ACC Weekend Review: 02.20.17 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 20th, 2017

Offense ruled on Saturday with one notable exception. In the biggest game of the weekend, Virginia managed only 41 points as North Carolina dominated the Cavaliers in Chapel Hill. Earlier that day, two other games produced four of the top eight offensive performances in ACC play this season, as Duke edged Wake Forest, 99-94, and Louisville outlasted Virginia Tech, 94-90. In other weekend action, Florida State continued its road woes in falling by 14 points at Pittsburgh, and Georgia Tech grabbed another big home win by holding off Syracuse. Here are the highlights of the weekend around the ACC.

Justin Jackson scored 20 points in North Carolina’s impressive win over Virginia. (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)

  • Best Win: No one is surprised that North Carolina defeated Virginia on Saturday night — after all, the Tar Heels have yet to lose in the Smith Center this season. What was shocking, though, is how easily they dispatched a team that really never gets blown out. The 24-point loss represents the only time that Virginia has been defeated by more than 12 points in the last four years of conference play. Justin Jackson shredded the vaunted Virginia defense for 18 of his 20 points in the first half, continuing a string of amazing consistency in ACC action where he has averaged 19.6 PPG with only one outing topping 22 points. The Tar Heels won with defense and rebounding this weekend, holding the Cavaliers to just 27.8 percent shooting and finishing with a +18 edge on the boards.

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This Weekend in the ACC: February 18

Posted by Mick McDonald on February 18th, 2017

Here are a few things to keep your eye on around the ACC this weekend (all times Eastern):

Saturday, 12:00 PM: Clemson (14-11, 4-9) at Miami (17-8, 7-6) — This is an important game between two ACC bubble teams. The Tigers enter the weekend just 4-9 in conference play, but given a strong performance in non-conference action combined with a weak bubble nationally, they can probably sneak into the NCAA Tournament with an 8-10 league record. That means winning two of their three tricky remaining games (they also visit Virginia Tech and host Florida State), starting with Miami this weekend. The Hurricanes will be without starting point guard Ja’Quan Newton for the second straight game as he serves a three-game suspension, but Jim Larranaga‘s club should have enough defensive length to handle Clemson star Jaron Blossomgame. The key in this contest will be how, without the services of Newton, Miami chooses to defend the Tigers’ three-pronged backcourt attack of Shelton Mitchell, Avery Holmes and Marcquise Reed.

Jayson Tatum has led the Blue Devils turnaround. Can he now lead them back to the Final Four? (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Saturday, 1:00 PM: Wake Forest (15-11, 6-8) at Duke (21-5, 9-4) — Duke’s current six-game winning streak has renewed discussion of the Blue Devils as the ACC favorite. Freshman Jayson Tatum is a big reason why — the versatile forward is averaging 15.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game while shooting 52 percent from three-point range during those six games. Playing mostly as a small four, Tatum is a match-up nightmare who has shown he can make clutch jump shots when Duke needs them. Look for Tatum to have a monster afternoon, as Wake Forest does not have a good defensive option to counter his quickness on the perimeter. Read the rest of this entry »

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Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume V

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 17th, 2017

Here is the latest edition of our weekly review of the current ACC standings and team performances where we focus on which teams are playing better or worse than their records indicate. Each week we delve into advanced metrics to reveal a few interesting teams, player statistics, and trends. This week we will compare how ACC teams defend the three-point line. Finally, we forecast how the final ACC standings may look given current efficiency margins, and what that means for teams’ postseason aspirations.

Note: All data is current for games played through Wednesday, February 15.

