Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume IV

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 19th, 2016

Here is the latest edition of our weekly look at the current ACC standings and team performances, where we focus on which teams are playing better or worse than their records might indicate. Each week we delve into the advanced metrics to find a few interesting teams, player statistics and trends. This week we consider which of the Four Factors are most important to winning in the ACC on a team-by-team basis. Finally, we will forecast how the final standings may look and what that means for ACC schools’ postseason aspirations.

Note: All numbers are current for games played through Wednesday, February 17th.

Current Standings

ACCStand-Feb17

Things are incredibly bunched up at the top of the ACC right now, with four schools only a game behind Miami and North Carolina in the loss column. Those two will battle for temporary league supremacy this weekend in Chapel Hill, as the Tar Heels try to bounce back from their crushing midweek loss to rival Duke. Note that the Tar Heels have faced the easiest slate of ACC games among the group of six, which may explain why they hold a slight edge on the rest of the league in efficiency margin. Meanwhile, Duke’s recent tough stretch of games has boosted its strength of schedule from 10th to seventh in the last two weeks. There’s an interesting situation also taking form in the lower middle of the ACC standings. N.C. State and Georgia Tech have performed about as well in conference play as Pittsburgh and Florida State, but because of their middling records, only the latter two are considered bubble teams. Maybe then it isn’t so surprising that the Wolfpack knocked off the Panthers and the Yellow Jackets bested the Seminoles, both on the road, earlier this season. And while most ACC fans will be watching the battle for first place this weekend, there will also be an intriguing matchup on Sunday night in Winston-Salem when 1-13 Wake Forest entertains 0-13 Boston College. In a twist of the old axiom, it will be the resistible force (Eagles’ offense) versus the movable object (Deacons’ defense). Something has to give!

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ACC Weekend Review: 02.15.16 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 15th, 2016

It was a weekend for favorites in the ACC as all seven underdogs lost. Two of those victims were higher-ranked schools that fell on the road in close games. In the most anticipated matchup of the weekend, Duke edged Virginia by a point on Grayson Allen’s controversial last-second shot in a game that lived up to the hype. Notre Dame rallied to take down Louisville after trailing by 11 points in the second half, making it consecutive Saturdays when the Irish rallied from double-figure deficits to take down a league heavyweight. The team the Irish conquered last weekend, North Carolina, returned home after a rough three-game road swing for head coach Roy Williams, to dominate Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon. In the final contest of the weekend, Florida State missed out on a golden chance to improve its resume when late-game execution faltered against Miami. Here are some of the highlights from a busy weekend around the ACC.

Grayson Allen drives in for his controversial game-winner against Virginia. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Grayson Allen drives in for his controversial game-winner against Virginia. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

  • Best Win: This game turned out to be as competitive and hard-fought of a game as we’ve seen in ACC play this year. Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski must be thankful that Virginia‘s Malcolm Brogdon could only guard one of his stars at a single time. The senior was Grayson Allen‘s primary defender for the first 25 minutes of play, holding him to only four points during that time. Meanwhile, Brandon Ingram was busy carrying the Blue Devils’ offense — during an eight-minute stretch of the game that overlapped halftime, he scored 20 of Duke’s 22 points. With 15 minutes to go in the contest, Tony Bennett moved Brogdon over to Ingram, and the star freshman only managed two more points the rest of the way. That move, however, allowed Allen to become Duke’s go-to man down the stretch, culminating in his acrobatic driving buzzer-beater to win the game. Did Allen travel on the play? Replays showed he probably took at least three steps. Did he get fouled on the play? Replays showed two bumps that are normally called on such a drive. Did the officials swallow the whistle? Absolutely! The end result was a huge win for the Blue Devils, regardless of what should have or shouldn’t have been called.

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Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume III

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 12th, 2016

Here is the latest edition of our weekly look at the current ACC standings and team performances, where we focus in on which teams are playing better or worse than their records indicate. Each week we delve into advanced metrics to find a few interesting teams or player stats and trends. This week we will also look at which of the Four Factors are most important to winning in the ACC. Finally, we will forecast how the final standings may look and what that means for ACC schools’ postseason aspirations.

Note: All numbers are current for games played through Wednesday, February 10th.

