Breaking Down ACC Weekend #4 – Advanced Statistical PreviewPosted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 25th, 2014
It’s another weekend of conference play in the ACC, so let’s take a look at the match-ups from an advanced statistics perspective. All statistics used are for results in ACC conference games only along with team rankings (#1-#15) 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 22, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings.
Saturday: Florida State (13-5, 4-2 ACC) @ Duke (15-4, 4-2 ACC) – ESPN (12:00 PM)
Pomeroy Prediction: (#11) Duke 78-72 (#21) Florida State
This weekend’s kick-off game should be a great match-up between surging Duke and a Florida State team that has beaten every ACC team it has played not named Virginia. And don’t discount the Seminoles’ chances just because this game is at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Florida State already has two impressive road conference wins over Clemson and Miami, each by double figures. In a bit of a surprise, the Seminoles lead the ACC in three-point shooting (43.8%), with sophomore Devon Bookert leading the way with a league-leading 12-for-19 (63.2%). The Florida State defense is tough on opposing shooters and ranks #16 nationally in adjusted efficiency, but it has not been quite as stingy in league play. They will be facing a hot Duke team that remade its lineup, is using its bench more, and has had success with it — winning three straight. The Blue Devils got their first road win of the season on Wednesday over Miami and have averaged an outstanding 121.7 points per 100 possessions over the last three outings. Jabari Parker appears to be bouncing back from his mini-slump, averaging 20 points per game in the last two outings. As an indication of Parker’s aggressiveness lately, he shot 18 free throws in those two games after only attempting a total of 12 in his first four ACC games.
Stat Watch. Florida State has two glaring weaknesses: defensive rebounding and ball-handling. Even though Duke has been weak on the offensive boards for most of the year, they grabbed 15 of them against Miami. And in their last home game, the Devils forced N.C. State into 15 first half turnovers, so the key to the game will probably be how well Florida State takes care of the ball. If they can make the game depend on who shoots better, Florida State has the edge, with their defensive field goal shooting (38.3%) much stronger than Duke’s defense (45.3%).
Saturday – Pittsburgh (17-2, 5-1 ACC) @ Maryland (11-8, 3-3 ACC) – ESPN2 (6:00 PM)
Pomeroy Prediction: (#2) Pittsburgh 73-65 (#66) Maryland
Pittsburgh continues to be very impressive with its only conference loss coming at Syracuse in a close game last Saturday. After that, the Panthers faced a possible letdown game at home against a good Clemson team, but the Panthers instead blew out the Tigers by a 33-point margin. That game solidified Pitt as the best passing team in the ACC, as the Panthers assisted on 24 of their 27 field goals for an astonishing 89 percent assist rate — for the season, they rank #6 in the country in that metric. Maryland is coming off a perplexing loss at N.C. State on Monday, considering that the Wolfpack played without the ACC’s overall scoring leader, T.J. Warren. The Terrapins hope that being back home will make a difference, as they are 2-0 at the Comcast Center in league play. Pittsburgh thumped Maryland by 20 back on January 6, although their lead was only six at the half. The Terps needs a signature win in the worst way after dropping three of their last four games.
Stat Watch. Pittsburgh is by far the top ACC shooting team, while Maryland is virtually tied with Boston College for the title of worst field goal defense. That’s the way the game played out in their earlier meeting, with Pitt making 52.7% of its attempts.
Saturday: Syracuse (18-0, 5-0 ACC) @ Miami (10-8, 2-4 ACC) – CBS (1:00 PM)
Pomeroy Prediction: (#4) Syracuse 57-51 (#79) Miami
This is the second rematch we have this weekend, with Syracuse coming from behind to beat Miami by five on January 4 in the Carrier Dome. Syracuse has not played since last Saturday’s tough home win over Pittsburgh, and even though Miami is no powerhouse, the Hurricanes will be the toughest ACC foe that the Orange has played on the road. The first meeting was a very slow 49-possession game in which both teams struggled to find good looks against the other’s match-up zone. Freshman sensation Tyler Ennis has been the catalyst to Syracuse’s undefeated start and has continued to excel in conference games, sporting a superb assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.2-to-1. Miami really struggled offensively against Duke on Wednesday, as leading scorer Rion Brown was held to only two points and must bounce back for the Hurricanes to have a solid chance to upset the Orange.
Stat Watch. In the first meeting between these two, Syracuse sharp-shooter Trevor Cooney had a miserable day, going 2-of-12 on threes. It’s not likely to happen again as Cooney is a 41 percent three-point shooter on the season. The Syracuse guards rank #1-#2 in league play in steals with Ennis (2.6 SPG) and Cooney (2.2 SPG) at the top of that active zone defense. Miami’s ball-handling was a problem in the previous game with 15 turnovers.
