ACC Weekend Preview #6

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 7th, 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 5, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings (all times EST).

Sunday - Clemson (15-6, 6-3 ACC) @ Syracuse (22-0, 9-0 ACC) – ESPNU (6:00 PM)

Freshman Point Guard Tyler Ennis Leads Top Ranked Syracuse. (Photo: Mark Konezny - USA TODAY)

Freshman Point Guard Tyler Ennis Leads Top Ranked Syracuse.
(Mark Konezny/USA TODAY Sports)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#4) Syracuse 59-49 (#47) Clemson

Clem-SyrSyracuse continues to win in different ways which is really the mark of a true winner. The Orange win on off-shooting nights, when they fall behind like they did against Miami, or when they blow a late leads like they did last Saturday versus Duke. Trevor Cooney carried them on Monday night against Notre Dame, which is a good sign, as Cooney is the only scary three-point shooter on the roster. With Tyler Ennis running the show, and the front line featuring C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant playing well on both ends of the court, the Orange are still undefeated and now ranked #1 in the country. If Cooney has regained his touch, this becomes a team that is really tough to guard. On the other hand, Clemson is a team of extremes when the Tigers take to the road in the ACC. They have won three of their five conference road contests but lost the other two in non-competitive blowout losses to Pittsburgh and North Carolina. This looks like another tough road trip for Clemson where its offensive struggles will be magnified against Syracuse. To beat the Orange, you need some shooters to come through and the Tigers are only making 31.2 percent of their threes. Even worse for Clemson may be the disparity in turnovers in this game, as the Tigers are (statistically) the worst ball-handling team in the ACC.

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Evaluating Clemson’s NCAA Tournament Resume

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 6th, 2014

With college basketball halfway through conference season and the NFL finally finished, sports fans across the country are starting to look more closely at this season’s version of  bracketology. My microsite colleague Chris Kehoe did a nice rundown of ESPN’s latest bracket focusing on the six ACC teams currently in the projected field. In this post we will take a hard look at a seventh ACC team that appears to have the best chance to join the others in the Big Dance this season. But as we will see, the Clemson Tigers have a lot of work ahead of it in order to merit serious consideration from this year’s NCAA Selection Committee.

K.J. McDaniels and Coach Brad Brownell Have Clemson Looking Stronger than Expectations (Photo: clemsontigers.com)

K.J. McDaniels and Coach Brad Brownell Hope Clemson Wins Enough To Crash The NCAA Party
(Photo: clemsontigers.com)

After Tuesday night’s low-scoring home win over Georgia Tech, Clemson has a nice ACC record of 6-3 that is good for fifth place in the league standings. That puts them ahead of two teams that most pundits believe are going to the NCAA Tournament — North Carolina and Florida State. Of course, it doesn’t matter where you are right now, but rather how you are viewed by the Selection Committee on Selection Sunday. So with that in mind, let’s try to project where Clemson will be after the ACC Tournament concludes and its resume is complete. Below we list the Tigers’ remaining schedule along with Ken Pomeroy’s current ranking of each opponent and his predicted outcome for each game.

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An Early Glimpse at ACC Bracketology

Posted by Chris Kehoe on February 5th, 2014

ESPN.com’s most recent bracketology update has six ACC teams making the Big Dance, with Florida State firmly on the bubble and projected into the #8/#9 game. The division between the elite and the rest of the ACC has become clear and it now appears to be a two-team race for the ACC regular season title (although things could spice up considerably if Virginia knocks off Syracuse). With Pittsburgh’s soft strength of schedule and inability to capitalize against Duke and Virginia, look for the Panthers to obtain a gaudy win total but not much substance on their résumé. North Carolina’s up-and-down season seems to have steadied recently and the Tar Heels’ quality wins rival any team in America as they seem to be firmly entrenched barring a complete collapse (you never know with this group). Syracuse is pushing for a number one seed overall and as this week’s unanimous top team in the national polls; the Orange are well on their way to that goal. Virginia continues to trend upward thanks to its elite-level defense and corresponding ACC success, as the Cavaliers have only one ACC loss at Duke and are within striking distance of the Orange. Duke has a good number of losses (five) for a projected #2 or #3 seed, but the Devils also have some good wins and impressed many supporters in their tight loss at the Carrier Dome last weekend.

