Inside the ACC Numbers: Final Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins on March 11th, 2019

Here is the final 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. With the regular season in the books, this week we will compare how each ACC squad performed in the second half of league play, with an eye on the teams that might excel in the ACC Tournament in Charlotte. Finally, we will examine the ACC standings and project what it may mean for teams’ ultimate postseason aspirations.

Note: All numbers are current for games played through Saturday, March 9.

Final Standings

Congratulations are in order for Virginia, which accomplished something this season that no ACC school has done in over a decade. Tony Bennett‘s club posted both the best offense and defense, the first league squad to lead the conference in each metric since North Carolina turned the trick in back-to-back seasons (2007 and 2008). The Cavaliers won the defensive crown for the fifth time in the past six years, while simultaneously trotting out the best offense of Bennett’s career in Charlottesville. Virginia’s shooting acumen has been the main driver to its offensive prowess — the Cavaliers made 43.1 percent of their three-pointers in league play, which represents the ACC’s best mark of the KenPom era. Co-regular season champion North Carolina used a balanced attack to finish with the league’s second-best offense — the Tar Heels finished among the top five in two-point shooting, three-point accuracy, offensive rebounding and turnover percentage. Brad Brownell also deserves credit for the performance of Clemson’s defense, which finished second in the ACC, ahead of more acclaimed units from Florida State and Duke.

Advanced Stat of the Week: Who’s Hot and Who’s Not

Here we see how ACC teams have performed over the last five weeks compared with the initial five weeks of the conference season. Keep in mind that strength of schedule is baked into these numbers, but we can still reveal some interesting trends. The two ACC bubble teams — Clemson and N.C. State — have been much better in efficiency margin over the second half despite showing up only slightly better in the standings. We also see the impact of major injuries — Virginia Tech (Justin Robinson) and Duke (Zion Williamson) have both taken drastic dips in performance without their respective stars on the floor. Louisville and Syracuse may each be safely in the NCAA Tournament field of 68, but neither club has played very well over the last month, which could signal early postseason exits for both schools. If you’re looking for a surprise run this week in Charlotte, keep an eye on Miami. The Hurricanes have been drastically better over the past five weeks than they were in January.

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. With the regular season complete, we have added projected wins and losses in this week’s ACC Tournament using current KenPom ratings. This would result in a Virginia win over Duke in Saturday night’s title game. Based on that, we moved Duke ahead of North Carolina to claim a #1 seed in the final NCAA bracket. Of course, the Tar Heels would earn that distinction if they go further in Charlotte than the Blue Devils. Wednesday’s #8/#9 match-up in the Queen City between NC State and Clemson is shaping up as a possible winner-in/loser-out situation. Both of these squads have some serious resume warts, so even the winner there cannot rest assured of inclusion in the Big Dance.

Brad Jenkins (383 Posts)

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