Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume III

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 1st, 2018

Here is the latest edition of our weekly view at the current ACC standings with a focus on which teams are playing better or worse than their conference records may indicate. We will also delve into some advanced metrics to share a few interesting notes on teams, statistics and trends around the conference. This week we consider which particular game statistics have the most influence on winning in the league this year. Finally, we will forecast how the final ACC standings may look given current efficiency margins, and what that may mean for teams’ ultimate postseason aspirations.

Note: All numbers are current for games played through Tuesday, January 30.

Current Standings

Virginia’s big win at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday solidified the Cavaliers’ stranglehold at the top of the ACC standings. Tony Bennett‘s team now owns the league’s sixth-best offense to go along with the nation’s best defense  — the Cavaliers’ ACC defensive points per possession is an impressive 0.12 points better than next-place Louisville. Incredibly, that gap of 0.12 points is larger than the one between the Cardinals and 10th place Wake Forest. The numbers also reveal that Clemson’s record is quite a bit better than its point per possession margin (PPM) indicates. The main reason for this is that Brad Brownell‘s squad suddenly figured out how to win close games. After years of struggling to finish in the clutch, the Tigers are an impressive 4-1 this season in ACC contests decided by five points or fewer (or in overtime).

Without Pittsburgh

We’re starting to see some major differences in the ACC schools fortunate enough to have played bottom-dwelling Pittsburgh twice already this year. Duke’s PPM is almost cut in half when we remove its two blowout wins over the Panthers. Likewise, Syracuse’s record is somewhat inflated — its pair of victories over Pittsburgh account for half of the Orange’s four conference wins. Expect Miami (last night) and Louisville (February 11) to reap similar benefits in the metrics after they play the Panthers for a second time this conference season.

Advanced Stat of the Week: Shooting to Win

We are now almost halfway through the ACC schedule, which gives us a decent sample size of 66 games to consider trends in conference action this season. This week we examine how important each of the Four Factors has been in determining the winner of each conference game.

It’s no shock that the most important factor to date has been the winning team’s effective field goal percentage, as the better shooting team comes out on top roughly three-quarters of the time. However, we expected the other three factors to represent somewhat equally in importance but that’s clearly not been the case. Turnover margin has been every bit as crucial as shooting percentage this season, and we need only look to Virginia at the top of the standings to see a team that leads the league in forcing turnovers (25.3%) and taking care of the ball (15.1%). Rebounding prowess is often cited as a big key to determining the outcome of games, but that’s not been the case in the ACC — the better team on the offensive glass is only winning about half the time this season. In the coming weeks we will investigate some more specific metrics to determine how much influence they have on individual game outcomes.

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 was to be named tomorrow, we make our projections based on the final KenPom projected records. N.C. State has made its first appearance in several bracket projections after winning last weekend in Chapel Hill. As Matt Auerbach noted yesterday, the Wolfpack now hold three impressive wins — beating Arizona on a neutral floor in November; a home victory over Duke; and their most recent road win over North Carolina. Still, even given those resume boosters, NC State likely needs at least 10 ACC wins to overcome its dreadful non-conference schedule. North Carolina’s three-game losing streak has pushed the Tar Heels down a few seed lines, but they easily have the best resume among the leagues’ robust middle group of teams.

Brad Jenkins (348 Posts)

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