Inside the ACC Numbers: Final Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins on March 10th, 2020

Here is the final 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. With the regular season in the books, this week we will compare how each ACC squad performed in the second half of league play, with an eye on the teams that might excel in the ACC Tournament in Greensboro. 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 8.

Current Standings

Congrats to Tony Bennett’s crew for posting the ACC’s best defense for the fourth year in a row, and for the sixth time in the past seven seasons. On the other end of the floor, Duke had the most effective offense for the first time since 2015, ending up with the best overall point per possession margin (PPM) in ACC play. That was primarily accomplished by a league record five conference wins by more than 30 points, and the fact that Duke faced the ACC’s easiest slate of league games. Virginia was able to match the Blue Devils in the win column with an incredible 8-2 mark in games decided by three points or fewer (or overtime). While there may be some luck involved in such a performance, there’s also the fact that Virginia simply executed better during endgame situations than did its opponents. That’s a trait that will give the Cavaliers confidence in the postseason. At the other end of the spectrum we find North Carolina, whose PPM performance would suggest a record close to .500, but the Tar Heels were done in by an unfortunate 0-6 mark in one-possession outcomes. But the biggest story of the regular season is Florida State. Hats off to Leonard Hamilton for leading the Seminoles to their first-ever ACC regular season title.

Advanced Statistic of the Week: Who’s Hot and Who’s Not?

Heading into this week’s ACC Tournament, it’s a good time to compare recent team performance to how schools were playing earlier in the year. Below we break down the ACC season into two fairly even timeframes to see which squads have improved and which have regressed.

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Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume VII

Posted by Brad Jenkins on February 28th, 2020

Here is this week’s 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 examine how transfers from low/mid-major programs are adjusting to life in the ACC. 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 Wednesday, February 26.

Current Standings

Duke’s lead in points per possession margin is almost entirely built upon its play at home. The Blue Devils are outscoring visiting ACC squads in Durham by 0.294 points per possession, yet they only have a 0.049 PPP edge on the road. That gap (.245) is by far the largest in the ACC. The only two league teams that have performed better on the road than at home are Georgia Tech and Syracuse. The Orange have a 0.06 PPM advantage when they are travelling – fueled by the conference’s best road offense that scores 1.07 points per possession.

Advanced Statistic of the Week: Out of Their League?

We see it every spring now. Many graduate transfers and undergraduate waiver transfers from lower level programs make the leap to major conference schools that are looking for immediate help. In that situation, it’s difficult to predict how the jump in competition will affect production for these players. In the current season, the ACC has nine transfers that played at low/mid-major schools last year. Let’s see how they have adjusted to life in a power conference.

The chart above shows some key statistics for the nine transfers that made the jump to the ACC this season, after playing for a non-Power Six school a year ago. Across the board, offensive production is way down for this group, including an offensive rating decline of 8.5 points. The only two players on the list who are performing close to last season’s level are Curran Scott (Clemson) and Eric Hamilton (Pittsburgh). Among the five double-digit scorers from last year, they are collectively scoring 12 fewer points per game. Much of North Carolina’s nightmare season can be blamed on the many injuries that Roy Williams’ squad has endured, but it certainly hasn’t helped that the Tar Heels’ two graduate transfers – Christian Keeling and Justin Pierce – have failed to meet expectations. Perhaps this is just a bad year for transfers in the ACC, but we should keep these numbers in mind when the next batch of graduate transfers try to prove they belong with the big boys. Most probably don’t.

Future Forecast

The above table shows predicted order of finish with final regular season records based on KenPom’s current win probabilities for each team. Also included are a few comparative rankings that are mentioned frequently when evaluating NCAA Tournament potential, as well as projections from two bracketology experts — ESPN‘s Joe Lunardi and CBS Sports‘ Jerry Palm. Note that while they project the field as if it was to be named tomorrow, we make our projections based on the final KenPom projected records. In a normal season, a team like Notre Dame — projected to finish above .500 in the ACC with 20 overall wins — would be an NCAA Tournament lock. But that is not currently the case and here’s why. The Irish are sitting on a 3-9 record against combined Quadrant 1/2 opponents, which includes an unimpressive 1-6 mark in Quad 1 opportunities. But there’s still a glimmer of hope for Mike Brey‘s team, some within their control and some that is not. The first order of business is obviously to win games and the Irish could pick up some quality wins between now and Selection Sunday — they host Florida State next week and the ACC Tournament after that. Notre Dame could also get some help if Indiana (NET #52), Clemson (#76) and Georgia Tech (#77) do enough to improve their final NET rankings. If all three can, suddenly the Irish would get credit for three more Quad 1 victories, since Notre Dame beat Indiana on a neutral floor and claimed road victories against the Tigers and the Yellow Jackets. It’s a long shot, but the NCAA door is still slightly open for the Fighting Irish.

