ACC Conversation: Sweet Sixteen Preview

Posted by The ACC Team on March 27th, 2019

Rush the Court ACC microsite writers Brad Jenkins, Matt Auerbach and Mick McDonald got together this week to take a look back at the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament while also looking ahead to this week’s regional action.

Tony Bennett hope that Kyle Guy regains his shooting touch and leads Virginia to its first Final Four since 1984. (Amber Searls/USA TODAY Sports)

Brad Jenkins: Here we go. The ACC proved its strength at the top by putting five teams in the Sweet Sixteen. But before we discuss the outlook for those schools, any thoughts on the league’s two early exit squads — Louisville and Syracuse?

Mick McDonald: I was surprised Louisville lost the way it did, but who could have counted on Minnesota shooting the ball like that? I’m not sure the Gophers will EVER have another shooting night like that.

Matt Auerbach: Let me just reiterate for the eleven hundredth time how disappointing Syracuse’s season was. The Orange were never the team I expected them to be, and maybe that’s just on me. Certainly the absence of Frank Howard was an issue against Baylor, but this year was just wildly uneven for them from start to finish. As for Louisville, despite the tough finish to the year, I would call Chris Mack’s first year a success. With a strong recruiting class coming and the development of his young players — particularly Jordan Nwora — I expect a big year two for the Cardinals under Mack.

Mick McDonald: And yes, the future is very bright for the Cardinals. Chris Mack will have them in the top 10 in the next two years.

Brad Jenkins: Agreed. The Orange and Clemson must be the biggest disappointments in the league this year after returning their cores from a pair of Sweet Sixteen clubs a year ago. And Louisville is certainly headed for great things soon. Now on to the survivors. Let’s take a look at the ACC teams in action on Thursday this week, starting with Virginia in the South Region in Louisville. Thoughts on the Cavaliers’ chances there?

Mick McDonald: Look, Oregon wasn’t very good this year. Once Bol Bol got hurt, the Ducks didn’t really have an identity. But give Dana Altman credit. He figured out that they just needed to become a super-athletic, defensive freak type of team, with a great point guard in Payton Pritchard. They are the type of big, athletic club that can give Virginia’s offense trouble. Can Oregon score on Virginia? Not very likely. First to 50 wins?

Matt Auerbach: I still think Virginia is the favorite to win the Tournament, but I’m really a little worried about the Oregon match-up. The Ducks had a really poor overall season, but there is no denying they are currently playing some of the best basketball out there, particularly on the defensive end of the court. This game is tricky for me, because if both teams play their best, Virginia definitely wins — if not, Oregon may get them. I think if the Cavaliers win convincingly, they will rout the winner of Tennessee and Purdue on their way to the Final Four.

Mick McDonald: I’d like to see a statement game from De’Andre Hunter. He looked a little tentative in the Oklahoma game, and this is the type of game that will lend itself to taking over the offense at points. Also, Mamadi Diakite apparently finally putting all the tools together could not have happened at a better time. He looked fantastic in Virginia’s first two games and has given it that interior scoring option they have so badly needed.

Brad Jenkins: I admit that I was really worried when Virginia got down 14 points in the first half to Gardner-Webb. All I could think about was dreading having to go to the postgame presser and seeing those kids crushed again. Thankfully they pulled it together. And like Tony Bennett said, they defended like Virginia for 40 minutes against Oklahoma. I see them doing the same in Louisville and coming out OK. Any concerns about Kyle Guy’s sudden shooting slump?

Mick McDonald: Not really. He got some good looks against Oklahoma — they just didn’t go down. I worry a bit about him getting bullied and not being able to get open against Oregon, but if he gets enough open looks, he will knock some down. Shooters shoot, as the saying goes.

Matt Auerbach: I wouldn’t be concerned about Guy, but with the way Kenny Wooten is throwing shots back, Guy will need to make some perimeter shots — something he did better than just about anyone all year.

Brad Jenkins: Now on to the West Region semifinal rematch between Florida State and Gonzaga. Can the Seminoles pull off the upset again?

Mick McDonald: Florida State is good enough to beat any team in the country and I actually think they match up as well as a team can against Gonzaga. They have sufficient athletes to throw at Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke that should be able to rattle them. The key for me: Can Josh Perkins handle physical athletes like Trent Forrest, Terrance Mann and David Nichols that Leonard Hamilton? If he turns the ball over more than a normal rate, I like Florida State’s chances.

