Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume III

Posted by Brad Jenkins on January 31st, 2020

Here is this week’s 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 29.

Current Standings

There are some interesting outliers when comparing ACC point per possession margins (PPM) with the current league standings. Despite being near the bottom of the league race at this point, North Carolina and Notre Dame are performing at a relatively decent level on a per possession basis. In fact, their PPM numbers are better than five teams above them in the standings. This suggests that we may see the Tar Heels and Fighting Irish make a move up the ledger in the second half of conference play. Based on how each squad is perceived nationally, it’s also surprising to see Florida State and Syracuse performing basically as equals on the court in ACC action.

Advanced Statistic of the Week: Winning with Threes and Freebies

“Live by the three, die by the three” has been a popular phrase among college basketball followers since the three-point shot was was first introduced in 1987. Often when you hear this, the speaker is making a negative judgement on a team’s shot selection and implying that shooting a lot of threes is not conducive to winning consistently. Conventional wisdom also espouses the importance of free throw shooting when it comes to deciding the outcome of games. Let’s look at how these old axioms are playing out so far in the ACC this year.

The chart above shows how three-point shooting and free throw shooting statistics relate to winning in the league this season. In 73 ACC games, the victorious team sank more shots from deep 51 times, and on eight occasions the number of made threes was even. This equates to the squad with fewer long-range makes winning only 19 percent of the time. Three-point shooting percentage is an even greater indicator of success. It’s no surprise that the three best teams in the league this year are also the three most accurate shooting squads from beyond the arc – Louisville (43.7%), Florida State (39.9%), and Duke (38.2%). Additionally, ACC offenses have been “living” more than “dying” when attempting more threes than their opponents. Performance at the charity stripe, on the other hand, has been much less influential so far this season. However, it does appear that getting to the line more often than your opponent is more important than how accurate you are from the stripe.

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. In the last week, NC State did not improve its postseason hopes by losing at Georgia Tech and then falling to rival North Carolina in Raleigh. The Wolfpack gets a chance at resume redemption this weekend when they host Louisville. Likewise, coming off two straight losses, Virginia Tech finds itself in a must-win situation with Florida State in town on Saturday. After an impressive home win over the Seminoles this week, Virginia is back in the NCAA at-large conversation. The Cavaliers still have home games remaining with Louisville and Duke, so they will have several more chances to impress the Selection Committee. Syracuse’s path to the NCAA Tournament got bumpier after its one-point defeat at Clemson on Tuesday. A win over Duke in the Carrier Dome Saturday night would be a nice way for the Orange to get back on track.

Brad Jenkins (383 Posts)

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