Here to rebut Andy’s argument that Greivis Vasquez is this season’s ACC Player of the Year is Duke senior and former Deadspin intern Ben Cohen.
Typically, when Duke goes up to play Maryland, the subsequent jeers are vulgar. Sometimes, they’re laced with profanity. In J.J. Redick’s case, they’re not-so-veiled allusions to sisters in high school. Mercifully, Operation Scheyerface, the taunt of choice the last two years, is neither offensive nor crude. It’s creative, clever and admirable. It’s good heckling. Tomorrow night, it’s going to need to be effective heckling, too. It would be a special sort of irony for Duke to celebrate an ACC championship amidst cardboard Scheyerfaces — and for Jon Scheyer to beat out Greivis Vasquez for the inside track to Player of the Year honors in the process.
That’s not meant to belittle Vasquez, who has, indeed, had a wonderful season on a team with considerably less talent than Scheyer’s. He very well might be the best player in the league, and, on a slightly related note, he may just be named ACC Player of the Year. This is all well and good, and no one’s going to quibble with it. But in the spirit of civilized discourse — it’s not like Duke-Maryland is an actual rivalry or anything — the fact that Vasquez is clearly one of the two best players in the conference doesn’t mean we should devalue Scheyer’s merit, either.
So, when we look at the statistics without dismissing either candidate beforehand, the result is not all that stunning. Essentially, they’re the same.
No, they’re not! you’re thinking in abject horror.
OK, fine. You are correct. They’re not.
But the fine voting members of the ACC’s media corps are not going to give Vasquez the honor because his league statistics are marginally superior, nor will they anoint Scheyer because his offensive rating is tops in the league. This award — utterly meaningless as it may be — won’t be decided by scoring average, because it’s not an objective crown, and it isn’t meant to be. There are all sorts of biases and interpretations that come into play, all of which are subjective and none of which are much more relevant than any other.
That brings us to Wednesday’s supposed showdown in College Park, which will probably give one player the edge over the other; to ignore it altogether seems foolish. After all, Duke’s last two games — at Maryland and home against that team with a 4-10 ACC record — are more worthwhile than any other games it’s played. Maybe Scheyer will score 30 in both and bring an ACC banner to Cameron’s rafters. He probably won’t. Maybe, in Vasquez’s final two games, he will score 30 and celebrate an ACC title in Charlottesville. He also probably won’t. Either way, neither player’s candidacy is already complete. Because of the immediacy of our attention spans, both players’ qualifications hinge rather dramatically on what they and their teams do tomorrow night.
Back in December, if you recall, prominent sportswriters were ready to name Scheyer the National Player of the Year after Duke throttled Gonzaga in Madison Square Garden. Diehards at the Duke Basketball Report had a serious, if short-lived, discussion about retiring his jersey. There was a rumor — that I might be making up, but still! — that the local temple was flirting with offering him free admission to the next year’s high holidays. He was good enough to squash stereotypes. No one remembers that now, of course, just as no one with a Player of the Year vote will remember Vasquez’s 41 in Blacksburg or his two points in the first half at Duke if Scheyer outshines him tomorrow and then, on Saturday, ends his Cameron Indoor Stadium career with a rousing ovation and his first home win over that NIT-bound squad down the road.
The only reason I recall anything about last year’s matchup in College Park, after all, is because there is currently a 4-foot-high, black-and-white Scheyerface in the back hall of the student newspaper office that I frequent. Our reporters stole it from the Comcast Center floor, where it was tossed and sitting, lonesomely, after Duke’s 78-67 victory. Scheyer’s three in the last two minutes iced that win, and that big ol’ replica of his face won’t let me forget it.
(Also: Scheyer will be ACC Player of the Year because he’s a white guard, and because it’s a lifetime achievement award and because no one likes Vasquez. And, oh yeah, because Scheyer plays for Duke. See you tomorrow, suckers!)