2013-14 ACC Season Review – Part II

Posted by Brad Jenkins on April 10th, 2014

Now that the 2013-14 season is all over, let’s take a look back at how each ACC team performed. We will do so in three parts, dividing the league into groups of five teams based on ACC Tournament seeding. For each school, we’ll compare its actual season results with preseason expectations, and point out the surprises in each case — both the pleasant and unpleasant. Finally, we will take a quick peak at the short- and long-term prospects for each program. In Part II today, we’ll look at the middle-of-the-pack, teams that finished #6 through #10 in the league standings. This includes the team that overachieved the most compared to expectations, and one that was disappointing in its last season in the league.

6) Clemson (23-13, 10-8 ACC) – NIT (L: Semi-Finals)

Clemson is Off to Surprising ACC Start Led by K.J. McDaniels. (Photo: Ken Ruinard)

If Clemson’s K.J. McDaniels returns next year, the Tigers may contend for an upper level ACC finish.
(Photo: Ken Ruinard)

Clemson came in to this season with low expectations, picked to finish #14 in the ACC media’s preseason poll. But led by all-ACC first teamer K.J. McDaniels, the Tigers’ came within a whisker of making the NCAA Tournament. Only an extremely weak non-conference schedule tarnished their resume. Of course when Brad Brownell set that schedule up, he was probably more concerned with building a young team’s confidence heading into a stronger ACC with the additions of Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame.

  • They were who we thought they were. During his four years at Clemson, Brownell’s squads have been much better defensively than offensively. This year was a perfect example with the Tigers finishing fifth in the league in defensive efficiency and #13 in offensive efficiency.
  • We didn’t see this coming. In his junior year, McDaniels exploded into a star on both ends of the court. He accomplished the rare feat of dramatically improving his offensive efficiency (ORtg – 111.4) while also increasing his usage (28.6%). As a sophomore, those numbers were 102.4 and 23.0, respectively. In addition, McDaniels was voted the ACC Defensive Player of the Year.
  • What the future holds. If McDaniels returns for his senior year, the Tigers will return basically intact and be expected to compete for a high finish in the ACC. If McDaniels enters the NBA Draft instead, Clemson will have even a harder time scoring than they usually do. For long-term success, Clemson must recruit more talented offensive players. It will also be interesting to see if Brownell will look to toughen up that non-conference slate next year. Perhaps McDaniels’ decision will impact that too.

7-Tied) N.C. State (22-14, 9-9 ACC) – NCAA (L: 2nd Round)

As often happens with Mark Gottfried teams, N.C. State played better than expected after losing five of their top six players from the prior year. Of course, that one returnee, T.J. Warren, turned out to be pretty darn good. Actually, Warren had a tremendous season and carried the Wolfpack all the way to a surprising NCAA Tournament bid. After a First Four win over Xavier in Dayton, N.C. State was looking good against #5 seed St. Louis before a monumental collapse brought the Wolfpack’s season to a screeching halt.

  • They were who we thought they were. With a team as young as this year’s Wolfpack, ups and downs were going to be expected. That was reflected in some extreme performances. N.C. State lost six home games during the season, but posted four ACC road wins and also beat a good Tennessee squad in Knoxville. Sometimes, the inconsistent play showed up within the span of a single game, such as blown late leads at Syracuse, versus North Carolina at home, and of course against St. Louis. Read the rest of this entry »
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ACC in the NIT: Florida State and Clemson Advancing With Solid Backcourt Play

Posted by Brad Jenkins on April 1st, 2014

The 2013-14 NCAA Tournament will not be something that ACC fans will remember fondly, with only Virginia among the 16 teams playing during the second weekend, and no ACC team advancing to the Elite Eight or beyond. But at least the league has two teams in the NIT Final Four, right? OK, that’s not something that the historically great ACC would normally celebrate, but sometimes you just need to take what you can get. Tonight at New York’s Madison Square Garden, Clemson (23-13) will take on SMU (27-9) at 7:00 PM ET, followed by Florida State (23-13) vs. Minnesota (23-14). The winners will meet for the NIT Championship on Thursday night, giving the ACC a pretty good chance to bring home at least one postseason trophy this season.

