The rivalry between North Carolina and Duke is arguably the most storied rivalry in the history of college hoops. There is no love lost between the two teams that are separated by just eight miles. Each year one, if not both of these teams are in contention to win the ACC, but this year they will not being playing for the ACC regular season title, as Virginia has already clinched that. The Tar Heels and Blue Devils each have a player that could end up being the ACC Player of the Year. Thos players are Jabari Parker of Duke and Marcus Paige of North Carolina.
Before the season began, a ton of hype surrounded Parker. Many dubbed him as a potential number one pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. Parker has lived up to the hype thus far and if he chooses to do so, he can declare for the NBA Draft and likely be a top five pick. Paige on the other hand, was well under the radar before the season began. Many believed PJ Hairston would be the Tar Heel that would be in contention for ACC Player of the Year, but he was ruled ineligible for the season. Paige has taken over as the team leader at the point guard position. He is starting to get more recognition now that his Tar Heels are on a 12 game winning streak heading into the regular season finale which is at none other than Duke on Saturday night.
This game could very well determine which of the two actually wins the award. Some people will just look at the basic stats of points, rebounds, and assists among shooting percentages and declare Parker the outright winner. However, Paige has put up his own numbers that aren’t far behind Parker, mostly in terms of scoring. The stats that make a strong argument for Paige are what he does in the second half of games.
Parker averages 18.8 points per game which is second in the ACC, while he averages an ACC-best 9 rebounds per game. He also averages a block and a steal per game. He shoots 48 percent from the floor, 37 percent from behind the three-point line, but struggles at the charity stripe, shooting just 73 percent. Keep in mind, Parker is only a freshman. Paige’s numbers are comparable to Parker’s to an extent. Paige averages 17.2 points per game, 4.5 assists per game, as well as a steal and a half per game. He shoots slightly lower than Parker at 44 percent, but better than him from beyond the arc (39%) and at the free throw line, as he shoots 89 percent, second in the ACC.
Where Paige’s stats start to make a stronger argument is in the second half of games. In the first half of games, Paige doesn’t shoot well, as he shoots 31.7% from the field and 20.5 from three. In the second half, Paige is a completely different offensive player as he shoots 50.6 percent from the field and 51.1% from three. That is a drastic difference in terms of scoring. To help Paige’s case even more is what he does in the final 10 minutes of games. He’s shooting 51% from the floor during the final 10 minutes and usually most important minutes of the game, while shooting 53% from behind the arc.
Either way you look at it, one of these players is likely going to be named the ACC Player of the Year. No matter which one actually gets it, both have strong arguments and are deserving of the accolade. Paige’s Tar Heels (23-7, 13-4) are a game better than Parker’s Blue Devils (23-7, 12-5). UNC defeated Duke back on February 20 in Chapel Hill. Paige had 13 points, including some late three pointers, and four assists, while Parker had 17 points and 11 rebounds in the losing effort. Will Duke be able to avenge the loss to its arch nemesis or will Carolina continue to stay hot heading into the ACC conference tournament and then into the NCAA tournament? Which one of these players will be named conference player of the year? We will find those answers out in the coming week.