In my last two installments, I've discussed, in detail, the top 8 teams in the ACC. As conference play is starting to rev up, I'll complete the analysis of the final four teams: Virginia, Georgia Tech, NC State and Virginia. Thank you all for your thoughts on my previous posts and for making some interesting discussion. As we have seen, the ACC is wide open this year, with 4 excellent teams at the top and then a bunch of teams that could surprise or dissapoint any committed fan.
This is the final installment of the ACC preview for 2009. The amazing thing about the ACC this year, is that not a single team is ranked outside of the Pomeroy top 100. The Big East has 5 teams outside of the top 100, but has 4 in the top 10. There is a lot of disparity in the Big East this year, either you're great or you're at the bottom. It lacks the depth that the ACC has this year. The Big Ten, which many are arguing is the top conference in college basketball, only has one team outside of the top 100: Indiana at 226. Every other team in the Big Ten is in the top 65. I'm not drinking the Big Ten kool-aid yet, and I live in the heart of Big Ten country.
So let's finish up the Preview by taking a look at Virginia, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and NC State.
12. Virginia Cavaliers
Last year, the Cavaliers went 17-16 overall, finishing 5-11 in the ACC and losing to Bradley in the CBI semifinal. The Cavs are off to a slow start again this year, going 6-5 in OOC play. They have, however, won their ACC opener against GTech in an overtime game in Atlanta. The barely lost to Syracuse in what turned out to be a great game and lost another close game to Auburn. They have lost their five games by an average of 6 points. The average rank of their OOC was 149 and they have only played 3 away games this year. Pomeroy is predicting that the Cavaliers will go 5-11 in conference play.
Raw Efficiency : 103.7 (118) 96.2 (102)
Adj Efficiency : 104.0 (111) 95.4 ( 78)
Effective FG% : 47.4 (223) 47.2 (104)
Turnover Pct. : 18.3 ( 42) 18.6 (281)
Off. Rebound% : 35.9 ( 89) 30.4 ( 83)
Free Throw Rate: 26.1 (127) 31.9 ( 83)
3-Point FG% : 30.7 (272) 31.7 ( 77)
2-Point FG% : 47.9 (170) 47.0 (140)
Free Throw Pct.: 73.8 ( 36) 63.1 ( 19)
Block Pct. : 11.4 (283) 10.4 (100)
Steal Pct. : 8.6 ( 73) 8.8 (246)
3PA/FGA : 28.9 (264) 33.6 (202)
A/FGM : 50.0 (260) 51.0 ( 89)
As you can see, we're starting to see more red and lighter shades of green as we've started to discuss the teams toward the bottom of the conference. One of the major positive points about the Cav's offense is that they don't turn the ball over very often, only turning it over on 18% of their total possessions. Last year, in the major conferences, the turnover percentage dropped below 20% for the first time in years. So, 18% is pretty good. They also do a relatively good job on the offensive boards and this likely results from the size, ranked 52nd in the country, and slower paced deliberate offense. Mike Scott 6'8 So is one of the top offensive rebounders in the country. Sylven Landesberg 6'6 Fr is their best offensive player who limits his turnovers. Landesberg really understands basketball and will likely develop into an excellent player in the next couple of years. Keep an eye on him in years to come. Virginia win a few surprise games here and there but they are laking the offense and consistent defense to do much damage this year. They are currently averaging 1.09 points per possession and allowing 1.01, demonstrating that they have played many close games this year.
11. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Last year, the Yellow Jackets finished 15-17 overall, going 7-9 in the ACC and not making it to post-season play, one year after making it to the NCAA tournament as a 10 seed. Paul Hewitt's knew that his team was going to take a hit on offense this year and it has shown early and often, but his defense is playing extremely well. Only having 63% of possible rerturning minutes back on the floor this year. Their big win in th OOC schedule came against Vanderbilt, who they beat easily at home 63-51. Currently, GTech is predicted to go 3-13 in ACC play. Unfortunately, their offense may be the rate limiting step for their success this season.