The Two Winningest All-Time Coaches are Hugging it Out For Bracketology (credit: SI.com)

The Two Winningest All-Time Coaches are Hugging it Out For Bracketology (credit: SI.com)

The final development to keep your eyes on is whether Clemson can find a way of sneaking into the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers have three difficult games on the horizon — at Syracuse and Notre Dame, vs. Virginia — but if they can make it out of that stretch at 1-2, they could win the next five in a row until their season finale versus Pitt. If the Tigers finish out their season strong they could end up with 11 or 12 ACC wins and a seat firmly on the bubble. A win or two in the ACC Tournament could then result in a dance card. With that in mind, here is a snapshot look at the six ACC teams currently projected into ESPN’s Bracketology and their respective profiles.

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Saturday Preview: Entering February, Stakes Are Raised

Posted by Bennet Hayes on February 1st, 2014

Hello February! College hoops welcomes you into 2014’s second month with a mouth-watering slate of action. You may be sold at “Duke-Syracuse,” but there will be plenty of games that don’t set Carrier Dome attendance records worth watching. That’s not to say that your college basketball fan credentials will be confiscated if you aren’t settling in to your couch for some ACC on ESPN action at 6:30 PM ET today – because they will be – but here are some other storylines to watch on the first day of February.

Perfection Will Be Tested

All Three Unbeatens Are In Action Saturday. With Visitors From Durham In Town, C.J. Fair And Syracuse Look To Be The Most Vulnerable Of The Trio.

All Three Unbeatens Are In Action Saturday. With Visitors From Durham In Town, C.J. Fair And Syracuse Look To Be The Most Vulnerable Of The Trio.

For the first time since 1976, there are three teams 20-0 or better in college basketball, and all three are in action on Saturday. Wichita State shouldn’t have any issues with Evansville (3-6 in the MVC) at The Roundhouse (3:00 PM ET, ESPNU), but both Arizona and Syracuse face serious threats to their dreams of perfection. The Wildcats visit Berkeley to take on a Cal team (10:30 PM ET, P12 Nets) which had been undefeated at home up until Wednesday, when Arizona State squeezed out an overtime win over the Bears. If Mike Montgomery’s team is to add the signature victory of all signature victories to its resume, they will need senior Richard Solomon to have a big game against that impressive Arizona frontcourt. All the way across the country, Duke would be well-served to find a way to match up with the impressive frontcourt of their undefeated opponent. The Blue Devils are not a great rebounding team, but in their game with Syracuse (6:30 PM ET, ESPN), keeping the Orange (ninth nationally in OR%) off the offensive glass will be imperative for Coach K’s squad. On the other end, look for Jabari Parker to get plenty of touches out of the high post. A record crowd is expected at the Carrier Dome for this one, which obviously sounds like good news for Syracuse. Maybe not, though. The last time there was an attendance record set at the dome (last February, versus Georgetown), a do-it-all 6’8” forward named Otto Porter torched the Orange for 33 points and eight rebounds in a lopsided victory for the visitors. Can Parker induce a little déjà vu on Saturday, and end Syracuse’s perfect season while he’s at it?

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Breaking Down ACC Weekend #5 – Advanced Statistical Preview

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 1st, 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 January 29, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings (all times EST). This weekend features two heavyweight matchups featuring the four teams that are clearly the class of the conference thus far.

Saturday - Duke (17-4, 6-2 ACC) @ Syracuse (20-0, 7-0 ACC) – ESPN (6:30 PM)

Record Carrier Dome Crowd Awaits Duke. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Record Carrier Dome Crowd Awaits Duke.
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#2) Syracuse 72-68 (#3) Duke
Duke-Syr

