NC State’s Cat Barber Becoming an Elite Point Guard

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

ACC Microsite writers Matt Patton and Brad Jenkins will be reporting live from Greensboro at the 2015 ACC Tournament throughout the week.

A discussion of the top point guards in the ACC will mostly focus on Duke’s Tyus Jones, North Carolina’s Marcus Paige and Boston College’s Olivier Hanlan, but N.C. State’s Anthony “Cat” Barber may be playing better right now than any of his conference peers at the position. Last night the sophomore scored 34 points to lead his team past Pittsburgh in the ACC Tournament’s second round, propelling N.C. State into Thursday night’s quarterfinals against Duke, a team that the Wolfpack beat by 12 back in January.

Anthony Barber  (Photo by Liz Condo, theACC.com)

Anthony “Cat” Barber has improved dramatically over the ACC season. (Photo by Liz Condo, theACC.com)

With a solid win in its first ACC Tournament game, N.C. State should feel comfortable about receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. And as their quality wins will attest (Louisville and North Carolina in recent weeks), the Wolfpack could prove a tough out for the rest of the postseason. A big reason for the team’s overall improvement has been the dramatic midseason turnaround made by Barber. After an inconsistent freshman year, the wiry guard from Newport News, Virginia, showed flashes of brilliance during the non-conference portion of this season before regressing over the first half of ACC play. During that stretch of early 2015, he was a shaky ball-handler, a hesitant shooter, and he even lost his starting spot for a couple games in late January. That’s when the proverbial light came on. Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC Tournament Preview

Posted by Matt Patton on March 10th, 2015

The ACC Tournament gets started in Greensboro today and the microsite will be there throughout the week to provide coverage all the way through Saturday night’s championship game. Let’s tease the next five days with some storylines, players to watch and a not-so-wild prediction.

Three Important Narratives

  • #1 Seed Drama (and the Battle for a True ACC Champion): Duke and Virginia both look like #1 seeds if the season ended today. But there’s one problem — the season isn’t over. Wisconsin and Arizona are both nipping at their heels and if both win their conference tournaments, chances are that the Selection Committee thinks pretty hard about dropping one of those ACC teams to the second line. If either Duke or Virginia wins the ACC Tournament, that team is a lock for the top line. If the Cavaliers and Blue Devils meet in the finals, the loser still has a really good chance. Lose before then, though, and all bets are off. The more important storyline from a conference perspective is the crowning of the true champion. One issue with the unbalanced ACC schedule is that regular season wins and losses aren’t directly comparable anymore. Virginia had the easiest conference strength of schedule of any ACC team (in part because it can’t play itself), but the Cavaliers only played Duke once (at home), North Carolina once (away), Louisville twice, and Notre Dame once (away). Duke, on the other hand, got Virginia once (away), North Carolina twice, Louisville once (away), and Notre Dame twice. The Blue Devils only played one extra game against the top five teams, but that extra game was on the road. What I’m trying to say here is that if we want to crown a true ACC champion with no regrets, Duke and Virginia need to meet on Saturday evening for a neutral-court rematch.
Don't forget about the Wolfpack. (AP Photo | Jason DeCrow)

Don’t forget about the Wolfpack. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

  • Bubble Bath: Heading into Greensboro, the ACC bubble situation is pretty straightforward this year. Pittsburgh needs to walk away with the trophy. NC State is mostly safe (not that the Wolfpack should think about losing to Pittsburgh on Wednesday). Miami is on the outside of the bubble but can definitely play itself into the Big Dance. The Hurricanes need a splashy win (alas, the winner of Wake Forest and Virginia Tech won’t cut it). A win over Notre Dame on Thursday might just tip the scales. Beating Duke a second time would make it a sure thing, and beating any other opponent to make the championship game would probably be enough as well.

