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Fatigue & The Stretch Run

Thursday, March 6, 2014 5:25pm

As we enter the fifth full month of the college basketball season, fatigue is becoming something to keep an eye on. About this time each year, shooters lose some of the energy in their legs, big men get worn down, and just about everybody loses half a step of quickness. All of a sudden, depth becomes as important as talent.

We took a look at each ACC team and ranked them by usage. We used three data points to paint the picture of which teams are the most tired: Players who have played heavy minutes, number of players in the usual rotation and average minutes for a team’s top six players.

Number of players who have logged heavy minutes (32+ mpg)

1. Syracuse (3)

2. Boston College (2)

2. Clemson (2)

2. Miami (2)

2. Notre Dame (2)

2. Virginia Tech (2)

7. Duke (1)

7. North Carolina (1)

7. N.C. State (1)

7. Pittsburgh (1)

7. Wake Forest (1)

12. Florida State (0)

12. Georgia Tech (0)

12. Maryland (0)

12. Virginia (0)

Shortest Rotations (Number of players with 10+ mpg)

1. North Carolina (7)

2. Duke (8)

2. Notre Dame (8)

2. Pittsburgh (8)

2. Syracuse (8)

2. Virginia (8)

2. Wake Forest (8)

8. Florida State (9)

8. Maryland (9)

8. Miami (9)

8. N.C. State (9)

12. Boston College (10)

12. Clemson (10)

14. Georgia Tech (11)

14. Virginia Tech (11)

Most-Used Top 6 Players

1. Syracuse (29.28 mpg)

2. Maryland (27.53 mpg)

3. Pittsburgh (27.45 mpg)

4. Miami (27.43 mpg)

4. Notre Dame (27.43 mpg)

6. Florida State (27.25 mpg)

7. Georgia Tech (27.12 mpg)

8. Boston College (27.08 mpg)

9. Virginia Tech (26.96 mpg)

10. North Carolina (26.93 mpg)

11. Duke (26.80 mpg)

12. Wake Forest (26.35 mpg)

13. N.C. State (25.83 mpg)

14. Virginia (25.55 mpg)

15. Clemson (25.50 mpg)

Before we get too far into analyzing these numbers, remember that they don’t paint the entire picture of fatigue. For instance, those teams that play zone use less energy on a nightly basis than teams that specialize in man defense. Team X could have four players averaging 35 minutes per game, but maybe those four players are in far better shape than anybody else in the league. Numbers aren’t the best way to measure how tired a team is — the best judge of that is your eyes. If a team is constantly getting beat in transition, or its shooters are missing short more often, or its leapers aren’t getting off the court as quickly, then that team is probably wearing down.

With that said, perhaps the biggest takeaway is that Syracuse, at least according to these numbers, is by far the most tired team in the ACC. That might explain the Orange losing four of their last five games.

Another interesting note is that the list of teams with the shortest rotations is a crude reflection of the league standings. The ACC’s top five teams are all among the seven teams with the shortest rotations.

There seems to be a correlation between usage of a team’s top six players and late-season success. Syracuse, as aforementioned, is 1-4 in its last five games. Going down the list, Maryland is 2-4 in its last six. Pittsburgh is 2-4 in its last six. Miami is 3-3 in its last six. Notre Dame is 1-4 in its last five.

 

And finally, if lack of fatigue plays into March success, Virginia will raise a lot of eyebrows. Not only are the Cavaliers the clear-cut ACC champions, they’re also one of the most-rested teams in the entire conference.