Life in the ACC involves two realities. Many not on Tobacco Road assume that schools from North Carolina get preferential treatment. Many on Tobacco Road assume everyone outside of North Carolina is jealous of their successes, and therefore, are whiners with small peckers. Follow along on Twitter and the biases come from all angles – from scheduling, to officiating, to the media, to the league office. Some are rational, some are conspiracy theories, but all follow the familiar schism.
On Monday the All-ACC basketball teams were announced. In last year's voting John Henson won the Defensive Player of the Year. I penned a column about Tobacco Road bias, and pointed out that Chris Singleton should have been the correct choice. As a coach, player and someone who breaks down game film as a hobby, I'd like to think that I have a decent understanding of the game. I wasn't dismissive of Henson as the choice, I just presented my case for Singleton. This didn't stop a barrage of comments from UNC fans that I was a hack who wouldn't know a basketball if it hit me in the nuts. Two weeks later the ACC coaches cast their votes and they unanimously chose John Henson Chris Singleton. Hacks.
Which brings me to this year's voting. I personally thought that the Player of the Year should either be Tyler Zeller or Mike Scott. Personally, I picked Scott, but I don't really have an argument against anyone who prefers Zeller. Both had great seasons. Both are deserving. There's a pretty big drop-off after those two, and I thought the other three slots should be filled with John Henson, Harrison Barnes and either Kendall Marshall or Austin Rivers.
Then the teams were released. There are 62 voters, and 1st-Team votes are worth 3 points. Tyler Zeller got 186 points (62×3) while Mike Scott got 184. This means that two voters don't think Mike Scott is one of the five most deserving players in the ACC. Which is absurd. The conspiracy theory angle suggests that two writers made sure to keep him off so that Zeller would be the top vote getter. The media bias angle is that several ACC writers are obviously homers. And then there's the Tobacco Road angle. And for that, luckily, we have Caulton Tudor.
Caulton Tudor (who has written for Raleigh and Charlotte newspapers for over 30 years) is one of the two voters who left Scott off his 1st-Team ballot. And before I go further I'd like to point out that Caulton Tudor immediately manned up and admitted he was one of the two voters. Props to him. He even provided some of his arguments. Which is great. Let's examine them.
Again, thanks to Mr. Tudor for making his vote public. And for keeping all of his votes within the Triangle. Now, on to the arguments:
The best part of this is the "2 games that mattered most." Of course he thinks that games versus UNC are more meaningful in picking Player of the Year Awards (not sure how he evaluates UNC). Never mind that Mike Scott had 35 points and 11 boards in their season ending win at Maryland which clinched a first-round bye in the ACC Tourney and Virginia's first winning conference record since 2007. That game wasn't important. Never mind that Mike Scott finished 2nd in the ACC in scoring (behind Terrell Stoglin) or that his offensive rating was higher than 4 of Tudor's selections. (Also, you would think that using "vs. UNC" as the #1 criteria that Deividas Dulkys would have been Tudor's ACC Player of the Year, but no).
What about Kendall Marshall? What were his important games? Against the top-3 ACC teams he played well against Duke: 14 points and 8 assists in their loss, and 20 points, 10 assists and 4 turnovers in their win. But against Virginia Marshall shot 1-10 with 4 turnovers in two games. And against Florida State he was 2-8 shooting and had 7 turnovers. Okay, so games vs Duke are the only thing that matters for UNC players.
UNC won more games, that's your argument? UNC has as many consensus top-25 recruits on their roster as the rest of the conference combined. They should be embarrassed that they lost twice. And if winning games is what matters, why did no one from Florida State appear anywhere on Tudor's ballot (1st Team, Coach of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year)? Florida State won 12 ACC games (none of other other nine teams finished better than 9-7) and went 2-1 vs Duke and UNC.
Oh boy. To the data. Mike Scott attempted 30.6% of Virginia's shots. Harrison Barnes attempted 29.3% of UNC's shots. Was Harrison Barnes punished for "padding" his stats? Of course not. The difference is that Harrison Barnes is surrounded by a number of NBA talents and so defenses cannot key as him as much as they might otherwise. Meanwhile, Scott, whose "entire offense is set up to get him the ball" is the focus of every defensive gameplan in every game he plays. He's constantly double and triple teamed. And he still made a higher percentage of his shots than everyone Tudor selected, was more efficient than everyone but Zeller, and outscored them all.
(and before you drop a "of course he outscored them all" because he took a higher percentage of shots. Remember that Tony Bennett teams run about six minutes off the clock with every possession, and Scott took fewer shots than Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Austin Rivers)
Welcome to life in the ACC.