Matt Auerbach: Why not? They’ve been about as impressive as anyone else after the first weekend. Eleven deep, with that length and experience. I can certainly see it happening again, but not easily. People will focus on Killian Tillie playing this year, but the X-factor is Brandon Clarke — he’s almost a Seminole prototype on the other side, and I think he presents a lot of issues for Leonard Hamilton’s team on both ends.

Mick McDonald: Great point on Clarke, Matt. He is such a force on the inside, most teams have to be very worried about getting their bigs in foul trouble against him. The Seminoles have less of a worry because they are so deep.

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Rushed Reactions: Duke 73, Florida State 63

Posted by Brad Jenkins on March 16th, 2019

RTC’s Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) is providing on-site coverage of the ACC Tournament all week long.

Three Key Takeaways.

Duke’s RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson celebrate after winning the program’s 15th ACC Championship of the Mike Krzyzewski era. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
  1. Duke’s defense was the difference. With all the attention generated by Zion Williamson’s spectacular scoring plays, it is easy to forget what he means to Duke on the other end of the floor. With his return to the lineup this week in Charlotte, the Blue Devils seem to have regained their defensive mojo. In tonight’s title game, Florida State led for most of the first half and was tied with Duke at the break. But after intermission, the Blue Devils tightened up their defense, holding the Seminoles to 25.0 percent shooting from the floor. And this was a Florida State team that had just shot 56 percent against the mighty Virginia defense in Friday’s semifinals. The Duke running game got going as a result of getting those stops, leading to transition dunks for Williamson and RJ Barrett that gave the Blue Devils a working margin that they would never relinquish.
  2. Florida State is going to be a tough out in the Big Dance. The Seminoles may have surprised the college basketball world by beating top-seeded Virginia in this ACC Tournament, but it’s not like they came out of nowhere this season. Leonard Hamilton’s club closed regular season play by winning 12 of their last 13 games and have already set a school record with 27 wins. They’re athletic, experienced and deep. Their best player is probably Mfiondu Kabengele, who may be the best sixth man in the nation. Kabengele kept the Seminoles within striking distance tonight. finishing with 14 points and making 3-of-5 from beyond the arc. Additionally, Florida State’s size and length will make the Seminoles one of the most unique defensive teams in the NCAA Tournament — one that nobody should look forward to facing in the coming weeks.
  3. Duke may have locked up the overall #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. There’s little doubt that Duke will be on the top line when the brackets are presented Sunday evening, but conference tournament losses by Virginia and Gonzaga have opened up the overall top spot for the Blue Devils. The Selection Committee is expected to judge Duke with Zion Williamson in the lineup, and that Duke team went 23-2 with a 4-1 record against the other six programs in contention for the #1 seed line. Mike Krzyzewski’s squad is not without flaws — once again tonight they triumphed despite a cold shooting night from distance (2-14 3FG) — but they can overwhelm opponents in several other ways. Against the tall and imposing frontline of Florida State, the Blue Devils managed to post a decisive 42-18 edge in points in the paint, and had a solid advantage (+7) in fast break points. Point guard Tre Jones’ assertiveness (18 points) also gave the Blue Devils a boost tonight, and was reminiscent of the play of his older brother Tyus in leading Duke to the national title in 2015.

Player of the Game. Zion Williamson, Duke. The college game’s brightest star completed a successful return from injury by scoring 81 points in three days and winning the ACC Tournament MVP award. Tonight he scored a game-high 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the floor, grabbed five boards, and helped Duke’s defense hold Florida State to 31.7 percent shooting.

Quotable.

  • “He’s a world class athlete. He changes things.” – Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton on going against Zion Williamson.
  • “To start 1-and-4 in the league and end up in fourth place… it’s outstanding.” – Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski praising the coaching job of Leonard Hamilton this season.
  • “When he’s able to score, it definitely opens it up for the rest of it.” – Duke’s RJ Barrett on the aggressive play tonight from Tre Jones.

Sights and Sounds. It was not nearly the same atmosphere in the Spectrum Center tonight as it was for the Duke-North Carolina semifinal clash, but it was a pretty full house tonight even if the energy level was merely good, not great.

