The end of another Atlantic Coast Conference regular season is upon us, and as such, here are our second annual ACC awards, with a warning that not all of these are suitable for the mantel.
* PLAYER OF THE YEAR: The nominees are: Kenny Anderson, Georgia Tech, Christian Laettner, Duke and Rodney Monroe, North Carolina State.
Not an easy decision, as all of the three were deserving candidates, and if the award were for Most Valuable Player, the selection might have been different.
But, for consistency, night in and night out, the winner is Monroe, who was the ACC scoring champion at 27.7 points per game, as well as leading in free throw percentage and three-pointers per game. Make Anderson the first runner-up and put Laettner in third.
* ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: The nominees are: Grant Hill of Duke and Randolph Childress and Rodney Rogers of Wake Forest.
A no-brainer here, as Rogers, a 6-foot-7 forward, has had a marvelous rookie campaign, finishing in the top 10 in scoring (16.1) and rebounding (7.9). He looks like a young Larry Johnson, and the scary part is he can only get better. Childress gets the second slot and Hill takes third.
* COACH OF THE YEAR: The nominees are: Dave Odom of Wake Forest, Les Robinson of N.C. State and Gary Williams of Maryland.
Another easy choice. Anyone who said Maryland would come within shouting distance of a winning record after Walt Williams broke a bone in his leg is a graduate of the Pinnochio School of Truth-Telling.
Yet, the scrappy, never-say-die Terps won 16 games, due in overwhelming measure to the intensity of Gary Williams, who will likely get shafted out of this award by a North Carolina bias within the sportswriters' voting bloc. Still, no coach in the country did more with less than Williams did. The runners-up, in order, are Odom and Robinson.
* ALL-ACC (chosen without respect to position):
Monroe, Anderson, Laettner, Chris Corchiani of N.C. State and Bryant Stith of Virginia.
Rogers, Dale Davis of Clemson, Malcolm Mackey of Georgia Tech, Rick Fox of North Carolina and Tom Gugliotta of N.C. State.
Sure, the first team is short and the second team is big, but Anderson belongs on the first team because of his overall brilliance and Corchiani belongs there because he was the best point guard in the league this year and boosted his scoring to boot.
* MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: The temptation is to give this award to the whole Maryland team, but the one player who clearly deserves it is center Cedric Lewis. The progression in his game from his first three years to this season is nothing short of startling.
Lewis nearly tripled his career scoring average this year, blocked more shots than all but one team in the league and provided
stability to a team that could have gone south after Walt Williams' injury.
One more thing: The final measure of Lewis' turnaround is that he may actually get more than a token look from the NBA. That notion just a year ago was laughable. It isn't now. The runners-up are Vince Broadnax of Maryland and Gugliotta.
* OVERACHIEVING TEAM OF THE YEAR: Maryland. No question.
* MYSTIFYING TEAM OF THE YEAR: A tie here between Virginia and North Carolina.
The Cavaliers returned all their starters from last season and although guard Anthony Oliver's hand injury took some wind (and wins) out of their sails, they should have done a lot better than 20-10 and 6-8 in the ACC.
The Tar Heels belong here because we're frankly at a loss to explain how a team with Fox, George Lynch, Pete Chilcutt and the most outstanding class of freshmen recruits seen in these parts since the hula hoop was in, could lose four conference games, including two at home.
* BEST ATMOSPHERE: In a mild upset, this one goes to Georgia Tech over the longtime winners at Duke. Alexander Memorial Coliseum rocks before, during and after a game. And the Tech fans are vociferous without being obscene or smug. The crowd at Maryland can't even be considered a candidate as long as the band keeps playing the theme from the "Super Mario Bros." Nintendo game.
* WORST ATMOSPHERE: Hands down, the Dean E. Smith Center at Chapel Hill. A game here provides the solution to the riddle: Who's buried at Grant's Tomb? The North Carolina fans, of course.
* GAME OF THE YEAR: The Virginia-North Carolina State women's contest at Raleigh on Jan. 12, before more than 11,000 fans. A triple-overtime epic won by the Cavaliers 123-120, this one had everything, including the highest offensive output by two teams in women's NCAA history and the first women's triple-double, recorded by league Player of the Year Dawn Staley of Virginia.
* AND FINALLY: Fearless Prognosticator says that Wake Forest will knock off North Carolina in the tournament semifinals Saturday before losing to Duke in the title game Sunday.