Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume IV

Posted by Brad Jenkins on February 13th, 2019

Here’s another 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 something Duke is doing offensively that is better than any ACC team has done in the last 17 years. Finally, we will forecast how the final league 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 Monday, February 11.

Current Standings

Virginia maintains its lead in efficiency margin, but the gap between first and second place was closed significantly after Duke’s recent win in Charlottesville. Syracuse continues to be the most fortunate team in the ACC this season. The Orange have achieved their lofty record despite a slim scoring margin, and Jim Boeheim’s club has faced the league’s easiest conference schedule to date.

Even though Miami is part of the jumbled mess at the bottom of the standings, the Hurricanes have suddenly become dangerous. In their last three outings, Jim Larranaga’s guys played Virginia tough on the road, stomped Notre Dame at home, and took North Carolina into overtime before losing at the Smith Center. If any of the league cellar-dwellers can play the role of spoiler down the stretch, Miami would be the smart pick to do so.

Advanced Statistic of the Week: Duke’s Good Shooting

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ACC Weekend Review: 02.11.19 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins on February 11th, 2019

This was perhaps the best potential weekend slate of games in ACC play this season and it didn’t disappoint in terms of excitement. In the national headliner, Duke completed a regular season sweep of Virginia by besting the Cavaliers, 81-71, in Charlottesville on Saturday evening. In a surprisingly close call, North Carolina remained tied with the Blue Devils atop the league standings with a comeback overtime win over Miami in the Smith Center. In other key contests, a pair of ranked ACC squads fell on the road — Clemson handled Virginia Tech, 59-51, in Littlejohn Coliseum; and Florida State rallied to take Louisville into overtime in Tallahassee, winning by a score of 80-75. Here are the highlights from the weekend around the ACC.

RJ Barrett led the 3-point shooting barrage for Duke in its big win on the road over Virginia. (Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images)
  • Best Win: Duke once again showed it can solve Virginia’s pack-line defense, mostly because of an unanticipated Blue Devils’ explosion from behind the arc. Tony Bennett’s squad gave up 13 three-pointers — the most it had given up previous to this game was eight against Notre Dame — but great outside shooting wasn’t all that went well for Mike Krzyzewski’s club. Duke held a 17-0 edge in fast break points as well as a 14-9 advantage in second-chance points, despite the fact that Virginia grabbed six more offensive boards than the Blue Devils. RJ Barrett led the way with 26 points, giving him a total of 56 in two games versus the Cavaliers. This contest marked the beginning of an extremely tough stretch of games for Duke — its next five games are all against top 45 teams, three of which are on the road. Meanwhile, Virginia has a quick turnaround, traveling to face ACC co-leader North Carolina tonight.
  • Second Best Win: With no real bad losses over the weekend, we opt to highlight another big ACC win. Florida State won its fifth ACC game in a row with a gutty comeback win over Louisville, a game in which the Seminoles trailed by double-figures midway through the second half. Leonard Hamilton’s guys were outshot from the field by a wide margin (48.1 percent to 37.7 percent), so how did they pull it off? Two ways — by posting a huge edge in turnover margin (+15) and dominating the free throw game — Florida State went 27-of-36 at the stripe while Louisville was 13-of-16. The Seminoles have definitely righted the ship after their 1-4 start in conference play, and are now in contention for a top-four finish in the league, which comes with the cherished double-bye in the ACC Tournament.
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Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume III

Posted by Brad Jenkins on February 7th, 2019

Here’s another 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 evaluate how ACC teams are performing on the road versus how well they play in the cozy confines of their home gyms. Finally, we will forecast how the final league 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 Tuesday, February 5.