Raw Efficiency : 100.5 (175) 89.7 ( 32)
Adj Efficiency : 100.8 (168) 94.2 ( 65)
Effective FG% : 48.5 (179) 45.3 ( 63)
Turnover Pct. : 20.8 (174) 22.3 (111)
Off. Rebound% : 38.2 ( 44) 29.8 ( 64)
Free Throw Rate: 24.4 (168) 36.1 (168)
3-Point FG% : 28.7 (309) 31.6 ( 76)
2-Point FG% : 49.9 ( 95) 44.2 ( 66)
Free Throw Pct.: 58.9 (335) 62.1 ( 13)
Block Pct. : 6.0 ( 28) 11.1 ( 71)
Steal Pct. : 10.6 (218) 11.1 (101)
3PA/FGA : 20.9 (339) 33.0 (172)
A/FGM : 55.1 (152) 54.8 (174)
Lots of red. Shooting 59% from the free throw line as a team is painful. But look on the flipside, their defense typically plays relatively well, particularly when challenging shots, holding opponents to 44% from the floor. GTech only has two startes with an offensive rating over 100...in the ACC that isn't good enough to get the job done. They don't even have a player in the top 500. Where they are getting the job done is on the boards, particularly Gani Lawal 6'8 So and Alade Aminu 6'10 Sr. Lawal and Aminu are also doing an excellent job defending in the paint, blocking a high percentage of shots...not as much as our own Alabi. The Yellow Jackets are averaging 1 point per possision and holding teams to 0.9 points per possession. Part of this may result from their height. Similar to us, GTech is a big team and big teams do well on defense, not offense. If they can figure out to shoot the ball better and get some points from the charity stripe, GTech will win a few games in the ACC. Watch out for this team in a year or two. There will be some great games between us and them in the near future.
10. Virginia Tech Hokies
Like its football team, VTech basketball is all about defense. Last year, they held teams to a conference low 0.97 points per possession to go 9-7 in ACC play and make it to the NIT quarter finals. This year, their defense has dropped to 95th in the country and 10th in the conference. But...they are still holding opponents to 0.95 points per possession and scoring 1.02 per possession. So far, VTech is 9-5 this season, losing to Xavier, Seton Hall, Wisco, Georgia and then being hosed by Duke by 25. They don't have any quality wins so far this season, the exception being an 81-67 win at St. John's. Their opponents average Pomeroy rating is 176. To the Hokies credit, they are 8 points from being 13-1. They have lost 4 games by 8 points total.
Raw Efficiency : 103.6 (120) 96.4 (107)
Adj Efficiency : 105.2 ( 95) 96.4 ( 95)
Effective FG% : 48.8 (163) 45.2 ( 58)
Turnover Pct. : 21.1 (198) 19.5 (240)
Off. Rebound% : 36.2 ( 81) 30.7 ( 89)
Free Throw Rate: 30.2 ( 48) 31.6 ( 82)
3-Point FG% : 34.0 (171) 32.2 ( 96)
2-Point FG% : 47.7 (180) 43.5 ( 53)
Free Throw Pct.: 73.7 ( 39) 68.0 (146)
Block Pct. : 7.2 ( 82) 14.6 ( 17)
Steal Pct. : 9.8 (164) 9.8 (172)
3PA/FGA : 32.5 (179) 35.0 (244)
A/FGM : 62.0 ( 36) 58.8 (270)
VTech is a well balanced team who plays hard for 40 minutes on both ends of the floor. They are an experienced team, with only 1 Freshman. They have 83% of returning minutes back on the floor this year. Their only loss was Deron Washington who was able to soar above the rim and Greg Paulus. This year, A.D Vassallo 6'6 Sr has decided to take control of this team. He is leading the team in minutes, possessions, shots, eFG% and assists. This is what you expect from Senior leadership...see Toney Douglas. If Vassallo could decrease his turnover rate, he would be a more effective offensive player. This is a team that relies on tough defense and forcing you to throw up difficult shots. They don't generate a lot of steals and we have discussed this previously. Can the Hokies defense continue to play tough in conference play? Absolutely. Can they generate enough offense to make it to the NCAA tournament...its not clear. If Malcolm Delaney 6'3 So can continue to develop his offensive game, the Hokies might end up higher than 10th in the conference. They may suprise us and end up in the middle tier with a shot at the big dance.
