College basketball: A by the numbers look at why ACC is the toughest conference in basketball
Ah yes, just another night in the ACC.
Florida State, the team that went 5-1 against six consecutive ranked league opponents, finally got to play someone unranked, at Georgia Tech – and lost by 22 points. The team that averaged 80 through its six-game parade of ranked foes was held to 56. The team leading the conference in field goal percentage missed 18 shots in a row.
And somehow, it all made sense.
What was it Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton called the ACC the other day? “The best basketball league ever assembled in the history of college basketball.”
What was it Boston College’s Jim Christian was saying? “Obviously, the gauntlet of the league never stops.”
How was Louisville’s Rick Pitino explaining it? “There’s no longer a bottom. Last year we had a bottom. This year Boston College and Georgia Tech were picked at the bottom, and they’re certainly not bottom teams. They can beat anybody in our conference.” That was after Georgia Tech whipped North Carolina by 12, and before the Yellow Jackets blew past Florida State – the first time in 13 years the Yellow Jackets had victories over two top-10 teams in the same regular season.
P.S. In between those wins, they lost by 53 points at Duke.
A compelling conference needs compelling numbers. The ACC has a bundle of them. To name a few:
11 – ACC teams in the top 60 of this week’s RPI rankings. Come March, can you imagine 15 percent of the NCAA tournament bracket being taken by one league? Yes.
30-12 – ACC record against the Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12.
4-13 – ACC record against the Big East and Big 12. Hmmmm.
No. 1 – Duke’s pre-season ranking in both polls, by landslide votes.
Tied for 9th – Duke’s current position in the ACC standings.
8 — Starting lineups used by Duke in 20 games this season. The entire roster has been available for only three halves, which goes a long way to explaining the previous item.
1 – Starting lineup used by Notre Dame in 21 games this season.
99-23 – Combined record of the six ranked opponents Florida State played in a row, meaning 22 percent of their losses are compliments of the Seminoles. Florida State’s 5-1 record included such souvenir snapshots as taking a 14-0 lead on Louisville, and overcoming Notre Dame hitting 15 of 21 from the 3-point line. Surviving such a death march is not supposed to happen in the ACC. The only other two teams to try six ranked opponents in a row – Maryland in 1993 and North Carolina State in 1979 – went a combined 2-10.
1 – Times Florida State has been the highest ranked team in the ACC in its history. This week, matter of fact. “We don’t have the luxury of getting the big head or looking past or getting complacent because we really have not accomplished anything,” Hamilton said. “This is not the time to get a tuxedo and start taking any bows.”
After Wednesday night, everyone knows just what he meant.
85 – North Carolina has scored at least that many in its past seven ACC games, the first such league scoring spree in Tar Heels history.
3 – North Carolina players in the top 10 in the conference in field goal shooting.
14.5 – North Carolina’s rebound margin, the best in the nation and the second highest in Division I since 1980.
53.3 – Average points allowed by Virginia, lowest in the nation by 4.5 points.
11 – Times this season Virginia has shut out an opponent for at least five minutes.
559-255 – Margin for Virginia this season in bench points.
6-1 — Virginia’s record in true road games.
27-45 – The rest of the ACC’s record in true road games.
1992 – The last time Louisville opened a league season 0-2, before this one.
9 – Louisville’s national rank in field goal percentage defense.
154 – Louisville’s national rank in field goal shooting.
4 – Ranked teams Louisville played in 15 days in late December and early January. The Cardinals went 2-2, beating Kentucky and Indiana by holding them a combined 51 points under their scoring average – but losing both ACC games.
1-6 – Clemson’s record in the ACC.
3-0 – Clemson’s record in an SEC swing through Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina.
12-1 – Mike Brey’s record in overtime games at Notre Dame since 2012.
82.0 – Notre Dame’s free throw percentage, finest in the land.
2.6 – Matt Farrell’s scoring average last season for Notre Dame.
14.0 — Matt Farrell’s scoring average this season, the biggest improvement in the league.
10 – Notre Dame’s losing streak against Virginia. For an Irish victory, you have to go back to 1981, when the Cavaliers center was Ralph Sampson. “A team we’ve had no answers for,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said.
218 – Minutes played by Notre Dame reserve guard Rex Pflueger this season before his first turnover. He now has nine in 396 minutes.
13.5 – Syracuse’s average margin of victory in going 4-0 at home in the ACC.
15.0 – Syracuse’s average margin of defeat in going 0-4 on the road in the ACC. Why the difference? “I have no idea,” Jim Boeheim said. “If I had an idea, I would try to do something about it.”
16.3 – Team-leading scoring average for Virginia Tech’s Zach LeDay, who has started only four games. Fourth leading scorer Seth Allen (11.3) has started only one.
1 – Freshmen in ACC history who have led the league in both assists and steals — Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis. NC State freshman Dennis Smith Jr. is currently leading in both, not to mention scoring double figures in all 21 games.
14, 18, 51, 8 – NC State’s margins of defeat in four true road games – before winning at Duke Monday for the first time in 22 years.
6-1 – NC State’s record in games decided by five or fewer points, or in overtime.
8-6 – NC State’s record in everything else.
2 – ACC players averaging more than 20 points a game. They both play for Pittsburgh — Jamel Artis and Michael Young — giving the Panthers the two highest scorers in the league.
5 – Pitt’s current losing streak, leaving the Panthers tied for last in the conference.
49 – Pitt’s RPI despite that losing streak.
25 – Consecutive ACC road losses for Wake Forest until the 93-88 win over NC State last Saturday.
76.7 – Wake Forest’s team free throw shooting percentage, it’s best since 1970.
42.5 – Combined scoring average against the four ACC teams from the state of North Carolina by Boston College’s Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman — who come from North Carolina.
9 – Scholarship players available for Miami.
10 – ACC teams who have been ranked No. 1 at some point in their history.
11 – Final Fours in the past 55 years that did not have a current member of the ACC.
333 – NCAA Tournament games won by the 16 ACC coaches.
4,119 – Games won by the five ACC coaches who have been to the Final Four – Jim Boeheim, Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Larranaga, Rick Pitino and Roy Williams.
It’s a special league having a special season, and come March, then it might be time to take a bow. Tuxedos optional.