Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume VI

Posted by Brad Jenkins on February 27th, 2015

This is the latest edition of a weekly look at the current ACC standings and corresponding team performances, focusing on the teams that are playing better or worse than their records might indicate. We will also delve into some advanced metrics to find a few interesting team or player stats and trends. Finally, we will forecast how the final standings may look, and what that means for ACC schools’ postseason aspirations.

Note: All numbers are current for games played through Wednesday, February 25.

Current StandingsACC Stand - Feb26N.C. State and Pittsburgh continue to surge in the standings, with both schools winning twice in the last week. The Wolfpack in particular have been impressive lately, and Tuesday night’s rare win in Chapel Hill has their faithful feeling much better about making the Big Dance. In fact, based on points per possession margin (PPM) in conference play, Mark Gottfried’s squad has performed every bit as well as any ACC team other than Virginia and Duke. Speaking of the Cavaliers, what they are doing defensively continues to amaze. After holding Wake Forest to just 34 points on Wednesday night in Winston-Salem, Tony Bennett’s guys have practically assured themselves of finishing ACC play with the best defensive points per possession mark in recent conference history — the advanced stats era began in the 2001-02 season. And it will come as no surprise that the existing record for defensive efficiency performance was achieved by last year’s Virginia team — a group that held ACC opponents to a chilly 0.91 points per possession.

There are no match-ups involving two of the ACC’s five elite teams on the schedule this weekend, but there are some interesting games to observe as teams fight for postseason seeding. Jim Boeheim brings Syracuse to Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium (Saturday @ 7:00 PM ET – ESPN) in hopes that this game doesn’t end in a similar fashion to last year’s trip to Durham, which featured Boeheim’s dramatic ejection in the closing moments (and spawned a fun meme). In the only other game involving two teams with winning ACC records, North Carolina travels to Miami (Saturday @ 2:00 PM ET – CBS) in another crucial game for the Hurricanes and their NCAA Tourney hopes. There are also a couple of important games for a pair of hot ACC teams that take to the road for meetings with league bottom-dwellers, as N.C. State visits Boston College (Saturday @ Noon ET – RSN) and Pittsburgh travels to Wake Forest (Sunday @ 6:30 PM ET – ESPNU). Neither the Wolfpack nor the Panthers can afford a bad loss on their resumes as the season winds down.

Advanced Stat of the Week: Duke’s Opponents 3-Point Shooting

Last Wednesday as I was watching Virginia Tech knock down one three-pointer after another against Duke, I was hit with a deja vu moment that Mike Krzyzewski surely felt as well. It felt like we’ve seen ACC teams do this to the Blue Devils quite a bit this season, namely in Duke’s losses to N.C. State and Miami. The problem is that I also remembered having a similar but opposite feeling while watching North Carolina clang jumpers from deep the week prior. It seems like we’ve seen a lot of that kind of shooting against Duke as well — think Dick Vitale bemoaning Louisville’s brick-city performance when the Blue Devils won earlier this year in the KFC Yum! Center. Here’s a game-by-game look at how Duke’s ACC opponents have performed from behind the arc against them this season.Duke Opp 3Both feelings I had were supported by the numbers. In a season of extremes, five of Duke’s opponents have shot 50 percent or better from behind the three-point line, while six others have converted below 24 percent. It’s amazing that while Duke’s opponents as an aggregate average about 37 percent on three-point attempts on the year, they almost never shoot very close to that mark in any single contest. Now let’s see how this seemingly odd situation for Duke compares with the rest of the league.

Opp 3s

We list the teams above in order of how opponents’ game-by-game three-point shooting varies from the norm (using standard deviation). It turns out that Duke’s situation of opponents shooting red-hot or ice-cold against it from deep easily leads the league in inconsistency. Wake Forest has had the opposite issue, as only two of the Deacs’ opponents have shot less than 26 percent and none more than 45 percent against them in ACC play. I don’t have a good explanation for these trends other than to suggest that it reinforces the notion that a team has very limited control over how well an opponent shoots form deep on a given night. It turns out that the old adage “live by the three; die by the three” may apply more to the defensive end of the floor than the offensive end.

Future Forecast

ACC Pred - Feb26

The above table shows a predicted order of finish with final regular season records based on Ken Pomeroy’s current win probabilities. We have also included a few comparative rankings that are mentioned frequently when evaluating NCAA Tournament potential as well as projections from two bracketology experts, ESPN‘s Joe Lunardi and CBS Sports‘ Jerry Palm. Note that while their projections are made as if the field was named tomorrow, we make ours based on final projected records. This week we have added two ACC teams to the forecasted field. N.C. State picked up its second impressive road win, beating North Carolina to put its Tourney hopes in great shape as long as the Wolfpack doesn’t take a bad loss down the stretch. We also slid Pittsburgh into the field, but the Panthers are a borderline at-large candidate and have more work to do earn great consideration from the Selection Committee.

Brad Jenkins (383 Posts)

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