Sunday: Clemson (13-5, 4-2 ACC) @ North Carolina (11-7, 1-4 ACC) – ESPNU (6:00 PM)
Pomeroy Prediction: (#46) North Carolina 62-59 (#41) Clemson
Of course the big question about this one is whether Clemson will finally break through in Chapel Hill after 56 consecutive trips without a win? But the more important issue involves the downward spiral that North Carolina finds itself in right now. After another uninspired effort Monday night at Virginia, the Tar Heels face a must-win situation in this game. Otherwise, it will be very hard to imagine North Carolina getting things turned around in time to make a push for the NCAA Tournament. The Heels have been in a shooting slump since ACC play began, and are especially feeble from behind the three-point line. The backcourt of Marcus Paige and Leslie McDonald simply have to start making shots, as the inside game is not strong enough to carry the team. Clemson is trying to rebound from a beatdown Tuesday at Pittsburgh after winning its first two ACC road games. The Tigers are also offensively challenged, so the team that can create the most easy baskets here will have the edge.
Stat Watch. North Carolina will want to use its defense to create transition opportunities. The Heels are #3 in steals and Clemson has had some turnover problems. On the other end, Clemson will look to attack the offensive glass, which has often been a problem area for North Carolina this season. Whichever team uses their advantage to produce more easy buckets will probably win the game.
Saturday: Virginia Tech (8-10, 1-5 ACC) @ Virginia (14-5, 5-1 ACC) – ACCN (3:00 PM)
Pomeroy Prediction: (#13) Virginia 70-53 (#170) Virginia Tech
This looks like the biggest mismatch of the weekend. Virginia comes in leading the ACC in scoring margin (+14.8), and probably are just a lucky-bounce Duke three-pointer away from being undefeated in the league. Joe Harris has been the hottest Cavalier, making 14-of-27 threes, but he’s getting good support. Malcolm Brogdon has been consistent as a scorer, and averaging 14.5 points and reaching double figures in all six ACC contests. Virginia Tech has now dropped five straight games and seven of its last eight. One bright spot has been the emergence of freshman guard Devin Wilson. These are his scoring totals in order over the last five games: (3, 9, 14, 20, 26). Now that is what you call a positive trend!
Stat Watch. While Virginia has many statistical advantages, perhaps the biggest edge for the Cavaliers will be their field goal defense (38.0%) versus Virginia Tech’s field goal offense (39.5%). If the Hokies shoot under 40 percent, they are probably doomed.
Sunday: Georgia Tech (11-8, 2-4 ACC) @ N.C. State (12-7, 2-4 ACC) – ACCN (1:00 PM)
Pomeroy Prediction: (#91) N.C. State 72-64 (#141) Georgia Tech
This is a pivotal game for both teams as the winner will find itself among the competitive middle in the ACC standings. The loser drops to three games under .500, which will be a big hole to climb out of by the end of the year. Both teams are coming off encouraging performances, however. On Monday night, N.C. State got a huge win over Maryland without Wolfpack star T.J. Warren, who was out with an ankle injury. NC State may have found some scoring help for Warren, as Ralston Turner scored 23 points and buried five second half threes to carry the Pack home to the victory. As of today, there was no word on Warren’s availability for this game but hopefully the extra time off will enable him to play this weekend. On Tuesday, Georgia Tech picked up its first ACC road win over Boston College, where Trae Golden and Chris Bolden combined to make 7-of-11 from three-point range, a far cry from their combined seasonal average (<30%).
Stat Watch. N.C. State’s shooting holds the key to this match-up. The Pack has not shot well in ACC play but did shoot well (56%) in the second half of the Maryland game. Georgia Tech has allowed conference foes to make 46 percent overall and a lenient 51 percent on two point attempts. That’s good news for N.C. State, who despite Turner’s effort Monday, would rather score inside.
Saturday: Notre Dame (11-8, 2-4 ACC) @ Wake Forest (13-6, 3-3 ACC) – ACCN (3:00 PM)
Pomeroy Prediction: (#82) Wake Forest 75-72 (#69) Notre Dame
Brace yourself now – Wake Forest is actually coming off a conference road victory. The Deacons beat Virginia Tech by six in Blacksburg on Wednesday night to climb to .500 in the league. And in more good news, Travis McKie snapped out of his scoring slump. After scoring only 15 total points in the last four games, the senior tallied 24 points in Wednesday’s win. The game wasn’t all good though, with the Deacs allowing a weak Virginia Tech offense to score 31 points in the last 10 minutes of play. Notre Dame has yet to break through on the road, but has come close including Tuesday night’s two-point loss at Florida State. The Irish have actually had second half leads in all three ACC road losses but Mike Brey’s group has not been able to close out games. This game will feature a matchup of the ACC’s top two rebounders. Wake’s Devin Thomas leads with 8.6 RPG, with Garrick Sherman of the Irish right behind at 8.4 RPG.
Stat Watch. Wake Forest hopes it can win the free throw battle in this one. The Deacs get to the foul line more than any other ACC team and have shot better (67.5%) since league play started. Both teams are much better at making two-point shots than they are at defending them, so this has the makings of a high scoring affair.