Number Crunching

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the ACC so far this year and I just haven’t figured it out. Clearly the conference is better than last year – there’s been an amazing influx of talent – but I just can’t tell which teams are the legit contenders and which aren’t. Sure, a few teams are pretty obvious. Carolina is going to finish at the top and NC State, Wake and Miami are the three worst teams, but other than that, I just can’t tell. Duke was the clear #2 for a while, but stumbled and then fell. BC was supposed to be at the top, but they sputtered along before finally finding their legs. Clemson has come out of nowhere to be extremely solid. Virginia Tech was tentatively thought to be good, but struggled before their recent explosion of success. And then you have Maryland and Virginia – two teams who seem capable of beating or losing to anyone.
So to help me figure out how things are right now, I turned to the best sources I know – the computers. Computer ratings don’t care what color blue you wear, how many seniors you have or how you fared last year. They just look at results on the court and, if configured properly (which excludes the RPI), show a very nice, objective measure of a team’s worth.

The ratings I looked at were Ken Pomeroy’s Jeff Sagarin’s and the RPI. I don’t like the RPI, but obviously it’s important, so I felt it should be included. The two other measures were Pomeroy’s offensive and defensive efficiencies.
Here is the league as of now, sorted more-or-less in order of how the power ratings rank the teams:

Team Overall ACC Pomeroy Pom. Off. Pom. Def. Sagarin RPI
North Carolina 15-2 2-1 2 3 10 2 4
Duke 14-3 1-2 6 48 1 16 10
Clemson 17-1 3-1 23 18 29 8 8
Georgia Tech 13-4 2-2 11 8 33 19 30
Maryland 15-3 1-2 17 52 8 23 24
Virginia Tech 13-4 3-0 20 36 16 32 35
Florida St. 12-5 0-3 48 57 42 36 26
Boston College 12-4 4-0 52 26 83 40 38
Virginia 9-6 1-2 70 38 118 74 119
North Carolina St. 11-6 1-3 97 61 147 102 139
Wake Forest 9-7 1-3 102 92 130 118 128
Miami FL 9-9 2-2 103 73 161 133 159

Thoughts and observations:

  • I was surprised by how poorly BC rates. If I had ranked the teams by hand, I think I would have had them at #2. I guess I was a bit too impressed by how they handled NC State and Wake Forest on the road last week. The computers only saw the misleading margins of victory and of course, Wake and State are two of the three weakest teams. Still, I expect BC’s numbers to rise.
  • Don’t get too excited about the RPI numbers yet. That rating is notoriously slow to come around and it’s not there yet. As an example, the RPI still rates Florida as #29.
  • There is a clear demarcation between the top eight teams and the bottom four. The way things are right now, the top eight would all make the NCAA tournament and none of the bottom four would.
  • Eight ACC teams have better offenses than defenses. That’s a bit surprising, because folks generally associate defense with good coaching and you’d assume that the ACC is well coached. One explanation could be the league’s youth. It takes a while to learn good team defense, but many freshman can come in and play offense right away.
  • I don’t think anyone is surprised that UNC’s offense ranks in the top five in the country, but I wouldn’t have guessed that their defense would rank in the top ten. Ol’ Roy is doing another good job with this bunch, even if they do still need to learn how to maintain intensity throughout games.
  • No team in the league has a greater offense/defense disparity than UVA. I thought Dave Leitao was a defense-first guy?
  • Wake Forest doesn’t appear to be very good at anything. Remember when Skip Prosser knew how to coach? He sure looked smarter when he had Chris Paul running the show.

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