Current Standings

ACC teams continue to be bunched close together at the top of the standings as well as in efficiency margins — the schools that have played easier conference schedules look better in points per possession. Things are about to even out with respect to schedule difficulty, however, among the league’s top six squads. Here’s what each of those schools has remaining against one another:

  • North Carolina (4 games) – Virginia, Louisville, @ Virginia, Duke
  • Louisville (2) – @ North Carolina, Notre Dame
  • Duke (2) – Florida State, @ North Carolina
  • Virginia (2) – @ North Carolina, North Carolina
  • Florida State (1) – @ Duke
  • Notre Dame (1) – @ Louisville

North Carolina clearly has the toughest remaining slate, but at least three of those four difficult contests will come in the Smith Center where the Tar Heels have yet to taste defeat this season. Florida State and Notre Dame have the easiest closing batch of games, with just one each against the rest of the top tier. According to KenPom, North Carolina’s conference schedule has been about four points per game easier than those faced by the Seminoles and Irish. That gap is about to shrink considerably, and by year end we would expect ACC strength of schedule to essentially even out among the top six contenders. Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC Transfers Making Their Presence Felt on the Bubble

Posted by Charlie Maikis on February 17th, 2017

Everyone is well aware that the top tier of the ACC consists of top 10 programs like North Carolina, Duke and Louisville. These schools tend to recruit at a high level nationally and develop much of their talent from within. In the middle of this year’s ACC standings, however, a number of key transfers have proven responsible for much of their teams’ current success. Bubble teams Virginia Tech, Syracuse and Clemson are anchored by at least two players who did not begin their careers in the league. Let’s examine how the these programs’ reliance on transfers this season have impacted their pushes toward the NCAA Tournament.

Syracuse

Syracuse Orange guard John Gillon (4) and forward Tyler Lydon (20) and guard Andrew White III (3) come off the court during a timeout in the second half of a game against the Miami Hurricanes at the Carrier Dome. (Mark Konezny/USA TODAY Sports)

Transfers: Andrew White III, John Gillon

Both Orange transfers are now on their third team and seem to have finally found a good fit. White spent two years at Kansas before transferring to Nebraska and ultimately ending up at Syracuse, whereas Gillon spent a season at Arkansas-Little Rock before playing two years at Colorado State and finally landing in upstate New York. The pair of seniors has given head coach Jim Boeheim a needed influx of talent after losing his top three scorers from last year’s Final Four squad. White and Gillon combine to average 28.6 points per game, but that might understate their abilities, though, as Gillon in particular has shown that he can put up monster numbers (43 points, nine assists, 9-of-10 3FG against NC State). While Syracuse has struggled of and on this season, the Orange will likely go as far as their pair of transfers can carry them.

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Brad Brownell’s Days May be Numbered at Clemson

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 14th, 2017

It’s been six long years since Clemson has been invited to the Big Dance, and based on recent history, we are likely witnessing Brad Brownell’s farewell ACC campaign. Just six weeks ago, the prospect of the Tigers ending their NCAA drought looked promising — a 10-2 mark in non-conference play included four wins over Power Five schools. After a comeback road win over Wake Forest to begin ACC play, however, the bottom has since dropped out. Clemson now rests near the bottom of the ACC with a conference record of 3-9. Saturday’s 64-62 loss at Duke was a typical outcome, as six of the Tigers’ ACC defeats have been by five points or fewer. Now holding an overall record of 13-11 going into tonight’s rematch against Wake Forest, Clemson faces a steep uphill climb to earn an NCAA bid and save Brownell’s job.

Brad Brownell’s Clemson Tigers suffered yet another close defeat at Duke on Saturday.
(Travis Bell/SIDELINE CAROLINA)

There was considerable discussion of Duke’s emotional state entering Saturday’s meeting with Clemson, tipping off just 38 hours after the Blue Devils’ draining win over rival North Carolina. But Clemson was also dealing with negative vibes stemming from its own gut-wrenching last second loss to Syracuse. In Saturday’s postgame press conference, Brownell commented, “You know, give our kids a lot of credit; we took a major punch in the gut this week on that loss against Syracuse. We’ve been a little snake-bit, but at the end of the day we’ve got to figure out ways to make the winning plays to change these things.” Mike Krzyzewski echoed Brownell’s view by saying, “I feel bad for Brad’s team because I have watched six of their games. Five that I watched, they could have won easy with one possession. This was another one, and that is the heartbreak of our league.”

