ACC Tournament Takeaways: Wednesday Afternoon

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 9th, 2016

Things got off to a shaky start in the Verizon Center on Wednesday – numerous clock malfunctions caused several delays in the opening game’s first few minutes. But once we moved past the technical difficulties, there was an afternoon of thrilling rivalries awaiting at the ACC Tournament. In the day’s opener, it looked more like an old Big East Tournament game, as Pittsburgh beat Syracuse 72-71 in an exciting game that featured huge runs by each team. A matchup of two of the more traditional ACC programs followed for the second act, as Duke and Tobacco Road rival NC State staged an old fashioned shootout, which was eventually won by the Blue Devils, 92-89. Here are quick takeaways for each of the Wednesday afternoon combatants.

Cameron Johnson's 24 points off the bench sparked Pittsburgh to victory over Syracuse in the ACC Tournament. (Charles LeClaire / USA TODAY Sports)

Cameron Johnson’s 24 points off the bench sparked Pittsburgh to victory over Syracuse in the ACC Tournament. (Charles LeClaire / USA TODAY Sports)

Pittsburgh (21-10): The Panthers completed the season sweep of Syracuse and should now feel good about their chances for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid. Jamie Dixon received great production from his bench today, particularly redshirt freshman Cameron Johnson, who hit four three-pointers and scored a career-high 24 points. Dixon has definitely cracked the code of the Boeheim zone, as he improved to 15-6 against the Orange in his 13 seasons on the Pitt sideline. Up next for the Panthers: top-seeded North Carolina, who handled Pittsburgh rather easily (85-64) in Chapel Hill in the only meeting between the two teams this year.

Syracuse (19-13)The Panthers seem to just have Syracuse’s number, as the Orange have now dropped five consecutive meetings with Jamie Dixon’s club. Syracuse did a better job keeping Pitt off the glass this afternoon than they have in the past; the Panthers grabbed just 12 offensive boards after allowing them to grab 49 percent of their misses in the two previous meetings. The Orange made six of their eight second half three-point attempts, but even that wasn’t enough to complete a frantic comeback. After dropping this game, the Orange fall to 9-10 against ACC competition for the year. A sub .500 conference mark is not necessarily a disqualifier from NCAA at-large consideration, but it does mean that Jim Boeheim’s squad will be sweating it out until the field is announced Sunday night. Their ultimate postseason fate is anyone’s guess.

Duke (23-9): The Blue Devils once again won with outstanding offense, despite allowing the Wolfpack to score nearly as freely as they did. Duke trailed 53-50 at the half in the 2nd highest combined first half score in ACC Tourney history. For the game, both teams shot over 50 percent from the floor. Turnovers were also scarce – Duke finished with just four, while NC State only gave the ball away six times. Looking ahead, we would expect Thursday afternoon’s Duke-Notre Dame quarter-final matchup to display similar levels of offensive efficiency. Neither squad is known for playing with defensive intensity, and they each possess offenses rated in KenPom’s national top 10. Mike Brey has had recent success against his coaching mentor Mike Krzyzewski, including a wild 95-91 Irish victory this year in Cameron Indoor.

NC State (16-17): The Wolfpack’s season comes to an end with a third close loss to Duke this year. Much like the first meeting between the two (Jan. 23 in Raleigh), NC State was on fire in the first half and refused not go away at any point, even when Duke appeared to be in solid control in the second half. Anthony “Cat” Barber capped off a tremendous junior season with 29 points and seven assists. As was often the case this year, Mark Gottfried’s club was just not good enough defensively this afternoon, as they allowed the Blue Devils to score 1.35 points per possession. The Wolfpack should be a deeper team next year – two of their most talented players are sitting out this year, and high profile recruit Dennis Smith will join the mix. The big offseason question is easy: Will Barber forgo an early pro career to join Smith in a super talented backcourt?

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The Road to an NCAA Bid For Select Bubble Teams

Posted by Shane McNichol on March 8th, 2016

As the mid-major conference tournaments excite and entertain college basketball fans everywhere this week, teams on the bubble correspondingly shake in fear as coveted NCAA Tournament spots are snagged by pesky bid thieves. Northern Iowa (MVC), Iona (MAAC) and Green Bay (Horizon) have already collected conference tournament victories that are likely to impact the bubble equation. Power conference teams residing on the bubble still have some control over their destiny, as they are inevitably presented with multiple opportunities to bolster their resumes without having to win an entire tournament. A single victory over a fellow bubble team or an upset of a highly-ranked conference foe can provide the boost needed to rest a lot easier on Selection Sunday. Chances will vary for each of the following bubble teams, but here a few teams in need of victories this week along with a path with which to do so.

