Rushed Reactions: #3 Notre Dame 67, #6 Butler 64 (OT)

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 22nd, 2015

rushedreactions

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways:

Notre Dame is going to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2003. (Gene J. Puskar / AP)

Notre Dame is going to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2003. (Gene J. Puskar / AP)

  1. Mike Brey’s mother passed away this morning. How did he coach through that? Directly following one of the better games of the NCAA Tournament, Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey announced that his 84 year-old mother died of a heart attack on Saturday morning. The news came as a true shock to everyone in the room, a heartbreaking announcement in the midst of an otherwise joyful moment for the Irish. He cited her competitiveness, the fact that she tried to turn Brey and his siblings into swimmers growing up – she was an Olympic swimmer in 1956 – and reflectively noted “she had a great run.” You have to wonder how the heavy-hearted coach managed to muster enough positive energy to lead his team to victory.
  2. The seniors put Notre Dame over the hump. Sophomore Steve Vasturia led the way with 20 points. Junior Zach Auguste secured a team-high 13 rebounds. Second-year point guard Demetrius Jackson made a serious of big plays to re-establish momentum in the second half. But it was the senior guards – Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton – who finally got Notre Dame over its postseason hump. Connaughton swatted Kellen Dunham’s game-winning three-point attempt to send the game into overtime, then drilled a big triple in the extra period to break a 59-59 tie. A few minutes later, his team up three, Grant made a slashing layup with 21 seconds left to season the Irish victory. Entering the night, Brey hadn’t reached the Sweet Sixteen since 2003 – the victim of six first-weekend exits over the past 11 years. His seniors weren’t going to let it happen again.
  3. The Irish were hellbent on shutting down Kellen Dunham, and it worked. Even if it meant surrendering buckets to Roosevelt Jones (who scored 23 points), Notre Dame was not going to let Butler sharpshooter Kellen Dunham beat it from behind the arc – especially not after his 20-point performance against Texas on Thursday. Irish defenders were draped all over the junior from opening tip to final buzzer, holding him to just 2-of-13 shooting and eight total points, well below his season average (16.7 PPG). The Bulldogs were never able to extend their second-half lead far enough to take firm control, and their leading-scorer’s lack of scoring may have been the reason why.

Star of the Game: Pat Connaughton (seven points, nine rebounds and a huge block). Forget about the statistics; Connaughton was the star tonight. His toughness and confidence and massive swat to end regulation carried Notre Dame to victory.

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Rushed Reactions: #8 North Carolina State 71, #1 Villanova 68

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 21st, 2015

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Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

North Carolina State upended the top-seeded Wildcats in Pittsburgh. (Associated Press)

North Carolina State upended the top-seeded Wildcats in Pittsburgh. (Associated Press)

  1. North Carolina State’s defense was exceptional. It was going to take a complete 40-minute defensive effort for North Carolina State to pull this off, and that’s exactly what it got. The rotations were crisp. The guards did an excellent job of taking away the three-point line, holding Villanova to just 9-of-28 from behind the arc – crucial against a team that relies on the long-ball for over 35 percent of its offense. The frontcourt was rarely out of position, routinely collapsing on Wildcat big men Daniel Ochefu and JayVaughn Pinkston each time they worked the ball in the paint. All told, Mark Gottfried’s bunch held Villanova – the fourth-most efficient offense in college basketball – to just 1.06 points per possession and 31.1 percent shooting from the field, its second-lowest mark of the season.
  2. Yet again, the Wolfpack forwards were integral to its success. Despite no frontcourt players averaging more than 6.8 points per game entering the weekend, North Carolina State received massive contributions from its big guys for the second time in three nights. Lennard Freeman recorded an 11-point, 12-rebound double-double and couple big blocks. Freshman Abdul-Malik Abu also finished with a double-double – 12 points and 13 rebounds – coming up with critical offensive rebound after critical offensive rebound to keep the Wolfpack ahead throughout the second half. As good as its backcourt has been this season (and they were certainly vital again tonight), North Carolina State’s front line was the difference between a huge second-round upset and a “meh” exit from the Tournament.
  3. More disappointment for Villanova. For the second straight year, Villanova rolled through the regular season, earned a top-two seed in the NCAA Tournament and failed to reach the second weekend. “This will not define us,” head coach Jay Wright said after the game. But with arguably his best team ever – at least on paper – it’s hard not to view tonight’s outcome as an enormous disappointment, the kind of “what if?” defeat that lingers for several years to come. Two nights ago, the Wildcats looked capable of winning the whole thing; tonight, they are going home.

