Breaking Down ACC Weekend #5 – Advanced Statistical PreviewPosted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 1st, 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 29, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings (all times EST). This weekend features two heavyweight matchups featuring the four teams that are clearly the class of the conference thus far.
Saturday - Duke (17-4, 6-2 ACC) @ Syracuse (20-0, 7-0 ACC) – ESPN (6:30 PM)
A record Carrier Dome crowd is expected for Duke’s much-anticipated first trip to Syracuse. ESPN’s “College GameDay” will be there as well, adding to the hoopla. Duke hopes it can continue to play as well as it has in the last five games. During that stretch, the Blue Devils’ much maligned defense has held opponents to an excellent 93 points per 100 possessions. Their most impressive win came Monday night on the road over Pittsburgh, whose only other conference loss came at the Carrier Dome in a close game. An unsung hero lately has been Duke’s Amile Jefferson, who is the only player in the ACC’s top three in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. Syracuse just keeps rolling along, rarely blowing teams out but always executing extremely well down the stretch of games. Freshman point guard Tyler Ennis has been amazing all season, but has even been more impressive in ACC play. Despite playing so many minutes, including going the full 40 in three of the last four games, Ennis seems to be at his best in the last five minutes of games. He does whatever the Orange needs him to do, and has become a more consistent scorer with double figure points in all seven ACC games. There will be a lot of talent on the floor, particularly at the forward spot, with each team having two versatile 6’8″ frontcourt players, C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant for Syracuse and Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood for Duke. Another key could be if either team’s sharp shooter, Trevor Cooney of the Orange or Andre Dawkins for the Blue Devils, gets free and knocks down multiple threes. Naturally, whenever a team plays Syracuse we have to look at how they will try and deal with that famously active zone defense. Duke has done pretty well against other zones but nobody plays it quite like the Orange. The Blue Devils will probably try and slide their forwards in and around the lane to use their quickness, but they will have to adjust to how well Syracuse reacts to the ball. Tempo will also play a big role, with Duke wanting to force the pace defensively, hoping to wear down the Orange and make them use their weaker bench. But other teams have tried to do that and found out that Ennis is hard to speed up.
Stat Watch. Deflections will be the plan for the Orange as they lead the ACC in steals and are third in blocks. Of course another important factor will be Duke’s ability to hit three pointers as they lead the league with 9.9 makes per game. Dawkins comes off a red hot night, knocking down 6-of-7 in Monday’s game. Look for Syracuse to attack Duke on the offensive glass. The Blue Devils have been good on the boards lately, but Syracuse has been great at it all year, including Wednesday night, grabbing 19 offensive rebounds in the win over Wake Forest.
Sunday - Virginia (16-5, 7-1 ACC) @ Pittsburgh (18-3, 6-2 ACC) – ESPNU (12:30 PM)
In the other weekend headliner, Virginia visits Pittsburgh on Super Bowl Sunday in a match-up of two very similar teams. Both teams are rated very highly by the computers, but not so much in the human polls. This is due to the lack of eye-catching wins by either team. Pittsburgh’s highest rated win is over Stanford (#43 in kenpom) and the Panthers have lost to all three top 20 teams they have faced. Virginia has played a better schedule and therefore has more losses, but the Cavaliers are only 2-4 versus the kenpom top 30, and both of those wins are over the same team, #24 Florida State. At least one of these squads will get its best win of the year in this matchup. Both teams can count on a versatile senior wing to lead the way offensively. Pittsburgh’s Lamar Patterson and Virginia’s Joe Harris are extremely efficient scorers, with both ranked in the league’s top six in individual offensive rating. The young point guards in this game, the Panthers’ James Robinson and the Cavaliers’ London Perrantes have the top two two assist-to-turnover ratios in the conference. Even though both teams have the reputation of preferring a slow tempo, they actually are each above the league average of 62.7 possessions per game. Of course that’s not saying much as the ACC ranks last among all conferences in the country with regards to pace of play. Virginia is a more balanced offensive team so Harris does not have to shoulder as much of the load for his team as does Patterson. As Duke showed on Monday night, if you can find a way to limit Patterson’s production, the Panthers are beatable, even at the Peterson Events Center. Virginia’s Malcolm Brogdon continues to be one of the quiet stars in ACC league play, averaging 15.1 PPG on 51.1 percent shooting. A model of consistency, Brogdon’s point totals in the last five games are 17, 16, 16, 18, and 16.