9. North Carolina State Wolfpack
All Chuck Amato jokes aside, this is a pretty good basketball team. Last year...they were not a great team, finishing 15-16 overall and 4-12 in the ACC, losing to Miami in the first round of the ACC tournament. This year, they are 9-3, losing their 3 games by a combined total of 10 points. Those loses were to three top ranked teams: Davidson, Marquette and that team from the swamp who will remain nameless. They have had a relatively weak OOC schedule, with their opponents having an average ranking of 210. Despite the relatively easy schedule, NC St has taken care of busineess, winning by an average of 16.7 points.
Raw Efficiency : 113.1 ( 23) 94.4 ( 70)
Adj Efficiency : 108.8 ( 59) 98.2 (126)
Effective FG% : 53.5 ( 36) 42.5 ( 16)
Turnover Pct. : 20.0 (123) 16.3 (337)
Off. Rebound% : 38.2 ( 43) 31.6 (111)
Free Throw Rate: 30.8 ( 40) 25.1 ( 14)
3-Point FG% : 37.0 ( 72) 28.3 ( 12)
2-Point FG% : 52.7 ( 34) 42.6 ( 38)
Free Throw Pct.: 72.0 ( 74) 69.3 (197)
Block Pct. : 6.8 ( 58) 9.8 (117)
Steal Pct. : 11.5 (286) 7.7 (303)
3PA/FGA : 30.3 (236) 31.2 (108)
A/FGM : 60.2 ( 60) 38.6 ( 2)
This is another example of a team who is deliberate on offense, who takes care of the ball and plays outstanding defense. They don't generate steals but they defend the shot like nobody else, particularly on the perimeter, holding opponents to 28% from deep. They are holding teams to 0.94 points per possession while scoring 1.12 points per possession. I am interested to see how this will hold up in ACC play. The thing that will help the Wolfpack the most this season is their ability to shoot the ball. If they can remain patient, as they have, they will make some noise in the conference. All of their starters are in the top 400 in offensive rating, with Trevor Ferguson 6'5 Jr leading the pack with a 123.3 rating (96th in the country). However, most of Ferguson's points are from three point land. He only has 11 field goal attempts this year. But he is shooting .415 from three. Ben McCauley 6'9 Sr and Brandon Costner 6'9 Jr are the team leaders this year, contributing to 52.4% of possible possessions. If these two can continue to play at a high level, the Wolfpack will be more difficult than many predicted. Pomeroy is predicting they go 5-11 in the conference, with wins of us, Gtech,Virginia, Maryland and Boston College. Not sure if that will happen. NC State has a difficult ACC schedule this year. You may be wondering how any one team could have a more difficult conference schedule than another...check out this article from our friends at Carolina March (An SBNation blog) to see what I mean. (And by the way, kudos to the loyal Tomahawk Nation Visitors for their continued contribution to our basketball game threads...they had 0 comments during the last one posted on their site.) NC State might be another sleeper in the conference this year.
Here's the final list:
8 Boston College
9. NC State
10. Virginia Tech
11. Georgia Tech
This is a huge weekend opening weekend of ACC play. We take on Duke tomorrow and the game will be televised on ESPN.
Thanks to FSUncensored for pointing out this article. Looks like we're getting noticed and might have a chance to make it to the NCAA tournament this year. Thanks for making it through all of the previews. I hope they help you understand what we can expect in conference play this year.