ACC Tournament Preview

March 11th, 2009

This is one in a series of conference tournament previews, in which I run down all the teams involved, give a brief statistical review and present the log5 projections, using in-conference offensive and defensive efficiency. The basic log5 methodology comes from Bill James, and this is an area Ken Pomeroy has looked at in the past as well. I claim nothing new in the application, but obviously with slightly different methodologies, these numbers may differ from others you find.  I don’t claim to be an expert on any particular conference, and I’m sure there are some mis-characterizations on some players I’ve seen sparingly at best, so please add your thoughts in the comments. Anyway, with no further ado, the preview follows below:


ACC Tournament

Held at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, the top 4 seeds will get automatic byes in the ACC tournament.









North Carolina






Wake Forest












Florida St.












Boston College












Virginia Tech






Miami FL






North Carolina St.












Georgia Tech






Two teams have separated themselves atop the ACC, and there is a 25% chance of a Duke-Carolina final, which you’d think might not be great for the Dukies. Wake is a clear third choice, but the spoiler could be Clemson, which has a lower chance of making the final because of a very tough pair of potential opponents, but is actually the third ranked team. Florida St. closes out the teams with any serious chance.


#1 – North Carolina Tar Heels (27-3, 13-3) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.120

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2008 (Final Four)


After being the undisputed number one for the first half of the season, UNC dropped two games in the span of a week to start 0-2 in the ACC. Since then, a 13-1 record has moved them back to the #1 ranking. The Heels are rightfully known for their offensive ability: when you combine the nation’s best offense with one of the fastest-paced teams in the country, fireworks are sure to follow. The Tar Heels are good shooters, but not outstanding, ranked in the middle of the pack in the ACC; their offense depends on getting an advantage in possessions, pulling down a lot of offensive boards and rarely turning it over. It’ll be said a million times between now and the NCAA tournament, but UNC’s weakness is defense; it’s the only top ACC team to have allowed more than a point-per-possession. It just hasn’t been able to stop opponents behind the arc, and forces surprisingly few turnovers.


Players to watch:

5-11 JR Ty Lawson, 15.9 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 6.5 APG, 2.0 SPG, 61.2 eFG% - Lawson is the ACC Player of the year, and deservedly so, as no player in the country is as offensively efficient. He has a spectacular assist rate and rarely turns the ball over. He’s an excellent shooter from all areas of the floor, and also chips in with a good number of steals.


6-9 SR Tyler Hansbrough, 21.1 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 53.9 eFG% - The ACC’s leading scorer, Hansbrough’s numbers have taken a slight drop from last year, but his rates and percentages have either held steady or improved slightly, so that’s mostly due to a slightly smaller role. He’s a good shooter from the field, but makes a killing at the free throw line, and while he hasn’t been as dominant a rebounder, he still rarely turns the ball over.



#2 – Wake Forest Demon Deacons (24-5, 11-5) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.060

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2005 (2nd Round)


Briefly #1 after a 16-0 start, Wake had an up-and-down month starting in mid-January, going 4-5, before stringing together some wins down the stretch. The Deacons are ranked only 4th by efficiency margin, and don’t have a truly elite unit on either side of the ball. They are nearly as fast-paced as Carolina, but unlike the Heels, take most of their shots inside, where they shoot 52%. This is a good move, since Wake hasn’t been able to show much of a threat from behind the arc. It has a solid defense, though it has not been as strong recently as it was to start the season. The Deacons get opponents to shoot a fair number of threes, and do very well at shutting them down, as well as doing a good job on the defensive glass.


Players to watch:

6-2 SO Jeff Teague, 19.4 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.9 SPG, 55.7 eFG% - Teague has had one of the big breakout seasons of 08-09, becoming one of the ACC’s best scoring guards and having a couple of huge games, but he’s slowed down in the final weeks of the season. Still, he’s Wake’s best three-point shooter, and excellent at earning points from the stripe.


6-9 SO James Johnson, 14.6 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 57.0 eFG% - Johnson is the best inside player on a great inside team, leading the team in rebounding, and hitting nearly 60% of two-point shots.



#3 – Duke Blue Devils (25-6, 11-5) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.105

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2008 (2nd Round)


Duke has slipped a little from its excellent early-season form, but is still a very strong team that should be a serious threat. What’s interesting is that outside of Duke’s two losses to the Heels, they’ve been the better team against the rest of the league, and look like having a good chance to make the final.  The Blue Devils are excellent defenders because of two things: forcing turnovers and getting opponents to take twos instead of threes. They aren’t great at defending shots, but have opponents take fewer threes against them than almost any other team in the country, limiting how much damage opponents can do. Duke’s offense is sort of similar, not making a particularly good percentage, but getting a lot of chances thanks to controlling turnovers and dominating the offensive boards.