Stat Watch. On paper the Virginia offense and the Pittsburgh defense looks like a stalemate in almost every category. Things are also pretty even on the other end, but there are a couple of matchups to watch there. Pittsburgh is in the middle of the league in committing turnovers while Virginia is the best at forcing them. In fact the Cavaliers are #1 in turnover margin at +5.88. Pittsburgh will try and take advantage of a small weakness in Virginia defense – the Cavaliers are #11 in opponents’ free throw attempts. The Panthers lead the ACC in free throw attempts, at just under 28 per game.
Saturday - Clemson (13-6, 4-3 ACC) @ Florida State (13-7, 4-4 ACC) – ESPN2 (3:00 PM)
This is a big game for both, as one of these teams will lose its third consecutive game, and the other will gain its fifth ACC win and sport a winning league record. Clemson started out 4-1 but came crashing back down to earth with two blowout road losses to Pittsburgh and North Carolina. At least the Tigers have had five days off to try and regroup. Probably no team relies more on one player than Clemson does K.J. McDaniels. Not only is he the Tigers’ only double figure scorer (16.2), but McDaniels also leads the team in rebounds, blocks and steals. He will need some help though for Clemson to win in Tallahassee, especially considering Florida State dominated the earlier meeting, 56-41 on January 9 at Clemson. In that game, the offensively challenged Tigers were totally inept, shooting 30 percent and committing 18 turnovers.
Stat Watch. Perhaps no other good team in America has two more glaring weaknesses than does Florida State. The Seminoles are last in the conference in defensive rebounding and offensive turnover percent. In the first meeting, Clemson only forced 11 Florida State miscues but they did grab 15 offensive rebounds so perhaps that’s where they can get some easy scoring chances. Otherwise it shapes up as another tough road outing for the Tigers. There’s no getting around the fact that Clemson will probably struggle to make shots against the Seminoles’ defense that only allows 38.3 percent shooting - so they better rebound a bunch of those misses.
Saturday - N.C. State (14-7, 4-4 ACC) @ North Carolina (13-7, 3-4 ACC) – ESPN2 (1:00 PM)
- Pomeroy Prediction: (#32) North Carolina 79-69 (#89) N.C. State
What a difference a week makes. Going into last weekend these two teams were a combined 3-8 in league play. Now they each sport multiple game win streaks for the first time this calendar year. N.C. State took advantage of three straight home games, sweeping Maryland, Georgia Tech and Florida State. The schedule flips now, with five of the next six games on the road for the Wolfpack, including this one in Chapel Hill, where North Carolina usually handles its in-state rival. T.J. Warren continues to be a scoring machine, torching the Seminoles for 30 points on Wednesday night. There’s an interesting situation going on at the point guard spot for N.C. State. The starter, freshman Anthony Barber has been struggling lately, only scoring in double figures once in the past six outings and going 0-for-9 on three pointers. In the last two games, Mark Gottfried turned to sophomore Tyler Lewis down the stretch, who has responded with a combined total of 16 points and 10 assists, while committing only one turnover. North Carolina overcame unusual travel issues to thump Georgia Tech on Wednesday night, the Tar Heels’ second straight impressive performance. James Michael McAdoo continues to be one the ACC’s best shooters from the field (55.8%) while also being one of the worst from the foul line (42%). Marcus Paige has regained his shooting touch, making six of his last nine long range attempts.
Stat Watch. A key to North Carolina’s improved play has been their passing and ballhandling. In the last two games, the Tar Heels have a combined total of 39 assists compared to only 18 turnovers. Turnover margin could be a problem for N.C. State in this game, as the Wolfpack has been mistake prone at times on the road, like when they had 15 first half turnovers at Duke two weeks ago. Don’t look for too many three pointers as these are the two worst teams in the ACC in three point percentage. At least these teams know their weakness – only Pittsburgh attempts fewer threes than these two squads.
