Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Season Wrap-up

This year's ACC was all about parity, at least for 8 of the teams. Miami, NC State, and Wake Forest were clearly a cut below - only NC State was as close in efficiency margin to Clemson (9th place) as Clemson was to Maryland (2nd place). North Carolina, at least by the numbers, was clearly a cut above - the only team in conference to post a positive double digit margin, and the gap between the Heels and Maryland is bigger than the gap between Maryland and Clemson. And yet, the Heels were a loss away from playing 5th in the ACC. Let's just take a brief look at all 12 teams:

Boston College
Probably overachieved most, particularly since they were without the services of Sean Williams for so much of the conference season (although Tyrelle Blair became a bit of a Sean Williams-light). Dudley and Rice carried the team to first place for much of the season, before a 2-4 finish down the stretch. Still, they did enough to earn a game on Friday, and will get to wear the white jerseys against the Maryland-Miami winner. BC's hallmark all season was offense - led by very good shooting, they had the second best offense in the conference.

Probably the most mentally strained team in the conference, particularly with the back-to-back losses at Duke (flurried comeback ends just short, amidst controversy) and against Virginia (flurried opponent comeback nips them at the buzzer). Clemson started 17-0 before fading with a 4-9 mark down the stretch, and finished 9th in conference play. Clemson thrived on forcing turnovers, and they forced a lot, but they were not a good shooting team in the half court, particularly from outside (10 for 19 against VT in a potential season-saver not withstanding). The game with FSU is an elimination game.

This team had the furthest downward divergence between their E-margin (3rd) and their conference finish (7th). Part of this is due to big wins against State, Miami, and Wake, and part due to several close losses (4). Duke's offense started to come around in the end, but its defense faded down the stretch - they held only two opponents in the last 9 conference games under a point per possession, after not allowing higher than a 100.7 D Rating in the first 7. Duke actually should be favored both Thursday against State and, if they win, Friday against Virginia.

Florida State
The Al Thornton show - no player was more important to his team than Al Thornton (might this be a preview for the OMAC POY? Tune in tomorrow!). Thornton was high, high usage, and needed to be. FSU as a team put up wildly inconsistent offensive performances - two O Ratings in the 80s, three in the 90s, and 5 above 120 in conference play - but was consistently bad on defense (10th in the conference). They may get a sympathetic eye from the committee since Toney Douglas was missing for much of the 5 game losing streak, but the game against Clemson is still probably an elimination game.

Georgia Tech
I mentioned earlier this year that Tech, due to its youth, might have a tough home/road split. Tech went 7-1 at home, and 1-7 on the road. All 7 home wins featured O Ratings over 100. All seven road losses featured D Ratings over 100. I think that's a pretty clear home/road split. Tech's young players had some growing pains, but both Thaddeus Young and Javaris Crittenton largely shined. Morrow regained his shooting stroke after pre-season struggles, and Dickey and Smith turned in effective post performances. No more games in Atlanta for Georgia Tech could spell trouble.

Came on like gangbusters at the end of the season. All of Maryland's last 6 games featured O Ratings over 110, and 4 of the last 7 featured D Ratings under 95. 5 of their last 7 wins were double figure jobs, and they won their last 7 by a combined 91 points. Still, they're playing on Thursday because of some truly offensive offensive performance in the early part of the season.

Miami was decimated by injury, particularly inside, and gave a walk-on over 40% of minutes in conference play (to his credit, Keaton Copeland did some nice things on the glass and creating steals). For a team that can't shoot, Miami was a surprisingly effective offensive team because of some great offensive rebounding - only three teams held them below 38%, and they got 40% or better 9 times. Their defense, however, was awful. During the seven game losing streak in January and early February, every opponent posted an O Rating of 121 or better, and four were above 130. Put it this way - as good as UNC was defensively compared to the rest of the league, Miami was more than that much worse. Maryland should end their season Thursday.

North Carolina
UNC lapped the league in efficiency margin, and finished with both the best offense and best defense in conference. But defensive lapses created problems, and losses. In each loss, the opponent posted an O Rating over 100, and they only won one conference game when they gave up more than a point per possession (that win came over BC, which clanked away a shot to win in the end game). Defensive consistency will be key for the Heels, because their offense is always going to show up - just once under a point per possession in conference, and 6 times better than a 115 O Rating. UNC gets the Clemson-FSU winner - note: those Tigers were the only ACC team to hold UNC to an O Rating in the 90s.

NC State
Thin to begin with and without Atsur for much of the season. NC State has the dubious distinction of being 1st in the conference in shooting and 11th in the conference in offense, thanks to being last in the ACC in both turnovers and offensive rebounding (a personal thank you from me to the Wolfpack for so pointedly illustrating the Four Factors rule of offense). State's defense also struggled - better only than Miami's in conference play. Both Ben McCauley and Brandon Costner played well for State, although both also faded a little down the stretch.

Tied for first in the conference, but somehow managed to lose to Miami and Wake Forest. Their record was a big product of their schedule - played UNC only once, no visit to Cameron, no visit to Atlanta, and got Maryland twice before they started to click on offense. The record was also a product of the brand-spankin-new JPJ - Virginia was the only ACC team to go 8-0 at home. Not to pat myself on the back, but I mentioned in December (after getting whooped by ASU and on the eve of getting pasted by Utah) that UVA would go 10-6 because of their schedule, and turns out they did me one better. As underwhelming as Virginia is as a team, Singletary and Reynolds are scary good, and very dangerous in a one-and-done format.

