ACC Weekend Preview #7Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 14th, 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 February 12, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings (all times EST). This weekend features four games that involve the top eight teams in the standings.
Saturday – Pittsburgh (20-5, 8-4 ACC) @ North Carolina (16-7, 6-4 ACC) – CBS (1:00 PM)
Pomeroy Prediction: (#27) North Carolina 69-68 (#15) Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh is coming off that emotionally crushing last second loss to Syracuse on Tyler Ennis’s 35 footer Wednesday night, making the Panthers o-for-4 in games against the top three teams in the league. With no more opportunities for a huge signature win, this game on the road against the red-hot Tar Heels looks like Pittsburgh’s last chance for a regular season win that may impress the NCAA Selection Committee. The Syracuse game was the second time the Panthers lost at home on a last second three pointer, with the other delivered by Virginia’s Malcolm Brogdon. But don’t feel too sorry for Pittsburgh – they also have two overtime wins over ACC bottom dwellers Miami and Virginia Tech. Not only has North Caroliona won five straight conference games, but they have been impressive doing so, winning all by double digits. The Tar Heels have even begun to show improvement from the free throw line. They have only bested the 73 percent mark in four games all season, but three of those have been in their last four outings. With Wednesday’s weather related cancellation of the Duke game, North Carolina should be the fresher team physically for sure. But the current mental state of the Pittsburgh team is what may swing the game in the direction of the Tar Heels. After Wednesday’s major disappointment, the toughness and resiliency of the Panthers will be tested.
Stat Watch. Tempo will be very important in this one, with Pittsburgh (61 possessions per game) preferring a slower pace and North Carolina (67 PPG) wanting to speed things up. North Carolina hopes that being the fresher team shows up on the boards, where both teams normally excel. If Pittsburgh loses that battle, it will be awfully hard to see them winning, unless they have an unusually good shooting performance against the stout Tar Heel defense.
Saturday – Maryland (14-11, 6-6 ACC) @ Duke (19-5, 8-3 ACC) – ESPN (6:00 PM)
Pomeroy Prediction: (#3) Duke 88-72 (#60) Maryland
This will be Maryland’s last trip to the triangle as a member of the ACC. A loss in Durham would make the Terrapins 0-for-3 in those games, which is probably how the ACC envisioned (hoped?) things would turn out when they dealt Maryland this schedule in its swan song in the league – with none of the those three schools having to go to College Park this year. There was a time in the early 2000’s that this game was considered the biggest in the ACC, as evidenced by the fact that they were made permanent partners so that TV would get two matchups every year when the league had their first big expansion. Maryland has basically been a .500 ACC club all year, having never won or lost more than two in a row. They are coming off a competitive loss at Virginia on Monday so they should feel pretty good about being able to hang with Duke. Seth Allen has been hot, averaging 18.5 points in his last four games. Duke is probably playing its best right now, with its last six wins by at least 15 points. Jabari Parker is coming off his most productive game of the year with season highs in both points (29) and rebounds (16) against Boston College last Saturday. Parker is now the ACC’s leading rebounder, both overall and in league games.
Stat Watch. Duke has been effective on the offensive glass lately but may not have such an easy time of it against a Maryland team that is #2 in the ACC in defensive rebounding. Both teams like to shoot the three, as they are each among the top three in the league in attempts beyond the arc. But Duke does a much better job controlling opponents’ three point offense. The Blue Devils have only allowed six teams to attempt over 15 threes, and they weren’t hurt much in those games, as those opponents only made 28 percent of their long range shots.
Saturday – Virginia (20-5, 11-1 ACC) @ Clemson (15-8, 6-5 ACC) – ESPN2 (12:00 PM)
Pomeroy Prediction: (#9) Virginia 51-48 (#54) Clemson
This has all the makings of a slow defensive battle, as Pomeroy is only predicting 99 total points. It’s safe to assume that Clemson will struggle to score as they are last in the league in scoring offense, and Virginia is first in scoring defense. So Clemson’s only chance is to hold the Cavaliers’ offense well below their normally efficient output. Virginia has been led by the consistent scoring of their two star wings, Malcolm Brogdon and Joe Harris. Harris has scored between 9 and 19 points in the last 11 games (he only played two minutes in the ACC opener) while Brodgon has been in double figures in all 12 ACC games while never topping 18. The best thing Clemson does on offense is offensive rebound, but Virginia is #1 in the league at controlling their defensive boards so it just doesn’t look like a good matchup for the Tigers.
Stat Watch. For Clemson to have any success on offense they must beat the odds with regard to turnovers. Virginia is #1 in the ACC in turnover margin while Clemson is near the bottom, including #14 in turnovers committed.