A record Carrier Dome crowd is expected for Duke’s much-anticipated first trip to Syracuse. ESPN’s “College GameDay” will be there as well, adding to the hoopla. Duke hopes it can continue to play as well as it has in the last five games. During that stretch, the Blue Devils’ much maligned defense has held opponents to an excellent 93 points per 100 possessions. Their most impressive win came Monday night on the road over Pittsburgh, whose only other conference loss came at the Carrier Dome in a close game. An unsung hero lately has been Duke’s Amile Jefferson, who is the only player in the ACC’s top three in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. Syracuse just keeps rolling along, rarely blowing teams out but always executing extremely well down the stretch of games. Freshman point guard Tyler Ennis has been amazing all season, but has even been more impressive in ACC play. Despite playing so many minutes, including going the full 40 in three of the last four games, Ennis seems to be at his best in the last five minutes of games. He does whatever the Orange needs him to do, and has become a more consistent scorer with double figure points in all seven ACC games. There will be a lot of talent on the floor, particularly at the forward spot, with each team having two versatile 6’8″ frontcourt players, C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant for Syracuse and Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood for Duke. Another key could be if either team’s sharp shooter, Trevor Cooney of the Orange or Andre Dawkins for the Blue Devils, gets free and knocks down multiple threes. Naturally, whenever a team plays Syracuse we have to look at how they will try and deal with that famously active zone defense. Duke has done pretty well against other zones but nobody plays it quite like the Orange. The Blue Devils will probably try and slide their forwards in and around the lane to use their quickness, but they will have to adjust to how well Syracuse reacts to the ball. Tempo will also play a big role, with Duke wanting to force the pace defensively, hoping to wear down the Orange and make them use their weaker bench. But other teams have tried to do that and found out that Ennis is hard to speed up.

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Kennedy Meeks Needs the Majority Of Minutes for UNC Down Low

Posted by Lathan Wells on January 31st, 2014

Even with all the uncertainty swirling around the North Carolina roster through the first half of the season, the consensus among most was that interior depth would not be a problem. And sure enough, Williams has shown that he will play his surplus of big bodies in nearly every game. Each Tar Heel post player has a unique skill set that lends itself to different moments and match-ups, but the center position has been an area that UNC has not been able to count on for consistent production. Recent ACC wins against Boston College, Clemson and Georgia Tech have indicated, perhaps, that this may be a concern of the past.

More minutes has meant more production from Kennedy Meeks and North Carolina. (USA TODAY Sports)

More minutes has meant more production from Kennedy Meeks and North Carolina. (Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports)

One reason for the up-and-down production over the course of the year can be tied to the fact that the individual manning the post at the opening tip-off has not gotten starter’s minutes. Sophomore Joel James started the first 10 games of the year before getting injured versus Texas, and he’s started two games since, averaging just shy of 11 minutes per game. James started all three games against Louisville, Michigan State and Kentucky, and yet played fewer minutes than Kennedy Meeks versus the Cardinals (11 minutes to 24) and Spartans (16 to 18), and fewer than both Brice Johnson and Meeks in the victory over Kentucky (13 minutes compared to Johnson’s 24 and Meeks’ 19). Surely Williams saw something in James to name him the starter for those contests, but if he was going to play so sparingly, why not let someone else man the post to get in an early rhythm?

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The Streak Continues: An Energized North Carolina Dismantles Clemson

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 27th, 2014

North Carolina played its best game in weeks on Sunday night in handily beating Clemson, 80-61. The final margin of victory was quite deceptive, though, as the Tar Heels led by more than 25 points for most of the second half. This means, of course, that Clemson is still winless all-time in Chapel Hill, dropping to 0-57 after the latest loss, but the story from the game centered around a revitalized unit that showed some hustle and fight for the first time in a long while. North Carolina dominated the shooting at both ends, hitting 55.4 percent of its field goals, while holding Clemson below 30 percent for most of the contest. But even more importantly, the Tar Heels played with an intensity that’s been missing, frequently diving for loose balls and making hustle plays throughout the game.

An Intense James Michael McAdoo Leads North Carolina to Dominant Win. (THE HERALD-SUN, BERNARD THOMAS — AP Photo)

An Intense James Michael McAdoo Leads North Carolina to Dominant Win.
(THE HERALD-SUN, BERNARD THOMAS — AP Photo)

The Tigers started out cold and turned downright frigid quickly thereafter. Clemson only hit six of its first 20 shots and found itself down by eight with 6:27 left in the first half, but the Tigers then proceeded to miss 14 consecutive field goals over the next 13:21 of play. During that stretch, North Carolina outscored Clemson 30-7 and the outcome was already decided. In the postgame press conferences, both coaches singled out the play of Tar Heels’ forward, James Michael McAdoo, and rightfully so. McAdoo was in attack mode throughout the contest and finished with a game-high 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting. While many have considered the junior a disappointment this season, he has been playing at a higher level for the past month. After 12 games, McAdoo was averaging 12.8 points per game and shooting a chilly 41.4 percent from the field. However, in his last eight outings, he has averaged a highly-efficient 15.9 points per game while converting an outstanding 59.1 percent of his field goals. For Clemson, K.J. McDaniels played well with 13 points and nine rebounds but got little support from the rest of his team. Here are some key takeaways for each team after Sunday night’s game.

