Erick Green Wins ACC Player Of The Year

USA TODAY Sports

Infamous Hokie hater and former Roanoke Times Sports Editor Bill Brill once mused, “Tech will not win an ACC championship in my lifetime.” He was referring to the football program of course, which blew up in his face immediately as the Hokies won the very first ACC Championship upon expansion, prompting Tech Sideline to come up with an all-time epic response, "As the Tech football team rallied to win an ACC championship in their first year, Hokies around the commonwealth expressed heartfelt sympathy for Mr. Brill, who certainly must have just passed away." Brill died in 2011, but was around and kicking for that shot. Not only did the Hokies win a football ACC Championship, but have been one win (and the most horribly officiated collegiate basketball game I've ever seen) from an ACC Basketball Championship, defeated Brill's Dookies and the North Carolina Tar Heels on multiple occasions, placed three Hokies on the 1st Team All-ACC in basketball (including the announcement of Green to that team yesterday) and now have the ultimate seemingly unattainable individual award: The men's basketball ACC Player of the Year.

We made our case for Erick Green to be the ACC Player of the Year one week ago. It wasn't difficult to do, but being that Green was on a last placed team at the time (which ended up finishing alone in dead last) and as this team was not Duke or North Carolina, I felt like Green had about as good of a chance as hell freezing over. That sentiment was nearly confirmed to me yesterday as the All-ACC teams were released. Green made the first team, and comfortably, but did not receive unanimous votes like fellow ACC POY candidate Mason Plumlee. But as the day went on, many ACC media types pointed out the flaw in my logic, one that I understood when I made the comments. They began to reassure me with the things they were saying.

Ultimately, we now know the result: Green is the 2013 ACC Player of the Year.

The fact that the vote wasn't even close is the most surprising element to this story. I thought that Green was the best player, and I thought that it was clear. But obviously with my creeping doubt over what the media members would do with the vote, in no circumstance did I think Green would win the award in a runaway. But as David Teel's tweet points out, it was the case.

Many fans will react to the news according to their school ties or their team's record. But necessary to understanding why Green is the ACC Player of the year may require looking at the players' statistics head-to-head.

Player PPG RPG APG TOPG SPG BPG FG % 3PT % FT% MPG
Erick Green 25.4 4.1 3.9 2.1 1.4 0.2 .48 .39 .82 36.4
Shane Larkin 13.7 3.8 4.4 2.2 2 0.1 .48 .40 .73 36.2
Mason Plumlee 17.2 10.3 2 2.8 0.9 1.5 .59 .00 .67 34.7

Green obviously wins in the points department, nearly doubling up the second-place Larkin and very nearly being closer to doubling Plumlee's average than equalling it. In the rebounds department, both Green's and Larkin's averages are impressive for guards, but Green's average is higher by a slim margin, while Plumlee was one of only two players to average a double-double in the ACC. When it comes to assists, Larkin takes the nod, but as Andrew Jones of Fox Sports Carolinas said, "Green not only led the nation in scoring, but Tech coach James Johnson said that if the rest of the Hokies shot around 42 percent instead of 37 percent, Green might average seven assists per game. Imagine the nation's leading scorer also leading the ACC in assists. That's how good and unselfish he was this season." While those numbers are certainly subjective, it is clear that with some help (something both Plumlee and Larkin both got plenty of), Green would have easily led these three players in that category.

Green also finished with the lowest turnover total of any of these players despite by far having the most of the ball. Larkin may have also had a lot of the ball this season, but had other ball-handling options on his team, unlike the Hokies who had only two players finish with positive assist-to-turnover ratios: Green and walk-on Will Johnston who had 8 assists to 5 turnovers. Larkin led the group in steals, but Green was not far behind at 1.4 to his 2. Plumlee had a respectable 0.9 for a big man. Plumlee obviously led the group in blocks with 1.5 per game with Green finishing second with 0.2 and Larkin third with 0.1. Percentage-wise, Plumlee was far and away the leader here, shooting a phenomenal 59 percent from the field. Even for a big man who is expected to shoot over 50 percent because most of the shots are going to come very near the basket, for that amount of shots, it's still an accomplishment. However both Green and Larkin were statistically dead-even in field goal percentage at 48 percent, a stellar number for guards considering their shots are typically coming from further away. It may be a fruitless cause to try to compare Green's percentage against Plumlee (guard vs. post player), but at least up against Larkin, I'll take Green's identical percentage on nearly 7 more shots per game.

When it comes to 3-point percentage, Larkin leads the two players who took a 3-pointer this year (Green and Larkin) by a single percentage point (40% to 39%). While Green hit more 3's, he also took more. For both the percentage and the number of made 3's, the difference is negligible. So I'll said that's a push. Then we move on to free throw percentage, where Green dominated the field, leading the next-closest player on the list (Larkin) by over 8% while well over three times as many free throws. I don't think we need to go over that one further. Green also led the three (and the conference) in minutes with 36.4.