What’s Next. Duke and Florida State have each improved their NCAA Tournament resumes this week in Charlotte and they will hear their paths to Minneapolis revealed on Sunday night.

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Rushed Reactions: Duke 74, North Carolina 73

Posted by Brad Jenkins on March 15th, 2019

RTC’s Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) is providing on-site coverage of the ACC Tournament all week long.

Three Key Takeaways.

Zion Williamson led Duke to an exciting ACC Tournament win over rival North Carolina. (The Sporting News)
  1. This game lived up to the hype. This was perhaps the most anticipated semifinal matchup in ACC Tournament history and the two teams delivered an instant classic. It was only fitting that the outcome wasn’t decided until the game’s final possession when North Carolina missed two shots in the last three seconds. For most of the first half it looked like a mismatch — North Carolina raced out to a commanding 13-point lead and the Blue Devils were dealing with foul trouble to their depleted front line (especially true with Marquise Bolden out). But Mike Krzyzewski got some surprising production from his bench and Duke roared back to tie the game at the half. After the break Duke took the lead and looked to be in control only to see the Tar Heels rally. It wasn’t the prettiest game — the teams combined to make just 9-of-47 shots from deep — but the intensity level and effort from both teams was top-notch. And who knows? We may get to see them go at it again in Minneapolis.
  2. Duke’s bench came through in surprising fashion. Zion Williamson was outstanding, but Duke would not have pulled this game out without the play of the much-maligned Blue Devils’ bench. Led by Cameron Johnson (16 first half points), North Carolina was rolling in the first half and beating the Blue Devils down the court for transition buckets. Additionally, Cam Reddish and Javin DeLaurier were in foul trouble. First, Krzyzewski inserted Jordan Goldwire into the game in place of Reddish and his defense helped turn the game around. Goldwire took on the assignment of slowing down Coby White, an absolute jet in the open court, while starting point guard Tre Jones moved over to harass Johnson. When DeLaurier picked up his third foul, seldom used Antonio Vrankovic got the call and held his own with the Tar Heels’ frontcourt for a total of 10 minutes. Goldwire earned postgame praise from both head coaches for the energy he brought to his team when they needed a boost.
  3. History repeats itself (barely). This makes the third year in a row that these two old rivals have met in the ACC Tournament semifinals. In each of those prior tourney matchups, the winner was the team that had lost the prior meeting between the two a week earlier. In fact, that has been the case in the last five ACC Tournament meetings between Duke and North Carolina (2003, 2011, 2017-19). For North Carolina, this tradition runs even deeper — over the last 46 years, whenever the Tar Heels face Duke in the ACC Tournament after defeating the Blue Devils in the regular season finale, their record in those games is 0-6. But recent rivalry history is not all bad news for Williams. During his 15 years at the helm in Chapel Hill, the winner of the last regular season Duke-UNC matchup of the year has gone on to perform better in the NCAA Tournament than its rival 13 times.

Player of the Game. Zion Williamson, Duke. The freshman phenom finally got his chance to play in college basketball’s biggest rivalry and he made the most of it. Williamson finished with 31 points and 11 rebounds and ended up making the game-winner when he followed up his own miss with 31 seconds to go.

Quotable.

  • “The guy that’s been hurt [Zion Williamson] came back and put on his superman jersey again and was incredible. It’s such a blend of strength and power and quickness that we couldn’t stop him getting the basketball inside and going to the basket.” – North Carolina coach Roy Williams’ opening comments in the press conference.
  • “This was obviously a great game. I mean vintage ACC, Duke-North Carolina.” – Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski on the game.
  • “I mean it was tough watching the first two games. […] the rivalry lived up to what I expected it to be” – Duke’s Zion Williamson on finally getting to play against North Carolina.

Sights and Sounds. This was probably the most anticipated semifinal matchup in ACC Tournament history, so it was fitting that this battle between Tobacco Road rivals took place in the state of North Carolina. As expected, the Tar Heels had the support of about two-thirds of the Spectrum Center, but both sets of fans were extremely into the game throughout the contest.

What’s Next. Duke moves on to play Florida State for the ACC championship on Saturday night. It will be the second title meeting between the two schools — the Blue Devils beat the Seminoles in 2009. Duke and Florida State only played once in the regular season, with Duke winning a one-point buzzer-beating game in Tallahassee in early January.

