The first part of my preview of the upcoming season is a brief look back to 2007 in the ACC. Below you can see the number of expected wins based on the offensive and defensive efficiency ratings for each team in its ACC games, meaning the number of games you would have predicted a team to win based on its efficiency. The number of actual wins is adjacent to the number of expected wins giving you some idea of which teams performed better or worse than you would have expected. The efficiency margin is merely the difference between a team's offensive and defensive ratings in ACC games. The better the number the more dominant a team was and it also gives some further insight into how much luck a team had during the season.
|2007-8 Season||Expected Wins(actual wins)||Efficiency Margin|
As you can see the expected wins and efficiency margin correspond fairly closely to the order of finish with a few notable exceptions. N.C. State, Florida State, Wake Forest and Miami were top four overachievers in ACC play while Duke, Clemson and North Carolina were the top three underachievers. Interesting to note that as bad as N.C. State was in 2007 they did much better than you would have expected, which should make any Wolfpack fan who thinks they will be much better this year doubts. They were far and away the worst team in efficiency margin and easily deserved the title of worst team in the ACC. Florida State did much better than expected with a senior laden backcourt and is probably more likely to fall dramatically this season even with some talented freshmen.
Looking at those numbers you might think Wake Forest and Miami are slightly overrated this season. I think that is true in the case of the Hurricanes but if you remove a early season blowout to a horrible Boston College squad Wake Forest's expected wins shoot up to 7.7 and their efficiency margin climbs to -0.44 putting them solidly in 5th place behind a slightly overrated Virginia Tech squad. The Hokies probably overachieved a bit last season and everyone should be leery of putting too much emphasis on their late season surge, which was hardly all that impressive when you consider their best win was against Miami. The 2006 Wolfpack squad was far more talented than this Virginia Tech group yet fell flat on its face the following year when it lost Engin Atsur. Deron Washington was probably equally if not more important to the Hokies last season. For each close loss to North Carolina or Clemson they had two overtime victories against Virginia and two games that the Terrapins let slip away in the waining moments. They certainly got better as the season went along, after losses to ODU, Richmond and Penn State but the numbers show they were really much closer to the middle of the pack than the top tier of Clemson, UNC and Duke.
Of that elite trio Clemson is probably the team that should have done better than it did in the standings. The Tigers let the Tarheels (two overtime losses) and Blue Devils (ACC Tournament Semifinals) win games that Clemson probably outplayed them in but that inconsistency was shown again in the NCAA Tournament loss to Villanova. None of the upperclassmen for Clemson had played in those kinds of meaningful game before so it is understandable. Coach Oliver Purnell is building a great program at Clemson and he will make things tough for other ACC squads not named Duke or North Carolina until he gets lured away by a basketball school. It is amazing how much better Duke and North Carolina were than the rest of the league. I don't expect that to change this year and the gap may widen further.
Maryland did about what you'd expect them to do given the numbers. The Terps gave a better challenge to UNC, Duke and Clemson in four games than any other team in the league and by a wide margin. Take away the psychological let down in the regular season finale against Virginia after a crushing and bitter loss to Clemson and the expected wins were 8.0 and the efficiency margin was +0.03. Standing at 7-4 in the ACC it is hard to believe Maryland collapsed to an 8-8 record. Going 4-4 at home certainly didn't help and made worse by the fact that two losses were to Boston College and Virginia Tech who had a combined 2-12 road record anywhere else but Comcast Center last season. Perhaps all the minutes the starters were forced to play came back to haunt them at the end of the season but that doesn't really explain losing back to back games against Virginia and Boston College, two dreadful teams, to end the ACC season. At least the 2008 Terps won't have such a steep drop off from starters to bench as they did last year.