Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume III

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 3rd, 2017

Here is the latest edition of our weekly review of the current ACC standings and team performances, where we focus on which teams are playing better or worse than their records indicate. Each week we delve into advanced metrics to reveal a few interesting teams, player statistics and trends. We are at the halfway point of conference play, so we now have more data points to look at – numbers which reveal some interesting trends. This week we will look at home versus away results for each team in the league so far this year. Finally, we forecast how the final ACC standings may look given current efficiency margins, and what that means for teams’ postseason aspirations.

Note: All data is current for games played through Wednesday, February 1.

Current Standings

Despite suffering some recent injuries to its backcourt, Louisville looks like the ACC’s best squad at the halfway point in conference action. The Cardinals’ efficiency numbers are certainly boosted by the 55-point shellacking that they put on Pittsburgh, but remember that North Carolina and Duke also put together dominant one-game performances against NC State and Georgia Tech, respectively – and they have played softer league schedules to date. Further down the standings we see some teams with records that do not correspond with their per possession performance. For instance, Virginia Tech may be 5-5 in the ACC standings but its overall play from an efficiency standpoint has only been slightly better than that of Boston College (against comparable schedules). Keep on eye on Clemson – the 3-6 Tigers have now won two in a row and four of their losses have come by five points or fewer or in overtime. North Carolina may have faced the league’s easiest slate so far, but that’s about to change. The Tar Heels have only faced two ACC foes with winning records so far, but their last eight contests will feature six such squads.

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ACC M5: 02.03.17 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 3rd, 2017

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  1. Duke Basketball Report: If nothing else, this ACC basketball season has been wild — JD King takes a run at trying to make sense of the madness. One thing that might have helped is if he had included RPIforecast data on some of the potential bubble teams. There’s still a lot of variance this far out, but the prediction site pegs Wake Forest and Clemson on the right side of 44 and everyone else on the wrong side (at least per the incredibly flawed RPI). Georgia Tech in particular has a big challenge ahead of it to make up for a lackluster non-conference schedule.
  2. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Ken Sugiura looks at Josh Pastner‘s honeymoon season at Georgia Tech, focusing on the thoughts of former players and school legend Bobby Cremins. All are ecstatic with the job Pastner has done so far this season. Former star Dennis Scott pegged the ultimate X-factor for Pastner, which is that he needs to recruit at a high level. Recruiting was the one area where previous head coach Brian Gregory struggled mightily (Paul Hewitt recruited inconsistently and didn’t get consistent buy-in; however, I think he was a better fit than Gregory). Pastner to this point has shown at a minimum that he can exceed low expectations, but his most talented teams at Memphis always failed to live up to the hype.
  3. Washington Post: Another year, another Virginia team that looks like a Final Four contender. Tony Bennett is one of the most consistent coaches in college basketball, but whether because of small sample size or a hidden fatal flaw in his system, his teams simply haven’t achieved their full potential in March. As Ava Wallace’s piece here points out, this year’s team is much younger than the average Bennett team. But thanks to unwavering leadership from London Perrantes (and good recruiting/player development from the coaching staff), Virginia hasn’t missed a beat.
  4. Roanoke Times: While Mark Berman avers that the Hokies are in good position, I’m not entirely sure that’s true. On one hand, Virginia Tech has looked the part of a NCAA Tournament team for most of the year. On the other, its projected RPI isn’t great, and Ken Pomeroy’s and Jeff Sagarin’s ratings are even worse. That’s not a typical recipe for making the Big Dance. That’s not to say that this season is something to scoff at, just that the Hokies’ eye test looks considerably better than the team’s statistical profile. Still, a couple of marquee wins could change things dramatically — the Hokies have shots upcoming against Virginia at home with a game at Louisville.
  5. ESPN: Justin Jackson is living up to the potential many people saw in him over the past couple of years, and the change has largely been in his aggressiveness. He’s still not North Carolina‘s best player (hello Joel Berry), but he’s part of the reason this team has a chance to go deep come March. Roy Williams needs Theo Pinson to get healthy, and at least assuming reports are accurate that he only has an ankle injury, North Carolina is clearly playing the long game by giving him plenty of time to recover.
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ACC Stock Watch: January 31

Posted by Mick McDonald on January 31st, 2017

Each week during the ACC season, RTC will review the last seven days to discuss the teams, players and anything else trending across the league.

