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Pittsburgh Panthers: Playing at the Right Pace

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The Pittsburgh Panthers don't need to play faster in the new ACC. They're fitting in just fine.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Is it really true that ACC teams love getting up and down the floor and play in games with a lot of possessions? There's certainly a lot of people who assume that. Which conference players, both past and present, truly are the embodiment of that description? Maybe former Tar Heels Raymond Felton and Ty Lawson come to mind. Surely, there must have been some up-tempo Duke teams over the last decade or so, right?

The truth is, the assumption that the ACC plays much faster than other conferences stems from the fact that their two signature programs - Duke and North Carolina - generally play at a faster pace, not the rest of the conference. Quick, name all the point guards that started for Maryland, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, and Clemson from 2002 to 2010.

My point is that the ACC, as a conference, has slowed considerably in terms of adjusted tempo[1] over the last five seasons. For the 2009-2010 season, the average adjusted tempo of the conference was 67.8 possessions per game. The following season, the average went down slightly to 67.1 possessions per game. In 2011-2012, the average fell by two possessions, 65.1, but did increase slightly to 65.5 during the 2012-2013 season. The average really dropped this past year. It spiraled all the way down to 61.8 possessions per game, which put the ACC as the 32nd ranked conference in terms of adjusted tempo. That's a steep decline from the 2009-2010 season when the conference ranked 9th overall.

Surely, the addition of the Pittsburgh Panthers and the Syracuse Orange are dragging this ranking down, right? The answer is both yes and no. Pitt played at an adjusted tempo of 63.5, while Syracuse plodded along at 61.3 possessions per game, good for 305th and 343rd in D-I, respectively. But, they weren't the worst offenders in the ACC. The Virginia Cavaliers averaged just 60.9 possessions per contest, while the Miami Hurricanes had the slowest adjusted tempo in all of D-1 at 58.5 possessions per game. Virginia Tech and Boston College were among the slowest 30 teams in the country, and Notre Dame wasn't exactly burning up the hardwood at 64.1, good for 278th.

To be fair, the ACC teams ranked in the top-10 in terms of adjusted tempo from the 2001-2002 season until the 2010-2011 season[2]. Clearly, there is good reason that the conference is perceived that way. With that said, my point is that things have been changing. The Panthers don't need to be a team that conforms to the old ACC, because the new ACC plays right into their comfort zone.

- Stats courtesy of KenPom.

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[1] Calculation of the average amount of possessions a team plays.

[2] The ACC ranked 1st in (07/08), and 2nd in (01/02, 04/05, 08/09).