College Basketball is never short on advanced metrics to compliment different ratings and rankings. As we close in on the mid-point of the non-conference schedule, let's poke our head up and take a look around the ACC conference to see how things are shaking out so far.
Let's take a look at the teams the ACC media picked to finish ahead of the Fighting Irish...
The Blue Devils topped the pre-season ACC media poll with 50 out of 54 first place votes. The Blue Devils stand at 7-2 with losses to Kansas and Arizona. The Dookies are also coming off a solid 10 point home victory over Michigan. Coach K's teams are always willing to go out and play a difficult non-conference slate and the 2013-14 season is no exception. The Kansas and Arizona games were both on neutral floors and they also get UCLA on a neutral floor on December 19th.
Jabari Parker has been everything that Blue Devil fans have hoped for. Averaging 22.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, Parker is leading the sharp-shooting Blue Devils who are 7th in the nation in FG percentage. As expected, the young Blue Devils are still working on their defense and rebounding. Count on Coach K to bring those together and we'll certainly see them improve on their 193rd ranked scoring defense and 201st ranked rebounding percentage. If Coach K can get his freshman and sophomores to fully buy in, the Blue Devils will be a force in league play.
Sitting at 9-0, The Orange have played their traditional feast of cupcakes so far, with their one ranked opponent being #18 Baylor on a neutral floor. Syracuse thoroughly handled Indiana at home in their Big10/ACC Challenge matchup. Other than a trip to St John's and hosting #14 Villanova for some BigEast nostalgia, Jim Boeheim's squad won't be tested until hosting UNC in the new year.
The thing that jumps off the page with Syracuse is the balance. They have 4 guys averaging double figures, including young Jerami Grant, who has made some serious highlight plays in early action.
On the other end of the floor, the 2-3 zone is holding teams to a nationally 28th best 63 points per game. So far, it is hard to find a weakness in the Orange.
The feast-or-famine Tar Heels own two of the most impressive victories of the early part of the season. A neutral-court win over Louisville is only their second most impressive victory, as Roy Williams and his team were able to go in to East Lansing and rough up Tom Izzo's #1 ranked Spartans by 14. On the other side of that coin, North Carolina also dropped head scratchers at home to Belmont and on the road to UAB.
Easily the most mercurial team in college basketball, the Tar Heels are young and leaning on freshman and sophomores to fill vital roles. With that youth, comes inconsistency, and if you watch interviews with Williams, you can see the stress it has on even an experienced coach. The Heels are a bit like a box of chocolates. Adding more mystery into the future of the North Carolina squad is the indefinite status of the suspensions to PJ Hariston and Leslie McDonald. Predict the fate of this team at your own peril.
Tony Bennett was afforded a bit of a home cooking in UVa's non-conference schedule. The Wisconsin native saw his team host the 8th ranked Badgers in their ACC/Big10 Challenge contest. Bennett's father, Dick, was a beloved coach at Wisconsin, but that's about where the nostalgia ended as the Cav's were beat 48-38 (yes that's for 40 minutes) by Bo Ryan's squad. Bennett then got to travel back to his alma mater for a game vs. the Phoenix of UW Green Bay. Virgina lost a heartbreaker in the cold of Wisconsin, going down 75-72. The Cav's looked very good in a highly entertaining matchup with VCU, early in the season, but they have to be disappointed with 3 losses at this point in their schedule.
The Cav's are ranked 5th nationally in defensive efficiency, but are struggling on the offensive end of the floor with 162nd ranked offensive efficiency. Tony Bennett is going to need his team to take much better care of the ball if they hope to live up to their ACC preseason predictions. Their 20.5% turnovers per possession is currently good for 292nd in the country.
THE REST OF THE LEAGUE
Statistically speaking, Pittsburg has been the surprise of the non-conference schedule, rising all the way to #4 in the Pomeroy Ratings and sitting at #12 in Sagarin's rankings. However, the Panthers don't seem to be passing they eye test as they remain unranked in both polls. With a 293rd ranked strength-of-schedule (according to Sagarin), the Panthers will enter conference play completely untested.
FSU's campus may be occupied with football, but don't sleep on Leonard Hamilton's team. They may be sitting at 6-3, but those losses include Michgan in OT and at #15 Florida by 1. They stumbled at Minnesota by 10, but this is a strong team that will defend well and be very competitive in league play.
Clemson is sitting at 7-2, and like Pitt, seems largely untested. Losses at Arkansas and on a neutral floor vs. UMass don't inspire confidence, but the Tigers sit ahead of ND in both the Sagarin and Pomeroy ratings. What scares me about this team is how their strengths in defensive efficiency and rebounding margin could give Notre Dame fits.
Maryland has struggled mightily in their final pre-ACC non conference slate. Number 5 OSU took them to the woodshed, and they've dropped games to UConn, Oregon St, and George Washington.
NC State sits at 6-2 with a loss at Cincinnati and an OT shocker at home vs. NC Central. The Wolfpack benefited from the best Big10/ACC Challenge scheduling and beat up on Northwestern, but they'll be tested again by Missouri and Tennessee before ACC play.
The remainder of the league is mired in the 80's-100's of the ratings services. Of particular note are the 5-5 Miami Hurricanes, who have already suffered a conference loss to Va Tech. Jim Larranaga's squad could be looking at a first-to-worst nightmare if his young team can't find some offensive flow.
Sagarin ACC Rankings (the ACC is the 2nd ranked conf behind the Big10):
47 Notre Dame
78 NC St.
81 Wake Forest
92 Va Tech
100 Ga Tech
**It is worth noting that Iowa is #1 according to the computers right now.
54 Notre Dame
72 NC St.
79 Wake Forest
87 Ga Tech
95 Va Tech
40 Notre Dame
All of the advanced stats come from the excellent teamrankings.com site.