Star Player: Trevor Lacey (17 points, six rebounds). The Alabama transfer came up with big shot after big shot every time North Carolina State needed it, including a behind-the-back dribble, step-back three as the first half buzzer sounded, giving the Wolfpack a four-point lead at the break.

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Rushed Reactions: #8 North Carolina State 66, #9 LSU 65

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 19th, 2015

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Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

What a Comeback by the Wolfpack (USA Today Images)

What a Comeback by the Wolfpack (USA Today Images)

  1. LSU melted. Much like it did against Auburn in the SEC Tournament, LSU completely fell apart in the game’s final stanza. After surrendering just one offensive rebound in the first half, the Tigers gave North Carolina State 10 second-chance opportunities in the second half. Their man-to-man defense – rock-solid for the majority of the night – gave way to a 10-0 Wolfpack run just when they look poised to put the game on ice. Jordan Mickey missed four straight free throws in the final two minutes, and no one boxed out BeeJay Anya on the crucial (but less notable) second-to-last possession. This loss – these types of losses – will haunt Johnny Jones and his young team this offseason.
  2. North Carolina State’s guards brought it here, but the frontcourt carried it to victory. The three-headed backcourt monster that is Anthony Barber, Trevor Lacey and Ralston Turner carried North Carolina State offensively this season, accounting for more than 50 percent of the team’s scoring and coming up with big late-game shots. But that didn’t happen tonight. Instead, it was the Wolfpack’s frontcourt that made the winning plays. Sophomore Kyle Washington scored nine points off the bench, including a tip-slam that Gottfried said “helped our team in an emotional way.” Athletic freshman Abdul-Malik Abu scored 13 points and energized the crowd with a massive block and an emphatic dunk. And while BeeJay Anya – all 300 pounds of him – scored only four points, they happened to be the last four points of the game. On a night when North Carolina State’s guards shot just 4-of-21 form behind the arc, the big play of the big men was crucial.
  3. The Tigers will be back. Sophomore guard Tim Quarterman finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists tonight – an eye-popping line – while several other young players also showed serious promise. Even if sophomore forwards Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey opt to go pro (they are both projected as late first/early second-round NBA picks), Jones will have an excellent young nucleus to complement incoming super-recruits Ben Simmons and Antonio Blakeney. Better days are ahead in Baton Rouge.

Star of the Game: BeeJay Anya (four points; game-winning basket). North Carolina State was subpar for the vast majority of the night, so it’s only fitting that the sophomore – who scored all four of his points in the last 44 seconds – was the star of the game. He’s a very large man who used that frame to his advantage when the Wolfpack needed it most.

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Championship Week Primer: Bid-Stealers and Teams to Watch

Posted by Henry Bushnell on March 10th, 2015

Championship Week is upon us. And while some mid-majors have already locked up their spots in the Big Dance, it’s time for the major conference tournaments to get under way. Here’s a brief look at each of those upcoming tournaments with a description of one team in each that is primed to use the postseason as the catalyst for a run and one potential bid-stealer.

AAC

SMU is Flying Under the Radar Somewhat (USA Today Images)

SMU is Somewhat Flying Under the Radar (USA Today Images)

  • Team to Watch: SMU – This one might seem obvious as SMU is the top seed and the best team in the conference. But such is the state of the AAC that the Mustangs are really the only team with a shot to make some noise in March. Temple is an NCAA Tournament team but isn’t anything special, and the same could be said for Cincinnati and Tulsa, if either cracks the field of 68.
  • Potential Bid-Stealer: UConn – Hey, we’ve certainly seen the Huskies get hot before. There haven’t been many indications that Kevin Ollie’s team can put together a run, but its draw is favorable — SMU is on the opposite side of the bracket — so a Sunday date with the Mustangs with an NCAA Tournament bid on the line is a distinct possibility.