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Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume VI

Posted by Brad Jenkins on February 21st, 2020

Here is this week’s 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 take our annual peak at how league teams are performing in close games and examine how that has impacted the conference standings. 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 Wednesday, February 19.

Current Standings

Even though the middle of the ACC continues to be highly congested, we are seeing some teams trending in opposite directions. Three schools have capitalized on improved health to suddenly get hot in mid-February. Georgia Tech and Clemson each went 2-0 for the week, with home victories over league leader Louisville. Similarly, Miami has won three in a row now that Chris Lykes and Kameron McGusty have rejoined Jim Larranaga’s lineup. On the flip side, Syracuse and Pittsburgh have each dropped three games in a row, while Virginia Tech continues to struggle, having lost six of its last seven contests.

Advanced Statistic of the Week: Close Games in the ACC

With so much parity in the ACC after the top four teams, it’s no surprise that many of the league’s contests are being decided by slim margins. Through 115 conference games this season, 25.2 percent of those match-ups have concluded as one-possession affairs. Obviously, performance in those nail-biters has had a big impact on the league standings.

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Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume V

Posted by Brad Jenkins on February 14th, 2020

Here is this week’s 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 look at the best 3-point shooting teams (offensively and defensively) and see how they compare to recent ACC leaders in those categories. 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 Wednesday, February 12.

Current Standings

At this point in the season, team rankings in point per possession margin (PPM) line up well with overall league standings, but there are a couple of outliers. Based on PPM alone, one would expect North Carolina and Boston College to be flip-flopped in the standings — to explain why this is not the case, performance in close games tells the tale. The Eagles are an impressive 4-1 in games decided by two possessions or fewer, while the Tar Heels are 0-5 in similar situations. Among the teams in the upper middle of the ACC, Virginia and Notre Dame may have an advantage in short-term schedule difficulty. The Cavaliers will face four straight sub-.500 ACC squads in the next two weeks, while the Irish have a toughie at Duke on Saturday, but next comes four games in a row versus ACC schools with losing league marks. Meanwhile, Syracuse must play five of its next seven contests on the road, and NC State is looking at a three-game stretch that features a roadie at Boston College followed by challenging home tilts with Duke and Florida State.

Advanced Statistic of the Week: Elite Three-Point Offense and Defense

Success from behind the arc has been very important to determining the outcome of ACC games this season – the team with a higher 3-point shooting percentage in a given game has tasted victory 78 percent of the time. The top two schools in the standings are excelling in this crucial statistic in historic fashion, but in very different ways.

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Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume IV

Posted by Brad Jenkins on February 7th, 2020

Here is this week’s 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. In this edition, we look at how high usage rate correlates to offensive efficiency for the players that are eating up the most possessions in league play. 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 Wednesday, February 5.

Current Standings

Last week we suggested that North Carolina and Notre Dame may be ready to make a surge in the standings based on how they were performing on a per possession basis. Well, we were half right. Even with star Cole Anthony back in the lineup, the Tar Heels dropped two in a row after showing signs of life the week before. But the Fighting Irish have indeed been on an upward trend, thanks to the performance of the second-best offense in the league. In winning its last three outings, Notre Dame has averaged a sizzling 1.22 points per possession. Its upcoming schedule will make it hard to keep up this momentum -– three consecutive road trips (Clemson, Virginia and Duke) are next for Mike Brey’s group.

Advanced Statistic of the Week: Usage versus Efficiency

Since his return to game action (and even before), Cole Anthony has come under scrutiny for the high volume of shots that he launches for North Carolina. That criticism seems valid, considering how infrequently his attempts go in the basket (35.1% FG). In his four ACC games to date, Anthony has the highest usage rate (34.3% Poss) in the league but has an offensive rating of just 94.5. Let’s see how that compares to the other high-possession players in the conference.

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Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume III

Posted by Brad Jenkins on January 31st, 2020

Here is this week’s 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. 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 Wednesday, January 29.

