In case you were concerned or woke up in a home without clocks, calendars and smart phones, Jon Rothstein is here to remind you of something VERY important. It’s March, you guys.
This is March.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) March 1, 2019
With that critical bit of information out in the open now, let’s turn our attention to what makes March so special: tournament time in college hoops. Currently, with less two weeks remaining in the regular season, there are eight ACC men’s teams projected to land in the field of 68. Here’s one thing to know for each program.
Virginia — 1
Earlier this week, I wrote a bunch on Virginia’s offensive versatility against both zone and man-to-man defenses, so make sure to check that out. (Plus: Mamadi Diakite’s capabilities at the rim on defense)
In that piece — along with several other recent works — I detailed the impact of Virginia’s ball-screen offense, which continues to flourish. Here are a couple more notes on that.
With Ty Jerome and Kihei Clark handling the ball (usually), and Diakite and Jay Huff diving, UVA has hit on something of serious value. Run this action and you should find points. So far this season, 4.5 percent of Virginia’s possessions have been used by rollers (fifth most in the ACC), per Synergy Sports. That’s up from 2.2 percent last season and 2.9 percent in 2015-16.
The Cavaliers have scored 1.23 points per possession (67 eFG%) on plays used by the team’s roll players. That ranks No. 25 nationally and fourth in the ACC. Diakite and Huff have combined to score 1.34 points per possession (72.9 FG%) on this action, according to Synergy.
In the 2017-18 season, UVA scored just 0.87 points per possession (47.6 eFG%) on these roller possessions, which ranked No. 285 in the nation. That 2015-16 season team — with Malcolm Brogdon at the controls — scored just 0.78 point per possession out of these looks, 307th nationally. (Of course, that squad was far more reliant on the mover-blocker/sides approach on offense.)
Duke — 1
There’s still no word yet on Zion Williamson’s status for Saturday afternoon against Miami — Duke’s first home game since his injury. Earlier this week, I looked out how RJ Barrett has attacked the middle portion of the floor, and gotten to the rim, in the absence of Williamson.
RJ Barrett is much more likely to find his way to the high paint (he's really stepped up https://t.co/e8sb3JlDwx)
Cam's shot selection looks the same
Lastly: Welcome to FGA-land, AOC! pic.twitter.com/b8KqlZXsaf
— Fifth Factor Plots (@5th_Factor) March 1, 2019
This has obviously been a weird season for Cam Reddish. One of the top draft prospects in the country, Reddish has looked the part on the defensive end; however, his struggles shooting the ball and playmaking are a little problematic.
Reddish is shooting under 46 percent at the rim in the half court, per Synergy. Spot-up attempts (42 eFG%) and off-screen looks (32.4 eFG%) are a mystery, too. Up in Blacksburg, Reddish didn’t exactly find his game, either, especially when Duke needed it as the Hokies loaded up on Barrett.
The freshman wing turned the ball over five times (20.8 percent turnover rate this season) and went just 1-of-3 at the rim. He did, however, find some success shooting the ball off the catch. Reddish went 2-of-4 on spot-up attempts and 1-of-2 on off-screen looks, including this BLOB play.
The form on his jumper has fluctuated this season, which has played a role in the inconsistency. You can see it on the above clip. He makes the shot, but this isn’t exactly a balanced or fluid attempt.
At times, though, he will pull something out that make you wonder what exactly he’s capable of — perhaps just not yet.
The 2019 NBA Draft class is projected to be a weaker bunch — outside of Zion, of course. With that in mind, Reddish still looks like a top-five pick in the eyes of many; it’s not hard to see the 3-and-D potential with some passing ability. Until then, Duke has to hope he can somehow zero in on his jumper.
North Carolina — 2
It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise (good basketball players play good basketball), but North Carolina has looked excellent the last few weeks. The team’s defense has emerged in conference play, and over the last 10 games UNC has seriously popped. In that span, North Carolina ranks second nationally in offensive efficiency and 19th in defensive efficiency.
Top 5 teams in adjusted efficiency in February games only:
2. Texas Tech
3. North Carolina
5. Virginia pic.twitter.com/vKTYzcfBBB
— Jordan Sperber (@hoopvision68) March 1, 2019
There’s plenty of praise to go around, too. Up front, Garrison Brooks has really emerged as a leader and contributor — on both ends of the floor. When there’s more time, I’ll delve into the team defense. However, for right now, I want to next another second to acknowledge the incredible spot-up shooting of this UNC team.
North Carolina has an effective shooting clip of 61.2 percent on catch-and-shoot attempts in the half court, which ranks No. 7 in the nation, according to Synergy. That’s up from 51.5 percent last season. This effort is led by Cameron Johnson and Coby White.
