After the conclusion of the 2016-17 ACC regular season, I published a story on my ACC All-Analytics team. It featured a statistical approach to all-league roster selection.
Same thing, different part of the calendar year: With the 2017-18 basketball season right around the corner, here’s my preseason ACC All-Analytics first team.
I have no doubt that several star freshmen will crack All-ACC rosters this season; however, for this particular roster, I need data to work off of. So I’m only working with returning players. With that said, let’s jump right in.
(Note: Make sure to check back later in the day for our ACC All-Analytics second team)
Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame
Everyone, say hello to your college basketball overlord and patron saint of the ACC Analytics tab. Bonzie Colson is back for his senior season in South Bend, a possible Final Four run and perhaps even some individual hardware. Before that, though, we get one more season of Colson slapping up double-doubles and schooling fools with an endless supply of Old Man At The YMCA game.
Colson is hands down one one of the best bucket-getters in college basketball; he’s coming off a special junior season, too. According to Sports Reference, Colson was the only player in America to average at least 15 points, 10 rebounds and post a player efficiency rating (PER) above 30.
Dating back to the 2009-10 season, Colson is one of only five ACC players to play at least 1,000 minutes in a season and post a PER north of 30. The other four guys: T.J. Warren, Erick Green, Brice Johnson and Jahlil Okafor. For reference, that’s three ACC Players of the Year and three top-25 picks.
The Bonz partners up with Matt Farrell to form one of the best pick-and-roll tandems in all of college ball. Colson shot 77 percent on pick-and-roll attempts, and scored 1.41 points per possession, per Synergy Sports; this ranked 13th nationally amongst Division I players.
According to Synergy, Colson was one of eight ACC players to use at least 100 post-up possessions in 2016-17. Of that group, only dunkbot John Collins — who is apparently made out of springs and energy drinks — was more efficient. Colson scored 1.023 points per possession; Collins narrowly edged him out: 1.024.
Joel Berry, North Carolina
There simply isn’t a more decorated player in college basketball than Joel Berry. To his credit, Berry has an NCAA Championship, an ACC title, an ACC Tournament MVP and was named the Final Four’s MOP.
Joel Berry shot a little under 39 percent on the pick-and-roll in 2016-17 — with an effective field goal rate of 44 percent. Amongst players with at least 50 possessions, Berry ranked 17th in the ACC in offensive efficiency as a shooter in pick-and-roll actions.
As good as Berry is with the ball, he is even more efficient spotting up. That’s a boon for the Tar Heels; Theo Pinson is a quality passer from the wing — No. 1 on UNC’s roster last season with an assist rate of 22.7 percent. This allows Berry to float and bend defenses while Pinson drives.
According to Synergy: 165 Division I players recorded at least 150 spot-up possessions in 2016-17. Of that group, Berry ranked 17th in offensive efficiency on said possessions. Joel Berry shot 40.9 percent and scored 1.15 points per possession; that ranked ahead of Luke Kennard and Justin Jackson, and just behind jump-shooting savant Malik Monk.
Joel Berry knows to let it fly from deep; nearly 54 percent of his field goal attempts during his junior season were registered from beyond the arc. In the Roy Williams era: The 6-foot Berry joins Marcus Paige, P.J. Hairston and Rashad McCants as the only UNC players to launch six-plus three-pointers per game and make at least 38 percent.
He should look to keep that going this season, too; UNC has the personnel to excel at small-ball.
Grayson Allen, Duke
After a turbulent — and ultimately disappointing — junior season, Grayson Allen returns for his final season in Durham. Those who celebrated his struggles last season will likely look foolish now; Allen is back, and he may just be the most talented veteran player in the league.
Allen is healthy, and with Trevon Duval at point guard, he can move more off the ball. This will increase his overall efficiency — fewer turnovers, increased catch-and-shoot looks and an opportunity to conserve energy. The senior wing should also fit nicely next to Duval and Marvin Bagley, thanks to his superior shooting.
Allen has scored 463 points on 383 spot-up possessions — 1.21 points per possession, according to Synergy. To do this, he’s connected on 148-of-332 spot-up attempts (44.6 percent). Both of those numbers are absolutely smoking.
His saved energy and improved healthy should reinvigorate a transition game that slumped last season.
According to Synergy, Allen scored 1.39 points per possession (63 FG%) in transition as a sophomore — back in the 2015-16 season. The 6-foot-4 wing ranked No. 4 nationally in offensive efficiency in transition, amongst players with at least 100 possessions.
This past season, however, those numbers dropped, precipitously: 0.94 points per possession and 43.1 percent shooting, per Synergy.
The ACC featured 36 players that used at least 70 possessions in transition in 2016-17; Allen ranked 33rd amongst this group in offensive efficiency. Allen turned the ball over more frequently, too: 18.1 percent in 2017 — compared to 8.8 percent in 2016.
Grayson Allen will turn that around this season, though. Look for him to regain his All-American form of 2016.
Ben Lammers, Georgia Tech
The biggest individual success of Josh Pastner’s debut season at Georgia Tech: the development of Ben Lammers. As a junior, the shot-blocking Texan evolved into the ACC’s best two-way post player.
Lammers was the only player in the nation last season to post a block rate above 10 percent, a defensive rebounding rate of at least 15 percent, a defensive rating under 95 points per 100 possessions and score at least 500 points. He also became the first ACC player since John Henson in 2010-11 to average at least three blocks per game.
According to KenPom, Georgia Tech allowed just 91 points per 100 possessions — No. 6 nationally. That was an improvement of more than seven points per 100 possessions. It was also the best defense at GT since the 2004-05 team; Lammers deserves a ton of credit for this achievement.
The 6-foot-10 center is a much better scorer of the basketball when he moves toward the hoop — as opposed to a garden-variety post-up. Lammers connected on 72 percent of his field goal attempts on pick-and-rolls, and shot 62.6 percent on cuts to the basket, per Synergy.
The most fun aspect of Lammers’ game, though: his passing ability. Pastner’s offense loves to utilize the back cut, and Lammers is capable of flinging deft passes from the elbow all night. As I detailed back in May, Lammers was one of just six centers in Division I basketball this season to play 25 minutes per game, average two or more assists and with an assist rate of at least 12 percent.
All hail The Lamminator.
Bruce Brown, Miami
Hey, speaking of two-way players: Bruce Brown of Miami is really freaking good, too.
Brown can hang at either guard spot — perfectly capable of playing off the ball (1.07 points per possession on spot-ups, per Synergy) or running the show through a tunnel of ball screens.
On offense, Miami wants to slow things down (No. 339 in pace), and put opposing defenses through the ringer with an endless supply of high-ball screens. They push defenses to see how long they are willing to get in a stance, fight through picks and rotate. Sooner or later, something will break. Brown is gifted at attacking when that happens.
According to Synergy, Miami scored 0.9 points per pick-and-roll possession with Brown orchestrating — shooting or passing. Brown ran 217 of these possessions; he and Ja’Quan Newton joined Seth Allen and Justin Robinson of Virginia Tech as the only set of teammates to each run 200-plus pick-and-roll possessions. Brown’s efficiency will jump here if he can cut down on some of the turnovers, too.
Miami likes to play deliberately in the half-court, but Brown shines when the Hurricanes run. Brown scored 1.18 points per possession when he was the ball-handler in transition, per Synergy, which ranked fourth in the ACC — just behind Dennis Smith Jr. Brown shot 68 percent from the floor on those possessions — good for second place in the conference.