ACC Weekend Review: 02.11.19 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins on February 11th, 2019

This was perhaps the best potential weekend slate of games in ACC play this season and it didn’t disappoint in terms of excitement. In the national headliner, Duke completed a regular season sweep of Virginia by besting the Cavaliers, 81-71, in Charlottesville on Saturday evening. In a surprisingly close call, North Carolina remained tied with the Blue Devils atop the league standings with a comeback overtime win over Miami in the Smith Center. In other key contests, a pair of ranked ACC squads fell on the road — Clemson handled Virginia Tech, 59-51, in Littlejohn Coliseum; and Florida State rallied to take Louisville into overtime in Tallahassee, winning by a score of 80-75. Here are the highlights from the weekend around the ACC.

RJ Barrett led the 3-point shooting barrage for Duke in its big win on the road over Virginia. (Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images)
  • Best Win: Duke once again showed it can solve Virginia’s pack-line defense, mostly because of an unanticipated Blue Devils’ explosion from behind the arc. Tony Bennett’s squad gave up 13 three-pointers — the most it had given up previous to this game was eight against Notre Dame — but great outside shooting wasn’t all that went well for Mike Krzyzewski’s club. Duke held a 17-0 edge in fast break points as well as a 14-9 advantage in second-chance points, despite the fact that Virginia grabbed six more offensive boards than the Blue Devils. RJ Barrett led the way with 26 points, giving him a total of 56 in two games versus the Cavaliers. This contest marked the beginning of an extremely tough stretch of games for Duke — its next five games are all against top 45 teams, three of which are on the road. Meanwhile, Virginia has a quick turnaround, traveling to face ACC co-leader North Carolina tonight.
  • Second Best Win: With no real bad losses over the weekend, we opt to highlight another big ACC win. Florida State won its fifth ACC game in a row with a gutty comeback win over Louisville, a game in which the Seminoles trailed by double-figures midway through the second half. Leonard Hamilton’s guys were outshot from the field by a wide margin (48.1 percent to 37.7 percent), so how did they pull it off? Two ways — by posting a huge edge in turnover margin (+15) and dominating the free throw game — Florida State went 27-of-36 at the stripe while Louisville was 13-of-16. The Seminoles have definitely righted the ship after their 1-4 start in conference play, and are now in contention for a top-four finish in the league, which comes with the cherished double-bye in the ACC Tournament.
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ACC Weekend Preview: February 9

Posted by Mick McDonald on February 8th, 2019

It’s a busy weekend around the ACC, including the #1 vs. #2 rematch we’ve all been waiting for in Charlottesville. Rush the Court ACC writer Mick McDonald (@themickmcdonald) gets you prepped. (All rankings via KenPom)

Saturday, February 9

Clemson Needs a Win and Virginia Tech Visits on Saturday (USA Today Images)

#9 Virginia Tech (18-4, 7-3) at #35 Clemson (14-8, 4-5). This feels like the kind of game Clemson needs to win if it realistically hopes to make the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers’ current resume has no meat on the bone, so an opportunity to beat a top 10 KenPom team is one they can’t squander. They’ll need to take advantage of a Virginia Tech club without much interior size, which means feeding Elijah Thomas (29.6 PER, 65.9% eFG) like they did in their win over Wake Forest last Sunday (23 points on 10-of-11 FG). What cannot happen is that Thomas instead gets into foul trouble, like he did on Wednesday night at Georgia Tech (seven points in 17 minutes). Given the Hokies’ firepower from the outside, it’s difficult to envision a Clemson victory without another monster performance from its big man.

#42 NC State (16-7, 4-6) at #75 Pittsburgh (12-11, 2-8). My, how things can change in just a week. Only 10 days ago, NC State was *this close* to taking down Virginia. After losing in overtime, however, the Wolfpack followed up with embarrassing displays on both offense (24 points in a home loss to Virginia Tech) and defense (allowing 113 to North Carolina in Chapel Hill). So what we have is something that feels like an important game for Kevin Keatts, one in which he really needs a breakout performance from Torin Dorn. The senior shot just 35.3 percent from the field and made only one three-pointer in the last two games, but the bigger issue is that Dorn hasn’t played well since conference play began. In league games only, Dorn (14.3 PER, 41.9% eFG) has been much worse than his overall numbers (20.8 PER, 50.7 eFG%) — if the Wolfpack expect to turn things around, it starts with their small-ball four recovering his groove.

