Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume IV

Posted by Brad Jenkins on February 7th, 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. In this edition, we look at how high usage rate correlates to offensive efficiency for the players that are eating up the most possessions in league play. 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, February 5.

Current Standings

Last week we suggested that North Carolina and Notre Dame may be ready to make a surge in the standings based on how they were performing on a per possession basis. Well, we were half right. Even with star Cole Anthony back in the lineup, the Tar Heels dropped two in a row after showing signs of life the week before. But the Fighting Irish have indeed been on an upward trend, thanks to the performance of the second-best offense in the league. In winning its last three outings, Notre Dame has averaged a sizzling 1.22 points per possession. Its upcoming schedule will make it hard to keep up this momentum -– three consecutive road trips (Clemson, Virginia and Duke) are next for Mike Brey’s group.

Advanced Statistic of the Week: Usage versus Efficiency

Since his return to game action (and even before), Cole Anthony has come under scrutiny for the high volume of shots that he launches for North Carolina. That criticism seems valid, considering how infrequently his attempts go in the basket (35.1% FG). In his four ACC games to date, Anthony has the highest usage rate (34.3% Poss) in the league but has an offensive rating of just 94.5. Let’s see how that compares to the other high-possession players in the conference.

The chart above lists the 10 highest possession users in ACC games this season (only including players who have played in at least 40 percent of their team’s available minutes). Anthony’s numbers are very similar to several ACC guards that also gobble up possessions. Pittsburgh’s heralded backcourt may be overrated based on their subpar efficiency stats. In addition to Trey McGowen’s high usage/low offensive rating numbers, his partner Xavier Johnson posts a similar mix in ACC games (24.7% Poss, 91.8 ORtg). It’s easy to see why Vernon Carey and John Mooney are regarded as the best two big men in the conference, given their combination of high usage and excellent offensive efficiency. Hats off to Elijah Hughes as well for being the third most efficient player on this list. It’s also worth noting that two of the top three teams in the ACC don’t have a single player among the top 18 in possessions used. Compared to the rest of the league, Florida State and Louisville are spreading their possessions among several players and it’s working well. In fact, the two most efficient players in the league that use at least 20 percent of their team’s possessions are Devin Vassell (21.1% Poss, 129.2 ORtg) from Florida State and Louisville’s Jordan Nwora (23.5% Poss, 122.2 ORtg)

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. Last Saturday, three ACC squads failed to take advantage of opportunities for quality wins as NC State, Virginia Tech and Syracuse each lost a home game versus one of the top three teams in the league. Virginia has now won three in a row and is currently just out of the NCAA field, according to Lunardi and Palm. The Cavaliers have a chance to impress the Selection Committee this weekend when they travel to Louisville – Tony Bennett’s guys have won four straight contests in the KFC Yum! Center.

Brad Jenkins (383 Posts)

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