Current Standings

There are some interesting outliers when comparing ACC point per possession margins (PPM) with the current league standings. Despite being near the bottom of the league race at this point, North Carolina and Notre Dame are performing at a relatively decent level on a per possession basis. In fact, their PPM numbers are better than five teams above them in the standings. This suggests that we may see the Tar Heels and Fighting Irish make a move up the ledger in the second half of conference play. Based on how each squad is perceived nationally, it’s also surprising to see Florida State and Syracuse performing basically as equals on the court in ACC action.

Advanced Statistic of the Week: Winning with Threes and Freebies

“Live by the three, die by the three” has been a popular phrase among college basketball followers since the three-point shot was was first introduced in 1987. Often when you hear this, the speaker is making a negative judgement on a team’s shot selection and implying that shooting a lot of threes is not conducive to winning consistently. Conventional wisdom also espouses the importance of free throw shooting when it comes to deciding the outcome of games. Let’s look at how these old axioms are playing out so far in the ACC this year.

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Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume II

Posted by Brad Jenkins on January 24th, 2020

This is the second 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. 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 Wednesday, January 22.

Current Standings

Looking at the current standings, there are three tiers of teams at or above .500 in conference play. At the top, Duke holds a significant advantage over Florida State and Louisville in efficiency margin, but that margin is largely because the Blue Devils have played the weakest schedule in the ACC thus far — beating four bottom-dwellers by over 30 points each. Among the three schools with 5-3 records, Syracuse is playing the best basketball on a per-possession basis, thanks in great part to the Orange’s acumen on the road (more on that below). Virginia is the only team sporting a 4-4 league mark that has a positive efficiency margin, but the Cavaliers have struggled in close games, dropping all four contests by fewer than eight points. Miami looks like the ACC’s worst squad from an efficiency standpoint, but nobody has faced the ominous slate of conference games that the Hurricanes have to date. Miami has already met Duke and Louisville twice, and lost to Florida State in overtime last Saturday.

Advanced Statistic of the Week: Home Court Advantage?

Things are not going as expected for host teams in the ACC this year. With 39 percent of league games already in the books, visiting squads are winning more than half of the time. The chart above shows how ACC home court advantage has worked over the last seven seasons. The national average for home court winning percentage has hovered around 60 percent in recent years and is at 59.9 percent so far in 2020. The ACC is clearly the outlier among major conferences this year – all other Power Six leagues have a home floor winning rate of over 63 percent (including the Big Ten’s incredible 80 percent).

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Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume I

Posted by Brad Jenkins on January 17th, 2020

With exactly 30 percent of conference play now in the books, it’s time to take a look inside the ACC numbers. This is the first 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. 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 Wednesday, January 15.

Current Standings

This early in the conference slate, efficiency numbers can be highly skewed by blowouts. Case in point, Syracuse ranks third in efficiency margin, largely due to 25+ point wins over Georgia Tech and Boston College. Likewise, Jim Christian’s Eagles are .500 in the standings but dead last in efficiency margin because they’ve been outscored in their three losses by a total of 84 points. Virginia is worse in the standings compared to their per-possession play because of its inability to win tight contests. The Cavaliers have tasted defeat each time that they were in a game decided by fewer than eight points. Tony Bennett needs to figure that out as Virginia seems headed for more tight affairs due to its slow pace of play, stingy defense (ranking first in the ACC) and anemic offense (dead last in the leaguge). A depleted North Carolina squad has been reeling lately, and things may get even worse – the Tar Heels’ struggles have occurred against the easiest schedule in the league to date.

Advanced Statistic of the Week: Offensive Efficiency Woes

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ACC Feast Week in Review

Posted by Brad Jenkins on December 3rd, 2019

Overall, the ACC showed out well in the many early season tournaments over Feast Week. Of the 10 league schools that participated in an event, four of those teams collected championships. Below we will review some comparison statistics with the other five major basketball conferences as well as some of the ACC’s best and worst team performances from the last 10 days.

The ACC logged as good a Feast Week as any other conference. The Big Ten had a slightly higher winning percentage, but only snared two championships. As a lead-in to this week’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge, the ACC claimed a 3-2 edge in tournament meetings between schools from those leagues.

THE BEST

Four Tournament Titles for ACC Teams.

