ACC Regular Season Superlatives

Posted by Lathan Wells on March 9th, 2015

The ACC regular season has come to a close, which means it’s time for conference tournament play and postseason dreams that stretch deep into March. For now, though, it’s a great time to look back at the standout performers and performances of the regular season that was. Here are your 2014-15 ACC superlatives:

RTC All-ACC Team

  • Jahlil Okafor, Duke. Okafor lived up his immense preseason billing and single-handedly turned a dangerous Duke team into a dominant one. Okafor was the conference’s second-leading scorer (17.6 PPG), third-leading rebounder (9.2 RPG) and top shooter by field goal percentage (66.8%). His ability to make the team a dual threat instead of the perimeter-reliant teams of yore means these Blue Devils have a very high ceiling come NCAA Tourney time.
  • Jerian Grant, Notre Dame. The remarkable year that the Fighting Irish enjoyed can be traced to the return of Grant from a suspension related to academic improprieties. In addition to his highlight-reel dunks and numerous clutch baskets, Grant was a stat-sheet stuffer for a vastly improved Notre Dame team, logging 16.8 PPG, 6.7 APG and 1.8 SPG on the season. He also shot an outstanding 49.4 percent from the field.
  • Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse. The Orange ultimately had little to play for because of their self-imposed postseason ban, but they may have produced the best on-court individual success story of the year. Christmas’ amazing improvement from his junior to senior season (17.5 PPG, +11.7; 9.1 RPG, +4.0) proved he could flourish as the team’s primary option. He served as the lone bright spot in an otherwise disastrous season for Syracuse hoops and has positioned himself for a bright future in the professional ranks.
Rakeem Christmas was the bright spot in an otherwise bleak Syracuse season (USA Today Images)

Rakeem Christmas was the bright spot in an otherwise bleak Syracuse season (USA Today Images)

  • Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia. Brogdon’s inclusion on this list speaks to his ability to play whatever role Tony Bennett asks of him. With Justin Anderson stealing the early headlines, Brogdon was content to act as the team’s best on-ball defender and late game shot-maker. When Anderson fell to injury, Brogdon resumed his role as a primary offensive weapon. He averaged nearly 14 points per game while shooting 34 percent from three and 86 percent from the line. Traditional statistics never do Virginia players much justice, though, but Brogdon’s intangible ability to meet the demands made of him showed his true value to the ACC regular season champs.
  • Olivier Hanlan, Boston College. Hanlan played on a mediocre Boston College team but his offensive prowess was rivaled by none in this year’s ACC. The conference’s leading scorer at 19.4 points per game, he remained a deadly offensive weapon despite playing the point guard position for the first time in his career. He scored 30 or more points four times, including a stellar 39 points on just 20 shots against Pittsburgh.

RTC Player of the Year (and RTC Freshman of the Year): Okafor. The ACC POY award was a tight race with Notre Dame’s Grant, but Okafor’s rare skill set in the post was ultimately the tiebreaker (FrOY was a no-brainer). Okafor’s well-developed abilities down low make Duke so much more dangerous than previous years, and although there are some defensive liabilities that need to be cleaned up, he was the most dominant player in the ACC this season.

RTC Coach of the Year: Tony Bennett, Virginia. Mike Brey or Mike Krzyzewski could easily get this award, but the former returned Grant and the latter received a superb trio of impact freshmen. Bennett, on the other hand, lost two key contributors without the benefit of replacements, and still never skipped a beat. Furthermore, neither of those other coaches lost a player the caliber of Anderson for any significant time. Bennett earns the nod for winning back-to-back regular season championships in a league that only got tougher with the additions of Louisville, Syracuse and Pittsburgh in the last two years.

RTC Sixth Man of the Year: Mike Tobey, Virginia. Lesser players may have gone into a funk after losing their starting role for a title contender, but Tobey seemed unfazed by Darion Atkins’ insertion into the rotation. His size and deft shooting touch around the basket adds another dimension off the bench for the Cavaliers, and he handled himself well against some of the best big men in the conference such as Christmas and Okafor.

Individual Performance of the Year: Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Florida State. With apologies to Hanlan’s 39-point outburst against Pittsburgh, Rathan-Mayes scored 30 points in just four-and-a-half minutes that included 26 straight points to give the Seminoles a chance at a major comeback against Miami. His overall night was stellar: 35 points on 10-of-19 shooting, including 6-of-11 from three and 9-of-11 from the line, but again, he scored 30 points in just four-and-a-half minutes!

Rathan-Mayes Had Easily the Most Impressive Performance of the Year (USA Today Images)

Rathan-Mayes Had Easily the Most Impressive Performance of the Year (USA Today Images)

Pleasant Surprise of the Year: Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish were bound to be better this year with the return of its star, Grant, but this much better? Notre Dame finished 13th in the country in scoring and second in the nation in field goal shooting at an astounding 51 percent. Pat Connaughtan, Demetrius Jackson and Zach Auguste all took significant leaps in their production, and freshman Bonzie Colson really came on near the end of the year. This is a dangerous team with lots of firepower to burn entering postseason play.

Game of the Year: Duke vs. North Carolina, Part One. In a game Jay Bilas continually referred to as “the way college basketball should be played,” the old rivals again put together a masterpiece that ended with Duke holding serve at home in overtime. North Carolina’s free throw woes and the unbelievable crunch time play of Tyus Jones denied the Tar Heels the upset and made this yet another Duke/North Carolina classic.

Upset of the Year: Miami over Duke. Knowing what we now know about some of the dissension in the Duke locker room at the time, this result may not seem as crazy as it did when it happened. By the same token, the Hurricanes never looked this good again. Angel Rodriguez led an obliteration of the Blue Devils in Cameron Indoor Stadium, ending a 41-game home winning streak for Coach K’s team. Given the different paths these teams have embarked upon since, the 90-74 result seems even more inexplicable.

Most Unlikely Hero of the Year: Mangok Mathiang, Louisville. Because we just knew the guy with one made field goal since January 31 would drain a 15-footer with 2.7 seconds left to hand Virginia its second loss of the year on the final day of the regular season. Surely Rick Pitino will be calling the big guy’s number much more often in crunch time going forward.

Lathan Wells (77 Posts)

A 30-year old unabashed college basketball fan, I currently reside in Richmond, Virginia. I especially enjoy following the ACC and the local teams, VCU and the University of Richmond. I hope to continue my journalistic pursuits in the sports arena full-time in the future, but in the meantime I am really enjoying covering the greatest sport there is for RTC. Follow me on Twitter @prohibitivefav.

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