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January 19, 2010
Tuesday Truths
First Look at the ACC

by John Gasaway

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Welcome to the latest installment of Tuesday Truths, where I look at how well 126 teams in 11 conferences are doing against their league opponents on a per-possession basis. (For a tidy little homily on why this stuff is so very awesome, go here.)

As of this week we now have enough possessions in the bank to look at three new 16-game conferences. Welcome to the party, ACC, A-10, and Mountain West! As for the Big 12 and SEC, alas, the numbers from these late-starting leagues are still a little too green to bother with. (Kansas, for example, looks beautiful on conference-only paper, but the beauty right now is based on just 139 possessions.) Tune in next Tuesday for our first full-strength 11-league edition. Meantime, here's what we're already seeing from the following seven conferences.

ACC: Congratulations, Duke!

Through games of January 18, conference games only
Pace: possessions per 40 minutes
PPP: points per possession Opp. PPP: opponent PPP
EM: efficiency margin (PPP - Opp. PPP)

                      Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Duke              69.4    1.12    0.91    +0.21
2.  Virginia          65.9    1.15    0.98    +0.17
3.  Maryland          66.5    1.12    1.01    +0.11
4.  Clemson           70.1    1.00    0.94    +0.06
5.  Virginia Tech     71.5    0.95    0.96    -0.01
6.  Florida St.       67.9    0.99    1.01    -0.02
7.  Georgia Tech      66.8    1.01    1.04    -0.03
8.  North Carolina    72.6    0.98    1.01    -0.03
9.  Wake Forest       70.7    0.99    1.03    -0.04
10. NC State          68.6    1.02    1.06    -0.04
11. Miami             66.0    0.95    1.07    -0.12
12. BC                64.0    0.91    1.11    -0.20

You Blue Devils are going to win the ACC! Oh, sure, I know it's only January but, really, who on this list is going to rise up and win more conference games than Mike Krzyzewski's group? What's the phrasing I'm looking for here....Ah, yes. "No one."

In the book I said there'd be a huge glob of .500-ish teams in the ACC in between North Carolina and Duke at the top and Miami and NC State on the bottom. Well, that Carolina forecast isn't looking particularly sagacious, and the Wolfpack might end up being a smidge better than I thought, as long as they can stay away from Chandler Parsons. But the "glob of .500-ish teams" part is looking pretty good. And while I'm happy so far with my Virginia forecast (I had them as part of the aforementioned glob), I don't suppose a team that won by all of two points last night at home against UNC-Wilmington is exactly sowing fear and dread in Durham.

Big East: Syracuse excelling despite its schedule

                      Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  West Virginia     64.4    1.13    0.99    +0.14
2.  Pitt              65.2    1.11    0.99    +0.12
3.  Villanova         71.7    1.18    1.06    +0.12
4.  Louisville        68.7    1.14    1.03    +0.11
5.  Syracuse          71.6    1.10    0.99    +0.11
6.  Marquette         62.9    1.16    1.07    +0.09
7.  Georgetown        64.4    1.10    1.02    +0.08
8.  Connecticut       69.8    1.00    0.98    +0.02
9.  Cincinnati        66.6    0.98    0.99    -0.01
10. St. John's        65.4    0.93    0.95    -0.02
11. Notre Dame        66.5    1.09    1.12    -0.03
12. Providence        72.5    1.05    1.10    -0.05
13. Seton Hall        71.1    1.03    1.10    -0.07
14. S. Florida        68.0    0.92    1.06    -0.14
15. Rutgers           71.0    0.90    1.12    -0.22
16. DePaul            65.8    0.86    1.15    -0.29

A big gold star goes out to the 'Cuse for keeping Villanova and those surprising Pitt Panthers in view by winning back-to-back road games on a demanding Saturday-Monday schedule at West Virginia and Notre Dame.

Big Ten: What the heck happened to Purdue?

                      Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Michigan St.      65.7    1.06    0.87    +0.19
2.  Wisconsin         58.4    1.03    0.91    +0.12
3.  Michigan          62.9    1.06    0.96    +0.10
4.  Illinois          65.8    0.98    0.92    +0.06
5.  Purdue            66.0    1.04    1.00    +0.04
6.  Minnesota         67.5    1.03    1.03     0.00
7.  Ohio St.          64.2    0.98    0.99    -0.01
8.  Northwestern      63.5    1.05    1.12    -0.07
9.  Penn St.          60.2    0.96    1.07    -0.11
10. Indiana           66.8    0.91    1.04    -0.13
11. Iowa              64.6    0.90    1.07    -0.17

There's no particular shame attached to: 1) losing at Wisconsin; 2) having future NBA All-Star Evan Turner drop a World-Historic Performance on you; or even 3) losing a tight game at resurgent Northwestern. If I had told you before the season that any one of those three things would befall Purdue, you would have shrugged. But when they all occur and do so in three consecutive games, the danger is that the team and/or coach will freak needlessly. We'll see.