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Rushed Reactions: Florida State 69, Virginia 59

Posted by Brad Jenkins on March 15th, 2019

Three Key Takeaways.

Leonard Hamilton will be aiming for his second ACC championship on Saturday night (USA Today Images)
  1. Did we all overlook Florida State? The focus all week in Charlotte has been on the ACC’s three super-elite teams, but the Seminoles were never part of that conversation. With Virginia, Duke and North Carolina soaking up all the attention, Florida State was not considered a serious threat to take the ACC crown despite its double-bye status, but they will get that chance after dispatching top-seeded Virginia in impressive fashion. Leonard Hamilton’s club will head into tomorrow night’s championship tilt having won 14 of their last 15 games, and, lest we forget, this Florida State squad returns a core from a team that reached an Elite Eight a year ago. This group is both talented and experienced.
  2. Florida State made Virginia’s defense looked mortal. Good shots are often hard to come by when playing Virginia, so you’d better knock it down if one presents itself. That’s exactly what the Seminoles did for most of tonight, shooting 56.5 percent from the floor, including an outstanding 20-for-30 performance on two-point tries. And as usual, they used a balanced attack, with six Seminoles scoring at least nine points, including two reserves. Virginia had the pace of the game right where it wanted — under 60 possessions — but the Cavaliers could not match the Seminoles’ shooting prowess in addition to their size and length. Tony Bennett’s club shot just 41.5 percent from the floor and never got going from deep, making just 5-of-24 attempts from beyond the arc. Hamilton’s guys also dominated the glass by a convincing margin (+15).
  3. Virginia’s slow starts finally caught up to them. In three of its last four contests, including both of its games in Charlotte this week, Virginia trailed at the intermission. The margin of those first half deficits has been manageable — Florida State led by four tonight — but that’s certainly not a sustainable way to win as the competition of March improves. Another troubling issue for Bennett is the recent performance of one of his star guards. In this week’s two games in the Queen City, Ty Jerome only scored a total of 12 points on 5-of-24 shooting. As it is, Virginia has probably locked up a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but this team won’t be taking great momentum into next week’s Big Dance.

Player of the Game. David Nichols, Florida State. It’s always hard to single out one Seminole but Nichols had a huge impact off the bench tonight. He finished with 14 points — 10 in the second half — in going 6-of-8 from the field.

Quotable.

  • “I think they shot it better. They were so balanced in their scoring” – Virginia coach Tony Bennett, on what was different about Florida State tonight.
  • “Not many people felt that we could even have a chance to win this game.” – Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton, when asked about the upset win.
  • “They were just the tougher team tonight. More physical tonight.” – Virginia’s Ty Jerome, on why Virginia lost.

Sights and Sounds. This game felt like the undercard match to a main event bout. Virginia had solid support tonight in the Spectrum Center, but a large portion of the crowd was clearly more focused on the upcoming Tobacco Road showdown between North Carolina and Duke.

What’s Next. With the upset win, Florida State will play for the ACC Tournament title against either North Carolina or Duke on Saturday night. It will be Leonard Hamilton’s third appearance in the ACC championship game — his Seminoles beat North Carolina for the school’s only ACC title in 2012.

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ACC Tournament Takeaways: Thursday Evening

Posted by Brad Jenkins on March 14th, 2019

RTC’s Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) will be reporting live from Charlotte at the 2019 ACC Tournament through Saturday’s championship game.

Zion Williamson looked strong in his return to the floor in the ACC Tournament. (Getty Images)

Here are a few thoughts on the four teams from today’s evening session at the ACC Tournament.