USC

Jordan McLaughlin And USC Have The Tournament In Sight...But May Need One Or Two More Wins To Get There (Photo: AP)

Jordan McLaughlin And USC Have the NCAA Tournament In Sight… But May Need One Or Two More Wins To Get There (Photo: AP)

Its Path: Beat UCLA and Utah

On January 13, USC was 15-3 with wins over Arizona and UCLA in Pac-12 play along with non-conference wins over Monmouth, Wichita State and Yale. The wheels have since fallen off the Trojans, as Andy Enfield’s squad lost eight of its final 13 games to plant itself firmly on the bubble. The rigors of conference play hit his squad harder than expected, knocking the Trojans right to the edge of the NCAA Tournament. USC begins this week’s Pac-12 Tournament with its bid-clinching work clearly laid out ahead of it. Wins over UCLA (which they swept this season) in the first round and Utah (RPI #8) in the quarterfinals would safely launch the Trojans into the field.

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2016 ACC Tournament Preview

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

After 10 consecutive years of southern hospitality, the ACC Tournament moves north to Washington, D.C., for a year before heading even farther up the east coast to Brooklyn in 2017 and 2018. This will mark the fifth time the ACC Tournament has been held in the DC area, and the first time back there since 2005. In a bit of a public gaffe, the league’s marketing office apparently used the wrong dome in a stock photo advertising for the tournament. Let’s hope that’s the only embarrassment that the league suffers this week. As we move into day one of the tournament, here’s a preview of a few things we expect to occur.

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Here’s a printable version of the Bracket: 2016 ACC Tournament

And The Winner Is: According to KenPom, there’s a 66 percent chance that one of the league’s two highest-rated teams (#2 Virginia and #1 North Carolina) wins the ACC crown this week. We agree that those are the two teams to beat, with the Cavaliers earning a slight edge over the Tar Heels. Led by newly-minted ACC Player of the Year Malcolm Brogdon, the Cavaliers have been the league’s best team during the second half of conference play. North Carolina is certainly capable of beating any team in Washington, but we are a little leery of the Tar Heels’ tendency toward inconsistent shooting.

Dark Horse With a Chance: It would be a massive surprise if #4 Notre Dame repeats its historic run in Greensboro from last year, but there is a distinct possibility that this season’s bracket could break in favor of the Fighting Irish. It’s unlikely that Mike Brey’s squad will win the ACC title, but it could make a run to the championship game on Saturday. Could the 2016 ACC Tournament feature a narrative similar to that of 1976, the first time the league held its championship in the D.C. area? Virginia, the #6 seed, beat three higher-seeded teams on its way to the program’s first-ever ACC title. The Cavaliers were led by ACC Tournament MVP Wally Walker, who was supposedly motivated by a perceived snub by a media corps that neglected to vote him on to the all-ACC First Team that year. Many observers thought Notre Dame point guard Demetrius Jackson would be an all-ACC First Teamer when the league announced its current season awards on Sunday, but the outstanding junior ended up as a Second Team selection. It would not shock anyone if Jackson is out to prove a point this week.

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Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume VII – Final Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 7th, 2016

Here is the final edition of our weekly look at the ACC standings and team performances, where we focus on which teams are playing better or worse than their records might indicate. This week we also examine how each ACC team performed on the road compared with its home performances, and we take a final stab at predicting postseason placement for all of the eligible ACC schools.

Note: All numbers are current for games played through Saturday, March 5.

Current StandingsACCStand-Mar7

North Carolina and Virginia were pegged in the preseason as the two best teams in the ACC and that’s exactly how it turned out. Each team went through a tough stretch of games — Virginia began conference play with a 2-3 record while North Carolina was 4-4 in the month of February, but the Tar Heels and Cavaliers will enter the ACC Tournament as the clear co-favorites based on efficiency margins and seeding. Speaking of that, both teams are also still in the hunt for #1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament along with favorable opening weekend placement in friendly Raleigh.

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ACC Weekend Review: 03.07.16 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins on March 7th, 2016

The ACC regular season came to an end on Saturday, and despite persistent congestion at the top of the league standings for much of the campaign, we finished with an outright champion as North Carolina claimed its first regular season conference title since 2012. The Tar Heels collected this year’s title in a similar fashion to how they did so that season, beating archrival Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium after suffering an earlier crushing home loss to the Blue Devils. Miami was not able to tie the Tar Heels for the league’s top spot because of another poor showing on the road — this time at the hands of surging Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. Virginia also easily handled Louisville for the second time this season. The Cavaliers (now ranked #1 in KenPom) are perhaps the favorite to win the upcoming ACC Tournament in Washington, D.C. Here are some of the highlights from a busy weekend around the league.

