The Way Too Early ACC Freshmen Review

Posted by KCarpenter on February 3rd, 2012

It’s been something of a down year for sensational ACC freshmen after last year’s excellent class. Still there have been some real gems, and though the Rookie of the Year Honor was pretty much wrapped up by the time the first conference game was tipped, most spots on the ACC All-Freshman Team are wide open. A lot of highly-touted recruits have flopped or underperformed, a lot of talented guys haven’t won minutes over their more experienced teammates, and in general, the youngsters have played pretty inconsistently. If voting for the All-Freshmen team was held tomorrow, here’s who I would vote for.

  • G Austin Rivers (Duke)

Rivers Was Anointed An All-ACC Freshman a Long Time Ago

Barring a miracle, Rivers has Rookie of the Year wrapped up. Leading a top-flight Duke team, he’s the only freshman whose average has cracked double digits. He leads the balanced and talented Blue Devils with 14.1 PPG. Rivers game isn’t perfect; he struggles to do much beyond scoring and his offensive efficiency leaves something to be desired at 103.2. Still, he’s the leading scorer on the best offense in the ACC and that makes any other deficiency seem somewhat trivial. If highlight reel appearances were a statistical category, Rivers moves would leave all the other rookies in the dust.

  • G Shane Larkin (Miami)

With an expected backcourt of Malcom Grant and Durand Scott leading the talented Hurricanes, it didn’t seem like there was a lot of room for 5’11” freshman like Larkin to get a lot of playing time beyond spells off the bench. Somehow though, Larkin proved so valuable to Jim Larranaga that the Hurricanes went to a three guard lineup starting the energetic guard alongside his more experienced teammates. In his first year, Larkin has already managed to jump to the top of the ACC steals charts, averaging 1.9 SPG alongside Lorenzo Brown and Jontel Evans. In terms of tempo-free statistics, Larkin leads the ACC, getting a steal on 4.8% of opponents posessions (this also happens to be the 14th best mark in the nation). Outside of being an all-round pest on defense, Larkin leads ACC freshmen with 2.5 APG and shoots a very respectable 37.5% from behind the arc. With these skills, Larkin is going to be breaking the hearts of other teams fans for the foreseeable future.

  • G Lonnie Jackson ( Boston College)

On a very bad Boston College team filled with shot-chucking freshmen, Lonnie Jackson is clearly the best. He ranks in the top 10 in the entire ACC in terms of sheer number of three-pointers made and shoots a smooth 40.9% from beyond the arc. Scoring only 7.6 PPG, he’s got three other freshmen on whose own team who score more points per game than he does, but Jackson’s ability to do score efficiently separates him from his turnover prone, terribly inaccurate teammates. In terms of results, Jackson might be the best pure shooter in this class.

  • F Dorian Finney-Smith (Virginia Tech)

Despite playing relatively quietly, Finney-Smith leads all ACC Freshmen in rebounding with 7.2 RPG. Though he struggles to score (5.6 PPG), he is a big, versatile player who finds ways to help his team in other ways. Outside of Boston College’s Jordan Daniels and Shane Larkin, Finney-Smith averages the most assists per game of any rookie (2.1) and he does so as a 6’8″ power forward. He’s not your conventional power forward, but he’s a unique player who is going to help Virginia Tech build its team for years to come.

  • C Alex Len (Maryland)

The pickings at center are pretty slim for this class, but Len gets the nod mostly on potential. His 2.1 BPG is over double that of any other freshman, he’s the third best rebounder in his class outside of Finney-Smith and Ryan Anderson (I’ll explain why he didn’t make the cut later), and has an effective field goal percentage of 62.2%. Len is very raw, but he is also tall, athletic, and talented. If he improves even modestly, the ACC is going to be in for a nasty shock. Len has the latent ability to dominate a game and if Maryland can figure out how to harness it, the Terrapins are going to win a lot of games.

Honorable Mentions

  • G P.J. Hairston (North Carolina)
  • F Ashton Pankey (Maryland)

Both Hairston and Pankey have put in a good amount of solid play off the bench, but due to minute restrictions, insufficient touches or just bad luck, neither have produced the kind of numbers that make you “oooh” or “ahhh” about them. Hairston, in particular, often looks like the most talented freshman in the conference outside of Rivers, and on a team where he was the focal point of the offense instead of the seventh man, I’m sure he’d be putting up some gaudy stats. At North Carolina, however, Hairston’s talent has yet to truly shine through. Likewise, Pankey has been a solid ACC forward, but as a freshman bit player in the Terrell Stoglin show, his chances to shine are vastly limited. Still, I’d definitely want him to play on my team.

Disqualified For Terrible Efficiency (The Freshman Fool’s Gold Team)

  • G Robert Brown (Virginia Tech)
  • G Nick Faust ( Maryland)
  • F Patrick Heckmann (Boston College)
  • F Ryan Anderson (Boston College)
  • C Dennis Clifford (Boston College)

All five of these players rank on the top ten in the ACC freshmen points per game statistic, and a number of them will probably receive votes for the All-Freshmen team. This is a mistake on the part of these voters who rely too much on points per game. All five of these players have the distinction of using over 20% of their team’s possessions, yet failing to score at an offensive efficiency rate over 95.0 (this is well below average). Each of these players hurts their team in their own way, through simple bad shooting or regrettably high turnovers. The point is that these players, despite scoring more points than their freshman peers, probably hurt their teams a lot more than they help them. I expect Anderson will actually be selected to the All-Freshman team and his relatively high points and rebounds per game will be cited. When this happens, just remember that his effective field goal percentage is 43.7% and that he plays power forward and think about how ridiculously bad that is.

Low Usage All Stars

  • G Quinn Cook (Duke)
  • G-F Michael Gbinije (Duke)
  • G-F K. J. McDaniels
  • F Darion Atkins (Virginia)
  • F C.J. Barksdale (Virginia Tech)

Through the magic of playing really great in limited minutes, these freshmen have managed to post truly impressive per-posession statistics. It’s unclear if this is caused by incredible talent not getting enough playing time or the magic of a small sample size. Still, per-minute, I just wanted to give these guys some credit.

KCarpenter (269 Posts)

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