Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume I

Posted by Brad Jenkins on January 17th, 2020

With exactly 30 percent of conference play now in the books, it’s time to take a look inside the ACC numbers. This is the first 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. Finally, we will forecast how the final ACC 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 Wednesday, January 15.

Current Standings

This early in the conference slate, efficiency numbers can be highly skewed by blowouts. Case in point, Syracuse ranks third in efficiency margin, largely due to 25+ point wins over Georgia Tech and Boston College. Likewise, Jim Christian’s Eagles are .500 in the standings but dead last in efficiency margin because they’ve been outscored in their three losses by a total of 84 points. Virginia is worse in the standings compared to their per-possession play because of its inability to win tight contests. The Cavaliers have tasted defeat each time that they were in a game decided by fewer than eight points. Tony Bennett needs to figure that out as Virginia seems headed for more tight affairs due to its slow pace of play, stingy defense (ranking first in the ACC) and anemic offense (dead last in the leaguge). A depleted North Carolina squad has been reeling lately, and things may get even worse – the Tar Heels’ struggles have occurred against the easiest schedule in the league to date.

Advanced Statistic of the Week: Offensive Efficiency Woes

Offensive efficiency is down across the nation this season and the situation in the ACC is no different. The chart above shows how ACC teams are faring on the offensive end compared with the previous six years. Usually, shooting is the main driver for offensive acumen, but ACC teams are making shots at a pretty normal clip. Rather, it’s the other Four Factors that are causing these offensive struggles. Teams are turning the ball over at the highest rate since 2011, while offensive rebounding and free throw rate are at their lowest rates in the entire KenPom era. Offensive boards have been on the decline for many years, so that’s not concerning, but the increase in turnovers and decrease in defensive fouls seem to be related. Anyone watching college basketball this year (even without Jay Bilas broadcasting the game) should notice that officials are allowing more physical play on the defensive end. Referees are still calling plenty of charges and illegal screens — which further adds to the turnover rate – but they are not applying the same freedom of movement philosophy of recent years. The NCAA is aware of this situation and has directed conference officiating supervisors to address the issue so we’ll see if offenses get more of a break going forward.

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. There’s still a long way to go, but right now it’s not looking good for the ACC to place its usual allotment of teams in the NCAA Tournament. The top three (Duke, Florida State, Louisville) look like solid choices, but after that, there is a lot of uncertainty. It’s hard for us to see an ACC team getting selected while posting a .500 league mark in what is clearly a down year for the conference. Virginia Tech may need to get at least 12 league wins to be considered for the Big Dance — despite their resume-boosting win over Michigan State in Maui, the Hokies possess one of the nation’s worst non-conference schedules. Ask NC State how that worked out last year.

Brad Jenkins (383 Posts)

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