ACC has 5 Player of the Year candidates

ACC has 5 Player of the Year candidates
February 15, 2014, 10:45 am
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The ACC hasn't seen one of its players named to any of college basketball's Player of the Year awards in quite some time. Tyler Hansbrough was the conference's last star to earn that honor, garnering every Player of the Year award in 2007-2008. We've seen quality talent from the ACC every season since, but is this the year the drought comes to an end?

There are certainly several strong candidates vying for the chance to call themselves the best player in college basketball. The talent starts from the youngest among the crowd and builds to one senior on the nation's No. 1 team.

Four ACC players were recently named to the Naismith Trophy midseason watch list. Can any of them claim to be college hoops' best? Was anyone from ACC country left snubbed? Here are the candidates as we head down the second half of the year.

Jabari Parker, freshman, Duke Blue Devils

It makes sense that one of the most hyped freshman heading into the year is now a leading candidate for Player of the Year. Parker took a step back when ACC play began, but he might've just needed to get his feet wet, because he's been on fire after a brief regression.

He started the year with seven straight 20-plus point games. Not a bad arrival to one of the most prestigious programs the sport has to offer. Parker shot 14-of-46 in his first four ACC games, causing concern about his potential in the rest of conference play. He has deterred any doubters, though, putting together four double-doubles over his last seven games.

The 18-year-old is averaging 19.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. He has a decent shot from beyond the arc accompanied by his ability to attack and get to the line. Parker attempts nearly six free throws per game. Plus, he knows how to finish. He'll have quite the highlight reel built up in the event his does win any postseason awards.

Tyler Ennis, freshman, Syracuse Orange

Vice President Joe Biden called Ennis to congratulate him on his 35-foot buzzer-beater that kept the Orange perfect on Wednesday. That’s kind of a big deal for a freshman anyone.

Ennis doesn't boast the flashiest stat line, but seeing him run the Orange offense is at times like watching a conductor with his symphony. The freshman ranks third in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio, helping Syracuse attempt a field goal or free throw on 86 percent of its possessions.

Now, Ennis only shoots around 43 percent from the field and averages 11.9 points per game, so those numbers likely have to pick up if he wants votes. But throw in his 2.1 steals per game, and you have a point guard who knows how to lead this team on both sides on the court.

Lamar Patterson, senior, Pittsburgh Panthers

Pittsburgh was once again robbed of a signature win as the aforementioned Ennis crushed its dreams with a three from the parking lot. While the Panthers are struggling to build their resume as one of the nation's best, Patterson continues to shine from the wing in Jamie Dixon's offense.

The fifth-year senior can be deadly from deep, averaging 41 percent from beyond the arc. With 17 points, 4.5 boards and 4.4 assists per game, Patterson continues to be an all-around standout. But he hasn't been shining so bright as of late against the ACC's best.

Patterson shot 4-of-14 against Duke, 3-of-14 against Virginia and 5-of-16 against Syracuse over his last five games. And let's not even mention his 1-for-9 display against Virginia Tech, literally the worst team in the conference. OK, we mentioned it. Sorry, Lamar. He needs to step up with the Panthers struggling to close out games.

C.J. Fair, senior, Syracuse Orange

It shouldn't surprise anyone that the No. 1 team has two players in the running. Fair is averaging a career-best 16.7 points per game in his final year at Syracuse. He only has two games this season where he hasn't scored in double figures.

Fair plays solid defense and serves as a workhorse for Jim Boeheim, averaging 37.3 minutes per game. We've seen him wear several hats this season, even assuming the "put the team on his back" role against Duke. Fair scored 28 points to take down the Blue Devils in overtime in Feb. 1.

But Fair has his downfalls, too. His 3-ball has all but disappeared; as he's shooting 29 percent from downtown (he shot 47 percent from deep last season). He's also committing one turnover more per game than he did during his junior campaign.

Left off the list...

T.J. Warren, sophomore, NC State

I know N.C. State isn't having the greatest season, but are we just forgetting the ACC's top scorer? Warren is scoring 23.1 points per game, ranking No. 8 in the nation with that mark. He just came away with his fifth 30-point game of the year. He's a scoring machine.

Warren doesn't do a ton of damage from 3-point range (shooting 29 percent), but he's efficient with a 52 percent shooting mark from the field. He also hauls in 7.4 rebounds each game. He's basically carried the Wolfpack at times. Warren deserves consideration.