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ACC Basketball Power Rankings, Vol. 4: Joey Baker, Jordan Goldwire bring holiday joy to Duke’s rotation

With the exception of Georgia Tech, just about every ACC Men’s Basketball program is on its holiday break. And with grueling conference schedule on the horizon, this is a good time to take a temperature check of the league. So, as you scramble to find last minute gifts, make sure to check out this week’s ACC Basketball Power Rankings.

Happy holidays, everyone.

 

No. 1 Louisville

After a tough loss in NYC to Texas Tech, Louisville bounced back with home wins over Eastern Kentucky and Miami (Ohio). The next two games, though, will be far more challenging: at Kentucky, home to Florida State.

With Jordan Nwora in the midst of an All-American campaign, it’s interesting to see how some elements of his game have shifted this season. Nwora is, once again, attempting 7.6 threes per 40 minutes — the same number as his sophomore season. However, with his usage up (31.3 percent, No. 36 nationally), Nwora’s 3-point attempt rate is down: over his first two seasons at Louisville, over 47 percent of Nwora’s field goal attempts came from beyond the arc.

During his junior season, though, his 3-point attempt rate has dropped to 37 percent. He’s still shooting plenty from out beyond the arc (1.48 points per spot-up possession), to be clear; but Nwora’s efficiency (56 eFG%) has jumped this season, too. Though 12 games, Nwora’s shooting better at the rim (13 dunks), thanks in part to his transition efforts, and from the midrange.

There’s still plenty to work on with the shot-creation aspects of his game. Nwora can struggle with finishing through contact and airtight defense — his handle isn’t quite there. Even then, at least 1-2 times per game, Nwora will flash some off-dribble skills that let you know he’s worked on his game.

Ultimately, Nwora needs to show scouts that he can drill 3-pointers off the catch (74 eFG% on catch-and-shoots) and defend. That’s what matters most. However, spot-up guys in the NBA still need to be able to attack closeouts, driving left or right. Nwora has clearly added a few more tools to his arsenal.

 

No. 2 Duke

Duke’s win over Wofford last Thursday — the team’s lone game in the last two weeks — was rather ordinary. The Blue Devils are a good basketball team and defeated an inferior opponent on their home floor. Look a little closer, though, and what stands out is this team’s depth: Joey Baker and Jordan Goldwire continue to play excellent basketball.

This Duke team, on paper, projected to have greater depth this season than (recent) years past; however, with Baker and Goldwire emerging as impactful ACC players, there’s even more punch to the bench than expected.

Starting in place of Tre Jones, Goldwire played excellent two-way basketball — hounding Wofford guards (his forte) and running Duke’s offense. Without Jones, Duke ran less pick-and-roll and more off-ball floppy/motion actions — with Goldwire (5 assists, 0 turnovers) as an efficient operator.

The Blue Devils scored a season-high 1.43 points per possession against the Terriers. Goldwire now averages 4.8 assists and 1.1 turnovers per 40 minutes — an excellent ratio.

Duke will mix in some flex offense concepts into its half-court sets, too, on occasion. On these looks, Duke primarily wants to hit the wing (usually Cassius Stanley or Jack White) on the flex cut for a layup or post opportunity.

However, like a lot of actions in Duke’s half-court offense this season, the end result can also be a post-up for Vernon Carey Jr.

What else is there to say about Joey Baker: he’s exactly what this team needs offensively. Baker (73 percent true shooting) won’t shoot 53 percent on 3-pointers all season; however, his ability to shoot off movement (77 eFG% on catch-and-shoots) is huge for the Blue Devils. (Baker also has a nice shot fake maneuver that he uses to attack closeouts, rhythm into pull-up jumpers.)

 

No. 3 Florida State

For the third time in the last four games, Florida State — the tallest team in the country, according to KenPom — leaned on its smaller lineups to pull out a win over South Florida. In the loss to Indiana, along with wins against Clemson and USF, Florid State played 7-footers Balsa Koprivica and Dominik Olejniczak for a combined 15 or fewer minutes, per game.

FSU has now held opponents to under 0.9 points per possession in eight of 12 games this season. The Seminoles rank inside the top 10 nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, block rate (16.9 percent), steal rate (13.7 percent) and opponent turnover rate (26.4 percent).