Brice Johnson slams home two of his 18 points as North Carolina dominated Duke in the paint. (Mark Dolejs/USA TODAY Sports)

Brice Johnson slams home two of his 18 points to help North Carolina dominate Duke in the paint. (Mark Dolejs/USA TODAY Sports)

  • Best Win: There was a lot at stake for North Carolina in its annual season-ending meeting with Duke. Not only were the Tar Heels playing their archrival for a regular season crown and a potential #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, Roy Williams’ team was also playing to prove its toughness against good competition — something this squad has struggled with. The game certainly wasn’t pretty (both teams shot less than 40 percent from the field), but North Carolina finally got over the hump to notch the big win (Duke had won 11 of their 14 previous meetings). To say that the Tar Heels dominated the glass would be a gross understatement. Led by Brice Johnson’s 21 boards, North Carolina held an incredible +35 edge in that category. Duke never led but managed to stay close by making 13 threes and committing eight fewer turnovers. The Tar Heels iced the game by going 8-of-8 from the foul line in the last 30 seconds of play. Saturday’s outcome continued an interesting recent trend in this rivalry. Over the last 14 seasons, Duke and North Carolina have split their regular season games eight times. On seven of those occasions, the Tar Heels claimed the season finale.

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Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume VI

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 4th, 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. With the season winding down, we’ll look at which ACC schools are getting hot as the postseason beckons. We’ll also forecast how the final standings may look (this will be easier now than ever!) and what it means for each ACC schools’ postseason aspirations.

Note: All numbers are current for games played through Wednesday, March 2nd.

Current StandingsACCStand-Mar2

With just seven games left to play in the ACC regular season (all on Saturday), these numbers shouldn’t change much. As you’ll notice, efficiency margin and win-loss record correlate as strongly as you would imagine. No team with a losing record has a positive efficiency margin, although one team over .500 in the standings does have a deficit in points per possession. Virginia Tech has achieved its winning mark in the ACC despite being outscored by 0.03 points per possession. The Hokies have pulled off this neat trick by winning the close ones in Cassell Coliseum – Virginia Tech is 4-0 in home games decided by three points or less or in overtime. With his team picked to finish 14th in the league in the preseason, Buzz Williams is rightfully garnering support as a potential ACC Coach of the Year. Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC Weekend Review: 03.01.16 Edition

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

It was tough sledding on the road for four ranked ACC teams this weekend. In Saturday’s premier match-up, Virginia led most of the way and knocked off league leader North Carolina in Charlottesville. The outcome was not a big surprise, but we didn’t expect the Cavaliers to win the way they did — Virginia usually keeps the score in the 60s when it is most successful. Also on Saturday, Miami broke open a close game late to beat visiting Louisville, and Notre Dame was hammered on the road against Florida State. Pittsburgh captured a huge resume-building win against Duke at the Peterson Events Center on Sunday, and while most experts already projected Pittsburgh into the Big Dance, the one thing missing for Jamie Dixon’s squad was a signature win. Consider that box checked now. Here are some of the highlights from a busy weekend around the ACC.

Malcolm Brogdon made a strong case to be ACC Player-of-the-Year in Virginia's win over North Carolina. (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Malcolm Brogdon made a strong case to be ACC Player-of-the-Year in Virginia’s win over North Carolina. (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

  • Best Win: We had been anxiously waiting on the only meeting between the two preseason league favorites all season, and we weren’t disappointed. Virginia led most of the way but North Carolina stayed within striking distance due to some surprisingly hot shooting from deep (9-of-19 on threes). In the end, however, it was Virginia’s offense that was the difference (the Cavaliers scored 1.20 points per possession), representing its second-best output and the highest allowed by North Carolina in conference play. Virginia’s Malcolm Brogdon may now be the front-runner for ACC Player of the Year after scoring 26 points and grabbing six boards while Brice Johnson only managed 12 points and five turnovers. Much of the credit for the Tar Heel star’s subpar performance goes to Virginia’s Anthony Gill, who was the primary defender on him for much of the night.

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Inside the ACC Numbers: Volume V

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 26th, 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 examine the relative shooting expertise among ACC schools. We’ll also forecast how the final standings may look and what it means for each ACC schools’ postseason aspirations.

Note: All numbers are current for games played through Thursday, February 25th.

Current StandingsACCStand-Feb24Since last week’s analysis, North Carolina outscored its two opponents by a total of 37 points in extending its lead in efficiency margin while also reclaiming sole possession of first place in the standings. Miami seems to be the outlier among the crowded group of teams just below the Tar Heels. The Hurricanes’ continued struggles on the road is the reason for it. After last Saturday’s blowout loss to North Carolina, not only has Miami lost four of its seven away games, but Jim Larranaga’s team has also been outscored by .08 points per possession in ACC games away from Coral Gables. That makes the Hurricanes the 4th worst team in the league in road efficiency margin. Looking further down the standings, Georgia Tech’s record now corresponds to its efficiency margin, thanks to back to back home wins by a combined three points. This newly found phenomenon in Atlanta (winning close games), has many wondering if Brian Gregory might keep his job for next year, something that was regarded as an impossiblity just two weeks ago. Read the rest of this entry »