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ACC Bubble Watch: February 14

Posted by Mick McDonald on February 14th, 2017

With the Selection Committee releasing its early look at the top 16 seeds on Saturday, we are now officially in the home stretch of the 2016-17 regular season. Here is a look at the state of the bubble in the ACC four weeks away from Selection Sunday. (KenPom rankings are all as of Monday, February 13)

LOCKS (6): North Carolina, Florida State, Louisville, Virginia, Duke, Notre Dame

BUBBLE:

Wake Forest vs. Clemson Tonight is a Key Bubble Match-Up (USA Today Images)

  • Clemson (13-11, 3-9 ACC, KenPom: #39). We knew there was likely to be a very good ACC team that would fall victim to a brutal schedule and as a result miss the NCAA Tournament. To this point of the regular season, it appears that Clemson is that team. Wins at home over Georgia (KenPom: #50), UNC-Wilmington (KenPom: #56) and Alabama (KenPom: #62), along with a win over Davidson (KenPom: #88) on a neutral court, and at South Carolina (KenPom: #27) represent an impressive array of victories. The Tigers’ only bad loss came against Oklahoma (KenPom: #82) on a neutral court, but nine defeats in ACC play are too much to overcome. Clemson probably needs to a 5-1 finish to the regular season and a decent showing in the ACC Tournament to receive a bid — a difficult, if not impossible, task. This Week: Wake Forest (2/14), at Miami (2/18).
  • Georgia Tech (15-10, 6-6 ACC, KenPom: #79). In league play, Georgia Tech has notched big home wins over North Carolina, Florida State and Notre Dame. A home loss to Ohio (KenPom: #109) is the only significant blemish on the Yellow Jackets’ non-conference resume, but it’s not a killer and a nice road win over VCU (KenPom: #43) will help compensate. The Selection Committee has seemed to value “big wins” regardless of location in recent years, so it will be interesting to see if that trend holds again this year. If the Yellow Jackets can take care of business in their three remaining home games and find just one win on the road (at Miami, Notre Dame or Syracuse), they should be going dancing in Josh Pastner’s inaugural season. This Week: at Miami (2/15), vs. Syracuse (2/19).

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ACC Weekend Review: 02.13.17 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 13th, 2017

Saturday was a day for home cooking in the ACC as all six road teams went down to defeat. In the only meeting between top-half teams, Notre Dame ended Florida State’s three-game winning streak. In other action, Louisville rallied late to beat Miami, Syracuse lost at Pittsburgh in a payback game, and Duke held off Clemson on the game’s final possession. The best game of the weekend came Sunday night as Virginia Tech rallied from 14-point halftime deficit to beat Virginia in a two-overtime thriller. Here are the highlights from the weekend around the ACC.

Mike Brey had a lot of positive things to discuss after Notre Dame’s impressive win over Florida State. (espn.com)

  • Best Win I: After Notre Dame’s 84-72 win over Florida State, Irish head coach Mike Brey noted: “That was probably the best we’ve played in league play on both ends of the floor.” Considering that the Seminoles had won their previous three games by an average margin of 33.0 PPG, it’s difficult to find fault with Brey’s statement. The Irish did a great job on the boards (+7) against the taller Seminoles and used superb foul shooting to maintain a comfortable margin throughout the game. Notre Dame converted 19 of its 21 attempts from the stripe while Florida State only made 7-of-22 (31.8%)

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Finding a Parachute for Four Teams Fading Fast…

Posted by Shane McNichol on February 11th, 2017

In Sports Illustrated‘s recent profile of former Philadelphia 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie, he asked two philosophical questions about the game of basketball: “Why do we watch basketball games front to back? Why not watch games back to front, or out of order?” Those questions are silly on their face, but they stuck in my head this week while evaluating the NCAA Tournament resumes of a few teams whose seasons have clearly stagnated. Is there something to be said for viewing a team’s record of wins and losses without the associated construct of time, completely freeing its resume from any particular front-to-back narrative? This idea, in many ways, ties into the cutesy “blind resumes” gimmick we see on television so much throughout late February and early March. When we remove the bias that everyone inherently brings to the analysis, how does that change our opinions?

