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


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


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.


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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ACC M5: Exhibition Edition 2

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 9th, 2015


  1. On Friday night, top-ranked North Carolina played its first ‘competitive’ game without senior leader Marcus Paige — out several weeks with a broken hand — and easily handled Division II Guilford, 99-49. In addition to the loss of Paige, the Tar Heels were also without sophomore Justin Jackson, who missed the contest due to illness. The absence of the team’s top two returning perimeter players gave others an opportunity to step up, however, and three players certainly took advantage. Junior Nate Britt and sophomore Joel Berry combined for 26 points and 16 assists, but they weren’t the only unselfish players as North Carolina recorded 33 assists on its 42 field goals. Freshman guard Kenny Williams also made the most of the available minutes by posting 12 points in 22 minutes of action.
  2. N.C. State was the last ACC school to play a formal exhibition game this preseason, beating Division II Cal State Los Angeles by a score of 71-54 on Sunday afternoon. Star junior Anthony ‘Cat’ Barber led the Wolfpack’s attack with 21 points and six assists. It is widely expected that Abdul-Malik Abu is poised for a breakout season, and his performance yesterday indicates that is a reasonable opinion. The 6’9″ sophomore finished the game with 17 points, nine rebounds, and four blocks in 25 minutes of action. Terry Henderson, on the other hand, had a somewhat shaky debut, as the West Virginia transfer only managed five points in his 25 minutes, missing all four of his attempts from deep.
  3. Miami played its one and only exhibition game last Wednesday, defeating Division II Dowling by a score of 91-40. Sheldon McClellan led the way with 18 points, as the Hurricanes used a fast start (+15 points in first five minutes) to blow out the Golden Lions. Another encouraging result was the performance of Oklahoma State transfer Kamari Murphy, who posted a double-double in his unofficial Miami debut. Murphy has also impressed his teammates — after the game, McClellan said, “He adds a lot of energy and a lot of length on defense. He can do a lot on offense; he just brings a lot to the team.” We know that Miami has a veteran backcourt, so if Murphy can combine with center Tonye Jekiri to give the Hurricanes a strong inside game, Jim Larranaga may have a very balanced team on his hands.
  4. A pair of ACC teams looking to make a move up the conference ladder this season showed promising flashes in their lone exhibition outings on Friday. Pittsburgh’s Jamie Dixon has been preaching defensive improvement this preseason and he apparently means what he says. Returning leading scorer Jamel Artis did not start in the Panthers’ 80-50 beatdown of Gannon, which the head coach explained afterward: “We’ve been preaching all year long, all offseason, all fall, about best defensive players, best rebounders, those are the guys that are going to play, so that’s the guys we went with,” The Panthers’ defense played well, limiting Gannon to 32.7 percent field goal shooting for the game. In other related news, Dixon announced that junior college transfer Rozelle Nix would sit out the current season as a redshirt. At first glance, Wake Forest’s 86-64 win over UNC-Pembroke may not look overly impressive. But considering that the Demon Deacons were playing the Division II preseason #13 team, and doing so without Codi Miller-McIntrye (fractured foot), it really wasn’t a bad effort. It did take the Deacs a while to get going, as they committed 17 first half turnovers and trailed at the break; but behind Devin Thomas, who finished the game with 25 points and 16 rebounds, Wake Forest dominated the second half of play.
  5. Two ACC teams projected near the bottom of the league played their sole preseason exhibitions on Thursday and both performances may have confirmed those low expectations. Clemson needed to rally from a 12-point second half deficit to beat Division II Lenoir-Rhyne, 87-84, in double overtime. This was the Tigers’ first real game in Greenville’s Bon Secours Wellness Arena, their home away from home this season while Littlejohn Coliseum undergoes renovation. If last week’s game is any indication, Clemson’s home court edge may be under renovation as well. Likewise, Boston College was pushed hard by a Division II opponent, defeating Bentley 85-75, after trailing much of the game. It looks like the Eagles may be in for a tough year in the paint, as the smaller Falcons were able to post a significant (+9) first half rebound advantage. Florida transfer Eli Carter was one bright spot for the Eagles, leading all scorers with 33 points on 12-of-18 shooting.
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Introductions to the ACC’s Eligible Transfers

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 2nd, 2015

It’s a well-known fact that transfers have been on the rise in college basketball. According to annual tracking lists compiled by ESPN‘s Jeff Goodman, there were fewer than 300 NCAA Division-I transfers in 2011 (roughly one per school), but that number has climbed to around 700 (roughly two per school) in each of the last two years. Considering that teams in the power conferences are already losing seniors and underclassmen who turn pro, rosters are turning over at an alarmingly high rate. When it comes to newcomers, freshmen, rather than transfers, have traditionally received most of the attention. So to get more familiar with the transfers debuting in the ACC this season, we have provided a list broken into four groupings of the non-freshmen newcomers to the league (traditional transfers; graduate transfers; JuCo transfers; sitting out this year). Players within each category are ordered according to the anticipated impact that they will have this season.


The first group represents what we know as the traditional transfers — those who are moving from one four-year school to another and, as a result, forced to sit out a season. The most interesting name on this list is Virginia Tech’s Seth Allen, who will have the advantage of having already spent two years in the ACC while at former league member Maryland. Allen’s aggressive style should fit in well with what Buzz Williams is building in Blacksburg. The top five on this list figure to be significant players right away, and some as starters. Terry Henderson will be counted on for wing scoring for N.C. State, and Kamari Murphy should be an athletic defender that compliments Miami’s veteran group.

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