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ACC Stock Report: Volume V

Posted by Matt Auerbach on February 7th, 2019

Saturday’s rematch between Virginia and Duke looked for a while like it would be the deciding factor in this year’s ACC regular season race. Maybe it will turn out to be just that, but let’s not rush so fast on calling it the game for the crown.

Stock Rising

North Carolina is Quietly Waiting on Duke and Virginia to Falter (USA Today Images)

North Carolina’s Backboard Dominance: Don’t look now, but Roy Williams’ bunch has officially made the ACC regular season championship a three-horse race. Since its curious blowout loss to Louisville three weeks ago, North Carolina has ripped off six consecutive wins, including a return-the-favor beatdown of the Cardinals on Saturday. Despite some hiccups, North Carolina has never dropped out of KenPom‘s top 10, and currently rates seventh nationally on the strength of both a top-20 offense and defense. During their recent run, it has been notable how the Tar Heels have gotten back to dominating the backboard, a staple for Williams’ squads in Chapel Hill. Since being outrebounded in the January 12 loss to Louisville, the Heels have averaged more than 10 rebounds per game than its opposition, highlighted by a +17 advantage on Saturday. Now 19th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage and 15th in keeping jits opponents off of the offensive boards, North Carolina has gotten back its identity as an elite rebounding unit. If the Heels hold serve against Miami at home on Saturday, Monday’s home tilt with Virginia could set up as a battle for the top slot in the conference standings — assuming the Cavaliers can protect their home court against Duke — which will be no easy task thanks to…

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Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume III

Posted by Brad Jenkins on February 7th, 2019

Here’s another 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 evaluate how ACC teams are performing on the road versus how well they play in the cozy confines of their home gyms. 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 Tuesday, February 5.

Current Standings

The ACC has a top tier of four teams in efficiency margin with Virginia still comfortably leading the way. It will be interesting to see how the ACC’s upcoming schedule shakes things up. The Cavaliers start a pivotal three-day stretch with Saturday’s home game with Duke, followed by a quick turnaround trip to Chapel Hill to take on red-hot North Carolina team on Monday night. Louisville is also staring at a difficult two-game slate over the next seven days — the Cardinals visit Florida State on Saturday before taking on Duke at home on Tuesday evening. Syracuse has been the most fortunate squad in the first half of ACC play this season. At 7-3, Jim Boeheim’s team is already four games above .500 despite barely outscoring its opponents. Looking at the bottom of the conference, Wake Forest has been the league’s worst performing team by a wide margin, but the Demon Deacons have managed to post a similar record to the five schools directly above them. That’s because Wake Forest has gone 2-1 in ACC games that were decided by four points or fewer. In their other seven outings, the Deacs have been beaten by double-figures.

Advanced Statistic of the Week: Home Sweet Home in the ACC

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Big 12 Weekend in Review: Leaders Stayed the Course With Kansas Hovering

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 4th, 2019

Concerns about Kansas remain, but all the Jayhawks needed to put the Silvio De Sousa news and Marcus Garrett‘s injury behind them was a home game. As it has for decades, a return to Allen Fieldhouse provided a respite as the Jayhawks blew out Texas Tech on Saturday. The Red Raiders missing 80 percent of their three-pointers accelerated the outcome, but yet again, Bill Self made the necessary adjustments to enable the Jayhawks to log their best three-point shooting performance in nearly three weeks. While Baylor, Kansas State and Iowa State also won their games to stay ahead of Kansas in the league standings, in my mind, the notion of The Streak coming to an end will not merit serious discussion until Self’s club is two or more games back of the leaders with five remaining.

