Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume VI

Posted by Brad Jenkins on February 21st, 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 will take our annual peak at how league teams are performing in close games and examine how that has impacted the conference standings. 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 19.

Current Standings

Even though the middle of the ACC continues to be highly congested, we are seeing some teams trending in opposite directions. Three schools have capitalized on improved health to suddenly get hot in mid-February. Georgia Tech and Clemson each went 2-0 for the week, with home victories over league leader Louisville. Similarly, Miami has won three in a row now that Chris Lykes and Kameron McGusty have rejoined Jim Larranaga’s lineup. On the flip side, Syracuse and Pittsburgh have each dropped three games in a row, while Virginia Tech continues to struggle, having lost six of its last seven contests.

Advanced Statistic of the Week: Close Games in the ACC

With so much parity in the ACC after the top four teams, it’s no surprise that many of the league’s contests are being decided by slim margins. Through 115 conference games this season, 25.2 percent of those match-ups have concluded as one-possession affairs. Obviously, performance in those nail-biters has had a big impact on the league standings.

The chart above shows how league squads have fared in close games thus far in the 2019-20 campaign. Now we see why Boston College is so far ahead of North Carolina in the standings despite performing only 0.10 points per possession worse than the Tar Heels. Roy Williams’ guys have certainly been snake-bitten this year, losing game after game in the final seconds. But they still have work to do to match the most inept close-game squad in recent ACC history. In 2015, Brian Gregory’s Georgia Tech team lost all 11 of its games decided by six points or fewer, including a futile 0-8 mark in one-possession contests. Speaking of history, let’s now look at close game performance over the last six ACC seasons.

Above, we compare the 10 ACC coaches that have been in the league at their current school since the 2015 season. Jim Larranaga has a sizable edge over his conference peers in games decided by six points or fewer, even though his Miami teams are just 4-4 in such contests over the past two seasons. Leonard Hamilton continues to wear the belt when it comes to one-possession outcomes, however, as Florida State has triumphed 10 times in its last 11 games decided by three points or fewer (or overtime). On the other hand, one of the reasons Danny Manning may be on the coaching hot seat right now is the fact that Wake Forest has performed so poorly in tight contests during his six years in Winston-Salem.

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. With Wednesday’s beatdown of Duke in Raleigh, NC State’s NCAA resume got a big boost, but that’s not all that the Wolfpack have going for them. Despite their relatively low NET ranking, Kevin Keatts’ squad has an impressive 8-6 record against combined Quadrant 1/2 opponents. And there’s this – NC State is one of only 10 teams in the nation that boasts at least three more wins than losses versus Quad-1 competition. The Wolfpack are currently 5-2 in such outings with at least two more Quad-1 opportunities remaining.

Brad Jenkins (383 Posts)

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