Is Tom Crean Destined for the NIT? (USA Today Images)

In the end, the individuals comprising the selection committee will bring their own biases along with them regardless of how the narratives are constructed. So as we sit here in mid-February, we thought it would be a useful exercise to re-evaluate a handful of teams who have seemingly lost control of their seasons. Indiana, USC, Clemson and Minnesota looked well on their way to the NCAA Tournament as recently as a month ago, but conference play has taken a significant toll on each. The narratives attached to these teams will greatly affect how they are viewed by the selection committee over the last month of the season. Can any of this quartet recover?

  • Indiana: The obvious poster child for this phenomenon, the Hoosiers were among the nation’s top 10 and projected as a #2 seed by ESPN‘s Joe Lunardi as recently as December 12. Since that date, Indiana has suffered injuries to key players (OG Anunoby and James Blackmon) and compiled a 7-8 record as a result. Fortunately for the Hoosiers, their only loss to an opponent outside the RPI top 100 came in a true road game at Fort Wayne, but with four of the Hoosiers’ last five Big Ten games on the road, concerns about a bid remain if Indiana can’t right the ship.

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This Weekend in the ACC: February 11

Posted by Mick McDonald on February 11th, 2017

Here are a few things to keep your eye on around the ACC this weekend (all times Eastern).

Saturday, 1:00 PM: Clemson (13-10, 3-8 ACC) at Duke (19-5, 7-4 ACC) Someone call Kenny Loggins, because the Tigers have officially entered the Danger Zone. After losing at the buzzer to Syracuse to suffer yet another heart-breaking defeat at home, Clemson’s NCAA Tournament hopes are in big, big trouble. Sometimes you can pinpoint a specific reason why a team is struggling, but sometimes losing a handful of close games is nothing more than just bad luck. In Clemson’s six ACC games that have fallen within a five-point window, the Tigers are just 1-5. It’s difficult to imagine that anything less than a 5-2 finish will be good enough for Clemson to make a realistic run at the NCAA Tournament, and the immediate road ahead is filled with difficulty. Including today’s trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium, three of the Tigers next four games are on the road against NCAA Tournament-quality teams.

Can Quentin Snider’s return to the Louisville lineup lead them to an ACC Championship? (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Saturday, 2:00 PM: Miami (16-7, 6-5) at Louisville (19-5, 7-4) This is an important game for both Louisville and Miami, but for very different reasons. The Hurricanes have won four of their last five contests and appear to be trending on the right side of the bubble — a road win over Louisville would do wonders for their Tournament resume. As for the Cardinals, point guard Quentin Snider is expected back in the lineup after missing six games with a hip injury. The junior was averaging 14.8 points and 5.3 assists per game over the last four games prior to his injury, so for a team with limited offensive capabilities, getting a healthy Snider back is incredibly important for the prospects of a championship season for Rick Pitino.

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Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume IV

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 10th, 2017

Here is the latest edition of our weekly review of the current ACC standings and team performances where we focus on which teams are playing better or worse than their records indicate. Each week we delve into advanced metrics to reveal a few interesting teams, player statistics and trends. This week we will compare some ACC player usage rates with offensive efficiency, seeing where some teams might benefit from a shift in possessions. Finally, we forecast how the final ACC standings may look given current efficiency margins, and what that means for teams’ postseason aspirations.

Note: All data is current for games played through Wednesday, February 8.

Current Standings

Syracuse‘s rise up the league standings is the story of the week. Jim Boeheim‘s club has now won five straight games by 10 points or fewer. The Orange’s close game effectiveness is why their record outshines a relatively low efficiency margin. For similar reasons, North Carolina continues to top the league standings despite trailing Louisville and Virginia in per possession performance. Florida State‘s efficiency margin now lines up nicely with its record after blasting its last three opponents by an average of 30 points per game.

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