  • Duke – Empire Classic. What a difference a week makes. After taking care of business in New York by thrashing California and beating Georgetown, the Blue Devils were flying high atop the polls. Now, Duke is reeling. First came a historic upset in Cameron Indoor Stadium to Stephen F. Austin and now Mike Krzyzewski’s guys will be without Cassius Stanley (hamstring) for at least a month.
  • Virginia – Air Force Reserve Tip-Off. The Cavaliers faced some adversity in Uncasville, rallying from nine points down in the second half of the title game against Arizona State. As usual, Tony Bennett’s pack-line defense was the difference, holding both the Sun Devils and Massachusetts under 50 points.
  • Pittsburgh – Fort Myer’s Tip-Off. Jeff Capel’s team picked off two Power Six opponents in Fort Myers to close an up and down month on a high note. The Panthers beat Kansas State in a tight one in the opener, and then handled Northwestern to earn the tournament title.
Florida State celebrates its Emerald Coast Classic Championship after beating Purdue in overtime. (Mark Wallheiser/AP)
  • Florida State – Emerald Coast Classic. The Seminoles have been on fire since dropping their season opener at Pittsburgh. In nearby Niceville, Leonard Hamilton continued his mastery of close game situations – Florida State edged Tennessee by three points and then bested Purdue in overtime, Hamilton’s eighth straight win in games decided after regulation.

THE WORST

 Bad Looks for ACC Teams with NCAA Tourney Aspirations.

  • Miami – Charleston Classic. The Hurricanes got off to a decent start in Charleston by beating Missouri State, but it was all downhill from there. Following two blowout losses to Florida and Connecticut, Jim Larranaga’s squad does not look like the improved team we expected to see this season.
  • Syracuse – NIT Season Tip-Off. Jim Boeheim went to Brooklyn with a great opportunity for some impressive wins, but his Orange laid a big egg. The Syracuse zone certainly needs some work, as was evident in two lopsided losses to Oklahoma State and Penn State, which posted 86 and 85 points respectively.

MIXED BAG

Four ACC Teams Didn’t Win Titles but Showed Promise.

  • Clemson – MGM Resorts Main Event. The Tigers split a pair of tight ones against good competition in Las Vegas. In the opener, Brad Brownell’s guys edged TCU in overtime before acquitting themselves well in a four-point loss to a ranked Colorado squad.
  • Virginia Tech – Maui Invitational. Picked to finish 14th in the ACC preseason media poll, the Hokies shocked Michigan State to open play in Hawaii. The rest of the trip didn’t go so well for first year coach Mike Young, as his squad got handled by Dayton and BYU.
  • North Carolina – Battle 4 Atlantis. The Tar Heels started and ended well in the Bahamas, but the middle part of the trip wasn’t so good. After dispatching Alabama in the first round, North Carolina ran into a buzzsaw situation against Michigan. But Roy Williams’ team rebounded to beat a good Oregon club in their final outing.
  • Wake Forest – Wooden Legacy. The Deacons made it all the way to the finals before falling to highly rated Arizona by seven points. Victories over Charleston and Long Beach State aren’t eye-opening wins, but Danny Manning’s team showed some promise in Anaheim by giving a competitive effort in the title game.
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What’s Trending: A Wild Weekend in the NCAA Tournament

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on April 1st, 2019

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Matthew Eisenberg (@matteise) is your weekly host.

After a relatively chaos-free opening two rounds of the 2019 NCAA Tournament, the madness arrived in earnest over the weekend. Taking a look back at the memorable moments begins in the East Region where Virginia Tech and Duke found themselves in a battle to the very end.

While Zion Williamson marvels those that watch Duke play with his dunks, it is plays like this that truly show how unique he is. With Duke nursing a narrow three-point lead, Williamson gets crossed-up by Virginia Tech’s Justin Robinson. Despite the blow-by, Williamson recovers like few others playing high-level basketball can…

Just days after surviving at the buzzer against UCF, Duke found itself in a similar situation again. The Blue Devils were up two points with just over one second to go when Virginia Tech drew up this perfect play to send the game to overtime… minus the finish.

The East Region Sweet Sixteen also featured Michigan State’s 80-63 win over LSU. In that game, the Spartans’ Aaron Henry scored a season-high 20 points, grabbed eight rebounds and dished out six assists. This performance by Henry came on the heels of Tom Izzo’s outrage at the talented freshman in Michigan State’s opening round win. After the win against LSU, Izzo was quick to credit young Henry and his teammates…

The Elite Eight match-up between Duke and Michigan State was a game that many were looking forward to the second the bracket came out. With the lead going back and forth throughout much of the second half, Michigan State’s Matt McQuaid pushed the Spartans back in front with this layup that will not be forgotten…

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