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ACC M5: 03.10.15 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on March 10th, 2015

morning5_ACC

  1. uproxx: Martin Rickman writing about the ACC? Sign me up. Rickman, one of the best bloggers in its truest form, does a great job chronicling his recent trip to watch Duke beat North Carolina in Chapel Hill. He teleports you to the world as a normal person experiences it. Not a media member with a parking pass ready to complain about baseline seating, but a normal person milling around Franklin Street from pregame revelry to postgame letdown. It’s refreshing.
  2. Syracuse Post-Standard: The Post-Standard’s coverage of the Syracuse scandal has been phenomenal. This article really stuck out, though, because it gets into the nitty gritty of the athletic department’s subversion of the rules. For the record, most NCAA rules are ridiculous, but requiring student-athletes to remain in good academic standing is generally pretty important if you’re selling the system on education. Syracuse went to great lengths to keep Fab Melo eligible. What’s got to be terrifying for the NCAA is there’s absolutely no way Syracuse’s situation is unique… and there’s still North Carolina’s academic scandal to deal with.
  3. Pittsburgh Tribune Review: John Harris thinks Pittsburgh‘s recent swoon is because of fatigue and that’s a reason to not trust Duke going forward. The key difference is that Duke’s two players logging ridiculous minutes are guards who have a wealth of other options. Jamel Artis and Michael Young, on the other hand, have to carry a lot of the burden on their own. Part of the Panthers’ recent letdown may have also had to do with a growing realization that they were on the outside looking in for the NCAA Tournament. A team like Pittsburgh expects to get there just about every year, so when they don’t, it’s bound to be a letdown.
  4. BC Interruption: How do the final conference standings look compared to the preseason media poll? Not all that similar, actually. Notre Dame, Miami, Clemson and Virginia all overachieved. Pittsburgh and North Carolina didn’t fare as well.
  5. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Marcus Georges-Hunt‘s season ended with a broken foot, but he’s not going to let it get him down. It may let head coach Brian Gregory down, though, as he likely needs a miraculous performance in the ACC Tournament to keep his job, and Georges-Hunt was the team’s most important offensive player.
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Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume VII

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 6th, 2015

Here is this season’s final edition of a weekly look at the current ACC standings and corresponding team performances, focusing on the teams that are playing better or worse than their records might indicate. We will also delve into some advanced metrics to find a few interesting team 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, March 4.

Current Standings

ACCStandings3.4

Hats off to Tony Bennett’s Virginia squad for becoming the first school other than Duke and North Carolina to win consecutive outright ACC regular season titles since the David Thompson-led N.C. State teams of the 1970s. Those Wolfpack squads also won the ACC Tournament both years and brought home the 1974 NCAA championship — lofty but certainly achievable goals for this season’s Cavaliers. Last week we congratulated Virginia for its record-setting performance on the defensive end of the floor, but this week we pay homage to Duke as the Blue Devils should claim the title of the league’s best offense for the sixth year in a row. Despite Mike Krzyzewski’s deserving reputation as a defensive guru, it’s been the Blue Devils’ offense that has carried his teams during the last several seasons. North Carolina, thanks to a second blowout of Georgia Tech in as many weeks, has moved solidly into third place in points per possession margin (PPM). If you’re looking for a team outside the top two to challenge for and perhaps capture the ACC Tourney crown, the Tar Heels would be a good choice even if they end up as the #5 seed. As the only school to play both of the ACC’s heavyweights twice this year, Wake Forest’s PPM is a little deceptive, with Virginia and Duke both inflicting severe beatings in their second meetings with the Deacons.

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ACC M5: 03.05.15 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on March 5th, 2015

