assists and was fifth in scoring, and now the unfortunate thing is that only a miracle in Brooklyn will allow the nation to see more of him later this month.
ACC All-Defensive Team
Matt Jones, Duke
Ben Lammers, Georgia Tech
Donovan Mitchell, Louisville
Davon Reed, Miami
Isaiah Wilkins, Virginia
Jones consistently guarded key opposing perimeter players and did it well, while also ranking among the conference leaders in steals. Lammers led the conference in blocked shots by a wide margin, ranking third in the nation in that category, and was also near the top in rebounding, helping Georgia Tech lead the conference in blocked shots and finish third in field goal percentage defense. Mitchell led the conference in steals and led one of the conference’s best defenses, as only Florida State forced more turnovers than the Cardinals. Reed quietly guarded key perimeter players night in, night out and led a very good defensive team. Wilkins led the conference’s best defensive team and was in the top ten in blocked shots.
ACC Defensive Player of the Year: Ben Lammers, Georgia Tech
The conference’s leader in blocked shots had an outsized impact on games for the Yellow Jackets. Naturally, he helped erase some defensive mistakes, and the Yellow Jackets were one of the conference’s best teams in field goal percentage defense as opponents shot below 40 percent against them on the season, and they led the conference in that category in conference games only. He also did well to be a rebounder, something not all shot-blockers do, and that combination leads him to get the nod in this category.
ACC Most Improved Player: Ben Lammers, Georgia Tech
Lammers shows up here again, as he went from being a bit player last year to a key player on a team that may make a surprise NCAA Tournament appearance. Only two players (John Collins of Wake Forest and Matt Farrell of Notre Dame) had a bigger year-over-year jump in scoring than Lammers did, while Lammers was also a difference-maker defensively as noted earlier. Collins and Farrell have great cases for this award, and you can also make a case for the likes of Donovan Mitchell and Luke Kennard, but not as strong a case as the others.
ACC Sixth Man: Seth Allen, Virginia Tech
Allen was so important for the Hokies that it might be easy to forget he comes off the bench. He was better in ACC play than non-conference play, and besides his good numbers, he was Mr. Clutch for them, making several big shots late in games. Perhaps no shot was bigger than the one that gave them a double-overtime win over arch-rival Virginia in February that might have made the difference in their season as it started a stretch where they won five out of six to put themselves in a solid position for an NCAA Tournament bid.
ACC Coach of the Year: Leonard Hamilton, Florida State
This award would have been a little more interesting to vote on a little earlier, as there are several coaches who have a good case. For much of the year, it looked like Josh Pastner would get this for getting Georgia Tech at least into the NCAA Tournament conversation (perhaps more) in what appeared to be a major rebuilding year, but the Yellow Jackets’ late fade – they finished losing three of their final four games – hurts his case some. Rick Pitino has a case considering the turmoil in the program over the past year, as well as this team not having quite the talent that immediately leaps out at you as a national power. Jim Larranaga did a great job getting Miami to where they will likely reach the NCAA Tournament again despite not having much in the way of proven experience returning this season, and Notre Dame and Virginia Tech were both a little better than most expected, so you can make a case for Mike Brey or Buzz Williams. But Hamilton gets the nod here for a great year with the Seminoles. They went 5-1 in a stretch of six straight games against ranked teams back in January en route to tying for second at 12-6, and they will have the No. 2 seed in the ACC Tournament.