Current Standings

The ACC has a top tier of four teams in efficiency margin with Virginia still comfortably leading the way. It will be interesting to see how the ACC’s upcoming schedule shakes things up. The Cavaliers start a pivotal three-day stretch with Saturday’s home game with Duke, followed by a quick turnaround trip to Chapel Hill to take on red-hot North Carolina team on Monday night. Louisville is also staring at a difficult two-game slate over the next seven days — the Cardinals visit Florida State on Saturday before taking on Duke at home on Tuesday evening. Syracuse has been the most fortunate squad in the first half of ACC play this season. At 7-3, Jim Boeheim’s team is already four games above .500 despite barely outscoring its opponents. Looking at the bottom of the conference, Wake Forest has been the league’s worst performing team by a wide margin, but the Demon Deacons have managed to post a similar record to the five schools directly above them. That’s because Wake Forest has gone 2-1 in ACC games that were decided by four points or fewer. In their other seven outings, the Deacs have been beaten by double-figures.

Advanced Statistic of the Week: Home Sweet Home in the ACC

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ACC Weekend Review: 02.04.19 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins on February 4th, 2019

It was not a banner weekend for scoring in the ACC. The main offender, of course, was NC State, which set many dubious records for offensive futility in its 47-24 home loss to Virginia Tech. The Wolfpack weren’t the only squad to struggle to put the ball in the hoop this weekend, however. Eight of the 14 teams in action failed to crack the 60-point barrier, and the league collectively made just 37.1 percent of its field goal attempts. In the big match-up of the weekend, North Carolina earned its revenge on Louisville, handling the Cardinals, 79-69, in the KFC Yum! Center. League leader Virginia beat Miami, 56-46, without the services of Ty Jerome (back injury), while Duke stepped away from league play to throttle St. Johns’s in Durham. Here are the highlights from the weekend around the ACC.

An exasperated Kevin Keatts reacts to N.C. State’s historically bad offensive performance against Virginia Tech. (cbssports.com)
  • Best Win: After suffering the worst home loss during Roy Williams‘ tenure in Chapel Hill a few weeks ago at the hands of Louisville, the Tar Heels redeemed themselves in a big way this weekend. A 30-8 first-half run gave North Carolina a commanding lead that was never really challenged. Luke Maye and Cam Johnson led the way with a pair of double-double performances, and, for Maye, it was a personal measure of revenge, as he was outplayed by Louisville’s Steven Enoch in the first meeting. Saturday was a completely different deal — Maye finished with 20 points and 11 boards while Enoch failed to score in 16 minutes of action.
  • Worst Loss: It looked like a great opportunity for NC State to recover some steadiness entering Saturday’s contest. Kevin Keatts’ team was coming off two emotional home games — last Saturday’s buzzer-beating win over Clemson, and a tough overtime loss to Virginia — with Virginia Tech missing its star point guard Justin Robinson. Unfortunately for Keatts, the Wolfpack forgot to bring their offense to PNC Arena. In scoring only 24 points for the entire game, NC State posted the lowest point total by a Division I team this decade, and the lowest by an ACC school in the shot-clock era. More importantly, Keatts’ squad whiffed on a chance to post a resume-building win that it may need on Selection Sunday.
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Ten Questions to Consider: A Super Weekend of Hoops

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on February 1st, 2019

This weekend’s slate of college basketball from Friday evening through Sunday afternoon will be the perfect lead-in to the “Big Game.” With now under 50 days until Selection Sunday, here are 10 questions I have for this weekend’s crucial action.