Pac-10: Maybe not so "wide-open" after all

                      Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Arizona St.       62.2    1.04    0.88    +0.16
2.  USC               59.6    0.95    0.85    +0.10
3.  Arizona           66.2    1.08    0.99    +0.09
4.  Cal               69.8    1.11    1.04    +0.07
5.  Washington        71.8    1.05    1.03    +0.02
6.  Oregon St.        65.0    0.98    1.01    -0.03
7.  Washington St.    67.0    1.06    1.11    -0.05
8.  Oregon            67.0    1.01    1.09    -0.08
9.  UCLA              64.5    0.96    1.09    -0.13
10. Stanford          66.8    0.97    1.12    -0.15

If you knew that Arizona State would respond to the departures of James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph by suddenly transforming themselves into an outstanding defense, raise your hand. I confess I didn't see that one coming. Over the course of 373 possessions Pac-10 opponents have made just 41 percent of their twos against this D.

A-10: The Owls may be better than they looked against Kansas

                      Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Temple            62.8    1.11    0.89    +0.22
2.  Rhode Island      71.4    1.12    0.94    +0.18
3.  Xavier            71.0    1.08    0.98    +0.10
4.  Dayton            69.8    1.04    0.95    +0.09
5.  Richmond          63.9    1.08    1.00    +0.08
6.  Saint Louis       63.5    0.95    0.91    +0.04
7.  GW                65.3    1.08    1.08     0.00
8.  La Salle          66.9    1.01    1.02    -0.01
9.  Charlotte         67.5    0.92    0.95    -0.03
10. St. Bonaventure   66.1    0.97    1.01    -0.04
11. UMass             69.8    0.97    1.05    -0.08
12. Duquesne          68.9    0.92    1.02    -0.10
13. Saint Joseph's    70.6    0.95    1.10    -0.15
14. Fordham           74.1    0.91    1.08    -0.17

Temple may not have given the Jayhawks much of a game when Bill Self's team came to Philly a couple weeks ago, but since that time the Owls have displayed admirable balance, furnishing the A-10 with both its best defense and its second-best offense. Do that and you'll win some games. Meantime Rhode Island's been compiling impressive numbers against the league's soft mid- to underbelly (Duquesne, UMass, Saint Louis, and La Salle). That doesn't mean the Rams aren't for real, necessarily. More like: I'll be watching closely Saturday when URI plays at Xavier.

Missouri Valley: The one true Game of the Year! is tonight

                      Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  N. Iowa           60.7    1.04    0.84    +0.20
2.  Wichita St.       65.1    1.04    0.94    +0.10
3.  Illinois St.      62.7    1.05    0.99    +0.06
4.  S. Illinois       65.7    1.01    1.00    +0.01
5.  Missouri St.      65.0    1.10    1.11    -0.01
6.  Bradley           66.6    1.06    1.07    -0.01
7.  Creighton         65.4    0.98    1.00    -0.02
8.  Indiana St.       64.6    0.97    1.02    -0.05
9.  Drake             64.6    0.97    1.02    -0.05
10. Evansville        65.5    0.87    1.08    -0.21

Tonight Northern Iowa plays at Wichita State. Was some of the luster taken off The Game when the Shockers dropped a one-point decision at Creighton on Saturday? Sure. Then again I don't suppose the Panthers will glide to an easy win tonight simply by reminding Gregg Marshall and company that WSU lost to the Bluejays. Tune in to see two very good defenses: ESPNU, 9 ET.

Mountain West: This is what happens when the best team plays an easy schedule

                      Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  BYU               68.3    1.15    0.82    +0.33
2.  UNLV              70.5    1.04    0.99    +0.05
3.  Utah              66.9    0.97    0.94    +0.03
4.  San Diego St.     67.6    1.07    1.06    +0.01
5.  New Mexico        70.5    0.96    0.97    -0.01
6.  Wyoming           69.5    1.03    1.07    -0.04
7.  Colorado St.      66.9    1.00    1.05    -0.05
8.  TCU               59.9    0.95    1.01    -0.06
9.  Air Force         57.6    0.85    1.13    -0.28

I'm seeing some separation there, how about you? BYU has opened Mountain West play with wins at home against UNLV and Colorado State, and on the road against Air Force. The Running Rebels, of course, are worthy foes but the games against the Rams (91-47) and Falcons (67-49) were rather one-sided. Things should get more challenging for the Cougars starting Saturday, however, when they travel to San Diego State. The Aztecs may not be world-beaters but they've won nine of their last ten home games in-conference. (Chalk it up to the distracted January and February wonderment of mostly cold-weather teams in a notably salubrious setting.) Then again the last MWC team to win in San Diego was (wait for it) BYU.

John uses fewer numbers and words alike on Twitter: @JohnGasaway. College Basketball Prospectus 2009-10 is now available on Amazon.

John Gasaway is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact John by clicking here or click here to see John's other articles.

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