Clemson is getting solid backcourt play from Damarcus Harrison. (Photo: Rex Brown/IPTAY Media)

Clemson is getting improved backcourt play from Damarcus Harrison.
(Photo: Rex Brown/IPTAY Media)

Outside of first team all-ACC player K.J. McDaniels, Clemson has struggled offensively for much of this season. It’s no secret that Brad Brownell has been looking for some consistent scoring from just about anybody, but particularly from the perimeter. The good news is that the Tigers are finally getting some help for McDaniels in the form of their two wings. Junior Damarcus Harrison and sophomore Jordan Roper have stepped up their scoring during Clemson’s three-game NIT run. The two have combined to average 24 points per game on their way to New York, after collectively averaging only 14 points per game in the team’s previous 32 games this season. That 10-points per game improvement may not sound dramatic, but to a team that struggles scoring, it’s a huge boost. Harrison was the key to Clemson’s NIT quarterfinal win over Belmont last week, scoring 14 of his 16 points in the second half as the Tigers rallied from a late five-point deficit to win the game. Including Clemson’s one-point loss to Duke in the ACC Tournament, Roper has now scored in double figures in four straight games, and has been perfect on all 11 of his free throw attempts during that span.

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NIT Quarterfinal Preview: How Three O26 Schools Can Reach Madison Square Garden

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 25th, 2014

With Southern Miss, Louisiana Tech and Belmont all playing in the NIT Quarterfinals tonight and tomorrow, let’s examine what it will take for each O26 hopeful to reach the Big Apple next week.

Southern Miss

Southern Miss will give Minnesota all it can handle in The Barn tonight. (RYAN MOORE — AP)

Southern Miss will give Minnesota all it can handle in The Barn tonight. (RYAN MOORE — AP)

  • Opponent: Minnesota
  • TV: 9:00 PM ET, ESPN, Tuesday (Minneapolis, MN)
  • How they got here:  The Golden Eagles hosted Toledo in the First Round, handling the Rockets 66-59, before knocking off Missouri on the road by eight. In the two victories, they outrebounded their opponents by nine boards on the offensive glass.
  • Why they win: Southern Miss did not win 29 games this season by mistake. This team is deep, physical, experienced and should give Minnesota all it can handle in The Barn tonight. The Golden Eagles force opposing offenses into a ton of mishaps – they boast the ninth best turnover rate in the country – by trapping and extending their zone pressure in the half-court to give ball-handlers all kinds of trouble. The Gophers are wholly average when it comes to taking care of the rock, ranking 151st in the country in offensive turnover rate. They might struggle against Donnie Tyndall’s unique, aggressive zone look. Likewise, Southern Miss is an excellent offensive rebounding club (despite its undersized frontcourt) that should be able to garner second chance offensive opportunities against their good-but-not-great defensive rebounding foe. Standing just 6’5”, athletic guard-forward Michael Craig is excellent on the boards.
  • Why they lose: For as many turnovers as they force, Tyndall’s club is just as bad when it comes to coughing up the ball. It was near the bottom of Conference USA in turnover percentage this year, which could spell trouble against the Gophers: Like his father, Minnesota coach Richard Pitino applies pressure and gets after teams defensively. Four of Southern Miss’ six losses this season were to opponents ranked in the top-50 in defensive turnover rate, including Louisville, which smacked the Golden Eagles by 31 back in November. Additionally, this is a true road game – never easy – against a squad that has proven capable of getting hot from behind the arc (shooting 11-of-19 from deep vs. Iowa in February). That very well might happen against USM’s zone look.
  • Why you should watch: This game has some serious intrigue. Aside from the game itself – which should be a tight one – former Golden Gopher Chip Armelin is now a Golden Eagle after transferring to Southern Miss following the 2012 season. Meanwhile, Minnesota point guard Deandre Mathieu began his career playing for Tyndall at Morehead State, before transferring to Hattiesburg after the head coach left.