  1. Can Iowa turn around its porous defense against one of the Big Ten’s best? (Michigan @ Iowa, Friday 7 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) Despite having one of the Big Ten’s most efficient offenses, Iowa finds itself 5-5 in conference play ahead of tonight’s game against Michigan. The Hawkeyes are the only Big Ten team that is allowing at least 1.10 points per possession in conference games.
  2. Is Bowling Green a threat to Buffalo in the MAC’s Eastern Division? (Buffalo @ Bowling Green, Friday 8 PM EST, CBS Sports Network) Bowling Green and Buffalo each have just one MAC loss ahead of tonight’s match-up, but the Falcons’ ability to clean up its defensive glass could be the difference-maker. Bowling Green’s Demajeo Wiggins has a defensive rebounding rate that sits among the top five in the nation.
  3. Can Louisville stymie North Carolina’s three-point shooting for a second time? (North Carolina @ Louisville, Saturday 2 PM EST, ESPN) Roy Williams’ team has shot 40 percent or better from three-point range in six of its past seven games. The single game in which it did not was a 3-of-22 performance in a loss against Louisville. Correspondingly, ACC opponents have shot 30.8 percent against the Cardinals over their last five games.
  4. Will NC State be focused and ready for a feisty Virginia Tech team? (Virginia Tech @ North Carolina State, Saturday Noon, ACC Network) Sandwiched between the disappointment of their overtime loss to Virginia and a Tuesday game against North Carolina, the Wolfpack play Virginia Tech. All three losses by the Hokies thus far have come on the road.
  5. Which Big 12 title contender falls further back in the race for the regular season title? (Texas Tech @ Kansas, Saturday 4 PM EST, CBS) With both teams sitting at 5-3 in conference play, the loser of this game could find itself in the danger zone (yes, even Kansas). After shooting over 40 percent from long-range last season in conference play, Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver has missed 24 of his 27 three-point attempts in conference play this season.
  6. Will the three-point line again be the difference in the battle of Mississippi? (Mississippi State @ Mississippi, 3:30 PM EST, SEC Network) In the January meeting between these teams, both sides shot above 55 percent from inside the arc. The Rebels came out on top by four points, however, partly thanks to an 18-point advantage from behind the arc. Ole Miss has beaten the Bulldogs seven consecutive times in Oxford.
  7. Can San Francisco pick up a big resume boost? (San Francisco @ Saint Mary’s, Saturday 4 PM EST) San Francisco has two top-100 KenPom wins on the season, including a win over Saint Mary’s earlier this year. In their win over the Gaels last month, the Dons’ put four players in double-figures.
  8. Which Big East team will end its recent struggles in conference play? (Seton Hall @ Butler, Saturday Noon EST, Fox Sports 1) Collectively, Seton Hall and Butler have lost nine of their last 12 Big East games. In Seton Hall’s one-point win over Butler last month, Butler starters Sean McDermott and Henry Baddley both fouled out.
  9. Will Georgetown be in over its head again with its trip to Villanova? (Georgetown @ Villanova, Noon EST, Fox Sports 1) Villanova has beaten Georgetown seven straight times at home by an average of 17.7 points per game. Jay Wright’s offense is firing on all cylinders now, having shot above 50 percent on two-point attempts and 40 percent on three-point attempts in each of its last five games.
  10. Can Baylor avenge its earlier loss to TCU and stay on top of the Big 12? (TCU @ Baylor, Saturday 8 PM EST, ESPNU) Surging Baylor sits outside the top 30 in the most recent NET Rankings despite sitting atop the Big 12 standings. Scott Drew’s team trailed by as many as 19 points in the loss at TCU, a game in which Baylor’s defense was torched to the tune of 1.2 points per possession.

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Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume II

Posted by Brad Jenkins on January 31st, 2019

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. This week we examine how the Four Factors are influencing wins in the ACC this season. Finally, we will forecast how the final league 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 Tuesday, January 29.

Current Standings

We have a clear top tier of teams in both the standings and efficiency margin. Virginia came back to the field slightly after its tougher than expected overtime win in Raleigh against NC State on Tuesday night, but Tony Bennett’s guys are still the most impressive team — especially given that the Cavaliers have faced the toughest ACC slate among the one-loss schools. Clemson is a team to keep an eye on despite its stumbling start in league play — the Tigers’ schedule is about to lighten up considerably and their efficiency margin already contains two blowout losses to heavyweights Virginia and Duke.

Two of the hottest teams in the league — Louisville and North Carolina — will meet in a pivotal game this Saturday in the KFC Yum! Center. The Tar Heels have yet to lose on the road in ACC play, and Roy Williams should have his team motivated for revenge after the drubbing the Cardinals laid on them in Chapel Hill.