  • North Carolina (27-5): The Tar Heels are a very confident team right now and with good reason. After dispatching Louisville, 83-70, in Thursday’s quarterfinals, North Carolina has won 15 of its last 16 outings and is still in contention to grab a #1 seed in the upcoming Big Dance. Although the Cardinals stayed within striking distance for most of tonight’s game, it never felt like the outcome was in doubt. Freshman point guard Coby White continued his recent outstanding play for Roy Williams, finishing with 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists. The Tar Heels will get a chance at the rare three-game season sweep of archrival Duke in Friday night’s semifinals.
  • Louisville (20-13): After losing five or its last six February outings, the Cardinals appear to have somewhat righted the ship. They closed the regular season with a comfortable win over Notre Dame followed by a narrow defeat at top-seed Virginia. In Charlotte, Louisville blew out the Fighting Irish on Wednesday and gave a good account of themselves against North Carolina, one of hottest teams in the country. Most bracketologists forecast Chris Mack’s club as a #6 or #7 seed in the NCAA Tournament, meaning they would likely face a high-caliber team in the second round. Mack hopes that the six games his squad has already played against North Carolina, Virginia and Duke have prepared it for such a challenge.
  • Duke (27-5): He’s back! But that doesn’t mean everything is OK with Duke going forward. In his much anticipated return from a knee injury that caused him to miss six games, Zion Williamson exploded out of the gate to lead the Blue Devils to a big early lead. In the first half alone, he scored 21 points on 9-for-9 shooting, grabbed nine rebounds and came up with five steals. But while Williamson’s presence helps Duke in many areas, it doesn’t alter the team’s glaring flaws — namely, shooting and the propensity to collect offensive fouls. In its 84-72 win over Syracuse, the Blue Devils made 30.4 percent of their threes, shot 67.9 percent from the foul line and committed 18 turnovers — many of those coming on charges. They’ll have to be better than that to knock off North Carolina on Friday night, in what will be one of the most anticipated semifinal matchups in ACC Tournament history.
  • Syracuse (20-13): This was always going to be an uphill battle for the Orange, especially when star Tyus Battle was unable to suit up due to a sore back. Without its best offensive player, Syracuse struggled mightily to score against Duke’s pressure early. But they settled down after that, storming back catch the Blue Devils in the second half before fading down the stretch. The Orange had one of their best outside shooting nights of the year, making 9-of-21 from deep and they have to be encouraged at the development of the coach’s son, Buddy Boeheim. Starting in place of Battle, the freshman put together back-to-back strong outings in Charlotte, including 15 points against Duke. Jim Boeheim indicated that Battle should be ready to go in a few days, so he should be available for the start of the NCAA Tournament. That’s good news for a team that’s likely to end up with a #9 or #10 seed, which guarantees that the Orange will be facing a good First Round opponent.
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ACC Tournament Takeaways: Thursday Afternoon

Posted by Brad Jenkins on March 14th, 2019

RTC’s Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) will be reporting live from Charlotte at the 2019 ACC Tournament through Saturday’s championship game.

Kyle Guy continued his red-hot shooting to lead Virginia over N.C. State. (Getty Images)

Here are a few thoughts on the four teams from today’s afternoon session at the ACC Tournament.

  • Virginia (29-2): The Cavaliers exorcised some demons in the Spectrum Center today. It was in this building nearly 365 days ago that Virginia became the first #1 seed to lose to a #16 seed in NCAA Tournament history. Perhaps Tony Bennett’s guys were reliving that nightmare in the first half against NC State — Virginia trailed by two at the break — before getting it going after intermission and cruising to a 76-56 win. Kyle Guy kept up his torrid long range marksmanship by shooting 7-of-9 from deep en route to 29 points. Guy has made 26 of his last 41 attempts from beyond the arc for an impressive rate of 63.4 percent. With Ty Jerome having an off day — two points on 1-of-11 shooting — Jack Salt gave Virginia a huge lift by scoring a career high 18 points.
  • NC State (22-11): Kevin Keatts’ club hung tough with the top seed for about 24 minutes today, but ultimately couldn’t overcome a terrible shooting day. The Wolfpack shot just 38.8 percent from the floor, including a frigid 3-of-20 performance from three-point land. Now, NC State will be on bubble watch for the rest of the weekend, hoping that the NCAA Selection Committee weighs their high metric numbers (#32 NET, #32 KenPom) heavier than that ugly non-conference strength of schedule (dead last in college basketball). We think the committee will be inclined to validate its new NET tool this year — which would be to NC State’s benefit — so, we think the Wolfpack will be invited to the Big Dance.
  • Florida State (26-6): In the second quarterfinal of the day, Florida State’s Terance Mann tossed in a runner with two seconds left in overtime as the Seminoles edged Virginia Tech, 65-63. Florida State controlled things for most of the game, but after a late Virginia Tech rally, Leonard Hamilton’s team needed a clutch three from Devin Vassell just to force the extra session. It was not a stellar offensive performance for the Seminoles — 38.6 percent shooting and 17 turnovers — but their defense and work on the glass (+13 rebounding edge) enabled them to overcome their scoring issues. For Florida State to have a chance to knock off top-seeded Virginia in Friday’s semifinals, it will need to be much more efficient offensively than it was today.
  • Virginia Tech (24-8): This was a tough situation for a shorthanded team to deal with — Virginia Tech was playing on back-to-back days and it was up against the deepest team in the league. The Hokies struggled to make shots from deep (4-of-19 three-pointers) but hung around with a strong defensive effort. This is the second overtime loss to Florida State in a nine-day span for Buzz Williams’ group, but it shouldn’t negatively impact their seeding in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. It’s still not known if the Hokies will have the services of star point guard Justin Robinson, as Williams said in the postgame that Robinson — who has missed the last 12 contests — will meet with doctors on Sunday for another evaluation.
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Inside the ACC Numbers: Final Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins on March 11th, 2019