ACC

  • Team to Watch: North Carolina – The Tar Heels have amazingly lost six of their last 10 games en route to a fifth-place finish in the ACC. But since an ugly loss to NC State a couple weeks ago, they’ve looked decent and are capable of exploding at any time. North Carolina has elite athleticism and a guard in Marcus Paige who is one of college basketball’s best when he’s locked in. The Heels — playing in front of the always-friendly Greensboro crowd — should be favored against Louisville in the quarterfinals before meeting a Virginia team that could still be at less than full strength.
  • Potential Bid-Stealer: Miami – Miami isn’t a bid-stealer, per se, because the Hurricanes don’t have to win the ACC Tournament to earn entry into the Dance. They probably only need two victories but they’ve been given an intriguing road as the #6 seed. Provided the Hurricanes win their Wednesday game against Wake Forest or Virginia Tech, Notre Dame and then potentially Duke await. Miami has already gone toe-to-toe with both this year in their buildings, and even beat Duke at Cameron. If Jim Larranaga’s team were to pull off those two upsets, anything could happen in the championship game.

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Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume VII

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 6th, 2015

Here is this season’s final edition of a weekly look at the current ACC standings and corresponding team performances, focusing on the teams that are playing better or worse than their records might indicate. We will also delve into some advanced metrics to find a few interesting team or player stats and trends. Finally, we will forecast how the final standings may look, and what that means for ACC schools’ postseason aspirations.

Note: All numbers are current for games played through Wednesday, March 4.

Current Standings

ACCStandings3.4

Hats off to Tony Bennett’s Virginia squad for becoming the first school other than Duke and North Carolina to win consecutive outright ACC regular season titles since the David Thompson-led N.C. State teams of the 1970s. Those Wolfpack squads also won the ACC Tournament both years and brought home the 1974 NCAA championship — lofty but certainly achievable goals for this season’s Cavaliers. Last week we congratulated Virginia for its record-setting performance on the defensive end of the floor, but this week we pay homage to Duke as the Blue Devils should claim the title of the league’s best offense for the sixth year in a row. Despite Mike Krzyzewski’s deserving reputation as a defensive guru, it’s been the Blue Devils’ offense that has carried his teams during the last several seasons. North Carolina, thanks to a second blowout of Georgia Tech in as many weeks, has moved solidly into third place in points per possession margin (PPM). If you’re looking for a team outside the top two to challenge for and perhaps capture the ACC Tourney crown, the Tar Heels would be a good choice even if they end up as the #5 seed. As the only school to play both of the ACC’s heavyweights twice this year, Wake Forest’s PPM is a little deceptive, with Virginia and Duke both inflicting severe beatings in their second meetings with the Deacons.

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ACC Weekend Review: 03.02.15 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 2nd, 2015

It was not a productive weekend for ACC teams currently vying for NCAA Tournament consideration. After an impressive resume-enhancing road win last week over North Carolina, N.C. State laid an egg at Boston College in a non-competitive loss to the Eagles on Saturday afternoon. Miami was also hoping to improve its resume with a victory over North Carolina, but the Tar Heels prevailed in Coral Gables and left the Hurricanes wondering about its postseason future. Pittsburgh let a seven-point second half lead slip away at Wake Forest on Sunday night, allowing the Demon Deacons to notch a rare ACC win. This sets up a potential bubble-elimination game this week when Miami travels to Pittsburgh on Wednesday evening. In other weekend ACC action, Virginia clinched a share of its second consecutive ACC title by pulling away from Virginia Tech in the second half; Duke cruised to a comfortable home win over Syracuse; Louisville dominated Florida State in Tallahassee; and Clemson blew a huge first half lead at home before edging Georgia Tech in overtime. Here are some of the other highlights from a busy weekend of ACC action:

N.C. State had no answer for Olivier Hanlan and Boston College in a bad loss for the Wolfpack. (Winslow Townson/Boston Globe)

N.C. State had no answer for Olivier Hanlan and Boston College in a bad loss for the Wolfpack. (Winslow Townson/Boston Globe)

  • Best Win: After suffering that disappointing loss to N.C. State in the Smith Center, North Carolina was in need of a bounceback performance when it traveled south to face a hungry Miami team. The Tar Heels came through with a solid win in Coral Gables, making several big plays down the stretch to break open a tight contest. With the score tied midway through the second half, North Carolina spurted ahead and iced the game at the foul line, as Marcus Paige and Justin Jackson combined to make 10-of-10 free throws in the final two minutes of play. After getting handled on the boards by the Wolfpack, the Tar Heels were instead dominant on the glass against Miami, grabbing 14 more total rebounds than the Hurricanes. The win keeps North Carolina in the hunt for a top-four league finish and the ACC Tournament two-day bye that comes with that distinction.