morning5_ACC

  1. Syracuse Post-Standard: Whatever the Post-Standard is paying Patrick Stevens, it isn’t enough because here’s his exhaustive list of ACC Tournament seeding scenarios. Some of those are simple (notably, the bottom four teams). Pittsburgh has the most to prove in its last two games with a possibility of a seed anywhere from sixth to tenth depending on what happens around the league. The most important battle, though, is for the last double-bye. Notre Dame, Duke and Virginia are already locked in, but Louisville and North Carolina are battling for the final spot. The Cardinals control their own destiny (North Carolina’s only remaining game is home against Duke), but they also have to beat Virginia this weekend or get some help from around the league.
  2. Fox Sports: Of course I ran an article on Wake Forest’s Danny Manning yesterday and a better one shows up today. Assistant coach Randolph Childress gives Lauren Brownlow some gems for quotes on Manning’s move to a folding chair if he doesn’t like the effort he’s seeing from his team. Childress is the side of the story that Brownlow really brings to her profile. Manning wanted to keep the Deacon legend on staff because of his connections to the school and the area. None of the Wake Forest players or Childress have anything bad to say about Jeff Bzdelik, which suggests that the biggest problem with Bzdelik was his ability to associate with fans. This is worth a read.
  3. Boston Herald: Olivier Hanlan has been really flying under the radar this season, and of course it helps that Boston College is abysmal. Through eight games in February he averaged over 27 points per game and he’s at the top of the league in minutes per game as well (tied with Jerian Grant). Hanlan hasn’t quite put up Erick Green’s efficiency from Virginia Tech a couple of years ago, and I think Green’s recency will bias voters against the Eagles’ star. But Hanlan has to be first team All-ACC and he really should be in the conversation for ACC Player of the Year too. I think it’s reasonable to say that Grant’s and Jahlil Okafor’s raw totals were held back by being surrounded by so many weapons (give me Grant right now just because he’s so versatile), but not considering Hanlan shows that the voter didn’t watch him play at all this season.
  4. Syracuse Post-Standard: In light of Syracuse‘s self-imposed postseason ban, Derrick Coleman won’t be going to Greensboro to be a part of this year’s ACC Legends class. This just highlights how dumb postseason bans are because they punish the current team for issues with former players. It’s weird that we haven’t heard anything from the NCAA on Syracuse yet, but hopefully it gets resolved quickly and it doesn’t also hold next year’s team accountable for past grievances.
  5. Miami Herald: Jim Larranaga is optimistic about Miami‘s chances at making the NCAA Tournament, but it’s clear the Hurricanes still have a lot of work to do. They’ve got a great win (at Duke) and took Virginia to double-overtime (that’s the game that may end up hurting them more than their losses). In addition to a strong finish to the regular season (the game at Pittsburgh was probably an elimination game), Miami is going to need at least one upset in the ACC Tournament to have a shot at celebrating Selection Sunday. And who knows, if Angel Rodriguez gets hot for a few games, maybe Miami walks away with a trophy in Greensboro.

EXTRA (via Washington Post): It wasn’t much of a mystery anyway, but apparently Duke’s Jahlil Okafor is the only player listed on the ballot the ACC media were sent for rookie of the year.

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ACC Weekend Review: 03.02.15 Edition

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

It was not a productive weekend for ACC teams currently vying for NCAA Tournament consideration. After an impressive resume-enhancing road win last week over North Carolina, N.C. State laid an egg at Boston College in a non-competitive loss to the Eagles on Saturday afternoon. Miami was also hoping to improve its resume with a victory over North Carolina, but the Tar Heels prevailed in Coral Gables and left the Hurricanes wondering about its postseason future. Pittsburgh let a seven-point second half lead slip away at Wake Forest on Sunday night, allowing the Demon Deacons to notch a rare ACC win. This sets up a potential bubble-elimination game this week when Miami travels to Pittsburgh on Wednesday evening. In other weekend ACC action, Virginia clinched a share of its second consecutive ACC title by pulling away from Virginia Tech in the second half; Duke cruised to a comfortable home win over Syracuse; Louisville dominated Florida State in Tallahassee; and Clemson blew a huge first half lead at home before edging Georgia Tech in overtime. Here are some of the other highlights from a busy weekend of ACC action:

N.C. State had no answer for Olivier Hanlan and Boston College in a bad loss for the Wolfpack. (Winslow Townson/Boston Globe)

N.C. State had no answer for Olivier Hanlan and Boston College in a bad loss for the Wolfpack. (Winslow Townson/Boston Globe)

  • Best Win: After suffering that disappointing loss to N.C. State in the Smith Center, North Carolina was in need of a bounceback performance when it traveled south to face a hungry Miami team. The Tar Heels came through with a solid win in Coral Gables, making several big plays down the stretch to break open a tight contest. With the score tied midway through the second half, North Carolina spurted ahead and iced the game at the foul line, as Marcus Paige and Justin Jackson combined to make 10-of-10 free throws in the final two minutes of play. After getting handled on the boards by the Wolfpack, the Tar Heels were instead dominant on the glass against Miami, grabbing 14 more total rebounds than the Hurricanes. The win keeps North Carolina in the hunt for a top-four league finish and the ACC Tournament two-day bye that comes with that distinction.

