There's no question that sophomore forward Jamel Artis has been the Pittsburgh Panthers best player this year. He's simply been awesome...with a capital "A". Sorry, I couldn't resist. Pitt fans know how spectacular Artis has been, but does the rest of the ACC? Furthermore, does his strong play in conference games warrant all-conference consideration?
Artis certainly has a good chance. For starters, only three (Paige, Brogdon, Hanlan) out of the 15 players named to an All-ACC team last year returned. That's 12 open spots, as I believe the incumbents will definitely make all-conference this season. Here's my guess as to how things will pan out.
Jahlil Okafor - Freshman center - Duke
Montrezl Harrell - Junior forward - Louisville
Malcolm Brogdon - Junior guard - Virginia
Terry Rozier - Sophomore guard - Louisville
Jerian Grant - Senior guard - Notre Dame
The four best teams in the ACC all have at least one representative here. Brogdon was my fifth selection, but I can't imagine Virginia not having at least one person on the first-team, and he was second-team last season.
Rakeem Christmas - Senior forward - Syracuse
Pat Connaughton - Senior guard/forward - Notre Dame
Justin Anderson - Junior guard - Virginia
Olivier Hanlan - Junior guard - Boston College
Marcus Paige - Senior guard - North Carolina
Christmas is a lock for either the first or second-team. Perhaps Connaughton is one team too high here, but I wanted to reward a very good player, who is also a senior, on a winning team. Is being the Cavaliers best player through 10 conference games good enough to land Anderson on the second-team? I am not sure, but it just feels right. Hanlan is the only player among the worst five teams in the ACC that I have on any team; at some point the gaudy numbers matter, I suppose. Paige simply isn't having the year that Rozier and Grant are enjoying.
Jamel Artis - Sophomore forward - Pittsburgh
Brice Johnson - Junior forward - North Carolina
Trevor Lacey - Junior guard - NC State
Quinn Cook - Senior guard - Duke
Tyus Jones - Freshman guard - Duke
I could be way off here with a few of these picks. I am a firm believer that coaches will reward very good players that have stuck around for four seasons - Cook. Artis has been simply too good in-conference to not be included, but I am probably bias.
Kennedy Meeks - Sophomore forward - North Carolina
Justise Winslow - Freshman forward - Duke
Jaron Blossomgame - Junior forward - Clemson
Devin Thomas - Junior forward - Wake Forest
Trevor Cooney - Senior guard - Syracuse
The fact that Meeks and Johnson are frontcourt mates hurts Meeks here. Or maybe I am thinking about it the wrong way. Blossomgame might be biggest challenger to Artis being selected. Their numbers are very similar - Blossomgame the better rebounder but Artis the better assist man - and they play on teams with similar records.
A lot can change between now and the end of the ACC play, but if you don't think Artis is among the best 20 players in the ACC, you're probably wrong. I think that at least one or two players among the teams in the middle of the pack (not including Syracuse) will be selected. If the Panthers can win out, and Artis continues his strong play, there is no reason to think that he doesn't stand a strong chance of at least making the third-team.
Currently, Artis is averaging 15.4 points per game in 13 conference games. He's scored in double-figures in all but two of them and netted at least 20 points in five of them. He's pulling down 6.5 rebounds per contest during ACC play and has dished out at least one assist per game. His first career double-double (20 points and 10 boards) came against the Orange earlier this month as well.
The game is really slowing down for Artis, and he's becoming a much more efficient player on the offensive end. He's currently ranked fifth in conference games in terms of offensive efficiency (121.07) and TS% (60.77). Per Hoop-Math, his floor percentages have all increased as well except for a very small decline in field goal percentage at the rim. Even more impressive is the fact that Artis is playing a bulk of his minutes against starters this season.
Pitt is used to players progressing during their tenure under Dixon. But few players made the kind of leap that Artis has this season. The only other player that comes to mind is former guard Ashton Gibbs. I don't count point guard Carl Krauser because his first year was under Howland, and he was as old as some seniors his freshman year. While this season certainly isn't over, it's exciting to think what the next two years will be like with Artis leading the way.