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ACC Hoops Rewind: Luck And The Regular Season

Back in late January, I examined the conference-play efficiency margins of each team to get a feel for their performance through 6-7 league games. Now that the season is complete, it's time to take another look.

In the table below, teams are sorted by conference efficiency margin. ExpW-L is expected win-loss record, which I computed using the pythagorean formula. ActW-L is each team's actual conference win-loss record. The games played column was needed in January but is irrelevant now. I just left it in because removing it would be a hassle.

Conference Games OnlyRank TeamGamesOFF EFFDEF EFFEFF MarginExpW-LActW-L1 Duke16112.999.713.212.4-3.614-22 UNC16111.998.813.112.4-3.612-43 NC State16110.2107.32.99.1-6.910-64 Boston College16110.4108.32.18.8-7.211-55Florida State16104.4103.31.18.4-7.69-76 Miami16107.1107.4-0.37.9-8.17-97 Clemson1699.3101.4-2.17.2-8.87-98 Virginia Tech16101.5106-4.56.3-9.74-129Maryland1696.4101.6-5.25.9-10.18-810Georgia Tech1699.6105.3-5.75.8-10.24-1211 Virginia1699.6105.5-5.95.8-10.27-912Wake Forest16105.5114.4-8.94.9-11.13-13
Conference Averages: OFF EFF (104.9), DEF EFF (104.9)

Observations:

-- You can see how good Carolina was during its second-half surge. Through six games, the Heels had a negative efficiency margin that suggested they were only the sixth-best team in the conference. Instead of struggling to 8-8 as it appeared they might, UNC won 11 of its last 12 ACC games and ended up being every bit as good as Duke (on paper). The fact that Carolina is both young and not an over-achiever (the team's actual record closely mirrors its expected record) certainly bodes well for next season.

-- The two luckiest teams in the ACC this season: Maryland and Boston College. Both finished with actual records that were about two games better than their expected records.

-- On the flip side, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest finished about two games worse than their expected records. Virginia Tech, in particular, is an interesting case. Last year, the Hokies were lucky: they had an expected conference record of 5-11 but managed 8-8. Note that, this year, their expected record was 6-10, yet they finished 4-12. So they may have actually been a better team this season, but they still finished four games worse than their 2005 mark. All of its major contributors will return next season, so Tech is a good candidate for a rebound.

-- Several teams regressed pretty heavily between January 30th (the date of my earlier evaluation) and the end of the season: Virginia's efficiency margin slipped 7.7 pts/100 possessions, Duke's slipped 6.8, and NC State's slipped 4.2. North Carolina was the big gainer, improving an incredible 14.5 pts/100 possessions.

-- The Wolfpack were lucky for once. Last year, State did not reach its expected conference record. If efficiency margin is to be believed, NC State proved to be a better team in conference play than Boston College, despite the Pack's maroon swoon. I'll buy that.

-- The league's best offense: Duke. It's worst: Maryland. Best defense: UNC. Worst defense: Wake Forest (no way!).

-- Maryland had some awful performances en route to the worst offense crown. Some of their hideous offensive efficiency ratings: 67.4 at Duke, 78.9 vs. UNC, 80.4 at FSU, 71.8 at UNC. The Terps' futility against UNC allowed the Heels to win both games comfortably despite being mediocre themselves (they only scored about 1.0 pts/poss in both games).

-- On the road, Wake's defensive efficiency rating was 120.8. The craptacular Maryland offense lit Wake up to the tune of 119 pts/100 poss. It takes that kind of defense to lose 13 games despite having an above-average offense.