ACC Stock Report: Volume IV

Posted by Matthew Auerbach on January 15th, 2020

Stock Rising

What a Wild Four-Day Stretch for Clemson Basketball (USA Today Images)

Clemson. Weeks don’t come much better than this, football results notwithstanding, as the Tigers backed up an historic victory in Chapel Hill with a home stunner over conference unbeaten Duke on Tuesday night. Given the state of North Carolina basketball this winter, there was a reasonable expectation that this year’s opportunity was ripe for Clemson to put a halt to the mind-numbing string of 59 consecutive losses on the road. There was no such assumption, however, when #3 Duke came to town, but the Tigers put together their best 40-minute effort of the season on their way to upending the top-rated KenPom outfit in impressive fashion.

While the headlines were focused on snapping the ignominious and unprecedented losing streak at North Carolina, the details paint a less optimistic picture. The Tigers needed a miraculous comeback — they were down 10 points inside two minutes in Chapel Hill — just to force overtime, where they ultimately outlasted the Tar Heels. But the good vibes and positive momentum weren’t going to be good enough to take down Duke, who has been running roughshod through a very down ACC, and had seemingly separated itself as the team to beat. Instead, though, the 9-7 Tigers put together a remarkably well-balanced performance in handing Duke its first loss since an upset to Stephen F. Austin on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

Clemson shot a scorching 56.6 percent from the floor, the best clip by a Blue Devils’ opponent in nearly six years. Perhaps even more pertinent to the upset was the Tigers’ ability to keep Duke from converting second-chance opportunities. This is not a vintage Duke team from the perimeter, but they have been able to maul teams on the offensive glass, rebounding their misses at the seventh-best rate in the country (37.2% Off Reb). Tuesday, Clemson limited Duke to just four offensive rebounds, and that, combined with its blistering shooting, was the combination that Brad Brownell’s club needed to climb back to .500 in league play and put a bow on one of the school’s most triumphant weeks in hardwood history.

Stock Falling

Virginia May be Waving Goodbye to Its NCAA Hopes (USA Today Images)

Virginia. Benefit of the doubt is a funny thing in sports. For years, Tony Bennett was questioned on whether his style of play at Virginia could ever win big? A decade’s worth of success including a wonderful run last spring has led many of us to fail to believe what is factually true: Virginia is bad.

I don’t say that lightly or with agenda, as I personally ranked Virginia #1 in the nation, THIS SEASON, but things have taken an ugly twist in Charlottesville, and it isn’t looking like a turn is in the cards. After consecutive losses to Boston College and at home against Syracuse, the Cavaliers are now 11-4 overall and 3-2 in the league, but that is surely not telling the full story. In its 15 games to this point, Virginia has yet to top a total of 65 points, and it has been held to fewer than 60 points in 10 of those. And sure, tempo and pace always keep the raw output down for Bennett’s teams, but their efficiency numbers are perhaps even more galling. Virginia is now the 229th rated offensive unit at KenPom, with an effective field goal percentage that rates a measly 320th. And with its 26.8 percent conversion rate from beyond the arc, only six schools have shot it worse than Virginia from deep this season.

So even if one has faith in the magic of Bennett — which of course you should — and one expects some positive mean regression — which is also likely — a major problem exists in Virginia’s quest to return to the NCAA Tournament it won a year ago. Its current resume is void of anything meaningfully good.

Virginia currently has zero wins over KenPom top 50 clubs, with its best win coming at home against Virginia Tech. Its non-conference strength of schedule rates as 282nd nationally, with the Cavaliers’ highest rated non-ACC win coming at home over Vermont. And with the state of the league as it is, there are just not many marquee opportunities remaining on the docket to move the needle. One does exist tonight, though, in a daunting road game against Florida State, but with the way the Cavaliers have been performing offensively, this is not the right opponent for Virginia to get right. It would be surprising, given what we know about Bennett and this program since he has been the steward, if Virginia didn’t come out with its best effort this evening — but if the worm doesn’t turn quickly, the Cavaliers will be the first National Champion to not return to the NCAA Tournament the following year since 2015 Connecticut.

Matthew Auerbach (70 Posts)

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