Baylor’s 90-64 victory over TCU on Saturday was big for a few reasons. As former contributor and friend of RTC Kendall Kaut noted, it marked the biggest loss by final margin of Jamie Dixon‘s career as a head coach at either Pittsburgh or TCU. It also kept the Bears in first place, and a 40-point, 9-of-12 from distance showcase from Makai Mason in that game would make even former Brady Heslip turn red. Seriously. Look where some of these shots came from. The win pushed Baylor’s Big 12 winning streak to five games, marking just the third time the Bears have accomplished such a feat. Six league wins in a row has proven elusive for Scott Drew to this point (exempting a couple cases where the sixth win came in the Big 12 Tournament), but the Bears will have a good chance to reach that apex on Wednesday night against Texas. Looking forward, it remains anyone’s guess how long they can stay hot (40.2% 3FG) from distance. This season has been massive for Baylor in that an NCAA Tournament bid seems like a formality just a few months after being picked to finish ninth in the league, but don’t be surprised to see some regression as the schedule toughens on the Bears down the stretch.

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ACC Weekend Review: 02.04.19 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins on February 4th, 2019

It was not a banner weekend for scoring in the ACC. The main offender, of course, was NC State, which set many dubious records for offensive futility in its 47-24 home loss to Virginia Tech. The Wolfpack weren’t the only squad to struggle to put the ball in the hoop this weekend, however. Eight of the 14 teams in action failed to crack the 60-point barrier, and the league collectively made just 37.1 percent of its field goal attempts. In the big match-up of the weekend, North Carolina earned its revenge on Louisville, handling the Cardinals, 79-69, in the KFC Yum! Center. League leader Virginia beat Miami, 56-46, without the services of Ty Jerome (back injury), while Duke stepped away from league play to throttle St. Johns’s in Durham. Here are the highlights from the weekend around the ACC.

An exasperated Kevin Keatts reacts to N.C. State’s historically bad offensive performance against Virginia Tech. (cbssports.com)
  • Best Win: After suffering the worst home loss during Roy Williams‘ tenure in Chapel Hill a few weeks ago at the hands of Louisville, the Tar Heels redeemed themselves in a big way this weekend. A 30-8 first-half run gave North Carolina a commanding lead that was never really challenged. Luke Maye and Cam Johnson led the way with a pair of double-double performances, and, for Maye, it was a personal measure of revenge, as he was outplayed by Louisville’s Steven Enoch in the first meeting. Saturday was a completely different deal — Maye finished with 20 points and 11 boards while Enoch failed to score in 16 minutes of action.
  • Worst Loss: It looked like a great opportunity for NC State to recover some steadiness entering Saturday’s contest. Kevin Keatts’ team was coming off two emotional home games — last Saturday’s buzzer-beating win over Clemson, and a tough overtime loss to Virginia — with Virginia Tech missing its star point guard Justin Robinson. Unfortunately for Keatts, the Wolfpack forgot to bring their offense to PNC Arena. In scoring only 24 points for the entire game, NC State posted the lowest point total by a Division I team this decade, and the lowest by an ACC school in the shot-clock era. More importantly, Keatts’ squad whiffed on a chance to post a resume-building win that it may need on Selection Sunday.
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Washington is Dominating the Bad Pac

Posted by Adam Butler on February 1st, 2019

Washington is dominating the Pac-12. This statement is both true and irrelevant, so we’ll focus on the former and how the Dawgs might be slowed. To validate the statement, Washington is undefeated in Pac-12 play (8-0) with an efficiency margin of +19.6. For context, that kind of margin would rate as a top-25 KenPom team. Speaking of KenPom, the Huskies now rate as the 37th-best team in the country, having improved nearly 20 spots since the beginning of Pac-12 play.

Mike Hopkins is Quietly Putting Together a Squad (USA Today Images)

What’s setting the Huskies apart is their defense, improving in year two of Mike Hopkins’ Syracuse-imported zone defense. In conference play, the Dawgs are allowing just 92.7 points per 100 possessions. For context, that’s on pace to be the best Pac-12 defense since Arizona posted an 87.0 defensive efficiency in 2015. For added context (and the less-favorable-to-this-narrative version), the Pac-12 just doesn’t score particularly efficiently, suggesting Washington’s above-average defense is augmented by really poor opponents. In pointing out as much, we’re of course at risk of belaboring the “Pac-12 sucks” narrative. The reality is, however, that Washington is going to lose a game (or two, or more). Who, amongst these poor opponents, is likely to knock them off?