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Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume VI

Posted by Brad Jenkins on February 27th, 2015

This is the latest edition of a weekly look at the current ACC standings and corresponding team performances, focusing on the teams that are playing better or worse than their records might indicate. We will also delve into some advanced metrics to find a few interesting team or player stats and trends. Finally, we will forecast how the final standings may look, and what that means for ACC schools’ postseason aspirations.

Note: All numbers are current for games played through Wednesday, February 25.

Current StandingsACC Stand - Feb26N.C. State and Pittsburgh continue to surge in the standings, with both schools winning twice in the last week. The Wolfpack in particular have been impressive lately, and Tuesday night’s rare win in Chapel Hill has their faithful feeling much better about making the Big Dance. In fact, based on points per possession margin (PPM) in conference play, Mark Gottfried’s squad has performed every bit as well as any ACC team other than Virginia and Duke. Speaking of the Cavaliers, what they are doing defensively continues to amaze. After holding Wake Forest to just 34 points on Wednesday night in Winston-Salem, Tony Bennett’s guys have practically assured themselves of finishing ACC play with the best defensive points per possession mark in recent conference history — the advanced stats era began in the 2001-02 season. And it will come as no surprise that the existing record for defensive efficiency performance was achieved by last year’s Virginia team — a group that held ACC opponents to a chilly 0.91 points per possession.

There are no match-ups involving two of the ACC’s five elite teams on the schedule this weekend, but there are some interesting games to observe as teams fight for postseason seeding. Jim Boeheim brings Syracuse to Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium (Saturday @ 7:00 PM ET – ESPN) in hopes that this game doesn’t end in a similar fashion to last year’s trip to Durham, which featured Boeheim’s dramatic ejection in the closing moments (and spawned a fun meme). In the only other game involving two teams with winning ACC records, North Carolina travels to Miami (Saturday @ 2:00 PM ET – CBS) in another crucial game for the Hurricanes and their NCAA Tourney hopes. There are also a couple of important games for a pair of hot ACC teams that take to the road for meetings with league bottom-dwellers, as N.C. State visits Boston College (Saturday @ Noon ET – RSN) and Pittsburgh travels to Wake Forest (Sunday @ 6:30 PM ET – ESPNU). Neither the Wolfpack nor the Panthers can afford a bad loss on their resumes as the season winds down.

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The Pros and Cons For Clemson’s Brad Brownell

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 26th, 2015

Brad Brownell is now in his fifth season at the helm of Clemson’s basketball program, and it appears that this will be the fourth consecutive year under his direction that the Tigers will fail to make the NCAA Tournament. For an ACC coach, a four-year hiatus from the Big Dance typically inspires discussion of the hot seat, so this is a good time to take stock in Brownell’s program and project if he will still be coaching there next season. To help with the analysis we have put together some key data from Clemson’s last eight seasons — including Brownell’s five years and former coach Oliver Purnell’s three years before him. Purnell, now at DePaul, was the head coach at Clemson for seven seasons and exceeded 20 wins in each of his last four years, including one-and-done NCAA Tournament appearances during the last three. Brownell reached the Dance in his first year at Clemson and even won an NCAA Tourney game when he got there (something Purnell could not do), but the program has only had one 20-win season since.

Clemson 8yrTrend

Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons with Brownell’s tenure at Clemson.

