As Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski offered a lengthy and thorough diagnosis of what his team needed to do in the wake of forward Amile Jefferson’s fractured right foot earlier this month, he noted the Blue Devils’ greatest strength in three words before moving on to what could erode that asset.
“We can score,” Krzyzewski said.
Duke isn’t alone. Entering Tuesday, the ACC accounted for the top five teams – in order, North Carolina, Virginia, Duke, Notre Dame and Miami – in the KenPom.com adjusted offensive efficiency ratings. Put another way, those five teams have done the most with their possessions while also accounting for the quality of the defenses they have faced.
The raw data, which makes no such adjustments, tells a similar story. Seven of the top 12 teams nationally in pure scoring ability to date are ACC schools, with Louisville (No. 3) and Pittsburgh (No. 7) landing a bit higher without their relatively soft schedules to date factored in.
This is no doubt welcome news for those who wondered just what happened to the great up-and-down games the league was long known for prior to expansion.
In 2003-04, the league’s last season in a nine-team configuration, the ACC had 24 of its 80 games (72 regular season, eight conference tournament) feature two teams scoring 75 points. Last year, that happened 22 times in 148 games (135 regular season, 13 conference tournament) – and eight of those instances required overtime.
Duke and North Carolina, almost always loaded with talent, can be counted upon to score in bunches. That wasn’t usually the case for anyone else of late, though Miami (2013), Virginia (2014) and Notre Dame (2015) were all ruthless offensive machines in their respective league title seasons. But none of those three were remotely up-tempo, either.
That is the biggest hindrance to returning to the days of high-scoring games. While North Carolina is a reliably up-tempo bunch and Florida State is willing to push the pace more than at any point in coach Leonard Hamilton’s 14-year tenure, plenty other programs base their identity on wearing out opponents with relentless defense.
Duke and N.C. State fielding short-handed rosters and adjusting their pace accordingly against better competition doesn’t help, either.
Nonetheless, ultra-high scoring isn’t a requirement for strong offensive teams. As the league schedule commences this week, there’s a good chance the teams in the top half of the league combine to produce a few more entertaining – or at least offensively efficient – games than they have over the last few years.
North Carolina is 57-0 all-time at home against Clemson, which visits Chapel Hill to open ACC play on Wednesday. Which Tar Heels have had the most points, rebounds and assists in a home game against Clemson?
Hokies lose Clarke
Virginia Tech (8-4) remains in the midst of a rebuilding project under second-year coach Buzz Williams, and it will have to delve into conference play without one of its most promising players.
The Hokies, who play host to West Virginia on Wednesday before welcoming N.C. State to Blacksburg for Saturday’s league opener for both teams, lost freshman Chris Clarke to a broken right foot during a workout last week. Clarke is Virginia Tech’s No. 4 scorer (10.5 points per game) and No. 2 rebounder (7.4 per game) and started 10 contests.
It is uncertain how long the 6-foot-6 Clarke, who was to undergo surgery Tuesday, will be out. Fellow freshman Kerry Blackshear Jr., who is averaging 6.7 points and 19.3 minutes mostly off the bench, could see his role expand in Clarke’s absence.
The most points a North Carolina player ever scored against Clemson in Chapel Hill was 45, set by George Glamack on Feb. 10, 1941. Paul Likens and Lennie Rosenbluth both had 23 rebounds at home against Clemson on Dec. 4, 1955, while Steve Hale (Feb. 23, 1985) and Kendall Marshall (Feb. 18, 2012) both had 13 assists in a game against the Tigers in Chapel Hill.