Scintillating Battle for ACC ROY Under Way This SeasonPosted by Chris Kehoe on February 14th, 2014
No offense to Ben Emelogu, Kennedy Meeks or Anthony Barber, but it was never really much of a contest to begin with. From the moment they stepped foot on their respective campuses, Duke’s Jabari Parker and Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis made it clear they were the biggest and baddest freshmen around. And from November up until present day February, it has been painfully clear that Ennis and Parker are two of the best (if not the two best) freshmen in the entire country.
While Parker started white-hot, recording countless 20+ point games in his first few weeks in a Blue Devil uniform, Ennis remained steady and consistent. Parker dominated the national POY conversation up until about December, when he ultimately handed the torch to Creighton’s Doug McDermott, who has not relinquished his grasp on the top honors since. So while it seems unlikely Jabari, or anyone else for that matter, will be able to catch McDermott, Parker still has his eyes set on ACC POY and ROY trophies in what will likely be his only season in Durham. While no one debates Parker’s next-level readiness from an offensive arsenal standpoint as well as physical makeup and his NBA-ready frame, Parker’s defense is lacking and he can be a liability at times. That gap in his game is overshadowed by the dunks, step back isolation jumpers, often gaudy rebounding numbers and solid rim protecting, but the ‘other’ side of the ball still remains an issue. It is understandable why he continues to receive what some might call backhanded praise, comparing him to Carmelo Anthony, who while a prolific scorer, is not known for his defensive prowess by any means. While Parker’s projected national-level accolades have dropped since his scorching start, Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis has been shooting up the rankings over the past few months.
Almost an afterthought in this much-heralded freshmen recruiting class of 2014, Ennis didn’t have the Michael Carter-Williams type-size, or jaw-dropping athleticism, or flashy, highlight reel quality assists that frequently ignite social media chatter. But what Ennis does possess is a steady control of the game, an extremely high basketball IQ, an uncanny ability to hold onto the basketball at all costs, and the intangibles to will his team to victory in the tightest of spots. After his undefeated season-saving heave at the buzzer to beat Pittsburgh, it is clear Ennis has that “signature moment” voters and fans will remember when it is time to cast ballots for postseason accolades. When you look at the fact that Pittsburgh was 9-0 at the Petersen Events Center against top-5 ranked teams and Syracuse was 1-6 at Pittsburgh in their last seven outings, it made his shot even more remarkable. While Parker had arguably recently wrestled back the top mantle for ACC freshmen honors after dropping 29, 21, 15, and 21 in his last four games, Ennis’s Pittsburgh display has him surging right back.
It seems when either Ennis or Parker seems to land a devastating body blow to the other in their ACC ROY candidacy, the other responds in a way that definitively shifts the momentum back, making for an exhilarating battle for viewers everywhere. Syracuse as a team has clearly has had the better season, undefeated and #1 in the polls, and this will ultimately be a great benefit to Ennis’s cause, especially seeing as he is the only true point guard on the roster. But what this award may truly come down to is the February 22nd matchup between Duke and Syracuse at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Parker had 15 and 9 (rebounds) in the Duke loss at the Carrier Dome, while Ennis came away with 14 and 9 (assists) and the win. Whoever comes out on top in this next matchup may decide the winner, but another deadlock may ultimately reveal what we have seen all along. These two players are extremely special, coming along once in a generation and we as college basketball and ACC fans should cherish the time we have watching them go head-to-head before their names are inevitably called in June’s NBA Draft.