Current Standings

ACCStand-Feb10

Things have tightened up at the top of the standings as North Carolina has come back to the field following its recent road trip, which included losses to Louisville and Notre Dame. The depth of the ACC is on display here – 10 teams have winning records and all are even or better in points per possession performance. In a bit of bad news for the rest of the league – Virginia’s stingy defense is back! After allowing each of their first eight conference opponents to top 1.00 points per possession, Tony Bennett’s team has held the last four foes to an average of 0.81 PPP. None of those last four opposing offenses have scored over 50 points, and the Cavaliers have now won their last seven contests. It will be interesting to see if Virginia can maintain its defensive acumen this Saturday at Duke, where it will face the nation’s 2nd rated offense. The Blue Devils have been the one ACC school that has been able to handle Bennett’s pack line defense over the last four years, averaging 1.07 points per possession against the Cavaliers in five meetings.

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ACC Weekend Review: 02.08.16 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 8th, 2016

After Friday afternoon’s bombshell announcement that Louisville was self-imposing a postseason ban, the attention returned to the play on the floor for fourteen ACC schools this weekend. In a rarity, five league road teams were favored in the seven matchups, but only three managed to extract victories. In the marquee contest, Notre Dame continued its recent run of superiority over the ACC’s two most storied programs, as the Irish rallied for a big upset win in South Bend over North Carolina in ESPN’s prime time game on Saturday night. Earlier in the day, Virginia Tech also pulled off a mild surprise as the Hokies edged Clemson in Blacksburg, significantly damaging the Tigers’ postseason hopes in the process. In other action, the ACC’s two leading scorers dueled in Durham, with Grayson Allen and Anthony ‘Cat’ Barber putting on a show as Duke defeated N.C. State for the second time this year. Here are some of the highlights from a busy weekend around the ACC.

Demetrius Jackson and Zach Auguste celebrate Notre Dame's upset win over North Carolina. (Getty Images)

Demetrius Jackson and Zach Auguste celebrate Notre Dame’s upset win over North Carolina. (Getty Images)

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Inside The ACC Numbers: Volume II

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 5th, 2016

Here is the latest edition of our weekly look at the current ACC standings and team performances, focusing on which teams are playing better or worse than their records indicate. Each week we also delve into some advanced metrics to find a few interesting teams or player stats and trends. This week we examine home court advantage within the league. Finally, we will forecast how the final standings may look and what that means for ACC schools’ postseason aspirations.

Note: All numbers are current for games played through Wednesday, February 3rd.

Current StandingsACCStand-Feb3Despite Monday night’s defeat at Louisville, North Carolina is still the ACC’s best team in both the standings and in points per possession (PPP) margin. Interestingly, even though much has been made of Duke’s struggles (the Blue Devils are currently in eighth place), it has outperformed every team but one above them in the standings. It appears that Mike Krzyzewski’s team’s inability to win the close ones is the real issue that must be fixed — Duke has lost all three of its contests that were decided by five points or fewer. Conversely, Clemson and Pittsburgh have each benefited by winning all three of their five-point or fewer margin games. Looking further down the standings, we see that N.C. State and Georgia Tech have basically performed at a level equal to Florida State and better than Virginia Tech, but they trail both of those teams in the current standings by at least two games. Heading into the back nine of conference play, future opponents should consider themselves warned — the Wolfpack and Yellow Jackets may barely rank above the likes of Wake Forest and Boston College in the standings, but they are both significantly better than the leagues’ worst two teams. Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC Weekend Review: 02.01.16 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 1st, 2016

It was not a weekend of tight games in the ACC, with all but one of the seven contests featuring a final margin in double figures. Saturday’s heavyweight matchup between Virginia and Louisville turned out to be completely one-sided, as the visiting Cavaliers dominated from the outset in the nationally-televised game. N.C. State pulled off the biggest upset of the weekend by taking out Miami behind a remarkable performance from its star point guard. North Carolina easily dispatched Boston College, as expected; Florida State avenged an earlier loss by beating Clemson in Tallahassee; and Syracuse edged Georgia Tech in the only close contest on Saturday. Sunday featured two home wins for teams that remain a part of the crowded upper half of the ACC standings – Notre Dame easily handled Wake Forest, and Pittsburgh took care of Virginia Tech. Here are some of the highlights from the weekend around the ACC.

