Mason Plumlee Makes His Case For ACC Player of the YearPosted by Jimmy Kelley on February 1st, 2013
Jimmy Kelley is an ACC correspondent for Rush the Court. Follow him on Twitter @DevilsinDurham
The ACC Player of the Year award is, just as with every conference’s top award, an honor that has different meaning depending on whom you ask. Some would define it as the most outstanding player in the conference during the season. For others, the award should go to the player who was the most indispensable and without whom his team would have fallen well short of where it finished. Going even deeper down the rabbit hole, some believe that a player who makes a bad team competitive isn’t as “valuable” as the best player on the best team in the league. I trend towards the second definition with a bit of the third mixed in, settling on the award going to the most indispensable player on one of the league’s top teams. Using this criteria, Duke‘s Mason Plumlee has made one of the strongest cases in the league.
On Wednesday night, Duke escaped Wake Forest with a 75-70 win on the back of a career-high 32 points from Plumlee. On a night where Duke shot 2-of-14 from three-point range and turned the ball over more than they are accustomed to, the Blue Devils got a good win because of Plumlee’s ability to come through time after time. Without Ryan Kelly in the lineup, Duke has had to rely on Plumlee more on both ends of the court and while it took some growing into, the senior finally looks like the same player who was on pace to do things the ACC hasn’t seen since Tim Duncan averaged 19 points and 11 rebounds per game. [Ed. Note: We are not trying to suggest that Plumlee is even close to the player Duncan was in college so save the angry comments and tweets.]
But it isn’t just the 32 points, nine rebounds, and 8-of-10 performance at the free throw line that made his case for the award. It was his presence on the court and the way he went about getting his points. Knowing his team wasn’t hot from the outside, Duke pounded the ball inside and scored in a multitude of ways. Spin moves, face ups, hook shots, and dunks were mixed in with his aggressive drives and trips to the free throw line, reflecting the type of “man on a mission” mindset that Duke fans have hoped to see from him since he arrived in Durham.
Another part of that mindset that came through on Wednesday was his ability to stay on the court knowing that Duke would be in a world of trouble if he fouled out. Plumlee picked up his third foul at the 18:33 mark of the second half but stayed on the floor and played foul-free basketball until picking up his fourth with 4:02 to play. During that time, the big man only sat for 1:08 of game clock time although his defense did take a noticeable hit. At the end of the day his offense is what has carried him to this point in his career and picking on him for not playing defense while saddled with four fouls in picking nits. Say what you will about Plumlee, but he may be one of the more self-aware players in the country (even if he ignores the holes in his post game, but I digress).
Duke will only go as far as Mason Plumlee will take them this season, which could be pretty far. Sounds like my ACC Player of the Year.