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Breaking Down ACC Weekend #4 – Advanced Statistical Preview

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 25th, 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 January 22, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings.

Saturday: Florida State (13-5, 4-2 ACC) @ Duke (15-4, 4-2 ACC) – ESPN (12:00 PM)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#11) Duke 78-72 (#21) Florida State 

Jabari Parker Has Been More Aggressive Lately For Duke. (Photo: Ethan Hyman)

Jabari Parker Has Been More Aggressive Lately For Duke.
(Photo: Ethan Hyman)

This weekend’s kick-off game should be a great match-up between surging Duke and a Florida State team that has beaten every ACC team it has played not named Virginia. And don’t discount the Seminoles’ chances just because this game is at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Florida State already has two impressive road conference wins over Clemson and Miami, each by double figures. In a bit of a surprise, the Seminoles lead the ACC in three-point shooting (43.8%), with sophomore Devon Bookert leading the way with a league-leading 12-for-19 (63.2%). The Florida State defense is tough on opposing shooters and ranks #16 nationally in adjusted efficiency, but it has not been quite as stingy in league play. They will be facing a hot Duke team that remade its lineup, is using its bench more, and has had success with it — winning three straight. The Blue Devils got their first road win of the season on Wednesday over Miami and have averaged an outstanding 121.7 points per 100 possessions over the last three outings. Jabari Parker appears to be bouncing back from his mini-slump, averaging 20 points per game in the last two outings. As an indication of Parker’s aggressiveness lately, he shot 18 free throws in those two games after only attempting a total of 12 in his first four ACC games.

FSU-Duke

Stat Watch. Florida State has two glaring weaknesses: defensive rebounding and ball-handling. Even though Duke has been weak on the offensive boards for most of the year, they grabbed 15 of them against Miami. And in their last home game, the Devils forced N.C. State into 15 first half turnovers, so the key to the game will probably be how well Florida State takes care of the ball. If they can make the game depend on who shoots better, Florida State has the edge, with their defensive field goal shooting (38.3%) much stronger than Duke’s defense (45.3%).

Saturday - Pittsburgh (17-2, 5-1 ACC) @ Maryland (11-8, 3-3 ACC) – ESPN2 (6:00 PM)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#2) Pittsburgh 73-65 (#66) Maryland

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ACC M5: 01.23.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on January 23rd, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. John Gasaway: Tuesday Truths are back! And with them, some interesting tidbits. Unfortunately, schedules are far from equal this season, but it appears there’s a top tier now separating itself from the pack. That group is Virginia, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Duke. After Duke’s takedown of Miami in Coral Gables last night, I’d expect that foursome to further distinguish itself. As far as future head-to-head match-ups go, Virginia gets Syracuse at home and Pittsburgh away; Syracuse gets Virginia on the road, Duke at home and away, and Pittsburgh away; Pittsburgh gets Virginia at home, Duke at home and Syracuse at home; and Duke gets Syracuse at home and away and Pittsburgh away. Catch all that? On the surface, this schedule favors the Cavaliers and Panthers in the quest for the ACC’s top seed in Greensboro.
  2. Winston-Salem Journal: Don’t look now, but Wake Forest won a conference road game! Sure, it was against a beaten-up Virginia Tech team, but now isn’t the time for qualifiers. It’s a time for celebration. Even better news for the Demon Deacons is that Travis McKie found his shot (he went 5-of-6 from beyond the arc en route to scoring 24 points). The highlight of Dan Collins’ article is the interaction with Jeff Bzdelik, though.
  3. WRAL: ACC media legend Caulton Tudor pulled no punches in his preview of North Carolina and Clemson. Weirdly, he also hit Virginia with an undeserved drive-by insult (as mentioned above). But the goods are his discussion of the three shoulda-coulda-woulda games for the Tigers. The first came in 1982 (yep, the national title team with Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins and James Worthy) when Matt Doherty and Jimmy Black dragged the Tar Heels from a 10-point second half deficit to win by five. Both teams should be hungry on Sunday, coming off of bad losses.
  4. Testudo Times: Jake Layman is in a slump and has been for the last five games. And his slump is likely symptomatic of and a reason for Maryland’s ACC skid. This team needs his outside shooting to spread the floor for its penetrators and bigs to work. It’s no coincidence that Maryland’s three least efficient offensive outings this season came during that stretch, although the only head-scratcher was this week’s loss at NC State. The Wolfpack are not a great defensive team, but Maryland looked lost for the entire second half.
  5. Daily Tar Heel: Here’s an editorial calling for North Carolina to relax its rules on the size of the signs students can bring to the Dean Dome. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for letting students bring signs of any size and most any content. But signs won’t erase the “wine and cheese” stereotypes about North Carolina (though the rule certainly enforces them). Letting students vote on ideas to get approved by the athletic department might look like an even more controlled “cheer sheet” that draws so much ire down the road.
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Clemson’s Season Will be Defined in the Next Two Weeks

