Who has the best case to be the ACC’s player of the year?
North Carolina senior forward Brice Johnson recorded his second-biggest stat line of the season in Wednesday night’s 74–73 loss to No. 20 Duke. Johnson scored 29 points on 13 of 17 shooting and tallied 19 rebounds. The game doubled as the first meeting of the season between Johnson and fellow ACC Player of the Year candidate Grayson Allen, Duke’s sophomore guard, who had 23 points and seven rebounds in the win. At this point in the season, Johnson, Allen and Virginia senior guard Malcolm Brogdon are locked in what seems to be a three-way race for the conference honors. Brogdon, for his part, is playing the most efficient basketball of his college career for the No. 7 Cavaliers. North Carolina’s Cat Barber is also in contention, and he has the best raw stats of the group, but he has the unfortunate shortfall of playing for a non-contender, which will hurt his candidacy.
With four games to go in league play, here’s a look at how the three ACC Player of the Year frontrunners stack up statistically with one another.
No. 5 North Carolina (21–5, 10–3), T-1st ACC
16.9 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.2 spg, 1.2 bpg, 62.3% shooting, 125.7 ORtg, 62.3% eFG
Johnson’s production has steadily increased in each of his four seasons in Chapel Hill, N.C., culminating in averages of 16.9 points and 10.4 rebounds per game in his senior campaign. He has notched 15 double-doubles this season, most notably a 39-point, 23-rebound effort in a 106–90 win over Florida State on Jan. 4. Johnson is the most productive player on a North Carolina team tied for first in the conference.
No. 20 Duke (20–6, 9–4), T-4th in ACC
20.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3.6 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.2 bpg, 48.4% shooting, 41.2% three-point shooting, 128.7 ORtg, 56.3% eFG
Allen, who was a reserve guard as a freshman on Duke’s national championship team, has become the go-to scoring option on a thin and inexperienced Blue Devils team. Allen also seems to have the clutch gene. Last season, he famously helped to secure Duke’s national title, scoring 16 points in 21 minutes off the bench in the win against Wisconsin. On Saturday, he hit a controversial, game-winning runner at the buzzer against No. 7 Virginia. Against Carolina on the road, he sunk a pair of late free throws to give Duke the lead in its 74–73 win.
No. 7 Virginia (21–5, 10–4), 3rd in ACC
17.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.9 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.1 bpg, 46.5% shooting, 40.0% three-point shooting, 119.1 ORtg, 54.4% eFG
Virginia still plays the stingy, pack-line defense that coach Tony Bennett is known for, but this year’s Cavaliers team is the most offensively efficient group he has coached, and in large part because of Brogdon. The redshirt senior is a proficient scorer from everywhere on the court, and if his 87.6% free throw percentage was a few ticks higher, he’d be a member of the 50-40-90 club.
As for Cat Barber: The Wolfpack’s 3–10 mark in conference play and .500 overall record will likely derail his chances of claiming the ACC's highest individual honor, but he’s putting up impressive numbers on an otherwise forgettable team: 23.7 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 4.5 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.1 bpg, 44.2% shooting, 37.1% three-point shooting, 117.9 ORtg, 48.0% eFG