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Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume VI

Posted by Brad Jenkins on February 27th, 2015

This is the latest edition of a weekly look at the current ACC standings and corresponding team performances, focusing on the teams that are playing better or worse than their records might indicate. We will also delve into some advanced metrics to find a few interesting team 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, February 25.

Current StandingsACC Stand - Feb26N.C. State and Pittsburgh continue to surge in the standings, with both schools winning twice in the last week. The Wolfpack in particular have been impressive lately, and Tuesday night’s rare win in Chapel Hill has their faithful feeling much better about making the Big Dance. In fact, based on points per possession margin (PPM) in conference play, Mark Gottfried’s squad has performed every bit as well as any ACC team other than Virginia and Duke. Speaking of the Cavaliers, what they are doing defensively continues to amaze. After holding Wake Forest to just 34 points on Wednesday night in Winston-Salem, Tony Bennett’s guys have practically assured themselves of finishing ACC play with the best defensive points per possession mark in recent conference history — the advanced stats era began in the 2001-02 season. And it will come as no surprise that the existing record for defensive efficiency performance was achieved by last year’s Virginia team — a group that held ACC opponents to a chilly 0.91 points per possession.

There are no match-ups involving two of the ACC’s five elite teams on the schedule this weekend, but there are some interesting games to observe as teams fight for postseason seeding. Jim Boeheim brings Syracuse to Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium (Saturday @ 7:00 PM ET – ESPN) in hopes that this game doesn’t end in a similar fashion to last year’s trip to Durham, which featured Boeheim’s dramatic ejection in the closing moments (and spawned a fun meme). In the only other game involving two teams with winning ACC records, North Carolina travels to Miami (Saturday @ 2:00 PM ET – CBS) in another crucial game for the Hurricanes and their NCAA Tourney hopes. There are also a couple of important games for a pair of hot ACC teams that take to the road for meetings with league bottom-dwellers, as N.C. State visits Boston College (Saturday @ Noon ET – RSN) and Pittsburgh travels to Wake Forest (Sunday @ 6:30 PM ET – ESPNU). Neither the Wolfpack nor the Panthers can afford a bad loss on their resumes as the season winds down.

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ACC M5: 02.25.15 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 25th, 2015

morning5_ACC

  1. Fayetteville Observer: Let’s start with NC State. The Wolfpack uglied it up last night in Chapel Hill and came away with a convincing win in Chapel Hill (their first in over a decade — couches were burned). Bret Strelow does a terrific job with this profile of Trevor Lacey. It’s full of great information. Did you know Lacey leads the country in points per possession on isolation plays, according to Synergy? Now you do. It also has some great anecdotes from Lacey’s days dominating high school and from his time on the scout team. My two favorite parts were Mark Gottfried dropping, “I remember when I got drafted by the Pistons” as an introduction to a story. Gottfried was drafted in the seventh round! I mean there were only 23 teams back then, but that’s an elite-level humblebrag. My second favorite tidbit was that Lacey credits former Duke guard Austin Rivers as the inspiration for some of his moves. That was completely unexpected.
  2. The Cauldron: Ever wondered what it’s like to be the PA announcer at Cameron Indoor Stadium? Trip Durham (Duke’s PA announcer) gives us all the details. He grew up a North Carolina fan, but he’s now fully integrated into the Duke home game experience. It’s interesting that Durham feels like the job connects him back to his childhood and his late father. PA announcers generally fly under the radar (except at Wake Forest games; you won’t miss the distinctive growl), but it’s fascinating to see another side of the coin.
  3. Syracuse Post Standard: Time to talk some bracketology with Patrick Stevens. If you don’t keep up with Stevens’ work, he’s been one of the best in the business for a few years now, so it’s worth checking in with his regular columns. The only real questions in the ACC are: “Will NC State and/or Miami get in?” and “Who earns a #1 seed?” Right now the answers seem like yes and no, respectively; and Duke and Virginia (although I’d be surprised if both manage to get a top seed unless there are a flurry of upsets in other conference tournaments).
  4. The Pitt News: Remarkably, Pittsburgh managed to stay in the NCAA Tournament conversation (barely) by eking out a home win last night over Boston College. The reason the Panthers still have a shot to make it into the Dance is because they have a fairly strong RPI. They’ll be hurt by an abysmal non-conference schedule, but Pittsburgh is a (very) strong ACC Tournament run away from the right side of the bubble. Now the real story from the Pittsburgh win is that Boston College’s Olivier Hanlan scored 39 points on 20 field goal attempts! That’s incredible. Fingers are crossed that we see Hanlan go unconscious again this year in Greensboro.
  5. JohnGasaway.com: Tuesday Truths are back! Why is this week noteworthy? Duke and Virginia appear to be separating themselves from the pack (I imagine even more so now, given last night’s results). That’s far from unexpected, but it hasn’t been the case until just recently. It’s somewhat misleading to say Virginia is distinguishing itself because its efficiency margin has plummeted since losing Justin Anderson to injury (thanks to an anemic offense) — although it was bound to suffer, it has dropped by 30 percent in the last three weeks.
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ACC Weekend Review: 02.23.15 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 23rd, 2015

