Predicting a Breakout Star From Each Power Conference

Posted by Ryan O'Neil on October 19th, 2018

In every Power 6 conference, there’s an established hierarchy in which the league’s most notable teams comfortably reside. In the ACC, there’s Duke, UNC, and Virginia. The Big East championship has in recent years gone through the Villanova Wildcats. In the Big Ten, Michigan State, Michigan, and Purdue have controlled the conference since former Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan’s retirement a few years back. Kansas has won the Big 12 regular season championship 14 years in a row. Arizona, Oregon, and UCLA have had a relative stranglehold on the Pac-12 for seemingly decades. In the SEC, Kentucky has been without question the league’s best team since John Calipari arrived in Lexington. But with the new season comes the possibility that the traditional powers may be toppled.  In this article, I’m going to identify one player from every power conference league who has the ability to lead his team to a surprise finish in the standings.  There’s just one rule — he can’t be a freshman.

ACC

Ky Bowman (USA Today Images)

  • Ky Bowman, Boston College. Boston College’s junior point guard often looked like the Eagles’ best player last season, even though he played in the same backcourt as eventual lottery pick Jerome Robinson. Bowman, an under-recruited prospect from North Carolina, is a great athlete whose best game last year included 30 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists against Duke. He’s dynamic in the pick and roll, and he has the ability to score at all three levels of the floor. An athlete that makes NBA scouts salivate, Bowman is especially nasty in transition. If he can become more consistent in his approach this season, Boston College is going to surprise some teams in the ACC.

Big East

  • Shamorie Ponds, St. John’s. Ponds was a first-team Big East performer last season for St. John’s after dropping at least 30 points on six separate occasions. Possibly no game better demonstrated his scoring ability than when he put up a whopping 44 points on a 16-of-23 shooting performance against Marquette. The arrival of Mustapha Heron from Auburn this season should take some of the offensive pressure off of Ponds by allowing him more space to operate. The Red Storm were a thorn in the side of several ranked teams last season, a trait that should become only more prominent with a more mature Ponds and Heron in the backcourt.

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Way Too Early 2018-19 ACC Rankings

Posted by Mick McDonald on April 6th, 2018

This season may have just wrapped up, but we are always looking forward to next season. Here’s a much too early look at how the ACC may shake out in 2018-19.

The Four Kill4s Arrive in Durham With Much Fanfare

  1. Duke. We’ll see if Gary Trent returns, but either way, it’s another loaded freshman class that will make the Blue Devils the most talented team in college basketball. RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish and Zion Williamson are the top three players in the class of 2018 and will be joined by the top-rated point guard, Tre Jones.
  2. Virginia. The Cavaliers lose Devon Hall and Isaiah Wilkins but return their starting backcourt of Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy, plus ACC Sixth Man of the Year De’Andre Hunter. Look for Mamadi Diakite to continue a long line of athletic bigs who flourish in Tony Bennett’s system.
  3. North Carolina. Joel Berry and Theo Pinson are gone, but the Tar Heels return Luke Maye in addition to Cameron Johnson and Kenny Williams. Roy Williams is also bringing in his best recruiting class in years, with point guard Coby White and wing Nassir Little set to arrive. The improvement of sophomore big men Garrison Brooks, Sterling Manley and Brandon Huffman will be important to watch.
  4. Virginia Tech. Buzz Williams loses just Justin Bibbs and Devon Wilson from this year’s squad, and he will return a senior-laden backcourt with Ahmed Hill and potential All-ACC player Justin Robinson. Chris Clarke and Kerry Blackshear, Jr. are versatile bigs who can hit shots from the outside. Last year’s freshmen class also has the potential to break out, especially Nickeil Alexander-Walker. Read the rest of this entry »
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Inside the ACC Numbers: Final Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 6th, 2018

Here is the latest edition of our weekly view at the current ACC standings with a focus on which teams are playing better or worse than their conference records may indicate. We will also delve into some advanced metrics to share a few interesting notes on teams, statistics, and trends around the conference. This week we will compare how each ACC squad performed in its last nine league games, with an eye on the teams that might excel in the ACC Tournament in Brooklyn. 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 3.