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ACC Stock Report: Volume IV

Posted by Matthew Auerbach on February 1st, 2019

Virginia played perhaps its worst game in conference play on Tuesday night — an uncharacteristically sloppy, and mistake-riddled effort — and still managed a road win against a top-30 team. Duke, despite devolving somewhat into a two-man show, is still running roughshod through its opposition. And while there is a four-way tie in the loss column at the top of the standings — Louisville and North Carolina are maintaining contact with the top two — it is looking increasingly likely that the teams perched #1/#2 on the KenPom ratings will ultimately separate themselves from the rest of the pack.

Stock Rising

Virginia Survived NC State Earlier This Week (USA Today Images)

Virginia Offense: While not on display in Tuesday’s victory in Raleigh, these Cavaliers are arguably the best offensive group Tony Bennett has coached in Charlottesville. Virginia now ranks as the fifth most efficient offense in college basketball — up from 30th a year ago, a season in which it earned the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Cavaliers have already exceeded 80 points six times this year, which is more than they have in their two previous campaigns combined. Bennett’s club ranks 12th nationally in making 39.6 percent of its three-pointers, led by the ACC’s best long-range shooter, Kyle Guy (45% 3FG). Combined with the versatile Ty Jerome and De’Andre Hunter, who currently rank ninth and 10th, respectively, in the KenPom Player of the Year standings, the Cavaliers own a trio of versatile shot creators and makers that it hasn’t had before. Its lockdown defense (second nationally in defensive efficiency) and stinginess with the ball (third in turnover percentage) haven’t gone anywhere, so the traditional ingredients of Bennett’s success still remain. But now, with a pinch of offensive explosiveness thrown into the mix, Virginia is an absolute nightmare to play.

Stock Holding

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Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume II

Posted by Brad Jenkins on January 31st, 2019

This is the second 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 examine how the Four Factors are influencing wins in the ACC this season. 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 Tuesday, January 29.

Current Standings

We have a clear top tier of teams in both the standings and efficiency margin. Virginia came back to the field slightly after its tougher than expected overtime win in Raleigh against NC State on Tuesday night, but Tony Bennett’s guys are still the most impressive team — especially given that the Cavaliers have faced the toughest ACC slate among the one-loss schools. Clemson is a team to keep an eye on despite its stumbling start in league play — the Tigers’ schedule is about to lighten up considerably and their efficiency margin already contains two blowout losses to heavyweights Virginia and Duke.

Two of the hottest teams in the league — Louisville and North Carolina — will meet in a pivotal game this Saturday in the KFC Yum! Center. The Tar Heels have yet to lose on the road in ACC play, and Roy Williams should have his team motivated for revenge after the drubbing the Cardinals laid on them in Chapel Hill.

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Where Did the Top 25 St. John’s Team Go?

Posted by Justin Kundrat on January 30th, 2019

It seems like just yesterday that the stars had finally aligned in Queens and St. John’s was staring at a long overdue appearance in the AP Top 25. The Chris Mullin era has been a roller coaster of volatility in his first four seasons, so this achievement — the Red Storm’s first ranking since the 2014-15 season — seemed significant. So it might now be surprising that, just a few short weeks later, St. John’s is so far removed from the rankings that it is no longer receiving any votes at all. How does a team that stormed out to an impressive 14-1 start now find itself 3-5 in Big East play? The answer lies not in team chemistry, injuries or key players going cold, but in roster depth.

The Johnnies are a curious case of a club that is not short on talent or offensive firepower, but one that simply struggles to close out individual games. In the early months of this season, St. John’s earned a reputation for struggling out of the gate before mounting furious second half runs to win (Georgia Tech, VCU, California), led by star guard Shamorie Ponds. The team’s second half efficiency, however, has fallen off a cliff recently.

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