Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume I

Posted by Brad Jenkins on January 24th, 2019

With approximately one-third of conference play now in the books, it’s time to take a look inside the ACC numbers. This is the first 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. 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 22.

Current Standings

Although there is a strong correlation between efficiency margin and the conference standings, there are also some clear differences among the one-loss schools. Virginia has been the league’s best performer to date, while Syracuse appears to be quite fortunate to have suffered only one defeat so far. It’s important to keep in mind that schedule strength can have a huge impact this early in conference play. For instance, three teams have already had the misfortune of facing both Virginia and Duke. That quirk in scheduling helps explain why two of those squads (Florida State and Clemson) are both well under .500 in the league at this point. The opposite is true for NC State and Georgia Tech, neither of which has faced either of the league’s national heavyweights. Clearly the biggest surprise this year is Louisville. The Cardinals’ robust efficiency margin has not been earned in any fluky way — Chris Mack’s team simply crushed North Carolina and Georgia Tech in its last two road contests.

Advanced Statistic of the Week: Living and Dying By the Three

The above chart shows how teams are performing from three-point range on both ends of the floor. A big part of Virginia’s success so far in league play can be attributed to a gargantuan advantage it holds in three-point shooting accuracy (15.4%). Likewise, the slow start in league play for Leonard Hamilton’s Florida State squad can be greatly explained in the whopping advantage their opponents have from behind the arc (-11.8%). Note the three teams with positive three-point percent margins and more than one loss in league play, because they have something else in common. Miami, Georgia Tech and Boston College are the three worst rebounding units in the ACC, which helps explain why those squads haven’t been able to capitalize on the long-range shooting advantage they have enjoyed.

As a whole, ACC teams are attempting more three-pointers than ever (39.3% 3FG rate in ACC play), but making the fewest number of those attempts in almost a decade. After a record-setting accuracy rate of 37.2 percent in 2017, the league fell slightly to a rate of 36.0 percent last season. So far this year, three-point shooting accuracy has dipped all the way down to 33.2 percent in conference play — the worst ACC mark since 2010 (32.8%). This mirrors the national trend, where teams are hoisting more threes than ever (38.7% 3PA) while making a lower percentage of them (34.2% 3P) — the worst mark in the last six seasons.

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. There’s still a long way to go, but right now it’s not looking like the ACC is going to have as many NCAA Tournament quality teams as many of us presumed in the preseason. Miami and Notre Dame have experienced severe roster attrition that easily explains why they haven’t lived up to expectations, but Clemson has no such excuse. After last year’s Sweet Sixteen run, not making the field would be a huge underachievement for Brad Brownell‘s team.

Brad Jenkins (383 Posts)

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