Current Standings

The final points per possession margin (PPM) figures suggest that there are a pair of ACC teams (Virginia and Duke) that are clearly superior to the rest of the league, and one squad (Pittsburgh) that is exceptionally worse. There is also a lot of parity in the middle of the league this season, with six schools posting +/- 0.01 in PPM. Among that group, Miami at 11-7 stands out as the most fortunate. By winning their last four games by three points or fewer — and thanks to the league’s tie-breaking procedures — the Hurricanes landed the #3 seed in Brooklyn this week. They accomplished this feat despite only outscoring their ACC foes by a total of nine points all season long. It’s also interesting to consider the relative strength of schedule among the 15 league members. Note that there is some bias built into the standings — Virginia and Duke only met once and can’t play themselves, partially explaining why they have the ACC’s two weakest schedules. But North Carolina clearly played a much tougher slate, with two games each against three of the top five seeds in this week’s tournament (Duke, Clemson and NC State). Even that gauntlet, though, doesn’t match what Buzz Williams‘ crew at Virginia Tech faced this year — the Hokies logged two meetings with each of the top three seeds in Brooklyn (Virginia, Duke and Miami). Additionally, hats off to Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers for submitting the ACC’s best defense for the fourth time in five years, while North Carolina finished with the league’s top offense for the second straight year.

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ACC Weekend Review: 03.05.18 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 5th, 2018

It was a great Saturday to be an ACC player in his final appearance in front of the home crowd, as all seven home teams were victorious this weekend. In the headline match-up in Durham, Duke overcame a double-figure deficit to avenge an earlier loss to North Carolina. Surging Miami won its fourth consecutive game — all by three points or fewer — by edging Virginia Tech, leaving the Hurricanes as the #3 seed in the upcoming ACC Tournament. Regular season champion Virginia held off a Notre Dame squad that is suddenly more dangerous with a healthy Bonzie Colson back in the lineup. In other action, Syracuse kept its NCAA at-large hopes alive with a win over Clemson, Florida State took down Boston College, and NC State topped Louisville. Here are the highlights from this weekend’s action around the ACC.

Grayson Allen and Coach K celebrate Duke’s win over rival North Carolina in Allen’s last game in Cameron Indoor Stadium. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)

  • Best Win: It was a tale of two halves for Duke in its 74-64 rivalry win over North Carolina. The Blue Devils trailed by 10 points at the break following an ice-cold shooting start — Duke sank only one of 10 shots from deep and 4-of-14 from the free throw line. But the offense picked up in the second half, as Duke scored 49 points and made eight threes on 15 attempts. Much has been made of Mike Krzyzewski’s decision to go zone, and the Blue Devils’ defense continues to improve as a result (now ranked 10th in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency ratings). North Carolina came into the game having scored at least 1.20 points per possession in its last seven outings, but the Tar Heels only managed 0.91 points per possession on Saturday evening. It didn’t help that star Joel Berry had an off night — the senior finished with just six points in going 0-of-7 from distance. With the win, Duke earned the #2 seed in the upcoming ACC Tournament, while the Tar Heels fell all the way to the #6 seed position. Given that the Tar Heels are ranked seventh nationally in KenPom, we are looking at a very deep ACC this postseason.

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Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume VII

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 1st, 2018

Here is the latest edition of our weekly view at the current ACC standings with a focus on which teams are playing better or worse than their conference records may indicate. We will also delve into some advanced metrics to share a few interesting notes on teams, statistics, and trends around the conference. This week we will compare usage rate with offensive efficiency for the league’s top scorers, with an eye on who should be named to this season’s All-ACC First Team. Finally, we will forecast how the final ACC standings may look given current efficiency margins and what that may mean for teams’ ultimate postseason aspirations.

Note: All numbers are current for games played through Tuesday, February 27.