STOCK UP

Georgia Tech. Now THAT is how you get the attention of the NCAA Tournament selection committee! The Yellow Jackets blasted Florida State at home last week before winning on Saturday on the rare but delightful “fast break lay-up buzzer beater” against Notre Dame. Georgia Tech is now 4-2 in its last six games and has absolutely moved into the discussion for an NCAA Tournament bid. The key has been the Yellow Jackets’ improved defense, as head coach Josh Pastner is employing a tricky zone that has forced opponents into a slew of bad shots, particularly from three-point range. Georgia Tech held the Seminoles to their lowest Offensive Rating (75.7) of the season and the Irish to their second-lowest (92.3).These big wins at home are no doubt important, but Pastner also needs to show that his team can win on the road. The Jackets will get the chance this week with trips to Clemson and Wake Forest.

Is freshman Ty Jerome the secret weapon for Tony Bennett to get Virginia deep into the tournament? (AP)

Virginia. The Cavaliers were *this* close to putting together one of the most impressive weeks of the entire college basketball season. Already carrying a dominant road victory over Notre Dame into Sunday’s match-up with top-ranked Villanova, the Cavaliers led for most of the way before a buzzer-beating tip-in gave them the loss. Perhaps even more surprising than Virginia’s success last week was the play of freshman Ty Jerome. Normally relegated to just a few minutes per game in giving senior point guard London Perrantes a breather, head coach Tony Bennett gave him a huge opportunity to deliver. Not only did he score a career-best 15 points in 24 minutes against the Wildcats, but he ran the offense well enough to allow Perrantes to play off the ball. Furthermore, he was not afraid to take the big shots, hitting several including a game-tying runner in the lane. Was this a temporary mirage, or is Jerome now a key cog to a Virginia team that appears to be putting it all together as we approach the home stretch?

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ACC M5: 01.31.17 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on January 31st, 2017

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  1. The Heights: Cool piece from the Boston College student paper doing a deep dive (with GIFs) into the Eagles’ close loss over the weekend at Virginia Tech.
  2. USA Today: Georgia Tech is the ACC’s Cinderella this season — remember, the Yellow Jackets were a favorite to dethrone Boston College from the league’s cellar. Now Josh Pastner‘s team looks very much like it will earn a trip to the Big Dance. USA Today‘s Dan Wolken is more qualified to write on Pastner than most — he spent a number of years on the Memphis beat. While Pastner’s hire was initially greeted with great skepticism, the Memphis job may have just been a poor fit (i.e., no one was going to fill John Calipari’s large shoes there). Georgia Tech’s good start in ACC play may turn out to be a flash in the pan or it could be evidence that Pastner can coach a team to a certain ceiling but struggles with expectations. But now’s hardly the time for negativity.
  3. Raleigh News & Observer: If you’re trying to catch up on the ACC — well, mostly the North Carolina teams — Andrew Carter’s piece is a great place to start. I question the notion that the Tar Heels are the obvious best team — especially since they still have five games against Duke, Virginia and Louisville left on the schedule. Duke may ultimately prove to be smoke and mirrors, but the Cavaliers and Cardinals are every bit as good as North Carolina. The most interesting fact from the piece is that ACC road teams were 21-42 going into Sunday (Duke tallied a win in South Bend, but Louisville and Virginia Tech both protected their home courts after the piece was posted).
  4. WDRB: Is Louisville the best team in the ACC? Maybe (but give me Virginia, which should have beaten Villanova in Philadelphia). The Cardinals’ Donovan Mitchell has been tremendous, but Eric Crawford is right to note that Louisville’s gaudy efficiency numbers are partially the result of poleaxing the bottom of the league. There’s certainly no doubt that the Cardinals are a Final Four caliber team with a bona fide all-ACC star. But if they knock off the Cavaliers in Charlottesville? Then we’re talking.
  5. Syracuse Post-Standard: I probably don’t have to tell you the source, but apparently “some people […] behind the scenes” liken Tyler Lydon to Tom Brady. But fun oral history aside, Tyus Battle‘s recovery of Lydon’s pass on Saturday probably saved Syracuse from a crushing collapse against Florida State. It’s obviously impossible to know, but a turnover there gives Leonard Hamilton‘s team a chance to settle down and cut the deficit to one possession. Don’t worry about the Seminole, though: ACC road games are hard.