Virginia Tech
Swept UNC and Duke (so did Maryland - anyone know off hand when was the last time the 15/501 sweep occurred twice in one year?) but got swept by NC State. When this team lost, it usually lost big - 5 of their 6 conference losses by a combined 79 points. Tech was the least consistent team, both on offense and defense, all season long.

Wake Forest
Very young team that played very young. Ishmael Smith struggled in his first ACC season, putting up the worst shooting numbers of anyone who played 15+ minutes/game. Wake was abysmal on offense, breaking the point per possession barrier just 4 times all season (good news, 3 of those were victories) and posting O Ratings of 83.1, 76.6, and 62.2 (yikes!) in losses to UNC (twice) and Duke, respectively. Still, the play of Jamie Skeen was a bright spot, and the future looks brighter (it can only get better from this, right?).

All stats are updated for final conference numbers (except the Duke only ones - XoS again didn't do substitute tracking, and for reasons beyond my control, I was again unable to track subs - this whole experiment is falling apart on my at the end - argh!).


Anonymous said...

In your opinion, what do you think the tournament stake is for Clemson and FSU? By my reckoning, Clemson has to win two, and FSU has to win at least one showing improvement with their point guard back. I guess it's a little unfortunate that the two real bubble teams drew each other for the first round.

Brad S said...

Clemson isn't in as bad a shape as some think, imo. They only have 1 bad loss all season (Wake). No other bubble team is likely to have as good a resume. The Duke controversy may help them also, any one that watched those games knows that Clemson didn't deserve to win either, and it was ridiculous luck that made the first one so close. Chances are the committee will only know of the controversy, not the entire game.

I think the winner is in (and should be). I also think the loser should still be in a good position, particularly if its FSU, who will have better wins than any other bubble team I suspect.

Unknown said...

I hope both Clemson and FSU make the tournament. The resumes of both teams I think makes them tourney worthy, and on a more subjective level, both teams have overcome considerable adversity and exceeded reasonable expectations this year.

I can't help but feel very apprehensive right now, though. Perhaps it's a bit of paranoia, but for about 4 years in a row now, the committee has consistently not looked favorably on ACC "bubble teams" with losing records in the conference (with FSU itself being left on the outside looking in at least twice). I'm sure there are distinguishing characteristics between Clemson/FSU and previous teams, and I've also heard a lot of talk that this year the committee will take a hard look at unbalanced conference schedules in making its evaluations (which should help Clemson especially, and help Duke in seeding).

Just as a die-hard ACC fan at heart that wants to see all of the ACC teams fare well in the postseason, I'm very cautious to get my hopes up that either will be dancing based on recent experience...

Paul Rugani said...

From a fan's standpoint, I think Clemson and Florida State are deserving at-large candidates right now. On the season, Pomeroy's stats say Clemson is the 24th best team in the country, and FSU is 37th (by contrast, Oklahoma State, who is talked about hand-in-hand with Clemson, is 70th). 6 of the Tigers' losses are by 5 points or less. I would disagree that Wake is their only "bad" loss - losing by 16 and 22 at home to Maryland and UNC are also bad losses, even if they came to good teams. But their road/neutral record is 8-5, which is solid. The big problem for Clemson is the lack of any real marquee wins.

FSU has wins over Duke, Florida, Maryland, and Virginia Tech, but were only 5-8 in road/neutral games. I still think they should get at least a minor break for the losses w/o Toney Douglas, but I also think there's something magic about the number 20 in the win column that could be problematic for FSU if they lose Thursday.

If either team wins two, they're a no-brainer - win #2 would be over UNC. I think FSU is in with a win - it gets them 20, and they have more high profile wins than Clemson. Clemson may need two, just because the talk for weeks now has been how Clemson has played themselves out of the tourney. They played a tough schedule and lost some close games, but I think they look more like damaged goods in the eyes of the public, and that's not a good thing.

Anonymous said...

Lunardi has Clemson off the radar and FSU as a "next four out."

I agree that the winner should definitely get a bid. I just can't see the committee giving the benefit of doubt to both teams.

Its amazing... Virginia and Maryland with projected 4 and 5 seeds respectfully. If Maryland keeps up their strong play, they could make a tear. I just think Virginia is likely to run into an off shooting night and get bumped early. They just don't have a strong inside presence to compliment their outstanding guard play.

Anonymous said...

David Mihn (bracketography) has Virginia as a 7th seed. That definitely seems more reasonable.

Paul Rugani said...

Maryland at 5 would be underseeded. With the exception of Kansas, I don't think any team has played better down the stretch. When the dust settles on ACC Tourney weekend, I expect them to either be finalists or have given UNC one heck of a game in the semis, and fully think they'll be a 3 seed. I'm not sure I can name 12 teams that are better.

Brad S said...

The terrible thing for Clemson is that they are legitemately better than FSU (they beat FSU twice solidly iirc) and most of those bubble teams imo. I honestly believe their high pressure style would lead to a very entertaining 1st round game, even if they were going against a much higher seed.

Of course, they might not be able to score 40 points against a team like Georgetown . . .

A Winthrop/Clemson 6-11 matchup would be a great game I bet.

Chaddogg said...

Miami deserves a special demerit for losing to my Northwestern Wildcats, the leasts of the Big Ten.

I mean, North Texas just made the Tournament...for at least the second time. I officially hate Northwestern Basketball (Tourney-free since 1903!)