Wednesday, March 07, 2007

SOS and Tourney Preview

First, let's start with a look at the strength of schedule:

I took a look at what the schedule looked like for each team on offense, on defense, and overall.

Offense (ranked from hardest opponent defense to easiest):
NC State - 104.09
Georgia Tech - 104.37
Miami - 104.82
Duke - 105.05
Clemson - 105.40
Florida State - 105.42
Virginia Tech - 105.43
Maryland - 105.45
Boston College - 105.47
North Carolina - 105.68
Wake Forest - 106.12
Virginia - 106.74

Defense (ranked from hardest opponent offense to easiest):
Duke - 106.49
Clemson - 106.26
Wake Forest - 106.16
Virginia Tech - 105.46
NC State - 105.20
Maryland - 105.16
Boston College - 105.05
Virginia - 105.03
Georgia Tech - 104.94
Florida State - 104.94
North Carolina - 104.75
Miami - 104.54

Overall (using efficiency margin, ranked from hardest schedule to easiest):
Duke - +1.440
NC State - +1.106
Clemson - +.860
Georgia Tech - +.573
Wake Forest - +.040
Virginia Tech - +.031
Miami - -.282
Maryland - -.289
Boston College - -.417
Florida State - -.476
North Carolina - -.930
Virginia - -1.709

Reaching back just briefly to yesterday, Virginia's schedule was over two standard deviations easier than the mean. Another point to note - Wake's league worst offense came against the second easiest schedule of defenses, and Miami's league worst defense came against the easiest schedule of offenses - just amazing. Also, Clemson has gotten a lot of credit here for playing a tough schedule, which they certainly did. But even adjusted, they still didn't play particularly well against it. Their adjusted pythagorean conference winning percentage (that's a mouthful) was .423, and their actual winning percentage was .438, so a 7-9 record really was spot on for this team. UVA was 3 games better than expected, BC 2, and Virginia Tech 1. Duke and UNC were both 3 games worse than expected. Rounding out the top 9, FSU and Georgia Tech were a game worse than expected, and Maryland was about spot on.

Adjusting the offensive ratings, defensive ratings, and efficiency margins to account for strength of schedule, there's some slight shifting - in offensive efficiency, Miami passes Maryland, Duke passes Virginia, and NC State passes Clemson. In defensive efficiency, Virginia Tech passes Georgia Tech and Wake Forest leapfrogs them both. Finally, here's how the standings between UNC and Clemson look raw vs. adjusted:

Virginia Tech
Georgia Tech
Florida State
Boston College

Virginia Tech
Georgia Tech
Boston College
Florida State

ACC Tournament
The following is the log5 prediction for the ACC tourney using conference-only stats, adjusted for in-conference strength of schedule. I think this less reliable than the one on Pomeroy's site utilizing the entire season stats, because pretty much every team is better than their ACC numbers reflect. Still, it's interesting to see how little the final standings reflected the quality of the teams on paper.


1North Carolina10089.5475.3162.23
3Virginia Tech10057.5525.315.89
6Georgia Tech85.4340.5116.833.65
4Boston College10041.106.652.66
9Florida State59.136.992.981.19
10NC State10.892.050.380.03
11Wake Forest14.571.940.220.01

Note the degree of difficulty difference in getting to the finals for the teams that have to go through UNC (Maryland, Boston College) and those that don't (Duke, UVA, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech). And, while Carolina is a prohibitive favorite, there's still better than a 1-in-3 chance that they won't win, which shows you just how hard it is to win three or four in a row against top-flight competition.

Maryland vs. Miami
They played just once this season, and it was awful. The teams combined to shoot 32 of 119 from the field and turn the ball over 30 times in 140 combined possessions. Miami beat Maryland 63-58 at Maryland in what is easily the low point in the Terps season. A lot has changed since then for Maryland (including DJ Strawberry somehow being named 2nd team all-ACC after single-handedly torpedoing the early part of Maryland's season). Miami has been frisky lately, taking both Clemson and FSU to overtime and beating UVA, thanks to Jack McClinton recovering from his awful first half performance to a final 8 games that were more like his pre-conference play, and earning a 3rd team all-ACC spot in the process (the lesson here is clearly that the voters ignore the first half of the season). Still, as I've said often here, Maryland is playing as well as any team in the country right now, and should win comfortably.

Georgia Tech vs. Wake Forest
Earlier this season, I pointed to the game in Winston between these two as a chance for Tech to get some momentum to maybe build toward securing a tournament bid. Tech lost the game 85-75 (because they decided they didn't want to play defense, particularly against Visser and Hale), but managed to build momentum anyway, winning seven of the next nine, including a season-ending sweep of UNC and BC that seems to have put the Jackets into the tourney. The rematch between these two occurred in that stretch, with Tech winning 75-61. Georgia Tech has struggled away from home on account of their youth, going just 1-7 on the road in conference (winning at FSU), but in Wake they play a team as young or younger, and with its own problems outside the home court (they too were 1-7 in conference, squeaking out a 1 point victory in Miami). Wake's win over Georgia Tech was their best offensive performance in ACC play, and they're not likely to repeat it away from home.