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ACC Weekend Review: 01.28.19 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins on January 28th, 2019

Entering the weekend, five schools set atop the ACC standings with just one loss each. That number of teams is now down to four, as Syracuse lost to Virginia Tech, 78-56, on Saturday afternoon. Meanwhile, conference co-leaders Virginia (82-55 at Notre Dame), Duke (66-53 versus Georgia Tech) and Louisville (66-51 against Pittsburgh) all finished with comfortable wins, although the Blue Devils needed to rally from an eight-point deficit early in the second half. Two other games produced the most exciting finishes of the weekend. Braxton Beverly’s last-second three-pointer capped a furious rally by NC State, as the Wolfpack scored the game’s last eight points to beat Clemson in Raleigh, 69-67. Similarly, Ky Bowman made a clutch three to complete a Boston College comeback victory at Wake Forest. Here are the highlights from the weekend around the ACC.

N.C. State’s Braxton Beverly celebrates his last-second game winner over Clemson. (USA TODAY Sports)
  • Best Win: Just five days after seeing its reputation plummet following a 21-point beatdown at North Carolina, Virginia Tech bounced back in a big way by trouncing Syracuse. The Hokies used quick ball movement and laser-sharp shooting to shred Jim Boeheim’s famous zone defense. Buzz Williams’ team sank 14 threes and finished with 23 assists on their 25 made field goals. Surprisingly, Syracuse was unable to capitalize on its huge height advantage over the Hokies – the Orange only converted 40.7 percent of their two-point tries.
  • Worst Loss: Gut-wrenching is the only way to describe the utter meltdown suffered by Clemson at PNC Arena on Saturday. It’s been a struggle so far in conference play for the 1-5 Tigers, but they seemed well on their way to picking up a possible season-changing win when leading the Wolfpack by six with 20 seconds to play. Then everything that could go wrong did, with most of it self-inflicted. Senior Marcquise Reed (84% FT for the season) missed four straight free throws, and Clemson tried the ‘fouling while up three’ strategy way too early – allowing NC State’s Beverly to cut the lead to one with nine seconds remaining. That left the Wolfpack with ample time to foul Reed and then get the ball up the floor for Beverly’s clean look, which (of course) he drained. Fortunately for Brad Brownell, the schedule lightens up considerably now, but time is quickly running out for the Tigers’ NCAA hopes.
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Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume I

Posted by Brad Jenkins on January 24th, 2019

With approximately one-third 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 Tuesday, January 22.

Current Standings

Although there is a strong correlation between efficiency margin and the conference standings, there are also some clear differences among the one-loss schools. Virginia has been the league’s best performer to date, while Syracuse appears to be quite fortunate to have suffered only one defeat so far. It’s important to keep in mind that schedule strength can have a huge impact this early in conference play. For instance, three teams have already had the misfortune of facing both Virginia and Duke. That quirk in scheduling helps explain why two of those squads (Florida State and Clemson) are both well under .500 in the league at this point. The opposite is true for NC State and Georgia Tech, neither of which has faced either of the league’s national heavyweights. Clearly the biggest surprise this year is Louisville. The Cardinals’ robust efficiency margin has not been earned in any fluky way — Chris Mack’s team simply crushed North Carolina and Georgia Tech in its last two road contests.

Advanced Statistic of the Week: Living and Dying By the Three

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ACC Weekend Review: 01.22.19 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins on January 22nd, 2019

The first ACC clash of the titans lived up to the hype as Duke edged Virginia, 72-70, in an electric Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday night. And luckily for us, those two league heavyweights will do it all over again in three weeks in Charlottesville, with one or even two more meetings possible in the postseason. Elsewhere in the league, two other Triangle schools picked up hard earned road wins. North Carolina used a late three-point shooting barrage to pull away from a pesky Miami team, 85-76, and NC State (still playing without point guard Markell Johnson) held off Notre Dame, 77-73. Here are the highlights from the weekend around the ACC.

