Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume V

Posted by Brad Jenkins on February 14th, 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. This week, we look at the best 3-point shooting teams (offensively and defensively) and see how they compare to recent ACC leaders in those categories. 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 12.

Current Standings

At this point in the season, team rankings in point per possession margin (PPM) line up well with overall league standings, but there are a couple of outliers. Based on PPM alone, one would expect North Carolina and Boston College to be flip-flopped in the standings — to explain why this is not the case, performance in close games tells the tale. The Eagles are an impressive 4-1 in games decided by two possessions or fewer, while the Tar Heels are 0-5 in similar situations. Among the teams in the upper middle of the ACC, Virginia and Notre Dame may have an advantage in short-term schedule difficulty. The Cavaliers will face four straight sub-.500 ACC squads in the next two weeks, while the Irish have a toughie at Duke on Saturday, but next comes four games in a row versus ACC schools with losing league marks. Meanwhile, Syracuse must play five of its next seven contests on the road, and NC State is looking at a three-game stretch that features a roadie at Boston College followed by challenging home tilts with Duke and Florida State.

Advanced Statistic of the Week: Elite Three-Point Offense and Defense

Success from behind the arc has been very important to determining the outcome of ACC games this season – the team with a higher 3-point shooting percentage in a given game has tasted victory 78 percent of the time. The top two schools in the standings are excelling in this crucial statistic in historic fashion, but in very different ways.

The chart above shows the five best team performances — offensively and defensively — relative to the league average in the ACC over the past 19 seasons (KenPom era). To show how well Louisville has been from deep this year — even after a miserable shooting night (3-24 3FG) at Georgia Tech on Wednesday — the Cards are outshooting their league opponents by almost 10 percentage points on the year. In fact, only the Yellow Jackets have figured out how to throttle Louisville’s three-point barrage in conference play. In two meetings with Josh Pastner’s club to date, the Cards have shot just 20.5 percent from 3-point land. In its other 10 league games, Chris Mack’s gunners have connected on 46.1 percent from distance.

With respect to three-point shooting acumen, Duke has been the team getting it done on the other end of the floor. Not only are Blue Devils’ opponents struggling to make their shots from deep, they are also finding it hard to get many looks from behind the arc. Duke leads the ACC by a wide margin in 3-point shots allowed – ACC opponents are only attempting 27.4 percent of their shots from behind the line (NC State is a distant second with 32.7%). The only ACC team in the KenPom era that allowed a lower three-point accuracy mark than this Duke squad (so far) was the 2010 edition of the Blue Devils, which went on to win the National Championship. Notice that only one (2008 Georgia Tech) of the 10 teams on the combined charts failed to finish at or near the top of the league standings.  

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. After winning five of its last six games, Virginia is in much better shape to make the NCAA Tourney. Among the other ACC hopefuls, NC State has the best resume to date. The Wolfpack boast a decent 7-6 record against combined Quadrant 1 and Quadrant 2 opponents, while Syracuse (4-9) and Notre Dame (3-8) have been far less impressive against similar competition.

Brad Jenkins (381 Posts)


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