Duke vs. NC State
After 11 games against the top 9 in the ACC, the Devils finally get another matchup with one of the conference's bottom feeders. Duke throttled the Pack the last time they played thanks to good shooting from the field and 20 forced turnovers in 70 possessions. There are two big differences in personnel since that game, though - Henderson will serve his suspension for Duke, and Engin Atsur will be playing for NC State. With Atsur at the helm, the Pack are unlikely to repeat their 20 turnover performance - key for Duke will be keeping the field goal defense ratcheted up like last time (NCSU hit just 10 of 30 twos). Duke should win, but filling Henderson's scoring and confidence could present a potential obstacle.

FSU vs. Clemson
This is really the premier Thursday matchup, because each team has so much to gain/lose. FSU last year came into the tournament needing only a win against Wake Forest (I believe it was even the 5-12 matchup), and couldn't get it done. This year, they face a team that's had its number - Clemson got a nail-biting win on a last second layup at FSU, and then took care of business more comfortably at home. Both FSU as a team and Al Thorton have not shot particularly well against the Tigers - the best 3point shooting team in the league is just 8-for-32 against Clemson, and Thornton went 10-22 and 1-6 (though he did hit 17 of 22 free throws). Outside shooting is a big bellwether for the Noles - in their 7 wins, they've hit 46%, but in their 9 losses, they've shot just 35% (still good, but not great). On the other side of the ball, Clemson did their damage inside - a combined 58.7% on twos. Clemson also forced FSU turnovers 26.5% of the time, thriving off giveaways to get easy points. At this point in the season, everyone who plays the Tigers knows that to win, you have to hang on to the ball. Clemson is not efficient in the half court, and needs turnovers to generate offense. So there are the two keys: if FSU is north of 40% from beyond the arc, and keeps their turnovers at 20% or lower, I don't see how they lose.


Brad S said...

Alright, so just an hour or so until the games begin I believe. Here are my 1st round predictions:

Clemson over FSU
Maryland over Miami
Wake upsets Ga Tech

and, though I am very tempted to pick the upset:

Duke over State

Brad S said...

As part of that prediction, include the ACC gets 6 NCAA bids, getting completely screwed as team resumes dwarf popular MM favorites Drexel, Butler, and ESPN Big East darlings such as Syracuse.

Anonymous said...

I don't know whether you adjust SOS based upon game location when teams only meet once. This is an important consideration. For instance, in 2005, Duke, UNC and Wake were all highly rated. Duke played Wake twice and split. UNC played Wake once, at Wake and lost.

Which one had the harder schedule, only with respect to these games? I am not sure. On the one hand, Wake was a great team and Carolina would have a tougher game with them than with many other ACC teams. On the other hand, Carolina definitely would have been favored to beat Wake at home.

Obviously, from the Wake point of view, they had an easier schedule because Duke had to play Carolina twice and Wake's only game with Carolina took place in Winston.

Also, Wake had the tiebreaker with Carolina, which seems unfair when teams only play once, which happened again this year with Uva losing at Carolina. Carolina would have lost a tiebreaker to Maryland, which only played Carolina once and got to do so at home.

Anonymous said...

Georgia Tech didn't sweep carolina...they lost on the road and won at home...not a big deal but i don't like people not having their facts correct

Paul Rugani said...

My facts are correct, but perhaps my vocabulary was confusing. I didn't mean to imply that Tech swept UNC on the season (as you'll note, I did say earlier that the Jackets' only road win was at FSU) - I meant that they "swept" the two home games against UNC and BC to end the season. Perhaps sweep was the wrong word to use - sorry for the confusion.

Brad S said...

Well, I'm 0 for 2 thus far. Can I put up a perfect 0 for 4?

Anonymous said...

Duke ends up 8-9 against ACC competition, their first losing record against league teams since 1982.

Brad S said...

That overtime was something else. Josh McRoberts will be a lottery pick again if he can assert himself like that for the rest of Duke's games.

That NC State triangle offense is interesting. Its not as loopy as that Princeton junk Sendek ran, but it certainly is different than a typical college O. I wonder if it will help or hurt his recruiting.

And how about the 1950's weave K employed for 5 or 6 possessions there.

Anonymous said...

Gerald Henderson did this Duke team a favor. K doesn't have it in him not to compete to win the ACC tourney but four days of competition with a thin bench was not going to do this team any favors. Now they can rest and get ready for next Thursday or Friday, even, and ready to go.

Unknown said...

For the third straight contest, Duke's defense appears to have been a no-show in the second half. And by my reckoning, NCSU scored on every possession of overtime (excepting the very final one in which they missed two FT's, iirc).

I could only listen to the game on satellite radio, as I was in the car, and so have little visual evidence to go by. That Duke's defense, formerly elite and the defining strength of this team, has suddenly become a liability is very concerning.

As "needed rest" points out, on the bright side of things, Duke will have an extra couple of days to charge its batteries before the NCAA tourney. Given K's emphasis on defense and Duke's failure to deliver in that regard for almost two weeks, however, I sure don't begrudge those guys what could be a very miserable couple of days of practice this weekend...