Such is the kind of team that head coach Tony Bennett has built at Virginia that the Cavaliers could win the 2013-14 ACC title with a 16-2 record, win 13 straight games before Sunday’s loss at Maryland, and be ranked No. 6 in the nation this week but still not have a single player on the conference’s first team. Perhaps it’s fitting for the way Bennett’s’ team plays at both ends of the floor. Malcolm Brogdon, the calm, collected guard who scored in double figures in all 18 conference games this season, landed on the second-team. Senior Joe Harris, a first-team selection last year, is on the third-team, which to be fair, is probably about right.
But Brogdon’s case is a bit more complicated. Despite Harris’ past success, the fact is Brogdon was Virginia’s best all-around player this season. He led the team in scoring, but leading Virginia in scoring won’t produce flashy numbers. Indeed, Brogdon’s team-high of just 12.6 PPG wasn’t even enough to land him in the top 20 in the conference. And detractors would argue that while he never scored less than 11 points in ACC play, Brogdon never scored more than 19, either. This while all five members of the first team (C.J. Fair, T.J. Warren, K.J. McDaniels, Jabari Parker and Marcus Paige) all had games scoring at least 28 points.
Forget Warren and Parker for this argument, though. They were clearly the two best players in the conference and in fact finished tied atop the voting for the All-ACC teams. You could also cast McDaniels aside. He couldn’t have done more to keep Clemson competitive this season, and as vaunted as Virginia’s defense is, McDaniels scored 24 points against the Cavaliers in the only meeting between the teams. To put that in perspective, when Virginia played NC State this season, Warren scored a grand total of four.
So that leaves Brogdon, Fair and Paige. Fair’s perception is probably hurt a little by the slide Syracuse had near the end of the regular season, losing four of five games, two of them to also-rans Boston College and Georgia Tech. But if you were told prior to the season that Fair would average 16.9 points and 6.2 rebounds for an Orange team that went 14-4 in the ACC, you’d assume he’d be on the first-team. Plus, he played 38 minutes a game on a Syracuse team with no depth. He had to be really good every night and he pretty much was.
But what about Brogdon vs. Paige? Paige has had some flashier games, most notably his 35 points in an overtime win over the Wolfpack. He also blocked a shot late that keyed a North Carolina win over Notre Dame. But it’s also hard to forget that Paige managed just 16 total points on 5-for-27 field-goal shooting in back-to-back losses vs. Miami and at Wake Forest. Paige managed just nine points (and five rebounds) vs. Virginia (4-for-14 FGs), while Brogdon had 16 points (6-for-14) and six rebounds in a 76-61 Cavaliers win.
In ACC play only, Paige (16.2 PPG) outpaced Brogdon (14.8) in scoring. On the boards, Paige managed just 2.9 rebounds per game, while Brogdon snatched 5.8, including back-to-back games with 11 rebounds each. Paige averaged 4.8 assists in conference play, while Brogdon checked in at 3.2. Paige is a point guard for North Carolina, while Brogdon is a shooting guard for UVA.
Maybe it’s down to personal preference. If you want a flashy scorer who will have some off nights but keeps firing, then Paige should have been first-team. If you want a consistent player who contributes in multiple categories every game, then Brogdon would have been more deserving. But Brogdon’s contributions to a 16-2 team that won the league title seem of more value than Paige, who for all the good he did late in the season, was as much a part of North Carolina’s 1-4 ACC start as he was the Tar Heels’ 11-1 finish. Virginia never sunk that low, losing only by four at Duke and six (overtime) at Maryland.
Perhaps it’s fitting that no Virginia players made the first-team, but that doesn’t mean Brogdon wasn’t deserving. Brogdon finished 53 voting points behind Paige (who was third overall). So the voters have spoken as to what they prefer in a player. Just a sophomore, however, Brogdon has two more years to prove them wrong and attain his rightful spot among the conference’s best players.