Tuesday, March 07, 2006

ACC Season in Review

The final update to the Tempo-Free stats has been made over on the right side. Some comments...

1) North Carolina - their seven game win streak to end the season catapulted them to the top of the conference in efficiency margin - over that time they had a plus 0.25, which is terrific (equates to about a 15-20 point margin of victory in the average game). For this shift, look no further than one stat - offensive turnovers. Through the first Duke game, Carolina turned the ball over 27.2% of its possessions - on its winning streak, that number was dropped to 16.8%. This accounts for an improvement in both their offensive and defensive efficiency - offensively because it gives a good shooting team somewhere in the neighborhood of 7-9 more possessions a game (which, for UNC, would yield 8-10 more points), and defensively because it denies the other team easy transition opportunities. Carolina's half court D has been good all year, but the numbers didn't always reflect it because of transition baskets. Over the last 7 games when they didn't turn the ball over, their defensive rating was 91.8 - very good. If they continue to protect the ball on offense, they will be a very difficult team to beat.

2) Duke - consecutive losses (and a string of not so big wins) dropped Duke to second in the efficiency margin numbers for the conference season. Duke's defensive woes started at BC - the first seven games of the season, the Devils posted a 93.9 DRating. In the nine games since, their DRating is 101.7. The Devils have still been forcing turnovers - over 20% of the opponents' possessions ended in turnovers over that nine game span. Teams have just been shooting slightly better, and getting to the free throw line - opponents have four more free throw attempts a game, and hit 74%. Except for the last three conference games, the offense continues to be very good - there's no reason to think that Duke won't break out of this mini-slump and go back to executing at a high level. But the defense needs to be ratcheted up - we need to match the intensity and aggressiveness that other teams have recently been bringing to us.

3) NC State - um, live by the three, die by the three - in their six losses, they have hit just .299 from behind the arc - averaging about 7 for 24 in those games. Overall, though, they are a very good shooting team - over 50% on twos and over 40% on threes, and they lead the conference in eFG%. They play field goal defense only - they don't force a lot of turnovers, and they don't try for offensive rebounds. They're only so-so at that defense though, so they'll go as far as their offense takes them (which, if they're hitting, could be very far indeed).


4) Virginia - yes, the lobsided loss to Carolina probably distorts all these numbers, but the numbers show that Virginia was in fact as bad as everyone thought they would be, but managed to pull out some wins anyway. They're last in the conference in efficiency margin, 11th in offense, 10th in defense, 12th in shooting, 11th in forcing turnovers, 12th in allowing assists and blocked shots, etc. What they have done well is rebound, particularly on the defensive end. And their defense has been better than the current numbers - take out the UNC debacle, and their 5th in defense. Earlier in the season when they were winning, defense was their hallmark - they hovered around the top of the conference in defense for the first 5 weeks. But the margin for error for these guys is so small - if Singletary has a bad game, it's pretty much over for them. Hopefully they'll get to host an NIT game.

Finally, I've been looking into the TFS numbers from other conferences, and two teams jump out as just steamrolling through their league. Funny thing is, they're both in the same conference - Texas and Kansas. Texas has been dominant in conference play - their margin is +24.8, and they have the best offense and second best defense. Kansas has been almost as good - checking in at +18.8, with the best in-conference defensive rating of any major conference team (86.35). This is a reflection both of the quality of these two teams (high) and the general quality of the Big XII (low - only 4 teams have a positive efficiency margin). This argument is a little circular - do Texas and Kansas have great numbers because the other teams are all bad, or are the numbers of the other teams skewed because they had to play Texas and Kansas? Either way you look at it, both of these teams have the stuff to make a deep run into March. The fact that Kansas and North Carolina have done as well as they have this year is remarkable - the growth over just one season has been amazing to watch.

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