Positives

  • Expectations. For the most part Brownell’s squads have met or exceeded expectations in comparison with preseason ACC media predictions. The lone exception was in 2012-13, when Clemson lost 10 of 11 games to close the year and finished with a 13-18 (5-14 ACC) record. The Tigers’ best result versus preseason expectations came the following year when K.J. McDaniels led the Tigers to a surprising 23-win season that included a trip to the NIT semifinals.
  • Off-Court Behavior. Off the court, Brownell and his players have performed well: The coach seems to have an easygoing and cooperative relationship with both fans and media, and there have been no major off-the-floor issues with players or staff with respect to rules compliance. His players are also performing well in the classroom – nine of Brownell’s 10 seniors have graduated.

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ACC Weekend Review: 02.23.15 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 23rd, 2015

With no match-ups between the ACC’s elite teams this weekend, the focus instead was on two important road contests for teams trying to play their way into the NCAA Tournament. Miami let a big lead slip away to lose at Louisville on the game’s final possession, and Pittsburgh improved its resume in completing a season sweep of Syracuse. Around the rest of the league, both Duke and North Carolina were able to put Wednesday’s emotionally draining overtime epic behind them and score comfortable home wins over Clemson and Georgia Tech, respectively. The Blue Devils played without star center Jahlil Okafor, who is still nursing an ankle injury suffered in that win last Wednesday. At the start of North Carolina’s game, Roy Williams paid homage to Dean Smith by running Smith’s famed Four Corners offense on the Heels’ first possession. In other weekend action, Virginia outlasted Florida State in a defensive struggle; Notre Dame cruised to victory at Boston College; and N.C. State took care of business by beating Virginia Tech in Raleigh. Here are some of the other highlights from the ACC’s weekend action.

Pittsburgh's Chris Jones came off the bench to score 19 as the Panthers keep their NCAA Tourney hopes alive. (Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports)

Pittsburgh’s Chris Jones came off the bench to score 19 as the Panthers keep their NCAA Tourney hopes alive.
(Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports)

  • Best Win: Pittsburgh plugged a gaping hole in its NCAA Tournament resume by getting its first road win of the season versus an RPI top-100 team at Syracuse. The Panthers’ win at the Carrier Dome featured yet another productive offensive performance by Jamie Dixon’s squad against the vaunted Syracuse zone. Pittsburgh scored 1.18 points per possession on Saturday after posting 1.22 in its earlier win over the Orange, giving the Panthers the two highest totals allowed by Jim Boeheim’s squad all year long. A look at previous meetings over recent years suggests that Dixon may have cracked the zone’s code. In the teams’ last 10 meetings dating back seven years, Pittsburgh has averaged 1.08 points per possession against a Syracuse defense that annually finishes among the nation’s best. If they haven’t already done so, perhaps ACC coaches around the league should study and emulate that strategy (easier said than done).

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Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume V

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 20th, 2015

This is the latest edition of a weekly look at the current ACC standings and corresponding team performances, focusing on the teams that are playing better or worse than their records might indicate. We will also delve into some advanced metrics to find a few interesting team or player stats and trends. Finally, we will forecast how the final standings may look, and what that means for ACC schools’ postseason aspirations.

Note: All numbers are current for games played through Wednesday, February 18.

Current Standings

ACCStandings2.19

With three weekends of conference play remaining, things are now mostly as they should be in the standings with respect to matching points per possession margin (PPM) with actual wins and losses. Virginia maintains a clear lead in both the standings and in PPM, and Duke can lay claim to being the second best team, with a clear PPM edge over Notre Dame. Last week we showed how the Irish have achieved their impressive 11-3 record by performing so well in close games, noting that Georgia Tech is the exact opposite reflection of Notre Dame in both PPM and actual record. It’s seems fitting then that those two teams have squared off twice already, and each game ended with a close Irish victory. Another interesting situation involves two teams fighting for NCAA Tournament consideration, N.C. State and Pittsburgh. Each school picked up a nice win over a ranked opponent last weekend but both the Wolfpack and the Panthers remain a game below .500 in the standings. That’s where the similarities end, though, as N.C. State has been the far better team in possession-based performance, with Pittsburgh’s defense surprisingly ranked as the league’s worst.

