Breaking Down ACC Weekend #3 – Advanced Statistical Preview

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 17th, 2014

It’s the third weekend of conference play in the ACC, so let’s take a look at the match-ups from an advanced statistics perspective. With every team except North Carolina having played at least four ACC games, we will now be using conference games only statistics along with team rankings in each category. For each game we will show how the two teams compare in efficiency ratings and the four factors, offense versus defense. We will also look at interesting areas of particular strength and weakness that could hold the key to the outcomes of these games. All numbers are from Ken Pomeroy’s site and are current through games of January 15, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings (all times EST).

Saturday – Pittsburgh (16-1, 4-0 ACC) @ Syracuse (17-0, 4-0 ACC) – ESPN (4:00 PM)

Syracuse's C.J. Fair and Pittsburgh's James Robinson Renew Their Rivalry in a New Conference. (Photo:

Syracuse’s C.J. Fair and Pittsburgh’s James Robinson Renew Their Rivalry in a New Conference.

Pomeroy Prediction: (#2) Syracuse 66-61 (#8) Pittsburgh

Pitt-Syr2The best match-up of the weekend is ironically between these two ACC newcomers. Something has to give as Pittsburgh is leading the conference with 78.5 points per game in ACC play, while the Orange have the stingiest defense, allowing only 50.0 points per game. As he has all season, senior Lamar Patterson leads the way for the Panthers, averaging 20.0 PPG in ACC games. He will probably match up frequently with Syracuse’s All-America candidate C.J. Fair (17.1 PPG) in Pitt’s man-to-man defense. The battle at point guard may decide the game as Syracuse’s freshman sensation Tyler Ennis faces off with Pitt sophomore James Robinson. In conference games only, Ennis leads the league in assists (6.5 APG) and steals (3.0 SPG), while Robinson has the ACC’s best assist/turnover ratio (16/2).

Stat Watch. Pittsburgh leads the ACC by a huge margin in field goal percentage in conference games at 51.6 percent, while Syracuse is 10th at 40.9. Ball-handling will be important as these are the top two teams in the ACC in steals. It will also be interesting to see how many three-point shots Pittsburgh tries against the Orange zone, as they are last in the league in attempts, while Syracuse allows more than any other team.

Saturday – Florida State (12-4, 3-1 ACC) @ Virginia (12-5, 3-1 ACC) – ACCN (12:00 PM)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#18) Virginia 61-57 (#16) Florida State

FSU-VaThese two defensive giants just played two weeks ago, a surprising 62-50 win for Virginia in Tallahassee. Part of what made it surprising was that Cavaliers’ star Joe Harris only played two minutes in that game due to a mild concussion. Neither team shot well, which is no surprise considering that these are two of the best defensive units in the country. Florida State was done in by its two glaring weaknesses, defensive rebounding and ball-handling. Virginia had an offensive rebounding edge (+5) and won the turnover margin (+10), giving the Cavaliers 15 more scoring opportunities. That’s how you win an ACC road game while shooting 32.8 percent from the field. There’s a lot on the line in this rematch as the winner of this one will be tied for second place in the conference.

Stat Watch. Florida State defends the rim better than any team in the ACC. The Seminoles lead in blocks per game (5.5 BPG) and opponents’ two point field goal percentage (35.8%). Florida State has suddenly gotten hot from three-point range, shooting 43.8 percent in ACC play after making less than 33 percent coming into the New Year. Virginia’s Akil Mitchell has really been struggling from the free throw line in ACC play, making only 5-of-17.

Saturday – N.C. State (11-6, 1-3 ACC) @ Duke (13-4, 2-2 ACC) – CBS (2:00 PM)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#21) Duke 84-70 (#97) N.C. State

NCS-DukePreseason favorite Duke looks to get above .500 in the ACC for the first time this season, hosting a young N.C. State squad that has lost four out of its last six games. These two could have easily come into this contest with opposite conference records. Duke almost suffered a crushing defeat at home Monday, blowing an 11-point late lead over Virginia and winning with a fortunate bounce on a Rasheed Sulaimon three-pointer. N.C. State lost Wednesday night at Wake Forest on the last possession of the game. This will be a battle of slumping stars. Duke’s Jabari Parker had been regarded by many as a National Player of the Year candidate, but he may have hit the proverbial freshman wall. In ACC play he’s only averaging 10.5 points per game and is shooting 30.4 percent from the field. N.C. State’s T.J. Warren has seen a similar drop when compared to the pre-conference schedule with regards to scoring (23.9 down to 16.5 PPG) and field goal shooting (54.1% to 37.5%).

