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Forget Krzyzewski

Duke's Mike Krzyzewski usually ends up with it. Clemson's beleaguered Larry Shyatt may never get it. And temperamental Terp Gary Williams has a good chance at winning it this season. But for my money, the 2000 ACC Coach of the Year award should go to Virginia's Pete Gillen.

The competition for the Coach of the Year trophy is essentially a three-horse race between Krzyzewski, Williams and Gillen. Every other coach in the Conference led a team that was either disappointing or dreary.

I don't vote for this award, but if I did I'd give Gillen the nod; not because he coaches here at Virginia, but because of any coach in the ACC, he did the most with the greatest challenges.

At the beginning of the season, high expectations for the Cavaliers remained relegated to the Charlottesville area. The rest of the nation saw a team with only one senior and a plethora of talented but untested players. As a result, the ACC media preseason poll picked the Cavs to finish seventh.

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  • An already young Virginia team became even younger as the season progressed: Junior guard Chezley Watson left the team and redshirt junior Colin Ducharme's minutes became almost non-existent. With Ducharme riding the pine, the Cavs settled on a lineup that had no player taller than 6-foot-8 seeing significant playing time.

    Yet the Cavaliers still kept surprising the opposition. They took Duke to overtime Jan. 5 at University Hall. Six weeks later they notched the first ever Virginia victory at the 14-year-old Dean Dome. Saturday, they clinched third place in the Conference and should receive a berth in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three years.

    Krzyzewski and Williams had similar success with Duke and Maryland, but they had more to work with than Gillen did.

    The Blue Devils didn't so much rebuild as reload for the 1999-2000 season, signing the best recruiting class in the country. Plus, signing blue-chippers is much easier with a legacy like Duke's.

    Meanwhile, Williams had the pieces in place to mount another strong season, with Terence Morris, Juan Dixon and Lonny Baxter all returning and the addition of freshman point guard Steve Blake.

    Most importantly, Duke and Maryland had recent glories to build upon. The Blue Devils already owned the last three ACC titles before adding a fourth this year. The Terrapins last advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 last season.

    Gillen, on the other hand, elevated Virginia to a level of prominence not seen since the 1995 squad advanced to the Elite Eight. This year he transformed the cellar-dwelling Cavs into one of the Conference's best teams.

    While determining the top coach in the Conference may seem problematic, ironing out the rest of the best of the ACC is even more perplexing. My votes for the other postseason awards break down as follows:

    Player of the Year: Duke guard Chris Carrawell, the most complete player in the ACC. Not only is he a top-notch defender, but he displayed more versatility in his offensive game while leading Duke to a fourth straight Conference title. He could sneak onto the All-American team as well.

    All-ACC First Team: Carrawell and fellow Blue Devil Shane Battier, Maryland's Juan Dixon, Clemson's Will Solomon and Georgia Tech's Jason Collier.

    With a deft three-point shot, Battier showed he could do something other than draw charges. Dixon came out of nowhere to finish second in the league in scoring and bring Maryland back from an 0-3 ACC start. Solomon proved strong enough to carry a whole team of Tigers on his shoulders. Collier's strong statistics stake his claim for the first team, even though the Yellow Jackets were horrible.

    All-ACC Second Team: Morris, Baxter, North Carolina's Ed Cota, Florida State's Ron Hale and Virginia's Donald Hand.

    Picked as the preseason ACC Player of the Year, Morris wasn't even the best player on his own team. Baxter had a breakout year. Cota led the ACC in assists. Hale remains the most underrated player in the Conference. The Cavs lived and died with Hand this season.

    All-ACC Third Team: North Carolina's Joseph Forte, Duke's Carlos Boozer, Florida State's Damous Anderson, Virginia's Chris Williams and Wake Forest's Darius Songaila.

    Forte was one of the lone bright spots in a trying season for UNC. Boozer emerged as the best of Duke's four prize rookies. Anderson is among the league leaders in scoring. Williams remained one of the most versatile players in the league. Songaila ranked among the ACC leaders in field goal and free throw percentages.

    Rookie of the Year: Forte is the only freshman to lead the Heels in scoring in the program's history. That's good enough for me.

    All-Rookie Team: Forte, Blake, Boozer and fellow Blue Devil Jason Williams and Virginia's Travis Watson.

    At the beginning of February, Cavalier guard Roger Mason Jr. seemed to be a lock for All-Rookie accolades, but his productivity declined significantly once he took over Willie Dersch's spot in the starting lineup.


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