Here is the final 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. With the regular season in the books, this week we will compare how each ACC squad performed in the second half of league play, with an eye on the teams that might excel in the ACC Tournament in Charlotte. Finally, we will examine the ACC standings and project what it may mean for teams’ ultimate postseason aspirations.

Note: All numbers are current for games played through Saturday, March 9.

Final Standings

Congratulations are in order for Virginia, which accomplished something this season that no ACC school has done in over a decade. Tony Bennett‘s club posted both the best offense and defense, the first league squad to lead the conference in each metric since North Carolina turned the trick in back-to-back seasons (2007 and 2008). The Cavaliers won the defensive crown for the fifth time in the past six years, while simultaneously trotting out the best offense of Bennett’s career in Charlottesville. Virginia’s shooting acumen has been the main driver to its offensive prowess — the Cavaliers made 43.1 percent of their three-pointers in league play, which represents the ACC’s best mark of the KenPom era. Co-regular season champion North Carolina used a balanced attack to finish with the league’s second-best offense — the Tar Heels finished among the top five in two-point shooting, three-point accuracy, offensive rebounding and turnover percentage. Brad Brownell also deserves credit for the performance of Clemson’s defense, which finished second in the ACC, ahead of more acclaimed units from Florida State and Duke.

Advanced Stat of the Week: Who’s Hot and Who’s Not

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ACC Weekend Review: 03.04.19 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins on March 4th, 2019

Two ACC squads in desperate need of a quality win failed to take advantage of their opportunities on Saturday. NC State stayed within striking distance of Florida State throughout their game, but the Pack couldn’t overtake the Seminoles in Tallahassee before falling, 78-73. Likewise, Clemson played North Carolina tough in Littlejohn Coliseum before losing another heart-breaker, 81-79. Elsewhere, co-leader Virginia had no problems with Pittsburgh, winning 73-49 in Charlottesville, and Duke — still playing without Zion Williamson — rolled Miami in Durham, 87-57. Here are the highlights from the weekend around the ACC.

Mfiondu Kabengele led a balanced Florida State attack as the Seminoles held off N.C. State in Tallahassee on Saturday. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)
  • Best Win / Worst Loss I: Clemson failed to boost its NCAA Tournament resume by losing yet another nail-biter in ACC play. The Tigers have now lost four ACC contests on the very last possession and, as a result, are in serious NCAA bubble-trouble. Brad Brownell’s club owns a lousy 1-9 record in Quadrant 1 games and they’re quickly running out of chances to prove the Tigers can beat good teams. For North Carolina, this win keeps the Tar Heels tied atop the ACC standings, and puts them firmly in the mix for a potential #1 seed in the Big Dance. The biggest scare of the game came late in the first half when Roy Williams collapsed and had to be helped off the floor, never to return. It’s not the first time that his vertigo has struck him down during a game, but fortunately he seemed to be doing well soon after the game ended.
  • Best Win / Worst Loss II: Much like Clemson, NC State still has work to do to earn a second straight bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Wolfpack had a chance to grab a signature road win at Florida State on Saturday but couldn’t pull it off, leaving Kevin Keatts’ squad with just two Quadrant 1 wins in 10 tries. Add in the nation’s worst non-conference strength of schedule and their resume has some serious issues. With the win, Leornard Hamilton’s squad remains tied for fourth place in the league with Virginia Tech. The Hokies travel to Tallahassee on Tuesday and the winner will earn a coveted double-bye in the upcoming ACC Tournament.
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Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume VI

Posted by Brad Jenkins on February 27th, 2019

Here’s another edition of our weekly view of 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 examine how ACC teams are faring in conference nail-biters. Finally, we will forecast how the final league 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 Monday, February 25.

