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)
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.