There are once again no match-ups involving two of the ACC’s five elite teams on the schedule this weekend. In the only game involving two teams with winning conference records, Louisville travels to Miami (Saturday @ 2:00 PM ET – ESPN) in a crucial game for the Hurricanes and their NCAA Tourney hopes. There are also a couple of games that feature an ACC heavyweight hosting a school that’s looking to get over the .500 mark, as Clemson visits Duke (Saturday @ 4:00 PM ET – ESPN), and Virginia entertains Florida State (Sunday @ 6:30 PM ET – ESPNU). In another important contest, Pittsburgh needs to win at Syracuse (Saturday @ Noon ET – ACCN) to keep any hope alive of making the Dance.

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ACC Weekend Review: 02.16.15 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 16th, 2015

The big story of the weekend was that two middle-of-the-pack ACC teams got huge resume-building wins. Pittsburgh dominated North Carolina at the Petersen Events Center Saturday afternoon, and N.C. State picked up a surprising road win at Louisville later that same day. Conference leader Virginia had to hang on to edge Wake Forest by a single point in Charlottesville, and Duke rallied from a double-figure first half deficit to win at Syracuse. In other weekend action, Clemson easily handled visiting Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech lost yet another heart-breaker, this time at home to Florida State. There was only one game scheduled on Sunday, but Miami’s game at Boston College had to be postponed until today. Here are some of the other highlights from the ACC’s weekend action.

Michael Gbinjie had a career-high 27 points against his former team. (Dennis Nett/Syracuse.com)

Michael Gbinjie had a career-high 27 points against his former team.
(Dennis Nett/Syracuse.com)

  • Best Win: It’s hard to say for sure, but N.C. State’s win over Louisville in the KFC Yum! Center could be more important than its earlier home win over rival Duke. While its fans obviously wouldn’t trade the two wins, this victory filled a major hole in N.C. State’s postseason resume. The victory proved that the Wolfpack can win on the road against high level competition, and they did it with a solid all-around performance: outscoring Louisville in the paint (32-16), only committing eight turnovers and holding stars Montrezl Harrell and Terry Rozier to a combined 14 points and 3-of-15 shooting. Anthony Barber led the way for the Pack with 21 points, his third 20-plus scoring game in the team’s last four outings.
  • Worst Loss: It’s been an emotional seven days for North Carolina’s basketball program, starting with last weekend’s passing of legendary former head coach Dean Smith. With all the attention that came with that situation it’s certainly understandable that the Tar Heels were a little flat on Saturday. But some of the problems on display at Pittsburgh over the weekend are not one-game issues. North Carolina’s defensive points per possession mark in ACC play is now up to 1.06, which is surprising considering that the Tar Heels returned much of last year’s group that finished at a very good 1.01 PPP. Even more disturbing is that opponents have scored at an way-too-easy 1.15 PPP rate over the last five games.

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Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume IV

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 13th, 2015

This is the latest edition of a weekly look at the current ACC standings and corresponding team performances, focusing on the teams that are playing better or worse than their records might indicate. We will also delve into some advanced metrics to find a few interesting team or player stats and trends. Finally, we will forecast how the final standings may look, and what that means for ACC schools’ postseason aspirations.

Note: All numbers are current for games played through Wednesday, February 11.

Current Standings

ACCStandings2.12

While Virginia maintains a clear lead in both the standings, and in points per possession margin (PPM), there was some shuffling right behind the Cavaliers last week. Almost entirely due to Duke’s 30-point rout of Notre Dame, the Blue Devils jumped to the top of the second tier and the Irish fell to such an extent that they now are closer to N.C. State and Syracuse than they are to the top four schools. We will examine in more detail below just how Notre Dame has achieved such a lofty 10-3 record despite a rather pedestrian PPM. Of course, Georgia Tech is the polar opposite of the Irish, as the Yellow Jackets own a better PPM than four teams above them in the standings.

Unlike the last few weeks, there are no match-ups involving two of the ACC’s five elite teams on the schedule this weekend. But we still have a few games of high interest on Saturday, led by Duke’s visit to Syracuse (6:00 PM ET – ESPN), probably viewed by the Orange as this season’s Super Bowl with no postseason play on the horizon. There are also two games featuring top tier schools against teams that are desperate for signature wins, as North Carolina makes its first ACC trip to Pittsburgh (Noon ET – ACCN) and N.C. State travels to Louisville (4:00 PM ET – ESPN). Those two games are absolutely crucial for the shaky NCAA hopes of the Panthers and the Wolfpack.

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