Posted by Chris Kehoe on January 22nd, 2014

Clemson was on quite the roll, coming into Tuesday night at 13-4 overall (4-1 in conference play) and widely regarded as having one of the best defenses in the nation. The Tigers looked poised to make major waves, but then Pittsburgh happened. With its incredibly efficient play on both ends of the court and Jamie Dixon’s tough-minded, physical brand of old school Big East basketball, Pittsburgh handed it to Clemson with a 76-43 thrashing at the Petersen Events Center. This certainly takes some of the wind out of Clemson’s sails after a three-game ACC winning streak, but there are still a number of positives to draw from this group of feisty Tigers that appear to have finally made the turn in Brad Brownell‘s fourth season on campus.

K.J. McDaniels and Coach Brad Brownell (Photo: clemsontigers.com)

K.J. McDaniels and head coach Brad Brownell (Photo: clemsontigers.com)

This Clemson group was projected by most experts to finish in the bottom three of the ACC standings, but has instead ridden a wave of momentum behind its tenacious and stingy defense to a level of play not seen in the basketball program in quite some time. Offensively, Clemson has been led by its undisputed star and athletic highlight reel machine, K.J. McDaniels, to the tune of 16.4 PPG, 7.0 RPG, and 2.7 BPG. Those well-rounded numbers are first team all-ACC caliber, but he will be facing stiff competition from several of the other elite forwards in the conference (Jabari Parker, CJ Fair, etc.). The real question surrounding Clemson from here on out is if the Tigers can seize the positive momentum it has developed to play with the consistency required to win away from Littlejohn Coliseum? It is easy enough to get hyped up for a sold-out crowd at home versus a program like Duke, but can Brownell’s squad shake off the natural letdown that comes afterward to mentally prepare for those road trips? Coming into this season, Clemson was 5-18 in ACC road games under his direction — the Tigers are 2-1 this season.

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ACC M5: 01.21.14 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on January 21st, 2014

