Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume II

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 27th, 2017

Here is the latest edition of our weekly review of the current ACC standings and team performances, where we focus on which teams are playing better or worse than their records indicate. Each week we delve into advanced metrics to reveal a few interesting teams, player statistics and trends, and this week we also analyze the crazy deep-shooting improvement in the league this year. Finally, we forecast how the final ACC standings may look given current efficiency margins, and what that means for teams’ postseason aspirations.

Note: All data is current for games played through Wednesday, January 25.

Current Standings

Louisville leaped to the top of the ACC in efficiency margin thanks to its 106-51 humiliation demolition of Pittsburgh on Tuesday night. The Cardinals now own the league’s best defense, while North Carolina continues to claim the top offensive unit. In what has been a very tough week for top-10 teams around the country, Florida State’s blowout loss at Georgia Tech on Wednesday night may have been the most surprising result. At this point in the season, the Yellow Jackets should be taken seriously — sporting a solid 4-4 record against the second-toughest schedule in the nation’s deepest conference. That win probably also thrust Josh Pastner into the pole position in the race for this year’s ACC Coach of the Year award. No one around the league — including Pastner himself — could have predicted that both North Carolina and Florida State would fall in McCamish Pavilion by double figures.

Advanced Statistic of the Week: Three-Pointers on Target in the ACC

Earlier this season (in two parts here and here), we wrote about the drastic rise in importance of the three-point shot around college basketball. The ACC is responding to that national trend by sinking an impressive 37.2 percent of its deep shots this year in conference games. As the table shows above, this represents a significantly better mark than recent years. It is certainly possible that we will see a regression toward recent averages over the last five weeks of the season, but with 42 percent of ACC games already in the books, it is almost a guarantee that the conference will end up with its most accurate three-point shooting mark since 2006 (36.7%). When we break the list out further by school, we can determine which squads are driving the improved marksmanship.

North Carolina leads the way with nearly a nine percent improvement over last year. The Tar Heels are getting great results from their two primary three-point bombers this season, Joel Berry and Justin Jackson. Berry is making a robust 44.7 percent in ACC play this season after sinking only 36.2 percent a year ago. Likewise, Jackson has gone from 27.5 percent last year to 38.8 percent this season. Wake Forest’s jump in accuracy can be attributed to guards Bryant Crawford and Mitchell Wilbekin, who are each making around eight percent more of their three-point attempts this year. At the other end of the spectrum, Duke can trace its drop in three-point shooting directly to junior guard Grayson Allen. Allen made 43.5 percent of his threes last season but has only sunk a meager 25.0 percent in ACC games so far this year.

Future Forecast

The above table shows predicted order of finish with final regular season records based on KenPom’s current win probabilities for each team. Also included are 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 they project the field as if it were named tomorrow, we make our projections based on the final KenPom projected records.

Incredibly, a total of 13 ACC squads are currently in either the ESPN or CBS bracket. Clemson‘s six-game losing streak has caused a precipitous fall for the Tigers in the bracket projections, while surprising Georgia Tech shows up in a mock bracket for the first time this year. Earlier this week the NCAA Basketball Tournament Selection Committee announced that it will be mimicking the College Football Playoff by giving the public some early insight into the process of seeding this year’s field. On February 11, we will learn the committee’s top 16 teams to that point in the season. With only five weeks remaining in the regular season, the ACC is on track to grab as many as five spots in that group of top-four seeds. The irony, of course, is that preseason #1 Duke will likely not be one of them.

Brad Jenkins (325 Posts)

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