Players to watch:

6-4 JR Gerald Henderson, 16.6 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 52.3 eFG% - Henderson has shown a spectacular improvement over the course of the season, and has averaged 25 points over his last six games. He’s an excellent athlete who doesn’t have any one statistical area in which he excels, but does a lot of things well.


6-8 SO Kyle Singler, 16.5 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 51.4 eFG% - Singler is Duke’s best rebounder, and has a good outside shot to compliment a pretty effective inside game.



#4 – Florida St. Seminoles (23-8, 10-6) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.042

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 1998 (2nd Round)


Florida St. has been a bit of an oddity, a team without a marquee, signature win that has nonetheless made it into the discussion for an ACC title. The Seminoles have managed this feat with the conference’s best defense, an excellent unit that holds opponents’ percentages down inside and outside, and forces a lot of turnovers as well. Their problem has been one of the conference’s weaker offenses; they basically have the opposite profile to their defense, making few shots and giving up the ball often.


Players to watch:

6-2 SR Toney Douglas, 20.8 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.9 SPG, 50.6 eFG% - The league’s second top scorer, he’s a player who shoots a pretty good percentage, especially when considering how large his role is. Douglas also distributes the ball well, and commits fairly few turnovers.


7-1 FR Solomon Alabi, 8.2 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.2 BPG, 53.3 eFG% - Alabi doesn’t take a huge offensive role, but is an excellent shot-blocker and rebounder who can have a big impact defensively, and takes advantage of his chances pretty well.



#5 – Clemson Tigers (23-7, 9-7) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.068

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2008 (1st Round)


Clemson has not been too impressive in the final month of the season, but is still a team that will be a dangerous opponent, and will be quite unhappy to lose out on an important first-round bye. In their last nine games, the Tigers have gone 4-5, despite playing just three games against teams seeded above them in the tournament. Their offense has shot well, especially from three, and has been good on the glass, overall one of the better units in the conference. Defensively, they’ve also been quite solid; while they’ve allowed opponents to shoot 45% from the floor, most of these shots have been from two, and they force a lot of turnovers.


Players to watch:

6-7 JR Trevor Booker, 15.2 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 2.0 BPG, 58.3 eFG% - Booker may only be second-team All-ACC, but I think he’s one of the league’s best players, putting up a strong inside percentage; he also leads the conference in rebounding and is an excellent shot-blocker.


6-6 SR K.C. Rivers, 14.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.7 SPG, 55.4 eFG% - Rivers is an excellent three-point shooter, over 40% from behind the arc, and is also pretty solid on the boards.



#6 – Boston College Eagles (21-10, 9-7) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.022

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2007 (2nd Round)


Boston College has picked up a couple of big wins over UNC and Duke, but despite its above .500 record, it has been below zero in efficiency margin. The Eagles have the best ACC offense outside of Chapel Hill, decent shooters who are among the country’s best on the offensive glass, but have also had the ACC’s worst defense. They aren’t bad at stopping shots, but typically give up a big possession advantage, forcing few turnovers and getting beaten out for defensive rebounds.


Players to watch:

6-1 SR Tyrese Rice, 17.4 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 5.4 APG, 50.3 eFG% - Rice is one of the ACC’s best guards, putting up an excellent assist rate and a pretty good shooter from the field who also does very well at the free-throw line. He’s easily the most important player on the team and when he’s on he can cause a lot of trouble for any opponent.


6-6 SO Corey Raji, 9.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 51.2 eFG% - Raji doesn’t have a huge role in the offense, but does a good job when he gets his chances, a force on the offensive boards and committing very few turnovers.



#7 – Maryland Terrapins (18-12, 7-9) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.081

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2007 (2nd Round)


Maryland has been a pretty lucky team, as a record just above .500 hides the conference’s 10th best efficiency ranking. It hasn’t been a very good scoring team, struggling with its shooting and rarely managing to get to the free-throw line. The Terrapins are decent defending the inside, but tend to get badly beaten from behind the arc, and get back few of the misses they do force.


Players to watch:

6-6 JR Greivis Vasquez, 17.2 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.4 SPG, 46.5 eFG% - Vasquez does everything for the Terrapins, leading the team in points, rebounds, assists, and steals. He’s not a great percentage player, but plays a big role with reasonable efficiency.


6-7 JR Landon Milbourne, 12.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 51.9 eFG% - Milbourne’s a good inside shooter, and a strong guy on the glass, but has faced a lot of foul trouble of late, fouling out in four of Maryland’s last five games.



#8 – Virginia Tech Hokies (17-13, 7-9) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.049

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2007 (2nd Round)


The Hokies have come into the tournament really cold, losing six of seven and facing a difficult opening round game against Miami. Their offense isn’t weak in any particular area, but is just average all-around, and ranks in the bottom half of the league. The defense has been somewhat worse, vulnerable inside and rarely managing to force turnovers.