Duke’s freshmen stars Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett combined for 57 points in Duke’s big win over Virginia. (Rob Kinnan – USA TODAY Sports)
  • Best Win: Ever since Tony Bennett raised Virginia to elite status in the ACC hierarchy beginning in the 2013-14 season, the Cavaliers’ games in Durham have been instant classics. To say this game between co-#1 teams could have gone either way would be a vast understatement – for an eight-minute stretch in the middle of the second half, neither school held more than a one-point lead. While the rest of the ACC has struggled to score against Virginia’s pack-line defense, Duke seems to have cracked the code. Only nine league opponents have scored over 1.12 points per possession against Virginia over the last six seasons, but Duke has managed to do it four times, including a 1.14 mark on Saturday. Of course, it may be more a matter of talent than strategy. Mike Krzyzewski has had numerous elite players to call on lately, including, most recently, the transcendental talents of Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett. Playing without injured point guard Tre Jones, the Blue Devils relied on Barrett (30 points) and Williamson (27 points) to become the first pair of opponents to score more than 25 points against the Cavaliers in the Bennett era. Both teams were effective in the paint but less so from distance – Duke went 2-of-14 from deep while Virginia connected on only three of its 17 three-point tries. That’s where Virginia must feel it let a huge road win get away. While Duke has been struggling with the three-pointer all year, the Cavaliers have been one of the nation’s best outside shooting teams. Expect another classic when the two face off again in three weeks.
  • Worst Loss:  Call it the Duke Hangover, Part 2. Last Saturday, Florida State was one second away from stunning the top-ranked Blue Devils, but now, Leonard Hamilton‘s team is looking at a three-game losing streak after back-to-back road upsets at Pittsburgh and Boston College. The Seminoles blew a 10-point halftime lead Sunday afternoon in Conte Forum en route to an 87-82 loss to the Eagles. As has become the custom, Florida State was killed from behind the arc – the Seminoles went 8-of-25 from deep while allowing Boston College to make 13-of-21 from long distance. In five ACC games to date, Florida State ranks last in the league in three-point shooting (24.8%) and is tied for worst in opponents’ success from deep (41.7%).
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ACC Weekend Review: 01.14.19 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on January 14th, 2019

After a lackluster opening weekend, things were much crazier around the ACC this weekend. In the headline match-up in Tallahassee on Saturday, Duke survived Florida State, 80-78, on Cam Reddish’s last second three. Reddish (23 points) and fellow freshman RJ Barrett (32 points) picked up the slack when Zion Williamson missed the entire second half with an eye injury. The long Seminoles caused problems for the Blue Devils in the paint, blocking seven Blue Devils’ shots, winning the battle of the boards (+5) and out-dunking Duke by a 10-to-1 margin. League co-leader Virginia grabbed another impressive road win too, as the Cavaliers manhandled Clemson, 63-43. Two road underdogs also won with surprising ease as Louisville dominated North Carolina at the Smith Center, 83-62, and Georgia Tech pulled off a stunner at Syracuse, 73-59. Here are the highlights from the weekend around the ACC.

Steven Enoch outplayed Luke Maye as Louisville shocked North Carolina in the Smith Center on Saturday. (thecardinalconnect.com)
  • Best Win: Few gave Louisville a realistic chance to win in Chapel Hill on Saturday, much less blow the Tar Heels off their own floor. After all, the Cardinals had just lost to Pittsburgh while North Carolina was coming off an impressive road win over a ranked and fired-up NC State squad. However, Chris Mack’s unit came out smoking (seven first half 3-pointers) and North Carolina never put up much of a fight in the 21-point defeat. The most lopsided home loss of the Roy Williams era was also a huge boost to Louisville’s growing postseason resume. A major key to the victory was the Cardinals’ dominance in the paint. Connecticut transfer Steven Enoch finished with career highs in points (17) and rebounds (11), outplaying UNC star Luke Maye, who finished with just nine points on a cold (3-for-14) shooting day.
  • Worst Loss: Georgia Tech gave Syracuse a taste of its own medicine Saturday night in the Carrier Dome. Josh Pastner used a zone defense to befuddle the Orange’s offense and pull off a surprisingly easy upset. Syracuse was unable to penetrate the Yellow Jackets’ interior and struggled to make shots from deep (7-for-33), but Georgia Tech only launched 12 threes (hitting six) and shot 63.3 percent (19-of-30) on two-pointers. Jim Boeheim’s team now has three home defeats and is currently projected by KenPom to finish 9-9 in the league, well below its preseason expectations.
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