Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume IV

Posted by Brad Jenkins on February 13th, 2019

Here’s another 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 look at something Duke is doing offensively that is better than any ACC team has done in the last 17 years. 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 Monday, February 11.

Current Standings

Virginia maintains its lead in efficiency margin, but the gap between first and second place was closed significantly after Duke’s recent win in Charlottesville. Syracuse continues to be the most fortunate team in the ACC this season. The Orange have achieved their lofty record despite a slim scoring margin, and Jim Boeheim’s club has faced the league’s easiest conference schedule to date.

Even though Miami is part of the jumbled mess at the bottom of the standings, the Hurricanes have suddenly become dangerous. In their last three outings, Jim Larranaga’s guys played Virginia tough on the road, stomped Notre Dame at home, and took North Carolina into overtime before losing at the Smith Center. If any of the league cellar-dwellers can play the role of spoiler down the stretch, Miami would be the smart pick to do so.

Advanced Statistic of the Week: Duke’s Good Shooting

Much has been made of the Blue Devils’ lack of shooting prowess this season — Duke ranks among the bottom 80 schools nationally in three-point marksmanship (32.0 percent) and free throw shooting (67.7 percent). However, Mike Krzyzewski’s team has no accuracy issues from inside the arc — in fact, Duke’s two-point shooting (57.3%) is the best in ACC play since 2002, when the Blue Devils made 59.6 percent of their two-point tries. Only four ACC squads in the previous 11 years have surpassed the 53.0 percent plateau, including Virginia Tech in each of the past two years. Chris Mack also deserves props for getting Louisville on this list in his first year at the helm — the Cardinals are actually shooting better in league play than they are in all games (52.7 percent on two-point shots).

The obvious advantage that Duke has (for this metric as well as others) is that Zion Williamson plays there. The precocious freshman is having a tremendous season in many areas, but his ability to efficiently score at the basket is his strongest suit. Among the nation’s high-usage players, Williamson is far and away the best two-point shooter (75.1%), and he has raised his level in conference action — making 76.9 percent of his twos in ACC games.

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. The biggest bracket news of the week was the NCAA’s current bracket reveal on Saturday which had both Duke and Virginia as #1 seeds. Two other ACC schools were among the top 16 named by the Selection Committee as North Carolina appeared on the second seed line and Louisville was listed as one of the #4 seeds. Clemson appears to have worked its way into the projected field — the Tigers are currently on a four-game winning streak and have improved their KenPom rating by 20 spots during that stretch. Virginia Tech was Clemson’s latest victim and the Hokies continue to slide down the seed lines without Justin Robinson in the lineup.

Brad Jenkins (383 Posts)

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