Led by Devin Vassell (2.5 steals and 1.7 blocks per 40 minutes), seven players in Florida State’s rotation have both a block rate of two percent and a steal rate of two percent, too.

 

No. 4 Virginia

For just the second time all season, Virginia allowed an opponent to score better than one point per possession: South Carolina scored 1.11 points per possession during the upset win in Charlottesville. The only other time that’s happened, so far, was Virginia’s only other defeat: at Purdue (1.2 points per possession).

South Carolina was relatively loose with the basketball — 13 turnovers, 21 percent turnover rate — and didn’t shoot particularly well from deep: 6-of-17 on 3-point attempts. However, the Gamecocks shot a blistering 65.6 percent on 2-point attempts (21-of-32 2PA), while scoring from multiple levels inside the arc.

Going back to the 2010-11 season, this marks just the fourth time that an opponent shot above 65 percent on 2-point looks against Virginia — with a minimum of 30 attempts.

This happened twice last season, too, including a road win over a good Virginia Tech team. In that game, however, Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome combined to hit nine 3-pointers. UVA just doesn’t have that offensive firepower this year.

 

No. 5 NC State

Even in defeat, NC State held a good Auburn team to under one point per possession — despite attempting 36 free throws. Auburn’s Isaac Okoro, a projected lottery pick, was held in check, too: nine points, four turnovers.

Before the winter break, though, NC State rebounded from that performance with a relatively easy win over The Citadel, which included a triple-double from Markell Johnson. While his 3-point shot has slumped at times this season (29 3P%), Johnson remains an incredibly impactful offensive player.

As the primary initiator of NC State’s pick-and-roll attack and transition offense, Johnson has emerged as the only player in the ACC with a usage rate of 25 percent and an assist rate of 35 percent (8.5 assists per 40 minutes).

 

No. 6 North Carolina

While it was North Carolina’s defense that took center stage in the win over UCLA — holding the Bruins to 0.83 points per possession (45.8 eFG%) — it’s encouraging to see freshman guards Jeremiah Francis and Anthony Harris make plays on offense.

Francis has struggled shooting the ball (32.5 eFG%), especially from inside the arc (14.3 2P%); however, with additional minutes, he’s shown a better command of North Carolina’s offense. Francis can move defenses with his live dribble, which helps trigger the ball movement that’s necessary for an offense missing its supernova — Cole Anthony. Also, this is awesome.

Harris has yet to play 50 total minutes this season, but he hasn’t recorded a turnover, and he’s shot the ball well: 28 points on 17 field goal attempts (67.6 eFG%). UNC desperately needs someone on the wing to add efficient shooting.

 

No. 7 Pittsburgh

Au’Diese Toney has struggled with his 3-point shot all season (3-of-16 3PA); the same can be said for freshman forward Justin Champagnie (5-of-37 3PA). Overall, Pitt is shooting under 27 percent on 3-point attempts. According to Synergy Sports, Pitt has scored just 0.79 points per spot-up possession (41.6 eFG%).

As conference play gets ready to really fire up, the Panthers need their spot-up guys, including Ryan Murphy (down to 30.3 3p% after a hot start), to hit from deep at a more efficient clip.

It’s encouraging, though, to see the Panthers cut down on turnovers. In four of the last five games, Pitt has posted single-game turnover rates under 20 percent.

 

No. 8 Virginia Tech

According to KenPom, Virginia Tech ranks inside the top 50 nationally in terms of adjusted offensive efficiency. The Hokies have hit 39.5 percent of their 3-pointers (No. 18) and have a turnover rate of just 15.1 percent, which ranks fifth in the nation.

Virginia Tech also ranks top 30 in terms of assist rate (60.1 percent) and 3-point attempt rate (46.5 percent). These are all byproducts of Mike Young’s offensive system — with its pristine floor spacing, misdirection and screening actions — that will give opponents in the ACC trouble this sesaon.

 

No. 9 Notre Dame

This season likely hasn’t started quite how Notre Dame fans expected. But it’s worth noting a couple things. First, all four of Notre Dame’s losses have come against teams from the ACC or Big Ten. While the loss to Maryland was ugly, and Cole Anthony did mean things to them in Chapel Hill (a game that seems like it happened 100 years ago), Notre Dame fell to Boston College and a good Indiana team by a combined three points.