morning5_ACC

  1. Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician: Here’s a good brief context piece on where Syracuse is this season. The national media has started paying attention to college basketball again, and not surprisingly, as one of the best teams in the country, Syracuse has been getting its fair share of love. So has Tyler Ennis. But we’re just now getting to the point in the season where people start talking about undefeated seasons. Here’s where I (mostly) side with Sean Keeley: Syracuse isn’t going undefeated. Trips to Pittsburgh, Duke, Virginia and Florida State all but guarantee that. In fact, four of the team’s last five games are on the road. My only disagreement is that I think Wichita State has a reasonably good chance to finish the regular season undefeated. Not a great chance, but not zero either. Keeley nails everything else.
  2. Charleston Post and Courier: Don’t look now but Clemson is 4-1 in conference play. Yep, the same Clemson we picked eighth and the conference media picked –gulp, 14th — is tied for second in the loss column (along with Pittsburgh and Virginia). That said, it’s about to get real for the Tigers. They play five of their next six games on the road, including trips to Pittsburgh, North Carolina, Florida State and Syracuse. Yeesh. The most winnable game there looks like — double gulp — at North Carolina? Clemson has to find a way to keep its collective head over the next couple of weeks, or our 7-9 finish with a trip to the NIT prediction might not look too far off.
  3. Tallahassee Democrat: Florida State’s Boris Bojanovsky and Michael Ojo are totally different players this season, but Tony Bennett did a good job shutting the pair down by doubling them every time they got the ball in the post. I’m not sure how long the tactic will be effective though because both players measure over seven feet. So long as they keep their heads about them when doubled, they should be able to pass out to an open player. But if this proves an effective strategy for other teams (which admittedly won’t have double-teams as readily accessible as Bennett’s pack-line), it could spell trouble for the Seminoles.
  4. Real GM: Awesome stuff from Dan Hanner, who took a look at how teams have fared with and without different players in the lineup. From the ACC, he has stats for Notre Dame, Maryland, North Carolina, NC State and Georgia Tech. Most surprising was Jordan Vandenberg‘s defensive impact: Without him in the lineup NC State’s defense is 11.1 points worse per 100 possessions. That’s a huge difference. By comparison, Georgia Tech is only 2.1 points per 100 possessions worse on defense without Robert Carter, and Notre Dame is 3.7 points per 100 possessions worse without Jerian Grant. The sample size for a lot of this is pretty low, but still great to see the trends.
  5. Sports Illustrated: Seth Davis spends a good amount of time discussing Bruce Pearl to kick off his weekly “Hoop Thoughts” column. He notes several things of interest: (1) Pearl is a Boston College alumnus; (2) Pearl “has received several serious inquiries from Division I schools to be a head coach, but as he put it, ‘the opportunities were not at the level that I would be interested in.’” The first we already knew, but it is worth a reminder that Boston College sits at 5-13 on the year. The second point is interesting because Pearl’s show-cause doesn’t expire until August this year. That makes me think that the offers were from low-major schools hoping to hit a home run. And while the Eagles probably wouldn’t pay Pearl quite what Tennessee did (partially because his market value dropped with the NCAA business), that’s somewhere where “at the level” makes more sense. Food for thought.
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Breaking Down ACC Weekend #3 – Advanced Statistical Preview

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 17th, 2014

It’s the third weekend of conference play in the ACC, so let’s take a look at the match-ups from an advanced statistics perspective. With every team except North Carolina having played at least four ACC games, we will now be using conference games only statistics along with team rankings 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 January 15, 2014. The games are presented in the order of best combined Pomeroy overall team rankings (all times EST).

Saturday - Pittsburgh (16-1, 4-0 ACC) @ Syracuse (17-0, 4-0 ACC) – ESPN (4:00 PM)

Syracuse's C.J. Fair and Pittsburgh's James Robinson Renew Their Rivalry in a New Conference. (Photo: bigstory.ap.org)

Syracuse’s C.J. Fair and Pittsburgh’s James Robinson Renew Their Rivalry in a New Conference.
(Photo: bigstory.ap.org)

Pomeroy Prediction: (#2) Syracuse 66-61 (#8) Pittsburgh

Pitt-Syr2The best match-up of the weekend is ironically between these two ACC newcomers. Something has to give as Pittsburgh is leading the conference with 78.5 points per game in ACC play, while the Orange have the stingiest defense, allowing only 50.0 points per game. As he has all season, senior Lamar Patterson leads the way for the Panthers, averaging 20.0 PPG in ACC games. He will probably match up frequently with Syracuse’s All-America candidate C.J. Fair (17.1 PPG) in Pitt’s man-to-man defense. The battle at point guard may decide the game as Syracuse’s freshman sensation Tyler Ennis faces off with Pitt sophomore James Robinson. In conference games only, Ennis leads the league in assists (6.5 APG) and steals (3.0 SPG), while Robinson has the ACC’s best assist/turnover ratio (16/2).

Stat Watch. Pittsburgh leads the ACC by a huge margin in field goal percentage in conference games at 51.6 percent, while Syracuse is 10th at 40.9. Ball-handling will be important as these are the top two teams in the ACC in steals. It will also be interesting to see how many three-point shots Pittsburgh tries against the Orange zone, as they are last in the league in attempts, while Syracuse allows more than any other team.

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