EXTRA: In defense of Syracuse‘s court-rushing from a participant. My fiery take is if something is fun and reasonably safe for players, go for it. “Act like you’ve been there before” is for fun-haters.

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ACC Weekend Review: 01.30.17 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 30th, 2017

Four ranked ACC teams took to the road on Saturday afternoon, but only one emerged unscathed. Syracuse picked up its biggest win of the year by beating Florida State at the Carrier Dome; Georgia Tech edged Notre Dame at the buzzer in Atlanta; and Miami used a huge first half run to handle North Carolina with surprising ease. Wake Forest could not complete the home underdog sweep, blowing a late lead against Duke. On Sunday, Virginia nearly grabbed a huge non-conference road win for the league, but the Cavaliers fell to Villanova at the buzzer. Here are the highlights from the weekend around the ACC.

Tyler Robeson helped Syracuse hold off Florida State to give the Orange an important ACC win.
(Rich Barnes/Getty Images)

  • Best Win: There were several good choices for this honor this weekend, but we’ll go with the school that probably needed a big win the most. In beating the Seminoles by a score of 82-72, Syracuse gained its first win over a ranked team this year and moved to 5-4 in league play. Given its lousy 8-5 non-conference record, the Orange probably need at least 10 ACC wins to make a reasonable case for this year’s NCAA Tournament field. Two of Jim Boeheim‘s graduate transfers led the way against Florida State, as Andrew White and John Gillon scored 24 and 21 points, respectively. Syracuse led at the half by 18 points before a furious Seminoles rally cut the lead to two late — Gillon then took over, making eight straight free throws to salt the game away.

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This Weekend in the ACC: January 28

Posted by Mick McDonald on January 28th, 2017

Here are a few things to keep your eye on around the ACC this weekend (all times Eastern).

  • Saturday, 12:00 PM: Notre Dame (17-4, 6-2) at Georgia Tech (12-8, 4-4). When North Carolina lost to Georgia Tech on New Year’s Eve, the subsequent narrative was that the Tar Heels slept through a forgettable blip on the ACC radar. That thinking looked accurate when the Yellow Jackets were subsequently blitzed by 53 points at Cameron Indoor Stadium in their next game. Four weeks later, Josh Pastner’s bunch is now playing like that early league game against the Tar Heels was a sign of things to come rather than an anomaly. Georgia Tech is 3-2 in its last five, a stretch that includes a heart-breaking one-point loss at Virginia Tech and an absolute demolition of Florida State. Freshman Josh Okogie has been fantastic, averaging 20.2 PPG over that stretch while shooting 50 percent from three. Pastner will need another outstanding performance from his wing this weekend if the Yellow Jackets hope to add another high-level win to their resume. Okogie has averaged eight free throws per game in Georgia Tech’s last five contests, so look for him to force his way to the basket against Note Dame’s VJ Beachem and Steve Vasturia.

Can Bryant Crawford take care of the ball and lead Wake Forest to a big win over Duke? (US Presswire)

  • Saturday, 3:00 PM: Duke (15-5, 3-4) at Wake Forest (12-8, 3-5). There is certainly no bigger circus in college basketball than Duke, but everything going on in Durham has distracted from the notion that today’s game is quite possibly the biggest of the Danny Manning era in Winston-Salem. While Wake Forest is hovering around the bubble with a mediocre record both inside and out of conference play, wins over Miami and at NC State do not really impress anyone. That effectively means that the Deacons could desperately use another big win, and a reeling squad of Blue Devils could nicely do the trick. In Duke’s last three losses, it twice allowed an eFG rate of 56.0 percent or higher. Wake Forest’s high-powered offense, which starts with sophomore point guard Bryant Crawford, should be able to score against the Blue Devils. The key will be if Crawford can take care of the ball well enough to give his offense sufficient chances. The Demon Deacons are 11-3 when he has three or fewer turnovers,with their only losses coming to Virginia, North Carolina and Villanova. When he turns the ball over four or more times, Wake Forest is 1-5.