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ACC Weekend Review: 02.22.16 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on February 22nd, 2016

In Saturday’s two headline ACC contests, one ended up a shocking blowout while the other turned out generally as expected. Most anticipated that a game between teams tied for first place would be a tightly-fought battle, but North Carolina easily handled Miami to reclaim sole possession of the top of the standings. In the other big game of the weekend, injuries and a corresponding lack of depth finally caught up with Duke, unable to hold off Louisville’s second half charge. Elsewhere around the league, it was a bad weekend for three ACC schools fighting for NCAA Tournament consideration. Syracuse lost at home to Pittsburgh, while Clemson and Florida State lost to teams with losing conference records. Here are some of the highlights from a busy weekend around the ACC.

Brice Johnson recorded another double-double and North Carolina routed Miami in Saturday's battle for first place in the ACC. (Gerry Broome/AP Photo)

Brice Johnson recorded another double-double and North Carolina demolished Miami in Saturday’s battle for first place in the ACC. (Gerry Broome/AP Photo)

  • Best Win: The battle for first place in the ACC was completely one-sided as North Carolina dominated Miami  in Chapel Hill. For anyone worried about the Tar Heels after their heart-breaking loss last week to rival Duke, those concerns were erased early in the second half when UNC quickly extended a nine-point halftime lead to as many as 38 points. Brice Johnson led a balanced Tar Heels’ attack with 16 points and 15 rebounds, while five teammates joined him with double figures. For Miami, it was the first of four straight games against ranked ACC opponents — a stretch that will undoubtedly test the Hurricanes’ legitimacy among the league leaders.

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ACC M5: 02.22.16 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on February 22nd, 2016

morning5_ACC

  1. The Comeback: If you’re looking for a good recap of Duke – North Carolina, this isn’t it (the Student Section has you covered there). But good on Roy Williams for not calling a timeout during North Carolina’s final possession. It’s not his fault that Joel Berry put on blinders and decided against attacking the basket (or that Marcus Paige wanted no part of the play). Not much else to say at this point other than the obvious — it was an amazing win for Duke considering all of its injuries.
  2. Raleigh News & Observer: North Carolina banished the narratives and self-esteem issues following its Duke loss with an absolute beatdown of a very good Miami team. As Roy Williams aptly put it after the drubbing: “Things look better when the ball goes in the basket” (although his rant about Doug Gottlieb not knowing how to put on his shorts won the press conference). Inconsistency in North Carolina’s backcourt wasn’t anticipated this season, but it’s what could keep the team from a Final Four trip to Houston. Marcus Paige doesn’t seem himself right now, and the backcourt as a whole can struggle in feeding Brice Johnson. It’s pretty clear that North Carolina is the best team eligible to play in the ACC Tournament as the teams stand right now, but a lot of teams will cause them problems on their off nights.
  3. ND Insider: So much for Notre Dame having the most obvious path to the ACC regular season title. The Fighting Irish’s defense couldn’t keep Georgia Tech’s Marcus Georges-Hunt from putting them two games back of the Tar Heels in the standings (tied for fifth, but holding the tiebreaker with Duke). The clog at the top of the ACC means a lot, as only the top four will get double-byes in Washington, DC, next month (currently Notre Dame and Duke are tied for fourth since Louisville is ineligible). Now’s when things get really interesting. The Tar Heels will go on the road in three of their last four games, including trips to Raleigh (never underestimate a rivalry game), Charlottesville and Durham. Three of Miami’s and Virginia’s four remaining games come against the top six teams in the conference. That leaves Duke and Notre Dame with the easiest finishing schedules (although they start with the most losses).
  4. Syracuse Post-StandardPittsburgh kept its NCAA dreams alive by finishing a season sweep of Syracuse this weekend. Jamie Dixon clearly has Jim Boeheim’s number (he’s 7-2 in the Carrier Dome), and this year Jamel Artis was the star who killed the zone. Let’s discuss the ACC bubble. Syracuse is probably in (especially since for some unknown reason the Selection Committee will consider Boeheim’s suspension), and that bodes well for the Panthers — a team that lacks many marquee wins but will have a shot at a couple more down the stretch. Florida State and Clemson, however, appear to be in trouble. What’s bizarre is that the Tigers have much better “good wins” than any of the other teams, but they just were awful in non-conference play. Clemson’s upcoming game at Georgia Tech is a must-win and its home contest against Virginia might be too. Florida State desperately needs some wins to close out the season after a possible bubble-bursting loss in Blacksburg. Luckily the Seminoles will get shots at Duke and home against Syracuse and Notre Dame (who has struggled considerably on the road).
  5. ACC Digital Network: Dunkuary. Thank me later.
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