According to Synergy, Johnson and White are a combined 95-of-197 on catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts (48.2 3P%). This is ridiculously efficient.
Florida State — 4
Terance Mann continues to do some of everything for Florida State. The senior wing is shooting a career-high 45.5 percent on 3-pointers (2.5 3PA per 40 minutes) — 46.9 percent in ACC play. Mann has now played over 130 career games for FSU and currently has a career effective shooting rate of 59 percent (60.6 percent true shooting).
While his interior shooting has dipped some this season, his effective and true shooting rates have grown, slightly. During ACC play, Mann ranks inside the top 15 in offensive rating, effective shooting and true shooting, per KenPom.
He also hits the offensive glass well for a wing (9.8 percent offensive rebound rate) and has some playmaking craft, too. In ACC action, Mann has dished out 3.6 assists per 40 minutes.
Virginia Tech — 5
On several occasions now, I’ve detailed how Virginia Tech has found offense in the absence of point guard Justin Robinson; both Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kerry Blackshear Jr. have stepped up to the plate and produced.
However, let’s take a quick second to acknowledge the production of one of the league’s more unheralded rookies: Isaiah Wilkins.
Wilkins, a product on Winston-Salem, N.C. (shoutout), is one of the youngest players in Division I basketball; at times this season, his role has shifted. At the core, though, he provides multi-positional production off the bench for the Hokies.
In the win at Notre Dame, he grabbed seven rebounds, including four on the offensive glass. During ACC play, he’s rebound 9.3 percent of Tech’s misses while on the floor. He also hit a 3-pointer in that game (45.2 3P% this season) and scored eight points on three field goal attempts.
In the upset over Duke, Wilkins was the only reserve to play more than five minutes; he scored four key points in 17 minutes of action, and grabbed a steal. For the season, Wilkins is now shooting 59.2 percent at the rim.
Louisville — 7
Oh, boy. As the offensive struggles mount in Louisville, the Cardinals, as a team, continues to plummet, too. Over the last 10 games, Louisville has an offensive efficiency of 106.7, which ranks 120th in the nation. So, not great.
Louisville is now just 2-6 in its last eight games. At times, the Cards have suffered turnover issues (18.2 percent turnover rate, No. 142), and at others, the team just can’t hit a shot. Jordan Nwora, the team’s landing scorer, is under 33 percent on 3-point attempts in that stretch.
Also from yesterday, a column on what’s happening with Louisville amid its late-season slide. https://t.co/5wVvT4okld
— Jeff Greer (@jeffgreer_) March 1, 2019
Over the last four games, Chris Mack’s club is 1-3. In none of those games has Louisville managed to post an effective shooting clip above 42 percent. This just won’t cut it.
Sunday’s matchup with Notre Dame looms big; on the other side of that, Louisville has a trip to Virginia to close the regular season out.
Syracuse — 9
Tyus Battle is averaging over 17 points per game in ACC play — while also playing over 93 percent of Syracuse’s available minutes. Yes, once again Battle is cast in this role: heavy workload, high usage and low efficiency. The man likes himself some long off-the-dribble 2-pointers; however, I’m not so sure they love him back.
Roses are red
Violets are blue
Perhaps Tyus Battle
Should keep taking Long 2's?
Maybe Long 2's are ok for some players, who should stick with it – this plot shows some players (above 0 on the y-axis) actually get more value from long 2's than 3's!
just not Nick Ward… pic.twitter.com/syFcIKRxQk
— Fifth Factor Plots (@5th_Factor) February 14, 2019
In ACC play, Battle’s usage rate has jumped to 25.6 percent, according to KenPom. However, his effective shooting rate sits just above 45 percent, which is less than ideal. Battle totes an offensive rating of 103.7 against league competition, too.
NC State — 10
There are currently 17 players in the ACC with offensive rebound rates above 11 percent; that list includes the two centers from NC State — Wyatt Walker and DJ Funderburk. As a team, the Pack has an offensive rebound rate of 36.3 percent, which ranks inside the top 15 nationally.
This is NC State’s second highest rate of the KenPom era, which dates back to the 2000-01 season. While these extra possessions are obviously nice, the Pack hasn’t quite been able to consistently turn them into instant offense. According to Synergy, State has scored just 0.99 points per possession (51.7 FG%) on put-back attempts after an offensive rebound.
Clemson — First 4 Out
In a somewhat interesting twist this week, Clemson — which won two straight games (BC, Pitt) — has dropped from a projected 12-seed to the first four out. There’s a lot of moving and shaking at this time of the year; Clemson still has three more regular season games, including two at home — UNC, Notre Dame (away) and Syracuse. After that, it’s the ACC Tournament.
The Tigers have room to make up some ground.