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Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume II

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 27th, 2017

Here is the latest edition of our weekly review of the current ACC standings and team performances, where we focus on which teams are playing better or worse than their records indicate. Each week we delve into advanced metrics to reveal a few interesting teams, player statistics and trends, and this week we also analyze the crazy deep-shooting improvement in the league this year. Finally, we forecast how the final ACC standings may look given current efficiency margins, and what that means for teams’ postseason aspirations.

Note: All data is current for games played through Wednesday, January 25.

Current Standings

Louisville leaped to the top of the ACC in efficiency margin thanks to its 106-51 humiliation demolition of Pittsburgh on Tuesday night. The Cardinals now own the league’s best defense, while North Carolina continues to claim the top offensive unit. In what has been a very tough week for top-10 teams around the country, Florida State’s blowout loss at Georgia Tech on Wednesday night may have been the most surprising result. At this point in the season, the Yellow Jackets should be taken seriously — sporting a solid 4-4 record against the second-toughest schedule in the nation’s deepest conference. That win probably also thrust Josh Pastner into the pole position in the race for this year’s ACC Coach of the Year award. No one around the league — including Pastner himself — could have predicted that both North Carolina and Florida State would fall in McCamish Pavilion by double figures.

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Virginia Quietly Hitting Its Stride… Again

Posted by Charlie Maikis on January 26th, 2017

Virginia basketball has been the epitome of elite consistency over the past three seasons, as the Cavaliers won at least 29 games and finished among the top six in the final AP Poll from 2014-16. Despite what seems like irreplaceable annual personnel losses (this time: ACC POY Malcolm Brogdon), Tony Bennett’s team is once again tracking in the same direction — a shaky 1-2 ACC start has ceded to the Cavaliers rattling off five victories in a row. Much like years past, Virginia’s components of success largely look the same — the pack line defense remains stifling, and the offense is led by a seasoned and steady senior.

Against a ranked Miami team in January, Virginia guard London Perrantes pumped up the Charlottesville crowd. (Ryan M. Kelly/AP)

Let’s start with the pack line defense. During the five-game winning streak, the Cavaliers have given up a measly 58.4 points per game, a number that, while above their season average, ranks first among ACC teams in conference play by nearly six points per game (Louisville has given up 64.3 points per game). They’ve managed that feat by limiting the opposition’s three-point attack. After Florida State and Pittsburgh torched the Cavaliers by shooting a combined 58.3 percent from beyond the arc in back-to-back losses, subsequent opponents have converted a much chillier 28.7 percent in the five wins. The best output of those five games was Georgia Tech’s 4-of-9 performance, but since it has been shown time and again that the best way to defend the three is by limiting their attempts, that too has to be considered a win for the Wahoos. Bennett’s pack line is designed to stifle teams inside, but Virginia’s recent run has been predicated on chasing shooters off the line and getting in their space. While an elite defense is certainly good, history shows that great defensive teams that have trouble scoring do not perform well in the NCAA Tournament. Where the Cavaliers stand apart from many of the other defensive stalwarts in college basketball is on the offensive end, where Virginia’s senior leader orchestrates the show. Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC M5: 01.26.17 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on January 26th, 2017