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Rushed Reactions: #7 Duke 63, Clemson 62

Posted by Matt Patton on March 15th, 2014

rushedreactions

Three Key Takeaways.

Brad Brownell showed us he knows a thing or two about coaching this season.

Brad Brownell showed us he knows a thing or two about coaching this season.

  1. Don’t trust Duke in the NCAA Tournament. This is admittedly a harsh assessment, and the Blue Devils certainly deserve to be listed among the contenders for the title. When they’re hot, they’re borderline unbeatable. And they have a deep rotation of skilled offensive players. But their defense has serious issues. Duke gave up points on nine straight possessions after going up by 13 points in the second half. They scored some too, so it didn’t look like a dominant Clemson run by any means, but what should have been the time Duke put the Tigers away became the time Clemson held on to challenge for the game. Clemson’s offense is mediocre. Those kinds of runs can’t happen, but they’re beginning to seem like standard second half occurrences with this Duke team.
  2. On the other hand, Duke rebounded really, really well. Unlike defense, many concerns people have with Duke don’t make a lot of sense. This is a very good rebounding team, especially when shots aren’t falling like on Friday night. Amile Jefferson is both a capable offensive player — benefitting from not being the focal point of opposing defenses — and a force on the glass. His and Jabari Parker‘s post games mean Duke has no trouble scoring down low. Jefferson has grown a lot over the course of this season. Remember, during the first half of this season, Josh Hairston was playing comparable minutes to Jefferson (and Marshall Plumlee wasn’t playing at all). As a side note, Quinn Cook’s development has flat-lined — for whatever reason he can’t find much consistency. Offensively, I think point guard play is Duke’s biggest concern going forward. Read the rest of this entry »
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Previewing Friday’s Quarterfinals at the ACC Tournament

Posted by Matt Patton & Brad Jenkins on March 14th, 2014

With Thursday essentially going chalk (other than ninth-seed Florida State topping eighth-seed Maryland), Friday is looking like a day of potentially awesome basketball.

Will Boris Bojanovsky Continue His Quest for the All-Tournament Team? (credit: SB Nation)

Will Boris Bojanovsky Continue His Quest for the All-Tournament Team? (credit: SB Nation)

#1 Virginia vs. #8 Florida State (12:00 ET)

While this looks like a game the Cavaliers should win, it may not come easy. Virginia is in the unusual position of being the hunted after earning its first top seed in the ACC Tournament in over 30 years. They beat Florida State by 12 in both meetings this year, but each of those was played back in January. The good news for Florida State is that they were able to match Virginia on the boards in both games, which few teams do. The bad news is that the Seminoles were dominated in turnover margin in each game, 16-to-6 in the first meeting and 18-to-9 in the second. To pull off the upset, Florida State cannot afford to give away so many possessions. As Seton Hall showed Thursday, it’s really tough to beat a team three times, and the Seminoles are looking for an invitation to the Big Dance.

Key playerIan Miller, Florida State. The Seminoles need Miller to play like he has the last few weeks, not like he did in the two games with the Cavaliers. Against Virginia, he totaled 15 points on 5-of-18 shooting and committed 11 turnovers. However, in his last eight games, Miller has averaged 16.6 points and made an impressive 23-of-46 three pointers.

