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Are You Faster?


The ACC is not the college basketball speed demon it once was--five seasons ago, for example, the league ranked second among all conferences in tempo, and this year it ranks 13th. That represents a decrease of more than four possessions per 40 minutes in the average conference game. Maryland, Virginia, Georgia Tech, and Clemson pumped the brakes following recent coaching changes, which explains in part why the league is slower these days.

So what about the new guys? They gonna give us a boost in the tempo department? Well... no. Below I've charted each team's adjusted tempo over the last five years, with national ranking in parentheses.

Notre Dame Pittsburgh Syracuse
2009 67.8 (108)
66.0 (186) 70.5 (34)
2010 63.4 (312) 62.6 (322) 70.1 (54)
2011 64.5 (273) 63.1 (313) 66.5 (177)
2012 61.2 (328) 63.1 (297) 65.2 (209)
2013 61.3 (321) 60.3 (338) 65.5 (192)

I'm not sure what happened to Mike Brey's crew after 2009. The Irish ranked in the top 40 in both 2007 and 2008, slipped a bit the following year, then fell right off the tempo cliff. In the few years prior to 2007, Brey's teams were slow--though not as slow as they are now--so maybe that brief period of up-tempo play was just an aberration. Whatever the case, Notre Dame has been one of the slowest teams in the nation since then. The Irish have also been very efficient offensively--Brey is completely underrated in this regard--but that won't necessarily make them fun to watch.

Jamie Dixon has a long history of running halfcourt teams--that '09 team is the fastest one he's ever had at Pittsburgh. So there's not so much ambiguity in this case. That said, since taking the head coaching job at Pitt (2004), Dixon's offenses have never finished worse than 40th in adjusted offensive efficiency, and his defenses have finished outside the top 50 only twice.

Finally we come to Jim Boeheim's program, which has been more erratic than Brey's over the last 10 years. In their national title season, the Orange ranked 41st in tempo, then followed that up with a pair of seasons close to the NCAA average. Then they sped up again, finishing in the top 80 from 2006-2010. Then another downswing. I guess we could say Jim Boeheim is adaptable.

There are a lot of factors that can affect a team's tempo in any given season, but as things stand right now, it doesn't look like the ACC's new additions are going to provide a boost in pace. The Irish and Panthers are playing at a Virginia-esque pace this season. All three are outstanding programs and improve ACC basketball significantly, mind you; they just may not seduce you with their transition games.