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  1. The Players’ Tribune: Every year there’s at least one story out of the league that puts everything into perspective. Basketball, after all, is just a game. Sure, there’s future money and fame at stake, but stories like this from TPT highlight the contradiction of the game’s impact on those who play it while also shedding light on how little a win-loss record means next to personal relationships. Duke interim head coach Jeff Capel‘s post on his father’s ALS diagnosis is beautiful, funny and gutting.
  2. Raleigh News & Observer: Welp, it was good while it lasted. Florida State was in pole position to take the ACC regular season crown until the Seminoles suffered a hideous loss at Georgia Tech on Wednesday night. Florida State isn’t the first team to get caught slumping in Atlanta this season, but a drubbing by 22 points will raise eyebrows for those who are rightfully labeling the Seminoles as legitimate ACC contenders. Andrew Carter’s article here is still worth highlighting since Leonard Hamilton‘s team has a favorable schedule from here on out (at least compared with the other contenders). For the record, I probably would put my money on North Carolina or Virginia, but Hamilton arguably has his best team ever in Tallahassee.
  3. Winston-Salem Journal: So close to equaling his predecessor’s ACC road win total in just one season, Danny Manning‘s team came up just short of knocking off Jim Boeheim’s roller coaster team at Syracuse. The improvement Manning’s team has shown this year might be more impressive than what Hamilton has done at Florida State (even if the Demon Deacons are fighting an uphill battle to get to a .500 conference record). Bottom line: Wake Forest is good. A lack of quality non-conference wins will hurt their chances on Selection Sunday, but they may ultimately find their way on to the bubble thanks to sophomore forward John Collins‘ outstanding efforts.
  4. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: I hope no parents turned on the Pittsburgh vs. Louisville game on Tuesday night, as it was an X-rated woodshedding by the Cardinals — in Pittsburgh, no less. As Craig Meyer writes, Kevin Stallings publicly called out his team for lacking leadership on Monday, and his team responded in kind by completely quitting on him. Stallings was always something of a head-scratching hire after Jamie Dixon found greener pastures in Texas, but this season is going much worse than even his biggest doubters could have imagined. The Panthers have far more talent than their 1-6 ACC record indicates, but that necessarily falls on Stallings. First years in a new job are always tough, but Pittsburgh can’t afford to slide toward basketball oblivion while the rest of the conference continues to improve.
  5. Backing the Pack: Dennis Smith ended NC State‘s multi-decade losing streak in Cameron Indoor Stadium with a show for the ages on Monday night, capping it off with a dunk that didn’t count but could be heard over the silent Crazies crowd and all around the Triangle. That game could be a serious turning point for both teams. Is this the confidence boost the Wolfpack needed to salvage what was looking like a lost season? Is this the wakeup call for Duke‘s band of talented freshmen who often play much worse than the sum of their parts? Truthfully, I don’t know. The Blue Devils missed a lot of open shots and were probably the better team for much of the night, but NC State had the best player on the floor in Smith (and Abdul-Malik Abu played a tremendous game too). Don’t read too much into one game, but it’s clear that Duke has chemistry issues and Smith is an amazing talent.

EXTRA: The ACC announced its Basketball Legends class for this year, highlighted by late, great NC State coach Jim Valvano.

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ACC Stock Watch: January 24

Posted by Mick McDonald on January 24th, 2017

Each week during the ACC season, RTC will review the last seven days to discuss the teams, players, and anything else trending across the league.

STOCK UP

  • North Carolina State. Yes, the Wolfpack lost a close one at home to Wake Forest on Saturday. But NC State needed a statement win to get its season on track and there aren’t many bigger statements than a victory over Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium. There has never been a question about the level of talent in Raleigh, but effort and defensive lapses have been recurring issues throughout the year. NC State brought its best effort on Monday night, with freshman point guard Dennis Smith Jr. (32 points; six assists) leading the way. In eight ACC games, Smith is averaging 20.4 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 6.9 APG, and 2.6 SPG in what could be an ACC Player of the Year campaign. The Wolfpack have a long way to go, but the future lottery pick is exactly the type of player who can carry NC State all the way from a 2-5 ACC start to the NCAA Tournament.

Jonathan Isaac has become exactly what Leonard Hamilton hoped he would become, a legitimate second superstar next to Dwayne Bacon. (David Allio/Icon Sportswire)

  • Jonathan Isaac, Florida State. The Seminoles’ pair of wins over Notre Dame and Louisville last week cemented their status as ACC title contenders as well as a legitimate candidate for a top-two seed in the NCAA Tournament. We know how terrific Dwayne Bacon has been this year, but the emergence of freshman Jonathan Isaac has taken Florida State to another level. Over the team’s last five games, Isaac is averaging 16.0 points and 9.0 rebounds per game while shooting a scorching 61 percent from the field, 45.5 percent from three-point range and 89 percent from the free throw line. Isaac is quickly joining teammate Bacon in the superstar category, and given all of the depth Leonard Hamilton can readily place around the pair, it’s easy to envision Florida State paying a visit to Arizona in early April.

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