#4 North Carolina vs. #5 Pittsburgh (2:00 ET)

This game would’ve been a lot easier to call a few days ago. Then North Carolina was riding a 12-game winning streak and Pittsburgh was hobbling its way to a fifth-place conference finish. Now? Not so fast. Pittsburgh looked like the efficient machine that wooed computers early in the season, dominating Wake Forest by 29-points. Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna looked healthy again. When the teams met during the regular season, the Tar Heels eked out the win thanks in large part to Zanna having a horrible game (2-11 from the field) while James Michael McAdoo and Marcus Paige had their way with the Panthers. The crowd will still heavily favor the Tar Heels (though I have no doubt NC State fans who come early will help out the Panther faithful), but this looks to be a tossup.

Key playerTalib Zanna, Pittsburgh. As mentioned above, Zanna was awful in Chapel Hill. That game he was still recovering from an ankle injury against Virginia. He needs to hold his own against the Tar Heel front line for Pittsburgh to have a chance. Over his last five games, Zanna is averaging over 15 points and nearly ten boards a game. That combined with better interior defense gives Pittsburgh a good shot at the upset.

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ACC Tournament Preview: Syracuse Over North Carolina For the Crown

Posted by Lathan Wells on March 12th, 2014

The 61st annual ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament will tip off Wednesday in Greensboro. This should be one of the more entertaining tournaments of recent years, as every team has something to play for from bottom to top. It’s startling that so many are dismissing Virginia, who just won their first outright ACC regular season championship in 33 years. Syracuse has been left for dead after once being projected to be the overall number one seed in the NCAA Tournament, losing four of their last six to close the regular season. Duke and North Carolina need late runs to continue to improve their seeding for the Big Dance. The lone likely bubble team in the conference, Pittsburgh, will seek to bolster its resume. Everyone else seeks to shock the world and win the whole thing to steal a tourney bid. Here is RTC’s ACC Tournament preview, with predicted champion included.

This year's ACC tournament field should be wide open.

This year’s ACC tournament field should be wide open.

The first round kicking off on Wednesday is a new wrinkle for a newly-enlarged conference, and there won’t be any big surprises there. Virginia Tech owns two wins (their only two conference wins) over Miami this year; that will change this time around. It’s very difficult for anyone to beat a team three times in the course of one season, and this isn’t a juggernaut squad by any means. Jim Larranaga’s team tops James Johnson’s. Maryland, fresh off of its stunning win over Virginia in the season’s final game, will keep their momentum rolling in knocking Wake Forest out on the first day. The Demon Deacons don’t win away from home, and that won’t change in Greensboro. Georgia Tech will continue the disastrous year that Boston College has endured by out muscling them inside with Daniel Miller and capping off the win with Trae Golden’s ace free-throw shooting.

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ACC Weekend Preview #10

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 7th, 2014

It’s the final weekend of conference play in the ACC, so let’s take a look at the match-ups from an advanced statistics perspective. All statistics used are for results in ACC conference games only along with team rankings (#1-#15) in each category. For each game we will show how the two teams compare in efficiency ratings and the four factors, offense versus defense. We will also look at interesting areas of particular strength and weakness that could hold the key to the outcomes of these games. All numbers are from Ken Pomeroy’s site and are current through games of March 5, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings (all times EST). This weekend features some important matchups that will determine seeding in next week’s ACC Tournament in Greensboro.

Saturday – North Carolina (23-7, 13-4 ACC) @ Duke (23-7, 12-5 ACC) – ESPN (9:00 PM)

Marcus Paige Clutch Play Has Been Key To North Carolina's Winning Streak. (Photo: Robert Willett/newsobserver.com)

