Monday, January 22, 2007

Conference Only Tempo-Free Stats

The first round of the conference-only tempo-free stats are up - all stats for the rest of the season are going to be conference only (except for the Duke-only stats). Here are some preliminary thoughts:

Things Bound to Change

Georgia Tech's offense: They already suffered a drop-off after the Carolina game, but they were off to an unbelievably good shooting start to the season - the EFG was over .600 prior to UNC, and their PPNTOP was over 150, which means they scored more than 3 points every two possessions in which they didn't turn the ball over. Against Duke, they turned the ball over on 37%!!! of all possessions, and still almost averaged a point per possession on account of astounding shooting. Dickey, Morrow, Crittenton, and Young are all in the top 20% in PPWS in the ACC. This shooting is likely not to continue, and their turnover problems could spell problems in the future.

Duke's defensive rebounding: Duke has pulled in an astounding 78.2% of all available defensive rebounds. Part of this is strategy - the Devils don't run out a lot on fast breaks, and usually send at least 4, if not all 5, players to the boards. Part of this is opponents - Wake, Virginia Tech, and NC State would all be at the bottom of the ACC in offensive rebounding, even without the Duke games factored in. Control of the defensive glass will be a key to watch for in this week's games against Clemson and BC, two of the better offensive rebounding teams in conference play.

Boston College's record: They got off to a hot start, but have lost the anchor to their defense. Williams had 19 blocks in 5 games, and was averaging double figures in scoring as well. Even with Williams, their defense was average - right about 100 DRating. Their first game without him was a 121. The offense had a serious drop off too - they had a 116 ORating in their first 5 games, and an 88.5 without him. Also, the schedule conspires against the Eagles from here on out. Their five wins are against Maryland at home, at NC State, at Wake, Virginia at home, and Miami at home. That's as cupcake a schedule as you can get in the ACC. Now it gets progressively harder, culminating with an absolutely brutal finish - at FSU, vs. Duke, vs. UNC, at Virginia Tech, vs. Clemson, at Georgia Tech. Dudley is a fantastic player, but he's not good enough to carry a team whose parts don't work well together to create a better whole. By the way, could someone please ask Al Skinner why Dudley, unquestionably the best player, gets barely 20% of the shots while a selfish, me-first, shoot-anything gunner like Sean Marshall takes a conference leading 32.4%? Oh wait, I just answered my own question.

Things Bound to Stay the Same

Duke and UNC's defense: It's obvious that Duke has so far been winning with defense. Less obvious is that UNC is doing the same thing. The Heels' offense has been good, but not as good as pre-conference play, and is being carried largely by some exceptional offensive rebounding. All of their shooting numbers are subpar, most notably their ugly, ugly 31.6% 3pt shooting. Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson have substantially cooled off in conference play - Ellington's EFG% is just .417, and he's hit only 26% of his 3s, while Lawson has been vulnerable to the turnover at a very high 8.5%. But UNC's defense is playing almost as well as Duke's. They lead the league in opponent PPWS, bolstered by good shooting defense and low opponent scoring from the line. Duke's field goal defense hasn't been quite as good, largely because of uncharacteristically good 3pt shooting by opponents. And their PPWS is effected by opponents shooting a lot of free throws (and shooting well) But they're cleaning up the defensive glass (for now) and forcing gobs of turnovers. Duke's D has been constant all year, and almost without regard to the opponent. It will continue to be the constant going forward.

Wake, NC State, and Miami comprising the bottom 3: They were the three worst teams in pre-conference play, and have been the three worst teams in conference play so far. Aside from games against each other and maybe one or two colossal let down games by opponents in their buildings (witness Georgia Tech @ Miami), their winning is probably finished for the year. In the past, there's occasionally been one or two really bad teams, but I can't remember a group of 3 this bad in the conference in, well, probably ever. At least Wake and State have promising young talent - Costner, McCauley, Smith, Williams, Skeen, etc. Miami, on the other hand, has merely answered the question of whether a Siena transfer could light it up in ACC play, and the answer (0.81 PPWS, .324 EFG%, 6.62 TO%) is a resounding No.

Parity: Three teams have excellent efficiency margins so far - UNC, Duke, and BC. BC we've already talked about, and Duke's is likely to come down, if only because they've already had all the games they're getting against those three teams mentioned in the prior item. Only UNC looks like a team who could maintain this kind of a gap between itself and the rest of the league. After these three, there are 5 other teams that are probably equally competitive with each other - Virginia, Virginia Tech, Clemson, FSU, and Georgia Tech. As the season goes on, we'll likely see Duke in with this bunch, and BC fall closer to the abject mediocrity that is the domain of the Maryland Terrapins. But there's a very real possibility that all seven of the teams between UNC and Maryland could finish between 7-9 and 10-6. Depending on which teams shake out where, this year's ACC could be very, very tough on the selection committee.

Finally, Maryland fans have put out an APB for DJ Strawberry's shot. For a senior who was trying to carry his team back to the tourney for the first time in three years, he's put on a positively woeful performance in the first five games - 14 of 50 from the field, including just 2 for 12 from 3.

Tomorrow night's games present two big tests - can BC hold home court against a talented but up-and-down road team in the Seminoles without their big man inside? Can Virginia Tech act like a truly good team and put away an inferior opponent on the road?

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