With no match-ups between the ACC’s elite teams this weekend, the focus instead was on two important road contests for teams trying to play their way into the NCAA Tournament. Miami let a big lead slip away to lose at Louisville on the game’s final possession, and Pittsburgh improved its resume in completing a season sweep of Syracuse. Around the rest of the league, both Duke and North Carolina were able to put Wednesday’s emotionally draining overtime epic behind them and score comfortable home wins over Clemson and Georgia Tech, respectively. The Blue Devils played without star center Jahlil Okafor, who is still nursing an ankle injury suffered in that win last Wednesday. At the start of North Carolina’s game, Roy Williams paid homage to Dean Smith by running Smith’s famed Four Corners offense on the Heels’ first possession. In other weekend action, Virginia outlasted Florida State in a defensive struggle; Notre Dame cruised to victory at Boston College; and N.C. State took care of business by beating Virginia Tech in Raleigh. Here are some of the other highlights from the ACC’s weekend action.

Pittsburgh's Chris Jones came off the bench to score 19 as the Panthers keep their NCAA Tourney hopes alive. (Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports)

Pittsburgh’s Chris Jones came off the bench to score 19 as the Panthers keep their NCAA Tourney hopes alive.
(Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports)

  • Best Win: Pittsburgh plugged a gaping hole in its NCAA Tournament resume by getting its first road win of the season versus an RPI top-100 team at Syracuse. The Panthers’ win at the Carrier Dome featured yet another productive offensive performance by Jamie Dixon’s squad against the vaunted Syracuse zone. Pittsburgh scored 1.18 points per possession on Saturday after posting 1.22 in its earlier win over the Orange, giving the Panthers the two highest totals allowed by Jim Boeheim’s squad all year long. A look at previous meetings over recent years suggests that Dixon may have cracked the zone’s code. In the teams’ last 10 meetings dating back seven years, Pittsburgh has averaged 1.08 points per possession against a Syracuse defense that annually finishes among the nation’s best. If they haven’t already done so, perhaps ACC coaches around the league should study and emulate that strategy (easier said than done).

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Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume V

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 20th, 2015

This is the latest edition of a weekly look at the current ACC standings and corresponding team performances, focusing on the teams that are playing better or worse than their records might indicate. We will also delve into some advanced metrics to find a few interesting team 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, February 18.

Current Standings

ACCStandings2.19

With three weekends of conference play remaining, things are now mostly as they should be in the standings with respect to matching points per possession margin (PPM) with actual wins and losses. Virginia maintains a clear lead in both the standings and in PPM, and Duke can lay claim to being the second best team, with a clear PPM edge over Notre Dame. Last week we showed how the Irish have achieved their impressive 11-3 record by performing so well in close games, noting that Georgia Tech is the exact opposite reflection of Notre Dame in both PPM and actual record. It’s seems fitting then that those two teams have squared off twice already, and each game ended with a close Irish victory. Another interesting situation involves two teams fighting for NCAA Tournament consideration, N.C. State and Pittsburgh. Each school picked up a nice win over a ranked opponent last weekend but both the Wolfpack and the Panthers remain a game below .500 in the standings. That’s where the similarities end, though, as N.C. State has been the far better team in possession-based performance, with Pittsburgh’s defense surprisingly ranked as the league’s worst.