Marcus Paige’s Clutch Play Has Been Key To North Carolina’s Winning Streak.
(Photo: Robert Willett/newsobserver.com)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#8) Duke 80-72 (#23) North Carolina

nc-duke

While neither of these teams have played their best basketball lately, North Carolina has managed to keep winning (12 straight) while Duke took a bad loss on Wednesday at Wake Forest. In that one Duke collapsed down the stretch, much like they did in earlier ACC road losses at Clemson and North Carolina. On the other hand, the Tar Heels have made enough plays to win three straight close games against teams with losing conference records. North Carolina’s improved offense has dipped lately, having its two worst offensive efficiency games during the winning streak in the last two contests. But the Tar Heel defense has remained solid, holding four of their last five opponents under 1.00 points per possession. Duke is mired in a team wide shooting slump which continued with a miserable 6-of-27 effort from three on Wednesday night. And unlike many Blue Devil teams of the past, the defense is not elite enough to overcome such shooting woes. Duke has been unbeaten at home since losing at the end of the 2012 season to North Carolina. If they want to stay unbeaten at home this year, the Blue Devils probably need to have a comfortable lead late. If it comes down to team toughness and resiliency, the Tar Heels may have the edge.

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The ACC’s Unknown Superstars: TJ Warren & KJ McDaniels

Posted by Chris Kehoe on February 28th, 2014

T.J. Warren and K.J. McDaniels are two of the best wings in college basketball and you’d never know it. Most of their lack of attention has to do with their respective teams’ success — N.C. State (17-11, 7-8 ACC) and Clemson (17-10, 8-7 ACC) — and the fact that the Wolfpack and the Tigers are on the outside of the bubble looking in. Both players have assumed huge responsibilities and increased roles this season, a necessary component for N.C. State after losing a huge contingent of talent and for a Clemson squad lacking star power.

Will he stay or will he go? Warren's season has Wolfpack fans hoping for more T.J.(Photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Will he stay or will he go? Warren’s season has Wolfpack fans hoping for more T.J. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

T.J. Warren has risen to the occasion, solidifying himself as a legitimate all-ACC candidate in leading the league in scoring at 23.8 PPG, five points per game higher than Duke’s Jabari Parker. While it was unreasonable to expect Warren to continue his otherworldly efficiency of last season when he shot 62.2 percent from the field and 51.9 percent from behind the line, he still is shooting very well from the field (52.3 percent from the field, 29.5 percent from three). He clearly is a massive piece to the Wolfpack offense and quite possibly the only thing keeping them afloat. While he is known for his scoring credentials, he is no slouch in the rebounding department either, collecting 7.0 caroms per contest for the Pack. Warren’s superb play has helped the Wolfpack outdo preseason expectations and explains why N.C. State has a great shot at a top-half conference finish.

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ACC Weekend Preview #9

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 28th, 2014

It’s the next to last weekend of conference play in the ACC, so let’s take a look at the match-ups from an advanced statistics perspective. All statistics used are for results in ACC conference games only along with team rankings (#1-#15) in each category. For each game we will show how the two teams compare in efficiency ratings and the four factors, offense versus defense. We will also look at interesting areas of particular strength and weakness that could hold the key to the outcomes of these games. All numbers are from Ken Pomeroy’s site and are current through games of February 26, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings (all times EST). This weekend features a battle for first place, with the winner likely headed to the ACC Tournament in Greensboro as the top seed.

Saturday – Syracuse (26-2, 13-2 ACC) @ Virginia (24-5, 15-1 ACC) – ESPN (4:00 PM)

Joe Harris and Virginia Hope To Lock Up ACC Regular Season Title. (Photo: VirginiaSports.com)

Joe Harris and Virginia Hope To Lock Up ACC Regular Season Title.
(VirginiaSports.com)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#4) Virginia 58-53 (#10) Syracuse

Syr-Va

This match-up will probably decide the ACC regular season title. Virginia could be the least publicized 15-1 major conference team ever. With Syracuse, Duke and North Carolina getting most of the national attention, the Cavaliers have methodically taken care of business and rolled through conference play. They also seem to be on the upswing, winning their last two games by over 20 points after three straight single-digit victories. Malcolm Brogdon continues to be a model of consistency. It’s almost unreal to look at his game-by-game scoring totals. Not only has he scored in double figures in every ACC game, but he has scored in the 12- to 17-point range in 14 of the 16 games. And in the other two contests, he had 11 once and — you guessed it — 18 in the other. The good news for Syracuse is that Jerami Grant is expected to play in the game. The sophomore missed the entire second half of Monday’s contest at Maryland with a lower back issue. In that game, the Orange won another nail-biter, bringing their record in close games (decided by five points or less) to a rather fortunate 6-1. For Syracuse to get Virginia in a close one, it better shoot much better than the team has lately. In the last four games, the Orange have averaged an extremely low effective field goal percentage (39.0). That doesn’t match up well with Virginia’s league-best defense.