Stat Watch. Duke leads the ACC in made three-pointers per conference game with 9.8 while the Wolfpack are tied for last at only 3.0. These are the conference’s top two free throw shooting teams, with Duke making 81.3 percent and N.C. State at 76.2  percent in ACC games.

Saturday – Wake Forest (12-5, 2-2 ACC) @ Clemson (12-4, 3-1 ACC) – ACCN (4:00 PM)

Clemson is Off to Surprising ACC Start Led by K.J. McDaniels. (Photo: Ken Ruinard)

Clemson is Off to Surprising ACC Start Led by K.J. McDaniels.
(Photo: Ken Ruinard)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#34) Clemson 62-54 (#86) Wake Forest

WF-ClemIf Clemson can hold serve on it’s home court, rather likely based on Wake Forest head coach Jeff Bzdelik’s history in road conference games, the Tigers would sport a 4-1 ACC record, good for a tie in second place. That’s a far cry from the preseason expectation most had for the Tigers. K.J. McDaniels is off to a great start in ACC play and is in the league’s top seven in four major categories. Codi Miller-McIntyre was the hero in Wake Forest’s close win over N.C. State Wednesday, converting a full court driving layup with five seconds to go in the game.

Stat Watch. Clemson games are usually bad shooting affairs on both ends. The Tigers and their opponents are only shooting about 40 percent from the field in ACC games. Wake is getting beat badly on the boards on both ends, ranking last in the conference in offensive and defensive rebounding. That could be crucial because Clemson is +5 in total rebounds per game.

Saturday – Miami (9-7, 1-3 ACC) @ Georgia Tech (10-7, 1-3 ACC) – RSN (2:00 PM)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#118) Georgia Tech 60-59 (#72) Miami

Mia-GTThis is probably a must-win for both teams if they want to reach postseason play this year. Georgia Tech is wrapping up a three-game home stand after a win over Notre Dame last weekend and a loss to Pittsburgh Tuesday night. Miami has actually performed better on the road in conference play, including their lone win over North Carolina. The Canes also took #2 Syracuse to the wire in the Carrier Dome.

Stat Watch. Miami’s not been shooting well from anywhere on the court, ranking in the bottom four of the ACC in two-point shooting (41.7%), three-pointers (31.6%) and free throws (58.0%).

Saturday – Boston College (5-12, 1-3 ACC) @ North Carolina (10-6, 0-3 ACC) – ESPN (12:00 PM)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#40) North Carolina 80-66 (#155) Boston College

BC-NCSpeaking of must-wins, this is one such game for North Carolina. As the only team without a win in conference, the Tar Heels need to get going if they want to climb back into contention. They should be able to dominate the smallish Eagles in the paint and on the boards on both ends. Look for Boston College to launch a bunch of threes and hope they can make a much higher percentage than North Carolina opponents have so far.

Stat Watch. Boston College’s weak defense may be just what the doctor ordered for an anemic Tar Heels’ offense. North Carolina is last in the ACC in field goal shooting (36.1%) and has committed the most turnovers (14.0 TOPG) in conference games.

Sunday – Virginia Tech (8-8, 1-3 ACC) @ Notre Dame (10-7, 1-3 ACC) – ESPNU (6:00 PM)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#76) Notre Dame 74-64 (#161) Virginia Tech

VT-NDThis is another match-up of desperate teams. Virginia Tech is struggling as expected but Notre Dame was hoping to be in better shape after opening conference play with a win over Duke. Since then, the Irish have dropped three straight and are in danger of  getting buried in the ACC standings.

Stat Watch. After starting the year hot from outside, Virginia Tech has come down to earth, making only 32.3 percent of its threes in ACC games. Notre Dame also has a big edge in two-point shooting (51.6%) compared to the Hokies (40.2%).

Brad Jenkins (325 Posts)

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