There are once again no match-ups involving two of the ACC’s five elite teams on the schedule this weekend. In the only game involving two teams with winning conference records, Louisville travels to Miami (Saturday @ 2:00 PM ET – ESPN) in a crucial game for the Hurricanes and their NCAA Tourney hopes. There are also a couple of games that feature an ACC heavyweight hosting a school that’s looking to get over the .500 mark, as Clemson visits Duke (Saturday @ 4:00 PM ET – ESPN), and Virginia entertains Florida State (Sunday @ 6:30 PM ET – ESPNU). In another important contest, Pittsburgh needs to win at Syracuse (Saturday @ Noon ET – ACCN) to keep any hope alive of making the Dance.

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ACC Weekend Review: 02.16.15 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 16th, 2015

The big story of the weekend was that two middle-of-the-pack ACC teams got huge resume-building wins. Pittsburgh dominated North Carolina at the Petersen Events Center Saturday afternoon, and N.C. State picked up a surprising road win at Louisville later that same day. Conference leader Virginia had to hang on to edge Wake Forest by a single point in Charlottesville, and Duke rallied from a double-figure first half deficit to win at Syracuse. In other weekend action, Clemson easily handled visiting Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech lost yet another heart-breaker, this time at home to Florida State. There was only one game scheduled on Sunday, but Miami’s game at Boston College had to be postponed until today. Here are some of the other highlights from the ACC’s weekend action.

Michael Gbinjie had a career-high 27 points against his former team. (Dennis Nett/Syracuse.com)

Michael Gbinjie had a career-high 27 points against his former team.
(Dennis Nett/Syracuse.com)

  • Best Win: It’s hard to say for sure, but N.C. State’s win over Louisville in the KFC Yum! Center could be more important than its earlier home win over rival Duke. While its fans obviously wouldn’t trade the two wins, this victory filled a major hole in N.C. State’s postseason resume. The victory proved that the Wolfpack can win on the road against high level competition, and they did it with a solid all-around performance: outscoring Louisville in the paint (32-16), only committing eight turnovers and holding stars Montrezl Harrell and Terry Rozier to a combined 14 points and 3-of-15 shooting. Anthony Barber led the way for the Pack with 21 points, his third 20-plus scoring game in the team’s last four outings.
  • Worst Loss: It’s been an emotional seven days for North Carolina’s basketball program, starting with last weekend’s passing of legendary former head coach Dean Smith. With all the attention that came with that situation it’s certainly understandable that the Tar Heels were a little flat on Saturday. But some of the problems on display at Pittsburgh over the weekend are not one-game issues. North Carolina’s defensive points per possession mark in ACC play is now up to 1.06, which is surprising considering that the Tar Heels returned much of last year’s group that finished at a very good 1.01 PPP. Even more disturbing is that opponents have scored at an way-too-easy 1.15 PPP rate over the last five games.

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Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume IV

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 13th, 2015

This is the latest edition of a weekly look at the current ACC standings and corresponding team performances, focusing on the teams that are playing better or worse than their records might indicate. We will also delve into some advanced metrics to find a few interesting team 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, February 11.

Current Standings

ACCStandings2.12

While Virginia maintains a clear lead in both the standings, and in points per possession margin (PPM), there was some shuffling right behind the Cavaliers last week. Almost entirely due to Duke’s 30-point rout of Notre Dame, the Blue Devils jumped to the top of the second tier and the Irish fell to such an extent that they now are closer to N.C. State and Syracuse than they are to the top four schools. We will examine in more detail below just how Notre Dame has achieved such a lofty 10-3 record despite a rather pedestrian PPM. Of course, Georgia Tech is the polar opposite of the Irish, as the Yellow Jackets own a better PPM than four teams above them in the standings.

Unlike the last few weeks, there are no match-ups involving two of the ACC’s five elite teams on the schedule this weekend. But we still have a few games of high interest on Saturday, led by Duke’s visit to Syracuse (6:00 PM ET – ESPN), probably viewed by the Orange as this season’s Super Bowl with no postseason play on the horizon. There are also two games featuring top tier schools against teams that are desperate for signature wins, as North Carolina makes its first ACC trip to Pittsburgh (Noon ET – ACCN) and N.C. State travels to Louisville (4:00 PM ET – ESPN). Those two games are absolutely crucial for the shaky NCAA hopes of the Panthers and the Wolfpack.

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