Current Standings

With the regular season race already wrapped up for Virginia, the attention now leads to the group of seven teams immediately behind the Cavaliers in the standings, all with five to seven losses. Incredibly, there’s a distinct possibility that the ACC ends up with a four-way tie for second place, provided that Clemson and NC State both win out and North Carolina beats Duke on Saturday night. When comparing records with points per possession margin (PPM) it’s easy to see how important performance in close games can be. Other than Virginia, Duke (0-2 in one-possession games) and North Carolina (1-3) have proven to be notch above the rest of the league based on PPM performance, but neither was able to separate itself from the rest of the pack this season. In contrast, Virginia Tech (3-0) and N.C. State (2-0) have ACC records that are superior to the merely average PPM numbers each has posted.

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ACC Conversation: End of Season Awards

Posted by Brad Jenkins, Matt Auerback, Mick McDonald on February 28th, 2018

Rush the Court’s ACC microsite writers Brad Jenkins, Matt Auerbach and Mick McDonald chatted this week  about who they think should take home All-ACC Honors.

Duke’s Marvin Bagley Will Assuredly Find Himself on the All-ACC Team (USA Today Images)

Brad Jenkins: Last week we focused on teams. This week, we can discuss individuals. How do you guys feel the All-ACC first team will shake out? Mick, why don’t you go first.

Mick McDonald: Sure thing. In terms of how I *think* it’ll shake out, I’d be pretty surprised if it wasn’t Marvin Bagley III, Luke Maye, Jerome Robinson, Tyus Battle and Kyle Guy. Personally, I’m not sure I’d have Battle there and I would definitely have Devon Hall over Guy.

Matt Auerbach: From my perspective, I totally agree with Mick that the top three are locked in, as Bagley, Maye and Robinson’s individual prowess has far exceeded the rest of the conference. I think Battle has a ton of empty calories in his 19 PPG, so I’d opt for Joel Berry II in his stead. As for the conference champion’s representative, I’m with Mick. It may be Guy over Hall, but that is wrong. For me, Hall is the glue that holds the whole thing together on both ends of the floor.

Mick McDonald: Hall gets no love because he only averages about 12 PPG, but he has been insanely good. He ranks second in the ACC in Offensive Rating and fourth in Defensive Rating.  Also, he’s second behind Bagley in Win Shares. It would be insane to put Guy over him because he averages 2-3 more points per game.

Brad Jenkins: I think the fascinating thing to watch will be how the voters handle the Virginia players. They absolutely should get a guy on the first team, and I agree it should be Hall. The only statistic in which Guy is better is scoring, and that’s because he takes five more shots a game.

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ACC Weekend Review: 02.26.18 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 26th, 2018

Several ACC teams enhanced or maintained their NCAA Tournament chances with important victories over the weekend. Slumping Louisville picked up a crucial road win over Virginia Tech on Saturday, and Miami dodged a bullet by rallying to edge Boston College at home. On Sunday night, NC State continued its rise up the standings by blasting Florida State in Raleigh. In other action, Virginia clinched first place in the ACC regular season race — for the third time in five seasons — by dominating Pittsburgh. Also, Duke welcomed Marvin Bagley III back to the lineup and handled Syracuse in a slugfest in Durham. Here are the highlights from this weekend’s action around the ACC.

David Padgett was rewarded for his decision to put Dwayne Sutton (#24) in the starting lineup as Louisville gained a big win at Virginia Tech on Saturday.
(Michael Thomas Shroyer/USA TODAY Sports)

  • Best Win: It’s been a rough February for Louisville, both on and off the court. The Cardinals entered the weekend having lost four of their last six games, and the NCAA recently denied the school’s appeal of punishments handed down in the wake of the school’s stripper scandal. Nevertheless, David Padgett’s team got off the mat to score a much-needed 75-68 win in Blacksburg. Louisville dominated the offensive boards to the tune of a 39.4 percent offensive rebounding rate, and got hot from deep down the stretch by sinking six consecutive threes near the end of the game. There’s something about the Hokies that brings out the best in Louisville’s shooters. In two wins over Virginia Tech this year, the Cardinals have gone 25-of-50 from behind the arc. More importantly, Louisville got its third road win over a KenPom top-40 team and a nice boost to its NCAA Tournament resume.

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ACC Weekend Preview: February 24-25

Posted by Mick McDonald on February 24th, 2018

With just two regular season weekends remaining in ACC play, there is still much to be determined. Teams are battling to finish among the top four and receive the corresponding double-bye in the ACC Tournament, and there are a handful of bubble teams that need wins to boost their resumes. (All rankings via KenPom.)

