The Atlantic Coast Conference announced the All-Conference teams on Sunday afternoon, and Wake Forest’s John Collins was named to the first team. Additionally, he was named Most Improved Player. Collins absolutely deserved of both of those awards, but he was also should have been named ACC Player of the Year, which went to North Carolina’s Justin Jackson. If you compare resumes, it’s not a contest.
The problem with this award is that everybody interprets it differently. Does ACC Player of the Year mean “best player in the league,” or “most valuable player on a team,” or “best player on the best team”? Nobody ever really qualifies that, and depending on how you view the award could yield several different answers.
We will probably use a lot of numbers to prove our case, but it’s 2017 and it’s hopefully fair to say that we can do a little bit better than “best player on the best team.” Now, it’s not Justin Jackson’s fault that he played on the regular season champion, North Carolina Tar Heels. Championship teams have a number of high quality players. But if we’re giving it to him because he’s the “best player on the best team,” then he probably doesn’t deserve it for that reason either. That could have easily gone to Joel Berry.
Facts are that Berry had a higher ORTG, TS%, AST%, STL%, FT%, 3PT%, and nearly equal in TR%. Not to mention Berry came up big in big games. https://t.co/GfcX0HUNI5— Chris Bunn (@ChrisBunn21) March 6, 2017
In two of those interpretations we think John Collins takes the award. It is quite clear that he is not the best player on the best team, but nobody has been more valuable to a team than Collins has been to Wake Forest, and based on the run of play we have seen over the past month and a half, then he can claim the title as the best player in the league this year as well.
Collins scored 20 points in 12 straight games, and had 10+ rebounds in 8 of those 12 games. He is also the first ACC player with four straight 20-10 games since Shane Battier had five straight in the 2001 season.
John Collins averaged 19.1 points and 9.8 rebounds on the season, and averaged more than 20 points per contest in ACC play. He led the league in field goal percentage during conference games (63.9%) and overall field goal percentage (62.3%). Justin Jackson averaged 18.3 points per contest, to go along with 4.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists were game? He had an effective field goal percentage of 54.1% compared to Collins’ 62.3%. Collins also had a higher offensive rating despite a usage rate above 30% (very high). Jackson was not a defensive standout, while Collins blocked 1.6 shots per game.
Incredibly difficult to be efficient with a high usage rate, but Collins still managed to do it.
Want to get even more geeky with the numbers? John Collins led the ACC in PER with a PER of 36.9! Second place was Bonzie Colson with a PER of 29.7. That’s simply an astounding difference. Justin Jackson came in at 16th at 21.7. Collins was first in Win Shares/40 Minutes, while Jackson came in 10th. Collins leads not only the conference, but the entire nation, in Player Efficiency Rating.
It’s the second highest total since the stat was tracked in college basketball beginning in the 2009-2010 season. Other notable yearly leaders include Demarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Kenneth Faried, Kelly Olynyk, and Frank Kaminsky. It’s pretty safe to say that it’s a stat that puts Collins in outstanding company.
This wasn’t meant to be a criticism of Justin Jackson. He had an outstanding season, and was more than deserving of being named first team All-ACC. That said, he wasn’t John Collins. He didn’t mean nearly as much to his own team as John Collins did to his, and he certainly didn’t put up the dominant metrics that Collins did.
Collins’ team may not have been as good as North Carolina, but there’s also something to be said about definitely being at the top of the scouting report and still being incredibly productive and efficient. You can say “well Jackson would put up those numbers if he was at Wake too”, but Collins actually put up those numbers, and Jackson’s performance is pure speculation.
Collins was a dominant presence all year, and because of that the Demon Deacons are very likely headed back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010. There’s no doubt in our minds that he deserved to be ACC Player of the Year.