Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume II

Posted by Brad Jenkins on January 31st, 2019

This is the second 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 examine how the Four Factors are influencing wins in the ACC this season. Finally, we will forecast how the final league 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 29.

Current Standings

We have a clear top tier of teams in both the standings and efficiency margin. Virginia came back to the field slightly after its tougher than expected overtime win in Raleigh against NC State on Tuesday night, but Tony Bennett’s guys are still the most impressive team — especially given that the Cavaliers have faced the toughest ACC slate among the one-loss schools. Clemson is a team to keep an eye on despite its stumbling start in league play — the Tigers’ schedule is about to lighten up considerably and their efficiency margin already contains two blowout losses to heavyweights Virginia and Duke.

Two of the hottest teams in the league — Louisville and North Carolina — will meet in a pivotal game this Saturday in the KFC Yum! Center. The Tar Heels have yet to lose on the road in ACC play, and Roy Williams should have his team motivated for revenge after the drubbing the Cardinals laid on them in Chapel Hill.

Advanced Statistic of the Week: Winning With the Four Factors

As we pointed out in an earlier piece, the turnover battle was crucial to success in ACC play a season ago — an edge in turnovers was basically just as important as effective shooting percentage last year. That has not been the case in 2018-19, as rebounding prowess has been a better indicator of success than ball-handling. But the real story this season is how important shooting percentage has been. It has historically been the most influential of the Four Factors, but it is proving to be the only one that really matters this year. As proof, note that the four schools at both the top of the standings and efficiency margin are also the four best teams in effective field goal percentage margin. Likewise, the four worst teams in the league hold the four biggest deficits in that metric.

It seems like there is always an outlier when analyzing data, and we found one here too. Despite posting an effective field goal percentage of 49.6 percent — good for eighth in the league — and holding an edge over its opponents (+3.7%) in that statistic, Georgia Tech has the worst offense in the league and is 3-5. That’s because the Yellow Jackets commit more turnovers and grab fewer offensive rebounds than any other ACC squad. As Georgia tech shows, while shooting is the most important thing to do well, being inefficient in other areas of the game can also drag a team down.

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. At this point, the ACC looks like it has eight solid NCAA Tournament teams with Clemson staring at a lot of upcoming work to earn consideration. Other than that, it doesn’t appear that the league will have much drama on Selection Sunday other than its seeding assignments. An interesting squad to watch for seeding purposes will be NC State, whose extremely weak strength of schedule is bound to cost it some seed lines — perhaps putting the Wolfpack in one of those dreaded #8-#9 spots in the field.

Brad Jenkins (383 Posts)

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