Players to watch:

6-3 SO Malcolm Delaney, 17.6 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 3.7 APG, 48.3 eFG% - Delaney isn’t a great shooter from the floor, but is a solid, and augments that ability with his 87% shooting from the free-throw line. He also leads the team in assists, but turns it over a bit too often.


6-7 SO Jeff Allen, 13.8 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 1.3 BPG, 50.5 eFG% - Allen is one of the ACC’s better rebounders, and puts up good rates in blocks and steals, but has had some turnover and foul problems at times. 



#9 – Miami Hurricanes (18-11, 7-9) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.004

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2008  (2nd Round)


Miami is really unlucky to be 9th, as a win would get them a very tough game with North Carolina that would make it difficult to enhance its profile. Three of the Hurricanes’ nine conference losses came in overtime, so its no surprise to see them ranked significantly higher in EM. They are excellent three-point shooters, and while they miss a lot from two, they manage to get a lot of these misses back. Their perimeter strength on offense doesn’t translate to the other side of the ball, however, as they force few turnovers and allow opponents 36% from three-point range.


Players to watch:

6-1 SR Jack McClinton, 19.7 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.9 APG, 56.6 eFG% - McClinton is one of the best shooters in the country, taking a high volume of shots and making a very good percentage, 46% from behind the arc.


6-8 JR Dwayne Collins, 10.8 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 58.0 eFG% - In Collins, Miami has a good partner for McClinton’s outside talent, a good inside scorer who leads the team in rebounding.



#10 – North Carolina St. Wolfpack (16-13, 6-10) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.056

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2006 (2nd Round)


The Wolfpack have been an interesting team, as despite a less than stellar season, they’ve only suffered a couple of big losses, and have been strong enough that they are actually favored by the log5 odds against Maryland. They have been the conference’s best shooters, hitting 39% of threes, and 51% of twos, but have turned the ball over enough that they haven’t been able to take much advantage of that shooting. NC St. has struggled with defense, as opponents have scored inside easily and rarely turned the ball over.


Players to watch:

6-9 SR Ben McCauley, 12.4 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 53.1 eFG% - McCauley is an inconsistent shooter, but when he’s on he can put up some large point totals inside, and he compliments it with a lot of showings at the free-throw line and pulling down a good number of rebounds.


6-9 JR Brandon Costner, 13.6 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 54.1 eFG% - Costner has led the Wolfpack in scoring, but his form has dried up in the last month, averaging just eight points in their last seven games.



#11 – Virginia Cavaliers (10-17, 4-12) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.107

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2007 (2nd Round)


A month-long, seven-game losing streak dropped the Cavaliers to the bottom of the league, and though they picked up a couple of notable wins down the stretch, they are still the weakest team in the ACC. They’ve been decent defensively, but have been quite weak inside the arc; their strengths have primarily been on the perimeter.  Virginia doesn’t put up a lot of threes, which is a good thing given its percentage on those attempts, but considering it hasn’t been strong inside either, it really hasn’t mattered where its shots have been from.


Players to watch:

6-6 FR Sylven Landesberg, 16.8 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 46.3 eFG% - Landesberg  has slowed down a bit towards the end of the season, seeing his point total and percentage drop in the last couple of weeks. He’s not a great shooter from the field, but his 81% from the free-throw line boosts his point totals quite a bit.


6-8 SO Mike Scott, 10.5 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 55.8 eFG% - Scott is the Cavaliers’ most efficient offensive player, leading the team in rebounding and putting up a good shooting percentage inside.



#12 –Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (11-18, 2-14) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.088

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2007 (1st Round)


Georgia Tech has been better than its record, as a number of close losses dot its resume, and its only two wins of the year came against quality teams in Wake and Miami. The Jackets have actually had a good defense, better than UNC’s, as they have defended shots well all over the floor and forced a decent number of turnovers. Of course, with that kind of defense, to be last in the league you need a terrible offense, something the Jackets do provide. They’ve been solid on threes, but take few, and have done quite poorly inside and at the free-throw line.


Players to watch:

6-9 SO Gani Lawal, 14.8 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 55.5 eFG% - Lawal has been one of the ACC’s best rebounders, and is a good inside shooter, but his field goal percentage is higher than his free-throw percentage, which makes his frequent trips somewhat useless.


6-10 SR Alade Aminu, 12.0 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 1.7 BPG, 52.5 eFG% - Aminu doesn’t have the offensive impact that Lawal has, but he’s also a very good inside player who is a force on the glass.



My statistical all-Atlantic Coast team:

Boston College SR G Tyrese Rice, 17.4 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 5.4 APG, 50.3 eFG%

North Carolina JR G Ty Lawson, 15.9 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 6.5 APG, 2.0 SPG, 61.2 eFG%

Wake Forest SO G Jeff Teague, 19.4 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.9 SPG, 55.7 eFG%

North Carolina SR F Tyler Hansbrough, 21.1 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 53.9 eFG%

Clemson JR F/C Trevor Booker, 15.2 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 2.0 BPG, 58.3 eFG%


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