Malcolm Brogdon led the way in Virginia's domination over Louisville. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Malcolm Brogdon led the way in Virginia’s domination over Louisville.
(Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

  • Best Win: Just a short week ago, we still weren’t sure what to make of Tony Bennett’s team. They were clearly in a rut, having lost all three league road games, and they were facing a week with two more away games. For 39 minutes in Winston-Salem on Tuesday it appeared as if those woes away from home would continue. But a miracle comeback gave Virginia its first ACC road win and appears to have sparked something more. The Cavaliers manhandled the ACC’s second place team, 63-47, in a masterful defensive performance that held Louisville’s two leading scorers (Damion Lee and Trey Lewis) without a point in the first half (the pair finished with 10 points on 3-of-13 shooting). The Cardinals never challenged, allowing Virginia to cruise to its most impressive ACC performance of the year. Seniors Malcolm Brogdon and Anthony Gill led the charge with 13 points each. If this weekend’s performance is any indication, it may be a bit premature to count out the Cavaliers with respect to a third consecutive ACC regular season title.

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Inside The ACC Numbers: Volume I

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 29th, 2016

With approximately four weeks of conference play now in the books, it’s time to take a closer look at the ACC. This is the first edition of a weekly look at the current ACC standings and team performances, focusing on which teams are playing better or worse than their records may indicate. We will also delve into some advanced metrics to find a few interesting teams or player stats and trends. Finally, we will forecast how the final standings may look, and what that means for ACC schools’ postseason aspirations.

Note: All numbers are current for games played through Wednesday, January 27th.

Current Standings

ACCStand-Jan27

So far, the league standings mostly reflect how well the teams are playing on a per possession basis. Syracuse is the only team with a losing record that has a positive scoring margin. That’s due to the Orange’s blowouts of the two schools at the bottom of the list, Wake Forest and Boston College. We have heard some in the media describe the ACC as having a clear best and worst team, as if North Carolina is as far above the rest of the league’s schools as Boston College is below them. The per possession numbers paint a slightly different picture – the Tar Heels are the best team, but they have not been nearly as good as the Eagles have been bad. Also noteworthy is the fact that Clemson has built its unexpectedly gaudy conference record despite playing the second toughest ACC schedule. What’s more, the four schools ahead of the Tigers in efficiency margin have faced the four easiest ACC slates thus far. Perhaps Brad Brownell’s group is a true contender for a top four league finish and the ACC Tournament double-bye that comes with it.

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Playing ACC Secret Santa: Part I

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 24th, 2015

In offices all across the nation this week, people are playing the Secret Santa game. So let’s pretend that our company is made up of the ACC’s 15 men’s basketball teams, and we drew every head coach’s name out of the hat. As tempting as it may be to hand out traditional gifts like cheese logs and fruitcakes (yuck!), we instead will look at the specific needs for each squad right now and try and make each team better with our gifts. In the first of two installments of this piece (check back on Christmas Day for Part II), let’s look at the eight ACC teams that need Santa’s help the most.

presents

It’s Secret Santa Time in the ACC!

Here are our gifts of choice for the eight ACC schools that need them most (in alphabetical order):

  • Boston College (Jim Christian) – This is the easiest coach of all to shop for. When you already don’t have anything, there is no such thing as a bad present. The Eagles desperately need quality players. Among the 65 power-five conference programs, only hapless Rutgers is lower in the current KenPom rankings than the Eagles are. So we would give Christian what he needs the most – a recruiting budget that is comparable with the upper level schools in the ACC. The only way this program is going to improve is for his staff to evaluate and talk with as many high school players as possible, all over the country. That takes money.
  • Clemson (Brad Brownell) – What Brownell needs more than anything right now is a quality win. Actually, just a halfway respectable win would do right now. So far, the Tigers’ best victory this season is over Wofford (KenPom #234). Against teams rated higher than that, Clemson is 0-5 after being blown out by Georgia on Tuesday night. The next opportunity will come next Wednesday at North Carolina, but asking Santa Claus to help Brownell and company break their famous winless streak in Chapel Hill feels very greedy.

