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Roy Williams’ case for ACC Coach of the Year

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The conference is stronger than has been in recent memory, but Roy just keeps on winning.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at North Carolina State Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Roy Williams is notoriously underappreciated. The excellence that he gets out of his teams is routinely overlooked, sometimes even by fans of the Tar Heels. For that reason, it’s sometimes difficult for Ol’ Roy to get the accolades he deserves, but one that he should be in the running for is ACC Coach of the Year.

The Tar Heels lost their two best players from last year’s team that went down to the wire in the National Championship game. It would be understandable for them to take a small step back while adjusting to life without Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson. That isn’t what happened, though.

UNC has been on top of a very difficult ACC for most of the season. They’ve handled Florida State, Notre Dame, Virginia, and Louisville solidly. They’ve done that while only being full strength for approximately one game all season. Carolina has succeeded because Justin Jackson has turned into a superstar, not because they landed a guy for one year whose eyes were always looking toward the next big thing in the NBA.

The team, to be sure, should be credited with what they have accomplished this year. However, the man behind the team should be credited as well. Despite the calls for Roy’s head after seemingly every loss on some corners of Tar Heel Internet, Williams has led this team to at least a share of the title in the most difficult conference in college basketball.

UNC wasn’t supposed to be here. Duke was supposed to run away with the ACC this year, remember? They were meant to cakewalk to the National Championship, remember? Instead, it’s Williams and his squad that can claim to have won the regular season title. They have a good chance of even winning it outright with a Louisville victory over Notre Dame on Saturday, or their own win over Duke.

It would be easy to give ACC Coach of the Year to Josh Pastner. Georgia Tech wasn’t expected to win a single game in the ACC this year. It made the Tar Heels losing in Atlanta on New Year’s Eve feel a bit devastating at the time. However, the Yellow Jackets have gone on to win eight games in conference. They are flirting with a bid in the NCAA Tournament.

Pastner wouldn’t be a bad choice by any means, but the award should go to Williams. He has shown yet again that he can win with the players who want to be Tar Heels, and not just the ones who feel a need to make a one-year layover in Chapel Hill on their way to the NBA. Not landing those players has often been a criticism of Williams, but the fact that he is still winning ACC regular season championships without them is a credit to his coaching.

The Tar Heels are undoubtedly one of the best teams in the nation. They have a good chance of making a deep tournament run behind the hot hand of Jackson, who should be at the forefront of the ACC Player of the Year discussion. Whatever run they make will also be directed by Williams, who has proven himself to be one of the very best in the business. That should be recognized by giving him Coach of the Year.