The Irish still manage to avoid turnovers (13.7 percent turnover rate), share the ball (68.2 percent assist rate) and take a healthy share of 3-pointers (46.2 percent 3-point attempt rate). Juwan Durham is also playing really good basketball for this team. Durham is shooting above 82 percent at the rim and already has 20 dunks this season; on the other end of the floor, he ranks 12th nationally with a block rate of 13.9 percent.

There are certainly some troublesome trends with this team; however, the sky isn’t falling just yet in South Bend.

 

No. 10 Syracuse

Jim Boeheim was a bit of a Grinch this week while discussing his displeasure with fan enthusiasm; back on its home court, though, Syracuse picked up two 12-point wins last week: Oakland and North Florida.

In the win over North Florida, Syracuse’s defense was the subject of an interesting offensive experiment. The Ospreys lead the nation in 3-point attempt rate; nearly 55 percent of the team’s field goal attempts come from beyond the arc. North Florida shoots a pretty good clip on those looks, too: 37.4 percent (No. 39).

Syracuse’s zone lends itself to a high opponent 3-point attempt rate; during the 2018-19 season, over 48 percent of opponent field goal attempts were of the 3-point variety. That number has jumped to 51 percent this season, thanks in part to what North Florida did.

While at Syracuse, North Florida (1.15 points per possession) attempted 55 shots from the field, including 46 3-pointers (17-of-46 3PA) — a mammoth 3-point attempt rate of 83.6 percent.

 

No. 11 Miami

As his usage rate has mostly remained flat — which is to say that it’s still really high (26.1 percent) — Chris Lykes is playing the most efficient basketball of his career. Lykes is getting to the line at a slower rate this season (4.4 FTA per 40 minutes), but he’s posting career numbers in both true shooting rate (56.7 TS%) and effective shooting (53.5 eFG%).

With fewer playmaking duties to shoulder this season, Lykes’ turnover rate is now under 15 percent. And as usual, he’s excelled in the pick-and-roll: 1.21 points per possession (62.5 eFG%). Lykes, the ACC’s ultimate stocking-stuffer, has turned the ball over on just 8.8 percent of his pick-and-roll possessions as well. (Of course, it’s hard to turn the ball over when you’re busy shooting it instead.)

 

No. 12 Wake Forest

After missing Wake Forest’s win over Xavier, big man Olivier Sarr returned to the lineup against North Carolina A&T. Sarr didn’t disappoint, either: 13 points (7-of-9 FTA), 10 rebounds, two blocks and four steals.

 

No. 13 Boston College

Don’t look now, but Boston College has won four straight, including victories over Notre Dame and California. In terms of competition, things pick up on New Year’s Eve, though: Duke travels north, closer to the North Pole, to face BC.

 

No. 14 Georgia Tech

After an excellent start to the season, Michael Devoe has crashed back to Earth. As that slump coincided with the absence of Jose Alvarado, Georgia Tech’s offense crumbled. Georgia Tech went 2-4 in games without Alvarado; in each of the four losses, the Yellow Jackets scored under 0.85 points per possession. In this week’s home loss to Ball State, Georgia Tech scored just 47 points — 0.65 points per possession. Yikes.

(Honestly, I’m not sure even Santa could help this team, though he looks like a solid offensive rebounder. Regardless, I’d bet improved offensive is on the holiday wish list for every GT hoops fan.)

 

No. 15 Clemson

Make no mistake, Yale (a top 75 KenPom team) is good at basketball. For the second time in its last three games, though, Clemson was held under 0.80 points per possession in its defeat to the Bulldogs.

 

Contributor Rankings

 David GlennBrian GeisingerJosh GrahamConsensus
1LouisvilleLouisvilleLouisvilleLouisville
2DukeDukeDukeDuke
3Florida StateFlorida StateFlorida StateFlorida State
4VirginiaVirginiaVirginiaVirginia
5NC StateNC StateNC StateNC State
6UNCUNCPittUNC
7Virginia TechSyracuseUNCPitt
8PittVirginia TechVirginia TechVirginia Tech
9Notre DamePittNotre DameNotre Dame
10SyracuseNotre DameSyracuseSyracuse
11MiamiMiamiMiamiMiami
12Boston CollegeWake ForestWake ForestWake Forest
13Wake ForestGeorgia TechBoston CollegeBoston College
14Georgia TechBoston CollegeGeorgia TechGeorgia Tech
15ClemsonClemsonClemsonClemson