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Drawing Battle Lines, Day Two: Making a Case For Tuesday’s Games

Posted by Brad Jenkins and Patrick Engel on December 1st, 2015

After one day of competition, the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge is tied at one game a piece, with 12 more matchups to come tonight and tomorrow (schedule below). Wake Forest tipped things off Monday night by using a furious late rally to top Rutgers, 69-68, while Minnesota held off Clemson, 89-83, in the evening’s nightcap behind a strong performance by freshman Jordan Murphy. Both of those games were played at Big Ten venues, but the ACC will have the home court edge tonight by hosting four games. To prepare for this evening’s action, the ACC and Big Ten microsites are once again here to defend the schools they cover. Patrick Engel (Big Ten) and Brad Jenkins (ACC) make the case for each team in their respective leagues for all six contests that will take place tonight on the ESPN family of networks.

acc big ten schedule

Michigan at N.C. State (7:00 PM ET, ESPN2)

  • Patrick: We’ve seen Michigan at both its best and its worst so far this season. As I detailed on Monday, it’s becoming clear that the Wolverines have plenty of shooters but are going to once again struggle in the paint. NC State isn’t great at either defending the three (35.7%) or shooting it (32.4%), but the Wolfpack are one of the biggest teams in the country (ninth in height). Michigan has to find space against NC State on the perimeter without getting beat in the paint or on the glass to earn a win here.
  • Brad: The obvious advantage here for the Wolfpack is in the paint. N.C. State should control the boards, and it will need to because Michigan is bound to hit more threes than Mark Gottfried’s team. As long as he can stay relatively fresh, Anthony Barber (39.2 MPG) should win the point guard matchup with Derrick Walton. The Wolfpack aren’t deep and must avoid foul trouble, but they can’t shy away from being physical in defending the offensively-potent Michigan wings.

Northwestern at Virginia Tech (7:00 PM ET, ESPNU)

  • Brad: There’s no way to sugarcoat Virginia Tech’s opening home loss to a SWAC team (Alabama State), but Buzz Williams’ guys have shown some recent signs of improvement. Iowa State beat them handily in the semifinals of the Emerald Coast Classic last week, but the Hokies bounced back to beat a decent UAB squad in overtime the next night. If Virginia Tech is to win this game, it probably will have to do so by living at the foul line.
  • Patrick: The Wildcats have survived without Vic Law so far. They’re not elite in any one area, but they also don’t have a singular glaring weakness. They’ve been a perimeter-oriented team to this point, but Alex Olah’s ability to get to the free throw line will challenge a Virginia Tech team that rarely lets its opponents get there. Northwestern has a good chance of winning this game on the road if it can earn charity stripe opportunities while keeping the free throw-minded Hokies (nation-leading 60.9% free throw rate, per KenPom) away from the line.

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Circle These: The Top 20 ACC Non-Conference Games

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 12th, 2015

There are several different methods available to decide which conference is the best in college basketball. One way is to treat every game equally, and we rely on computers for that, utilizing such tools as the outdated RPI or the tempo-based models like the Pomeroy ratings. A popular conventional wisdom-based practice is to judge leagues based on their relative strength at the top — for example, the number of ranked teams in the weekly polls or high seeds in the NCAA Tournament. But regardless of how we choose to judge the different conferences, the performance of a league against the best of the rest goes a long way toward establishing the perceived pecking order.

Tom Crean's ranked Indiana team will face three ACC schools in non conference play. (Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images).

Tom Crean’s ranked Indiana team will face three ACC schools in non-conference play. (Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Today we review the 2o best scheduled non-conference games involving ACC squads in the upcoming season. We chose that number of games because that’s how many times an ACC school will face a team ranked in the Top 25 of one of the two national preseason polls. This includes one game with an indeterminate opponent — Syracuse’s second game of the Battle 4 Atlantis will be against a ranked team regardless of whether the Orange win or lose their first contest in the Bahamas. In addition to those 20 guaranteed meetings with ranked opponents, seven ACC schools could see another ranked team in an early season tournament depending on how their brackets play out.

  • Miami – Puerto Rico Tip-Off (Utah, Butler)
  • Duke – 2K Classic (Wisconsin)
  • N.C. State – Legends Classic (LSU)
  • Wake Forest – Maui Invitational (Vanderbilt, Kansas)
  • Georgia Tech – Preseason NIT (Villanova)
  • Boston College – Wooden Legacy (Arizona)
  • Notre Dame – AdvoCare Invitational (Wichita State)

It’s worth mentioning that computer-based non-conference strength of schedule ratings will be determined by how good opponents turn out to be over the course of the entire season. There will always be wins that look good in November and December that don’t seem so great after reality sets in later in the season. Likewise, losing to an unranked team early in the year may not appear so bad in March when that same opponent turned out to be a legitimate team. Read the rest of this entry »

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