Current Standings

The standings mostly line up with performance, especially among the top six squads in efficiency margin. At the bottom of the league, there is a logjam of six more teams in the 2-4 victory range, but there is a clear best (Miami) and worst (Wake Forest) of the bunch in efficiency performance. Based on their play on a per possession basis, Clemson should not be trailing Syracuse and NC State in the standings, but that is the Tigers’ current reality. Below we will explain why that is the case.

Statistic of the Week: Winning Close Games

Despite its reputation for competitiveness, the ACC ranks 30th among the nation’s 32 conferences in the number of one-possession games played this year. You have to go back to 2002 to find a year when the league had fewer close games than this season’s 15.7 percent rate. No matter how you define close games (one or two possessions), Clemson has struggled mightily in those tight league contests. To rub more salt into the Tigers’ wound, all three of their close defeats this season literally occurred on the game’s final play. NC State has been involved in more (8) nail-biters than any other school and the Wolfpack have pulled out six of those games. Combined with last year’s impressive performance — Kevin Keatts‘ team was 5-2 in games decided by six points or fewer — he is off to a start to his ACC coaching career that can best be described as Leonard Hamilton-esque.

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ACC Weekend Review: 02.25.19 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins on February 25th, 2019

Despite a strong slate of ACC match-ups in the queue on Saturday, the games were mostly devoid of drama. The main takeaway from the weekend is that there is a significant gap between the top three schools and everyone else. Virginia overcame a 10-point halftime deficit on the road to overwhelm a reeling Louisville squad, 64-52; the frontcourt of North Carolina was too much for Florida State in the Tar Heels’ 77-59 win in Chapel Hill; and Duke rallied to beat Syracuse in the Carrier Dome, 75-65. This leaves those three league heavyweights tied at the top of the ACC standings with 12-2 records, clear of the rest of the league by three games in the loss column. Virginia Tech took advantage of those results to move into sole possession of fourth place — the Hokies beat Notre Dame in South Bend by a score of 67-59. Here are the highlights from the weekend around the ACC.

Nassir Little gave North Carolina a strong effort off the bench as the Tar Heels dominated Florida State in the paint on Saturday. (Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)
  • Best Win #1: Those who expected this to be a letdown game for North Carolina should have known better. Yes, the Tar Heels were coming off a huge win over Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium, but it’s not like Roy Williams‘ club isn’t used to dealing with this situation — playing the game after “The Game” — every season. Florida State kept it close for about 30 minutes, but North Carolina closed the contest on a 21-7 run to put away the Seminoles. The Tar Heels’ frontcourt was the difference, as seniors Cam Johnson and Luke Maye each posted double-doubles and freshman Nassir Little scored 18 off the bench. North Carolina dominated the glass (+15) and held the Seminoles to their second lowest scoring output of the year. Leonard Hamilton’s team saw its eight-game winning streak snapped and damaged its hopes for gaining the the coveted double-bye as the #4 seed in the ACC Tournament.
  • Best Win #2: With no upsets occurring this weekend we will highlight another big win because of the circumstances surrounding the game. There were several factors going against Duke when it took the floor at Syracuse on Saturday night — the Blue Devils were without the services of National Player of the Year favorite Zion Williamson; they had just been run out of their own gym by arch-rival North Carolina; and they were facing a motivated Syracuse team, who already had beaten Duke earlier this year, in front of an on-campus record 35,642 fans. Furthermore, the Orange controlled things early and led by five at that break. But RJ Barrett reminded us that Williamson isn’t the only star on Mike Krzyzewski’s squad — the other freshman superstar carved up the Syracuse zone to the tune of 30 points and seven assists to lead the comeback. Duke also got a huge boost from Alex O’Connell, who scored 17 second half points.
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