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Which ACC offense is the best against man-to-man defense? The answer may surprise you

According to KenPom, six of the top-30 offenses in the nation are denizens of the ACC. Three of those teams are also amongst the NCAA Tournament’s top eight seeds: Virginia, Duke and North Carolina.

The ACC landed nine teams in the 2018 NCAA Tournament — tying its previous record from only one year ago. Before the Big Dance gets started, though, let’s evaluate each NCAA Tournament team from the ACC in terms of how it functioned in the half-court against man-to-man defenses.

TeamPoints per possessionFG%eFG%TO%
Virginia Tech0.9746.3 FG%53.7 eFG%15.5%
Duke0.9647 FG%53.2 eFG%14.4%
NC State0.9546.4 FG%52.2 eFG%14.2%
UVA0.9544.5 FG%51.0 eFG%12.5%
UNC0.9545.3 FG%51.6 eFG%13.8%
Miami0.9345.2 FG%51.7 eFG%14.0%
FSU0.9245.4 FG%51.7 eFG%16.2%
Clemson0.9143.0 FG%50.0 FG%16.5%
Syracuse0.8640.8 FG%46.2 eFG%16.0%

*Data from Synergy Sports

(It’s important to note for clarity: This doesn’t include transition possessions, or half-court attempts against zone defenses. This is only part of the snapshot of a team’s offensive identity.)


Quick Thoughts

  • It’s no real surprise to see any of these teams at the top rate so highly; Duke’s two-headed monster of Marvin Bagley and Wendell Carter — plus Grayson Allen and Gary Trent — is nearly impossible to defend, and Virginia Tech is one of the best three-point shooting offenses in America.
  • However, it’s interesting to note that the ACC’s top man-to-man offense didn’t make the field of 68 for the NCAA Tournament. That’s right, Notre Dame scored 0.973 points per possession in the half-court this season, per Synergy — good for No. 1 in the ACC, and No. 27 in Division I. Considering this team’s injury issues, this is insanely impressive
  • Syracuse, which was the last team to get a bid for this season’s tournament, actually finished 13th in the ACC in points per possession against man-to-man defenses; only Pitt (0.83) and Georgia Tech (0.80) ranked lower. According to KenPom, the Orange have the least efficient offense of any at-large team in this year’s field — No. 129.


Why this could matter

Digging back through Synergy’s data, which dates to the 2005-06 season, only two teams scored under 0.9 points per possession against half-court man-to-man defenses: Louisville in 2013 and Kemba Walker-led UConn in 2011.

Every title team over the last dozen seasons has ranked inside the top 100 nationally in terms of man-to-man efficiency. The lowest rated team of this group is Louisville — 0.86 points per possession, No. 100 in the nation. However, that team also had an elite transition offense, and featured the best man-to-man defense in the country.

Five of the last 12 national champs have ranked inside the top 10 in man-to-man offensive efficiency, including Duke’s 2015 title team, which score 0.97 points per possession.


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