Saturday, February 24

Louisville Might be in Trouble (USA Today Images)

  • Louisville (#38) at Virginia Tech (#28). This is an absolutely monster game for David Padgett‘s Cardinals. Louisville has exactly one win — at Florida State — worth bragging about, and if the season ended today, the Cardinals would be headed to the NIT. They had big chances to add important wins in their past two games, but Louisville responded with one of their worst defensive performances of the year (122.4 Defensive Rating against North Carolina) and one of their worst offensive performances of the year (77.8 Offensive Rating against Duke). In their 94-86 victory against Virginia Tech earlier this year, the Cardinals posted a (non-Pitt) season-high effective field goal conversion rate of 63.6 percent. If this team wants to make the NCAA Tournament, it will need similar offensive performances down the stretch, beginning this weekend in Blacksburg.
  • Boston College (#82) at Miami (#40). Boston College is much improved in Jim Christian’s fourth year at the helm, and much of that improvement is from the absolutely incredible year junior guard Jerome Robinson is having in Chestnut Hill. Robinson, presumably a unanimous First Team All-ACC selection next month, is the second-leading scorer in the league (20.5 PPG). He’s been even better in ACC games, averaging 24.7 points per game and putting up a 123.4 Offensive Rating. Most importantly, Robinson and running mate Ky Bowman have made Eagles basketball fun to watch. If both return next year, this team will be in the 2019 NCAA Tournament.

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Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume VI

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 22nd, 2018

Here is the latest edition of our weekly view at the current ACC standings with a focus on which teams are playing better or worse than their conference records may indicate. We will also delve into some advanced metrics to share a few interesting notes on teams, statistics, and trends around the conference. This week we will look at the how ACC teams have performed in the nail-biter games — conference games decided by one or two possessions. Finally, we will forecast how the final ACC standings may look given current efficiency margins and what that may mean for teams’ ultimate postseason aspirations.

Note: All numbers are current for games played through Tuesday, February 20.

Current Standings

With very few exceptions, the standings to date correspond well with each team’s points per possession margin (PPM). Notre Dame is the only school with a losing conference record that doesn’t also have a negative PPM — mostly because of the Irish’s 30-point thumping of N.C. State in early January. Without that abnormal game included in the data, Notre Dame would have logged a -0.03 PPM, which is more in line with its record. Speaking of the Wolfpack, they join Virginia Tech as the only two ACC squads with winning records despite a negative PPM. In our special statistical focus of the week below, we will explain why that is the case.

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ACC Weekend Review: 02.20.18 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 20th, 2018

This weekend it was as if traveling ACC squads were on a Disney vacation with six road teams coming out on top. Before Saturday’s action, ACC teams had won 64 percent of their home games this year, but only hapless Pittsburgh (at Florida State) failed to win away from home this weekend. Among the successful road warriors, Duke beat Clemson in a battle for second place in the league, North Carolina continued its winning ways by rolling past Louisville, and Syracuse got back in the bubble conversation by upsetting Miami. In other action, Notre Dame got a superb game from Matt Ferrell to beat Boston College before dropping a game to Miami, and surging NC State handled Wake Forest. Here are the highlights from this weekend’s action around the ACC.

Gabe DeVoe and his teammates struggled to score against Duke’s zone defense in the Tigers’ home loss Sunday afternoon. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)

  • Best Win: Duke used its improving defense to pick up a big 66-57 win in Littlejohn Coliseum on Sunday. With each team missing a key player — Marvin Bagley III (Duke) and Shelton Mitchell (Clemson) — the weekend’s marquee ACC contest turned into a low-possession slugfest. After trailing for most of the second half, the Tigers reeled off 10 consecutive points to tie the game before Duke answered with the game’s final nine points. Duke has now won three straight games without Bagley in the lineup as Grayson Allen (19 points) has played much better, but the biggest difference for the Blue Devils lately has been on the defensive end. Playing a zone almost exclusively, Duke held Clemson to just 24.2 percent shooting in the second half and has now held 10 of its last 12 opponents under 1.0 point per possession.

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