That's the last of the statistical arguments I'll make. But hopefully for those of you thinking Green was only a shot-happy scorer, you now see the folly of your ways. The last two arguments I'll make/consider are how Green did head-to-head with the other candidates (a little harder to do with Plumlee since they weren't guarding each other) and how much of an impact that player made on their respective team. Against Larkin and the Miami Hurricanes in their first meeting, Larkin shot 9-14 from the field, 5-10 from deep and 2-3 from the line, scoring 25 points and adding 3 rebounds, 3 assists (to 3 turnovers) and 2 blocks to lead the Hurricanes to a nine-point win. Green by comparison went 11-20 from the field, 5-8 from 3-point range and 3-4 from the line, scoring 30 points and chipping in 3 assists, 2 rebounds and 1 steal with no turnovers. I'm scoring that bout a draw. The second game between the teams saw the Hurricanes beat the Hokies by 18, with Larkin going off, shooting 8-12 from the field, 3-5 from deep and 3-4 from the line, scoring 22 points, adding 6 assists (1 turnover) and 2 steals. In one of his worst games of the season, Green shot 6-13 from the field, 1-4 from deep and 3-4 from the line for 16 points, with 4 assists (3 turnovers), 3 rebounds and a steal. That one is squarely a Larkin win head-to-head, so he gets the edge in that category.

In the Blue Devils first against the Hokies, Mason Plumlee shot 4-6 from the floor and 5-6 from the line, scoring 13 points, adding 12 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks and 2 turnovers. Green went for 22 on 8-14 shooting, 1-2 from 3-point range and 3 assists (2 turnovers), 2 rebounds, 1 steal and a block. I would be inclined to give Plumlee a slight edge in that matchup. The second game between the teams, however, saw Plumlee score 14 on 4-10 shooting and 6-8 from the line, recording 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 1 block. Green by comparison shot 10-19 from the field, 1-4 from deep and 4-6 from the line, scoring 25 and adding 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 turnover. Green gets the nod in that matchup, splitting the head-to-head between the two.

Lastly, we go to the impact these players had on their respective teams. For Miami, Larkin's assist total was big as it equalled over a third of their team total. His 3.8 rebounds also helped to make the 'Canes a great team-rebounding squad. But he only led the Hurricanes in points by 2 total points during the regular season. Larkin also had seven players on his team average 5.9 points or more, something the Hokies did not come even close to, having only four themselves. Not to take away from his accomplishments, but Larkin was an excellent player on an excellent team. Without him, the 'Canes are still a tournament team. They probably do not win the ACC, and they probably don't take the next step that we were all waiting on over the last couple of years. But I don't think the 'Canes go as he does, or at least he alone.

As for Plumlee, he was very important to his Duke's success. During the injury to Ryan Kelly, he was often his team's only viable big. But without it, I think Duke would've managed without him. The ACC, following the trend of basketball as a hole, has become increasingly guard/wing heavy. So without Plumlee (assuming Kelly's health), the Blue Devils may have lost up to four or five more games total, still placing them comfortably in the tournament and at the very least a 4 seed. Plumlee did account for nearly one-third of Duke's rebounds, nearly half their blocks and led the Blue Devils in scoring by 19 points (and one game in hand), but I think Duke manages to get by without him.

Unfortunately, imagining the Hokies without Green (something Hokie fans will have to do for next year) is not as pretty. Taking away approximately 36 percent of their scoring, 40 percent of their assists, their fourth-leading rebounder and essentially a third of their steals doesn't bode well for the last place Hokies. As I said last week, taking Green out of the equation would probably result in the worst Virginia Tech basketball team in modern history and possibly the worst team in ACC history. I don't even know if they would have won a single ACC game. We're talking about the difference between a team that has been competitive in most ACC games to a team that loses by 30 or more every night. That's a stark difference. If you can explain to me a scenario where any of those other teams losing one of the above players would result in that reality, be my guest. But I have a sneaking suspicion it can't be done. Green was undoubtedly the most valuable player to his team in the conference (and perhaps the nation). Not only that, but Green was also the conference's best player overall (as I believe I successfully illustrated above).

Among the things Green has accomplished this year:

  • Led the ACC and the nation in scoring at 25.4 ppg.
  • He's only the first player to lead the NCAA in scoring from a power conference since 1994 when Glenn Robinson did so for Purdue
  • Set the Hokies' all-time single season scoring record with 786 points (and one game to go)
  • Is third all-time in school history in free throws made in a single season (216), 9 and 14 makes behind free throw-wizard Malcolm Delaney's 225 and 230 makes.
  • He's the fifth-most efficient player in the NCAA per Hollinger's formula according to The Key Play. Also, according to Bill Roth's tweet below, Ken Pomeroy also has him as the nation's fifth-most efficient offensive player.
  • And, as I will allow a slew of beat writers and media types to point out:

So there you have it ladies and gentlemen, Erick Green is your ACC Player of the Year and the first Hokie to ever win the award and the third in Virginia Tech history to win a conference's player of the year award.

There may never be another player like him at Virginia Tech, but hopefully he won't be the last conference player of the year. After all, we don't want to become crotchety sports columnists/fans like Bill Brill.

For all your Virginia Tech basketball needs, come on over to Gobbler Country. It's not cheating, but don't tell your wife just in case.
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