A heroic performance that ended in dusting Mike Krzyzewski off his own home floor still wasn’t enough to push Armando Bacot over the top, but he’s still getting some flowers. Bacot was the highest vote-getter for the All-ACC First Team, but finished second in voting for ACC Player of the Year to Wake Forest’s Alondes Williams. On the specialized side of things, Leaky Black, after a sensational season as a perimeter defender, finished third in voting for Defensive Player of the Year to Duke’s Mark Williams and Virginia’s Reece Beekman, but still comfortably made the All-ACC Defensive Team.
Bacot, who’d been in a three-man race for ACC Player of the Year with Wake Forest’s Alondes Williams and Duke’s Paolo Banchero until the end of the season, put together a regular season the likes of which the ACC hasn’t really seen since Tim Duncan: averaging over 14 rebounds per game in conference (more than 4.5 more than 2nd place in the conference) and also coming out at 7th place in scoring (with 16.6 points per game) on conference-leading field goal percentage. He was remarkably consistent, putting together a streak of 10 straight double-doubles and finishing conference play with 16 of them in 20 games. His 20/20 game against Virginia was the first such performance against the Cavaliers since Duncan, and he also ranked 2nd in Player Efficiency Rating and first in total win shares. He led the Heels, with a first-year head coach, a shortened bench, and a lot of moving parts before and during the season, to a 3rd-place finish in the ACC and the aforementioned dusting of Duke at Duke, where his team outscored the Blue Devils 80-56 while he was on the floor.
None of that is to say he was definitively snubbed or that Williams isn’t a deserving winner; leading the conference in both points and assists per game like Williams did (he’s technically 1/30th of a point behind Buddy Boeheim, but close enough) is something the ACC has never seen before, and that’s criteria enough for a winner in my book. Williams also had signficantly higher usage and accounted for nearly 2.5 more points per game than the next-best guy. Ultimately, Williams received 41 votes to Bacot’s 31, as the two kind of left Banchero (6 votes) behind by the end of the season, and there’s certainly an argument that Bacot should have won.
Leaky Black took on the challenge of limiting the opposing team’s best perimeter player (and sometimes stretch 4s) night after night and excelled at it, including shutting down players like A.J. Griffin in the second matchup, Buddy Boeheim, Dereon Seabron, and Michael Devoe. His lack of counting stats like steals and blocks and the flawed nature of Defensive Rating on an altogether mediocre defensive team probably curtailed his ability to win the Player of the Year award when going against Williams, who had 20 more blocks than the next player, and Beekman, who led the conference in steals. Those two were also the top two in Defensive Win Shares for the year, which only makes it easier to see why they were the top two in voting for the award. Still, it’s notable that Black didn’t have those stats and still had enough of an impact to be comfortably third in voting, ahead of others who did — he was just that effective a defender.
Caleb Love and Brady Manek were both honorable mentions for the All-ACC Teams, with Love receiving the most voting points of anybody not named to a team. Hubert Davis also received one vote for Coach of the Year (I believe Jones Angell has admitted this was his unabashed homer pick), which Steve Forbes justifiably won, while R.J. Davis received one vote for Most Improved Player, which rightly went to Dereon Seabron. The full awards lists can be found here.