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ACC Weekend Preview #8

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 21st, 2014

It’s another weekend of conference play in the ACC, so let’s take a look at the match-ups from an advanced statistics perspective. All statistics used are for results in ACC conference games only along with team rankings (#1-#15) in each category. For each game we will show how the two teams compare in efficiency ratings and the four factors, offense versus defense. We will also look at interesting areas of particular strength and weakness that could hold the key to the outcomes of these games. All numbers are from Ken Pomeroy’s site and are current through games of February 19, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings (all times EST).

Saturday – Syracuse (25-1, 12-1 ACC) @ Duke (21-6, 10-4 ACC) – ESPN (7:00 PM)

Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski's Teams Played a Classic Three Weeks Ago. (Photo: Raleigh News & Observer / Getty Images)

Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski’s Teams Played a Classic Three Weeks Ago.
(Photo: Raleigh News & Observer / Getty Images)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#5) Duke 70-65 (#9) Syracuse

Syr-Du

A little of the shine came off this weekend’s national spotlight game, when Syracuse suffered its first defeat of the season Wednesday night, and then Duke stumbled Thursday night in Chapel Hill. It wasn’t surprising that the Orange finally lost one, given all the narrow victories they’ve had lately, but it is shocking that the culprit was Boston College, and also that the loss happened in the Carrier Dome. The fact that average teams keep taking Syracuse to the wire is probably of bigger concern right now. It’s quite possible that this depth-shy Syracuse team is starting to wear down a bit. Even though they play a zone defense which uses less energy than man-to-man, the heavy minutes played may be affecting the Orange’s starters. In ACC play, Syracuse has four players logging over 35 minutes per game. Duke also looked like a tired team Thursday. The Blue Devils’ normally high powered offense had no juice in the second half of that game, going a stretch of almost nine minutes without a field goal. Much of the credit should go to North Carolina’s defense and the outstanding Smith Center crowd, but when Duke did get an open look, they usually came up short -probably due to tired legs. So, we should not expect either team to repeat the offensive display from the first meeting, when each scored at an astounding rate – both over 1.30 points per possession. With their fourth game in eight days, the Blue Devils may have to depend on the Cameron Crazies and a bunch of minutes from the bench, to get over the energy hump.