Saturday - Georgia Tech (11-10, 2-6 ACC) @ Wake Forest (14-7, 4-4 ACC) – RSN (12:00 PM)
Pomeroy Prediction: (#80) Wake Forest 71-64 (#140) GeorgiaTech
One week after Wake Forest notched their first road win of the year at Virginia Tech, the Deacons dropped their first home game to undefeated Syracuse on Wednesday night. The Deacons battled throughout and held the Orange to their fourth worst offensive game of the season (1.03 points per possession). However, Wake was unable to overcome two of their recurring weaknesses, giving up 19 Syracuse offensive rebounds and shooting a dismal 3-for-20 on three pointers. Georgia Tech was probably an unfortunate victim of circumstances in their loss to North Carolina on Wednesday. The winter storm that crippled Atlanta held down the home attendance (5,124) and the Tar Heels were probably more focused and determined after the travel difficulties they endured. At least Trae Golden has been hot for the Yellow Jackets, averaging 21 points and making 10-of-24 from three in his last three games.
Stat Watch. While neither team is adept at forcing turnovers, Georgia Tech is by far the worst in the ACC in opponents’ turnover percentage. In fact, the last three Yellow Jacket opponents have only committed 20 total turnovers. The best thing that Wake Forest does on offense is get to the free throw line. But often they don’t maximize that strength as was the case against Syracuse, going 18-for-30 from the charity stripe.
Saturday - Maryland (12-9, 4-4 ACC) @ Virginia Tech (8-12, 1-7 ACC) – ACCN (12:00 PM)
Pomeroy Prediction: (#71) Maryland 72-68 (#201) Virginia Tech
It’s well known that the ACC gave Maryland a bit of a parting shot with regards to the schedule. The Terrapins play all three North Carolina triangle teams on the road, with none of them making the trip to College Park. But at least the schedule makers gave Maryland two games with Virginia Tech. Maryland rebounded from two straight defeats to edge Miami on Wednesday night. Dez Wells led the way, scoring all 21 of his points in the second half, after sitting out 15 minutes in the first half due to foul trouble. Wells had a perfect shooting night, going 7-for-7 from the floor and 6-for-6 from the foul line. According to Ken Pomeroy’s predictive model, Virginia Tech has a 33 percent chance of winning this game, one of only three remaining contests with greater than a 23 percent chance of a Hokie victory. Freshman Devin Wilson has cooled off, scoring only four points in Wednesday’s blowout loss to Boston College, after averaging 18 in the previous four games. The Hokies’ Jarell Eddie had his best game in awhile, with 23 points and 10 rebounds against the Eagles.
Stat Watch. With Virginia Tech having the worst offense and the worst defense in the league, Maryland should have many statistical advantages. Perhaps the biggest edge will come on the boards, with Charles Mitchell leading the way. The burly sophomore is #7 in the country in offensive rebounding percentage. The Terrapins are coming off a great outside shooting game versus Miami, hitting 10-of-21 from three. Individually, Evan Smotrycz has been red hot, making 7-of-10 from long range over the last three contests. At least the Hokies should shoot better than they normally do, with Maryland’s league worst field goal defense (47.1%).
Saturday - Boston College (6-14, 2-5 ACC) @ Notre Dame (11-10, 2-6 ACC) – ACCN (12:00 PM)
- Pomeroy Prediction: (#86) Notre Dame 77-68 (#160) Boston College
Despite having the worst overall record among ACC teams, Boston College is actually #7 in scoring margin in league play at -1.7. Of course that is a bit misleading because the Eagles have had the benefit of playing hapless Virginia Tech twice already, including Wednesday’s large win in Chestnut Hill. Notre Dame started conference play with a bang, upsetting Duke in South Bend, but has been in a downward spiral ever since, dropping six of seven. The Irish have not been a good defensive team all year, but lately the offense has been equally poor, hitting rock bottom in Tuesday’s home spanking at the hands of Virginia. Notre Dame uncharacteristically had 20 turnovers and only managed to score a pathetic 29 points in the first 30 minutes of play. The Boston College defense could be just what thae doctor ordered for the Irish, as the Eagles rank #294 in the country in defensive efficiency.
Stat Watch. As a team, nobody in the ACC likes to launch threes as much as Boston College. The Eagles take more than half (50.5%) of their shots from behind the arc. In the latest game with Virginia Tech, Boston College made 14-of-37 threes. Joe Rahon has been especially hot from deep, making 12-of-24 in the last five outings. This should be a good day for the offenses, with only Virginia Tech’s defense ranked below these two defensive units.