Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume V

Posted by Brad Jenkins on February 20th, 2019

Here’s another edition of our weekly view of 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 an interesting recent trend that exists when North Carolina plays its arch-rival Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium. 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 18.

Current Standings

After destroying Wake Forest by 38 points over the weekend, North Carolina has closed the gap considerably on Virginia and Duke in ACC efficiency margin. Offense is the primary reason that these three schools are leading the league. Seven ACC teams are playing excellent defense in conference action, but only the trio of league leaders are also scoring at an elite clip. If only Clemson could get a break — the Tigers have now lost three conference games at the buzzer, including both of their last two outings. If Brad Brownell’s club had won those games, it would have an identical record to Syracuse, which has been much more fortunate. The Orange continue to look good in the standings despite basically breaking even in efficiency margin.

Statistic of the Week: A Tale of Two Halves in Cameron Indoor Stadium

The initial Duke-North Carolina matchup of the season is finally upon us – tip-time tonight is 9:00 PM ET in Cameron Indoor Stadium. In last year’s regular season finale in the same building, the Tar Heels raced out to a 10-point halftime lead, only to have the Blue Devils roar back to outscore North Carolina by 20 points in the second half. As it turns out, that type of game trend is not an infrequent occurrence when Roy Williams’ club travels to Durham. In the last eight Cameron meetings between the two rivals, the Tar Heels have outpaced Duke by an average of 6.1 points in the opening 20 minutes. Things usually turn around for Mike Krzyzewski’s squad after the break – Duke has a positive margin of 8.5 points per game after halftime. In those contests, the Tar Heels have posted more points in the second half on only one occasion (2015), a game of which the Blue Devils rallied to win in overtime. Note that in each of the Tar Heels’ road victories during this period, they have had a strong first half edge, and that is probably the path to an upset win tonight as well. Interestingly, each school is displaying a similar tendency so far in league play this year.

In its six ACC home games thus far, Duke is performing much better in the second half. Meanwhile, North Carolina has been dominant in the first half of its six conference road trips, outscoring foes by an average of 13.0 points per contest. It’s worth noting that the Tar Heels’ road schedule has been rather weak so far, with only one opponent over .500 in the league standings. Still, don’t be surprised if #1 Duke finds itself behind at the half of tonight’s game, forcing the Blue Devils into another dramatic comeback situation in order to defend their home floor and stay alone atop the ACC race.

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. Six ACC teams appear to be in good shape with respect to making the NCAA field, and six league schools have no shot at being selected to the Big Dance. That leaves the three teams in the middle of the pack with work ahead. Of the three — NC State, Syracuse and Clemson — the Wolfpack will almost certainly finish with gaudiest record, but that doesn’t mean they are in better shape with the selection committee. Their resume is weighed down by a weak strength of schedule rating, and the remaining schedule for Kevin Keatts’ club will not help that situation — four of their last five regular season opponents hold NET ratings at or above #120. The only chance for NC State to notch an impressive win before the ACC Tournament will be at a road trip to Florida State. It may be a big ask for the Wolfpack to pull out a win in Tallahassee, but they may need it in order to secure a spot in the field. Otherwise, they would probably have to stage a deep run in the ACC Tournament to ensure NCAA selection, and that would also be a tough task given the quality at the top of the league.

Brad Jenkins (383 Posts)

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