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ACC M5: 02.20.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 20th, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. KenPom.com: If you have a subscription, the win probability graph from Boston College‘s upset over Syracuse last night is amazing. The Orange had a 96 percent chance to win at the tip. That stayed at or above 94 percent before peaking with around 16 minutes left in the second half (when Syracuse was up 13 points). Then things get interesting. A few Boston College threes later, and each possession starts influencing the graph. Boston College’s best chance to steal the win in regulation came with two seconds left (when CJ Fair almost committed the worst foul of the year), but the percentage spiked back to over 80 percent to start overtime. At that point every possession is high leverage. If you don’t have a subscription, today’s the day. How else would you know Boston College held Syracuse to its second-worst offensive efficiency of the year?
  2. BC Interruption: But how did the Eagles do it? They slowed the game down to a crawl (only 56 possessions in an overtime game!). They knocked down threes. They stopped turning the ball over (though the first half was admittedly horrible on this front). And they played remarkably good defense once they cut out Syracuse’s runouts. Olivier Hanlan was aggressive; Lonnie Jackson stepped up and hit four clutch free throws to close the game out; and Joe Rahon managed to hold CJ Fair to 20 points on 23 shots.
  3. Sports Illustrated: This is just a tremendous piece on Jabari Parker, focusing on his relationship with Coach K. It’s worth the time (which will be substantial), but really delivers great insight into who Parker is on and off the basketball court.
  4. Charlotte Observer: What do you get when you mix Barry Jacobs with a classic game on the day of Duke-North Carolina? A must-read. Jacobs chronicles the famous 7-0 half at Cameron Indoor to finish off the 1979 season. Duke was in its “signature 2-3 matchup zone” (yes, Bill Foster was coaching, but that’s still weird to hear), so Dean Smith brought out the four corners to try to coax the Blue Devils away from its defensive principles. It didn’t work. In the second half both teams ran more and put up 40 points each. Come for the first half shutout, stay for the flopping anecdote.
  5. Shakin the Southland: Clemson earned a win that could help itself a lot come Selection Sunday. No, it won’t stand out for being a great win, but NC State is currently sitting along with the Tigers on the bubble, and Clemson had to stop the bleeding to end its three-game losing streak. The win puts Clemson in a better position than its foes from Raleigh. This was Clemson’s best offensive performance of conference play and second-best performance on the season. More performances like that will help Clemson pass the dreaded (and arbitrary) eye test in a few short weeks.
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ACC Weekend Preview #7

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 14th, 2014

It’s another weekend of conference play in the ACC, so let’s take a look at the match-ups from an advanced statistics perspective. All statistics used are for results in ACC conference games only along with team rankings (#1-#15) in each category. For each game we will show how the two teams compare in efficiency ratings and the four factors, offense versus defense. We will also look at interesting areas of particular strength and weakness that could hold the key to the outcomes of these games. All numbers are from Ken Pomeroy’s site and are current through games of February 12, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings (all times EST). This weekend features four games that involve the top eight teams in the standings.

Saturday – Pittsburgh (20-5, 8-4 ACC) @ North Carolina (16-7, 6-4 ACC) – CBS (1:00 PM)

Roy Williams Has The Tar Heels Pointed In The Right Direction. (Photo: USAToday.com)

Roy Williams Has The Tar Heels Pointed In The Right Direction.
(Photo: USAToday.com)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#27) North Carolina 69-68 (#15) Pittsburgh

Pit-NC

Pittsburgh is coming off that emotionally crushing last second loss to Syracuse on Tyler Ennis’s 35 footer Wednesday night, making the Panthers o-for-4 in games against the top three teams in the league. With no more opportunities for a huge signature win, this game on the road against the red-hot Tar Heels looks like Pittsburgh’s last chance for a regular season win that may impress the NCAA Selection Committee. The Syracuse game was the second time the Panthers lost at home on a last second three pointer, with the other delivered by Virginia’s Malcolm Brogdon. But don’t feel too sorry for Pittsburgh – they also have two overtime wins over ACC bottom dwellers Miami and Virginia Tech. Not only has North Caroliona won five straight conference games, but they have been impressive doing so, winning all by double digits. The Tar Heels have even begun to show improvement from the free throw line. They have only bested the 73 percent mark in four games all season, but three of those have been in their last four outings. With Wednesday’s weather related cancellation of the Duke game, North Carolina should be the fresher team physically for sure. But the current mental state of the Pittsburgh team is what may swing the game in the direction of the Tar Heels. After Wednesday’s major disappointment, the toughness and resiliency of the Panthers will be tested.

Stat Watch. Tempo will be very important in this one, with Pittsburgh (61 possessions per game) preferring a slower pace and North Carolina (67 PPG) wanting to speed things up. North Carolina hopes that being the fresher team shows up on the boards, where both teams normally excel. If Pittsburgh loses that battle, it will be awfully hard to see them winning, unless they have an unusually good shooting performance against the stout Tar Heel defense.

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