Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume VII

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 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 will compare usage rate with offensive efficiency for the league’s top scorers, with an eye on who should be named to this season’s All-ACC First Team. 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, February 27.

Current Standings

With the regular season race already wrapped up for Virginia, the attention now leads to the group of seven teams immediately behind the Cavaliers in the standings, all with five to seven losses. Incredibly, there’s a distinct possibility that the ACC ends up with a four-way tie for second place, provided that Clemson and NC State both win out and North Carolina beats Duke on Saturday night. When comparing records with points per possession margin (PPM) it’s easy to see how important performance in close games can be. Other than Virginia, Duke (0-2 in one-possession games) and North Carolina (1-3) have proven to be notch above the rest of the league based on PPM performance, but neither was able to separate itself from the rest of the pack this season. In contrast, Virginia Tech (3-0) and N.C. State (2-0) have ACC records that are superior to the merely average PPM numbers each has posted.

Without Pittsburgh

Two of the teams that had the luxury of playing Pittsburgh twice have the highest drop in PPM when those two games are removed. Louisville is just a .500 team without its two easy victories over the Panthers (0.05 PPM), and removing Duke’s pair of cupcakes against Kevin Stallings’ bunch results in a .04 dip in PPM.

Advanced Stat of the Week: Usage vs Efficiency

Voting for All-ACC teams will be coming up after the completion of conference play on Saturday so it’s a good time to look at the numbers for the top candidates this season.

The list above shows the top 15 scorers in ACC games only cross-referenced with KenPom’s offensive rating and usage rate. Scoring average is traditionally the first thing that voters consider when determining individual postseason honors, so it’s a safe assumption that the majority of these 15 players will end up on one of the three All-ACC teams. We also think it’s useful to see how each player gains his robust scoring numbers. Does he score well because of shot volume, offensive efficiency or a combination of the two? Obviously, the most impressive players are those who can carry the scoring load for their team in a highly efficient manner. It’s clear that Jerome Robinson, Luke Maye, Marvin Bagley III and Joel Berry II all meet this criteria. Each is among the league’s top six in offensive rating while also handling at least 24 percent of their team’s possessions. Note that Tyus Battle has achieved his production mostly through a high usage rate — he’s only shooting 41.3 percent from the field in conference play. So, if we were voting for First Team All-ACC today, we would pick the four standouts mentioned above with one vacancy for the best player on the team that dominated the regular season — but just who is Virginia’s top player?

During this week’s  ACC Conversation about postseason awards, we all agreed on three things regarding Virginia. First, we believed that the Cavaliers most definitely deserve to have a player on the All-ACC First Team. Next, we predicted that Kyle Guy would be the media’s choice for that honor. Finally, our unanimous opinion was that Devon Hall is the player most deserving of the honor. Not only is Hall much more efficient on the offensive end than his competitors, he is also regarded as one of the league’s top defenders. Also note that Virginia’s D’Andre Hunter has had an amazingly productive rookie season and is a clear favorite to win the conference’s Sixth Man of the Year award.

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. As the season draws to a close it looks the ACC will put eight teams solidly in the field. Louisville would join that group if it can upset mighty Virginia tonight; but otherwise, the Cardinals still have some work to do. Notre Dame is hoping that the return of Bonzie Colson means that the Irish’s tourney hopes are also still alive. It would be interesting to see how the Selection Committee might treat Mike Brey‘s squad if it puts together a nice run in the ACC Tournament. Colson’s mere return to the lineup won’t be enough, though — Notre Dame needs to prove it is still a high-caliber team now that he’s back.

Brad Jenkins (383 Posts)

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