Saturday – N.C. State (16-8, 6-5 ACC) @ Syracuse (24-0, 11-0 ACC) – ACCN (3:00 PM)
Pomeroy Prediction: (#2) Syracuse 74-59 (#78) N.C. State
Syracuse and Tyler Ennis just keep on doing it don’t they? After Wednesday’s dramatic comeback over Pittsburgh, the Orange continue their magical unbeaten start, now the third best in ACC history. With his continued clutch play, Tyler Ennis is not only a prime candidate for ACC Rookie-of-the-Year, but now is making a run at ACC Player-of-the-Year. N.C. State has now won five of its last six and has put itself in a position to be considered as a possible NCAA Tournament team. They have suddenly become effective from long range, making 15 threes in their last two games after only making 30 in the previous nine contests. That comes just in time as N.C. State prepares for the active Syracuse zone defense, which almost always forces opposing teams to connect from long range to have any offensive success. ACC leading scorer T.J. Warren may be a tough matchup for Syracuse if he can operate from the high post, often an open area in the zone. Coming off a career-high 34 points in Tuesday’s win over Wake Forest, Warren scores in a variety of ways – hitting mid-range jumpers, drawing fouls on drives and hitting the offensive glass.
Stat Watch. If Syracuse has a letdown from the emotional Pittsburgh win and doesn’t shoot well, they still have an ace-in-the-hole. The Orange should be able to take advantage of the Wolfpack’s weak defensive rebounding (#14), as Syracuse is #2 in the ACC in offensive boards.
Saturday – Florida State (14-10, 5-7 ACC) @ Wake Forest (14-10, 4-7 ACC) – RSN (8:00 PM)
This is a game between two teams headed in the wrong direction, so at least one of them will stop the bleeding temporarily. Florida State has seen its NCAA resume crumble while losing five of the last six games. Even the normally solid Seminole defense has struggled, giving up 77 points to a weak Miami offense in Monday’s home loss. Wake Forest has lost four straight including its last two at home. At this point, the Deacons may not even be NIT caliber. These two have a lot in common statistically as well. Both are bad ball-handling teams and weak defensive rebounding squads. At least Wake Forest is good at getting to the foul line, although they sometimes struggle to convert.
Stat Watch. With the teams evenly matched in rebounding and turnovers, the outcome probably will be determined by shooting. Florida State’s two point field goal percent defense (#3) will confront Wake Forest’s two point offense (#3). The Seminoles likely will have the edge in three pointers and that may be the difference.
Sunday – Notre Dame (13-12, 4-8 ACC) @ Boston College (6-18, 2-9 ACC) – ESPNU (6:00 PM)
Pomeroy Prediction: (#89) Notre Dame 73-72 (#150) Boston College
This could be the most entertaining offensive game of the weekend. Of course that’s mostly because of the weak defenses that will be on display on Sunday night. Boston College had to wait until Thursday night to play Georgia Tech due to the snow storm that came through the South on Wednesday. The Eagles lost on the last possession giving them three road losses by three points or less. One of those was to Notre Dame on February 1 when Eric Atkins drained a last second three for the Irish. A key to that game was Notre Dame’s 15-to-5 edge in offensive rebounds against the smaller Eagles. Boston College forward Ryan Anderson gave the Irish problems in that one, scoring 21 points and going 9-of-10 from the foul line.
Stat Watch. Since Boston College is probably going to get beat on the boards and give up more points-in-the-paint, their best chance to win is to have a huge edge in free throws. Notre Dame is last in the league in free throw attempts and Boston College is #3. Also, the Eagles need to make plenty of the numerous threes they will attempt.
Saturday – Miami (12-12, 3-8 ACC) @ Virginia Tech (8-15, 1-10 ACC) – RSN (6:00 PM)
Pomeroy Prediction: (#70) Miami 58-55 (#206) Virginia Tech
Miami is coming off its best offensive game in league play, scoring 77 in the win at Florida State. That was the Hurricanes third road win in the ACC. Normally that kind of road performance would put a team in the upper half of the league, but that is not the case for Miami this year as they are winless at home in league games. One of those home defeats came way back on December 8 against Virginia Tech, which is still the Hokies’ only ACC win. Virginia Tech played its best conference game since then in their last outing, a loss at Pittsburgh in 2 overtimes. Since the first meeting was so long ago, and Miami wasn’t playing a matchup zone back then, it’s probably not useful to look at that game in preparation for this one.
Stat Watch. Free throws could hold the key to this matchup. For Miami, getting to the foul line is the best thing they do offensively, while keeping opponents off the line is the best thing that Virginia Tech does defensively. On the other end of the court, the Hokies make fewer free throws than anyone in the league, while Miami is #2 in opponents’ free throw attempts. Virginia Tech cannot afford to be dominated at the charity stripe.