Lessons Learned: ACC Weekend Wrap-UpPosted by KCarpenter on February 18th, 2013
It was a good weekend for basketball fans in the ACC though fans of individual teams may be feeling more ambivalent. Of the six games this weekend, all but one of them had a final margin of four points or less. In fact, if North Carolina State hadn’t managed a four-point overtime win, all but one of the games this weekend would have had a final score where the outcome was within one possession. Even the single game that wasn’t close had its own fascinating subplot and March ramifications. It was a good weekend for close games, but did we learn anything?
- Duke Is Fouling Too Much. On the season, Duke has been fouling opponents at a nice and low rate, posting and opponent free throw attempted to field goal attempted ratio of 30.5%. In conference, however, Duke has jumped in this metric to 36.4%. Amazingly, like many of Duke’s problems, this rise can probably be accredited to the injury of Ryan Kelly. Kelly’s replacements foul at a very high rate while still allowing a conference-worst 49.5% shooting from inside the arc. Physical defense that prevents easy buckets can sometimes be used to excuse high fouling rates, but Duke’s interior is offering up the worst of both worlds. On Saturday, Duke forced 26 turnovers against Maryland and shot nearly 50% and the Terrapins still won.
- Marcus Georges-Hunt Belongs On The ACC All-Freshmen Team. There are probably three sure-fire picks on the ACC All-Freshman Team: TJ Warren, Olivier Hanlan, and Rasheed Sulaimon. Those three have all proven to be valuable contributors to their respective teams. With apologies to Daniel Miller, Georges-Hunt often looks like the best player on his Georgia Tech team. Against Wake Forest, Georges-Hunt scored a game-high 16 points including many critical buckets down the stretch to lead the Yellow Jackets to victory. With the exception of Hanlan, few freshmen are as critical to their team’s success as he is to Georgia Tech.
- North Carolina State Is The Worst Good Team In The Conference. Against Virginia Tech, NC State made 31-of-43 free throws (compared to the Hokies 5-of-7), shot 46.3% from the field, and 38.9% from beyond the arc. Yet it took the Wolfpack overtime to defeat the worst team in the conference at home. The offense for this team is blisteringly effective, yet the defense is so bad that it nearly completely offsets the team’s scoring brilliance. The team is the second best in offensive efficiency in the conference, but ninth in defensive efficiency. This leads to a conference marginal efficiency rating (defensive rating subtracted from the offensive rating) of +2.6. For reference, a middling North Carolina team with a significantly worse offense than the Wolfpack and with the 7th rated conference defense has a marginal efficiency rating of +3.5. NC State’s defense is needs to improve if this team wants to do better than eke out overtime wins in their own building against the worst team in the conference.
- P.J. Hairston Likes Starting. Since his insertion into the starting line-up on Wednesday, Hairston has done nothing but his best. At Duke, Hairston matched his career high of 23 points. On Saturday against Virginia, he set a new high watermark: 29 points on 14 shots, a freakishly efficient game. Though it’s unlikely that Hairston will continue his trend of topping himself every game he starts, his performance bodes well for a UNC team that has gotten a big boost out of Hairston’s insertion in the starting squad.
- It’s Unclear Who Is The Best Center On Miami’s Roster. This is a good problem for Jim Larranaga’s squad. Sure Reggie Johnson is the big body with a knack for scoring and rebounding, and, yes Kenny Kadji’s inside-outside game makes him one of the most effective stretch big men in the country, but on the road against Clemson, Julian Gamble came up big for his team. A capable scorer, Gamble lacks the scoring touch of his counterparts, but his consistent rebounding, particularly on the offensive end and conference-best shot-blocking (he leads the ACC in block percentage at 10%) makes him a vital interior anchor for the ACC’s best offensive team. On nights when Johnson can’t score and Kadji can’t rebound, like last night against Clemson, Gamble fills in the cracks.
- Florida State’s Record Is Seriously Deceptive. I’ve mentioned this before, but the problem is only getting worse. The Seminoles continue to lose by a lot while beating bad teams by the skin of their teeth, leading to an even conference record. The three-point win at home over Boston College on Saturday only serves to underline the strange pattern in Florida State’s conference record.