Bonzie Colson’s monster junior season has him in contention for Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year. Colson would be the first Notre Dame player to win a conference MVP award since Ben Hansbrough did it in 2010-11 in the Big East.
Just how real are Colson’s chances? Well, here are his stats: 16.7 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.4 blocks per game, and 80.9-percent shooting from the free throw line. That's No. 11 in scoring and No. 1 in rebounding as a 6-5 forward.
KenPom rates Colson as the top player in his All-KenPom ACC rankings. In KenPom’s national player of the year standings, Colson is ranked ninth.
The New Bedford, Mass., native was named to the John Wooden Award Late Season Top 20. ESPN’s Myron Medcalf wrote that Colson is among the players that could lead his team to a national title game appearance. He's won the ACC Player of the Week award twice this season and is tied for ninth nationally in double-doubles with 16.
A new process will determine ACC Player of the Year. Instead of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association (ACMSA) conducting a vote of media members, the ACC is going to a panel of four people from each respective team: its coach, a member of its radio network crew and two other people who cover the team.
Notre Dame’s fourth-place standing in the ACC helps Colson. Two of the top three scorers in the ACC are Pittsburgh’s Michael Young (20.2 per game) and Jamel Artis (19.6), though the Panthers’ 4-10 conference record likely eliminates them from contention.
If the Irish finish the season strong, Colson will be in the mix.
“He’s going to be part of the conversation if we can keep doing our part as a team,” head coach Mike Brey said.
Here is Colson’s main competition for ACC Player of the Year (listed alphabetically):
JOEL BERRY, NORTH CAROLINA
The Tar Heels’ emotional leader at point guard, the junior has been a key cog in North Carolina’s first-place ACC record (12-3). Berry is averaging 14.6 points, 4.0 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game, and is shooting 40.5 percent from three-point range and 84.1 percent from the free throw line. He also plays consistently good defense and matches up against the top guards in the league.
“Joel is very emotional in both directions — he gets really fired up and he gets really ticked off,” UNC head coach Roy Williams said. “I think that sometimes there has to be more of a level activity in both of those areas, but I like guys who get into the game, that lose themselves into the game.”
JOHN COLLINS, WAKE FOREST
The Demon Deacons’ monster big man dominates on both ends of the floor. He is the No. 4 scorer in the league at 19.1 points per game and is second behind only Colson in rebounding at 9.8 boards per contest. Collins is also third in blocks at 1.6 rejections per game and has the best field goal percentage in the conference at 62.1. The only knock on the 6-10 Collins is that Wake Forest isn’t among the top teams in the league (currently 11th in the standings).
“The best college basketball player in America that almost nobody pays attention to is dominating game after game, right there in the best league in the sport.” — CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander on Collins
JUSTIN JACKSON, NORTH CAROLINA
The high-scoring junior forward from Tomball, Texas, had another big game in Wednesday’s win over Louisville, tallying 21 points and five rebounds. He’s averaged double figures in each of his three seasons at North Carolina, with a current clip of 18.7 points per game that ranks seventh in the ACC. Jackson is also making 39.6 percent of his three-pointers.
“He’s a scorer, and he’s more aggressive this year, and that’s what we need from him,” Joel Berry II said of Jackson.
LUKE KENNARD, DUKE
The No. 2 scorer in the league has boosted his scoring by nearly 10 points per game as a sophomore and is shooting 51.8 percent from the field. He’s also a deadly outside threat, making 2.5 three-pointers a game at a 46.1-percent clip. The versatile 6-6 guard can also rebound (5.2 boards per game) while logging 35.1 minutes per game.
“He’s always finding ways to get to the free throw line, get his shot off,” Duke’s Amile Jefferson said of Kennard. “He’s just a dynamic player. He plays with an edge. When our spacing is good, he’s really good because he can operate, and he works off that pivot foot better than anyone in the country.”
DONOVAN MITCHELL, LOUISVILLE
Mitchell leads second-place Louisville in scoring at 15.8 points per game, an improvement from 7.4 per game as a freshman last season. The 6-3 guard runs the show for the Cardinals, chipping in on defense with a league-best 2.1 steals per game.
“He’s an elite-level player,” Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams said of Mitchell. “He can score on all three levels, [has] great body control [and is] very physical.”