StLou's Previews: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Virginia heads down to Atlanta to start the road-heavy portion of its schedule against a disappointing Jackets squad that nonetheless can be upset-minded at home. Will the Hoos stay sharp as they leave the comforts of JPJ?
Date/Time: Thursday, Jan 18th, 8:00 PM Eastern
Location: McCamish Pavilion, Atlanta, GA
TV: WatchESPN, ACCN
What 'They' Say
|Vegas:||Virginia -8.5, O/U 117|
|TAPE:||Ranks GT #137, predicts a 67-51 UVA win, 94% confidence|
|KenPom:||Ranks GT #102, predicts a 58-49 UVA win, 80% confidence|
|PG||#10 Jose Alvarado, 6-0 174, FR|
|34.4 mpg, 12.9 ppg, 3 apg, 34% 3P%|
|SG||#4 Brandon Alston, 6-5 200, JR|
|24.1 mpg, 5.9 ppg, 1.8 apg, 38% 3P%|
|SF||#5 Josh Okogie, 6-4 213, SO|
|35 mpg, 18.8 ppg, 1.8 apg, 43% 3P%|
|PF||#34 Abdoulaye Gueye, 6-9 214, JR|
|22.2 mpg, 5.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 45% FG%|
|C||#44 Ben Lammers, 6-10 234, SR|
|36.1 mpg, 12.1 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 2.9 bpg|
|#1 Tadric Jackson, 6-2 203, SR|
|27.6 mpg, 13.6 ppg, 1.7 apg, 24% 3P%|
|G/F||#13 Curtis Haywood II, 6-5 198, FR|
|25.4 mpg, 6.3 ppg, 2.8 apg, 42% 3P%|
The ABC's of GT:
A) Throw out the first 8 games of their season. The start of their year was a disaster. Tadric Jackson and Josh Okogie got hit with "improper benefits" accusations days before the start of the season, and were immediately suspended. Okogie, GT's unquestioned star, then broke a finger, and missed over a month. In that span, GT went into a tailspin, losing 4 of their first 8, including at home to Grambling-f***ing-State (KenPom #320). Okogie came back, and the season in many ways finally began. There was still some rust, and they dropped 3 of the next 5 (including to Wright State), but they're finally working back into a semblance of form with the start of ACC play, scoring wins over Miami and ND. Yes, enough damange was done to kill their postseason hopes, but that doesn't mean they aren't still playing for pride.
B) Defense has stayed the calling card. As bad as their offense has been this year, and it's been atrocious, Pastner has them buckling in on the defensive end to at least keep them in some games. Their KenPom AdjD is 96.6, 39th nationally, and through the first couple weeks of the new year, is the best in the ACC, with a defensive efficiency of 87.2 in ACC play (ours is 2nd best at 89.4). They're shutting down shooters in the paint (opposing offenses shooting 41.8% from 2 in ACC play) and from deep (29.6% from 3). They're generating steals and turnovers too, and grabbing offensive boards. Now, here's the part where I qualify that by saying they've gotten relatively fat by playing some of the ACC's worst offenses so far: Pitt, Miami, and a Bonzie Colson-less Notre Dame. But given how good their defense was last year (2nd best defense in the ACC behind ours) anchored by shot blocking expert Ben Lammers, I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt for now.
C) The supporting cast behind Okogie and Lammers need to step up. There was some hope that in Okogie's absence, role players would elevate their games with extended minutes and opportunities. That hasn't happened. Freshman PG Alvarado has been effective in stretches scoring in the lane and drawing fouls, though he has been turnover prone in bigger games (7 TOs against Miami, 4 hosting ND). Tadric Jackson is cold from 3 (9 for 38 on the year). As a team they're dead last in conference play in 3P%, 26% from deep. To do any real damage, the Jackets need reliable options to emerge to open up the court for their stars.
Their season to date:
Georgia Tech is 10-7 on the season, 3-1 in the ACC. They've split with ND and beaten Pitt and Miami, the latter at home. They have bad losses to Wofford, Grambling State, and Wright State.
Keys to getting the win:
1) Find our 3-point stroke. GT has seen some bad shooting ACC teams this month (Pitt and Miami are both terrible, and ND is injury plagued lately), inflating it's defensive statistics. Over their whole season, the 3-point line has been their defense's achilles heel, allowing teams to shoot over 36% (236th nationally). As geared as they are to shutting down the paint, good ball movement, drive-and-kicks, should free up open 3's from the corners and wings. We've got the gunners to make GT pay.
2) Lock down Okogie. I expect Okogie to see 40 minutes of dedicated coverage by Devon Hall and De'Andre Hunter. No switching screens here. We leave our best two perimeter defenders on the guy. Okogie hasn't seen defenders like those two yet this year, and while I'm sure he'll get a few points on volume alone, I'm looking for Devon and Dre to make it their personal mission to make Okogie look bad. Do that and I have little confidence their role players can pick up the slack.
3) Win the turnover battle. Alvarado isn't a bad young guard, I like his long term potential, but he's a true freshman about to go toe to toe with Ty Jerome and Nigel Johnson. Both are nightmare matchups for him. We have a real opportunity to force a lot of steals out of the GT guards. But that needs to be balanced by good ball protection on our end. GT's been really effective forcing turnovers; Miami lost 19 to GT in their upset loss. Ty lost 6 last game out to the disruptive Wolfpack; he needs to tighten up those handles tonight.
Walking on Yellow Jacket Nests
Updated on January 17, 2018 by
When I was around 8 or 9 years old, we had a shed in the backyard, and it had a ramp leading up to it. My bike was in that shed. I think it was early in the season and nobody had been out to the shed in a while. I went running up the ramp to get my bike, and there was this awful buzzing noise. I looked down to see my ankle engulfed by a swarm of yellow jackets. They stung me all over the ankle and top of the foot. It hurt worse than just about anything I had experienced, and I ran back to the house crying. My ankle swelled up for days.
That's about how pleasant visiting Atlanta can be for UVA basketball teams. A couple years ago, the Hoos went down there and got stung multiple times by Quinton Stephens and the Georgia Tech inside players - including then little known Ben Lammers. Isaiah Wilkins and Devon Hall will certainly remember that experience, although they were young sophomores still early in their playing careers. I'm not sure if Hall was a starter yet, as I recall Bennett installing him early in the ACC season after a lot of rotating of the three sophomore guards (who would later come to be called The Cerberus among friends of mine). Devon's better defense, steadiness and glue play won out for him as he best complemented Malcolm Brogdon and Anthony Gill.
Now Hall and Wilkins return to Atlanta as veteran leaders. The ZAY, of course, hails from that neck of the woods and should have a lot of family and friends in attendance. Players always get up for these homecoming games - which could be really bad news for the Yellow Jackets, because The ZAY is having a National Defensive Player of the Year season. Devon Hall is having the kind of season where if he continues to play at this level and the Hoos go on to win the ACC regular season, you have to wonder if he shouldn't be in the ACC Player of the Year conversation. He's doing it on both ends of the floor, in big things and little.
Wilkins and Hall lead the Cavaliers against Ben Lammers and Josh Okogie, a potent inside-outside combination that makes them a threat in any game. Hall is likely to draw the initial assignment on Okogie, but Wilkins is likely to be assigned to Abdoulaye Gueye, 6-9 junior from Senegal, with Jack Salt taking Lammers. In last season's game at JPJ, Salt negated Lammers and should be suited to do the same this year. Although Tech might this year decide to run the offense through Lammers in the high post, which he has been very good at over the last two years, and which I was surprised they did NOT do much of against the Hoos last year. In that case, Bennett might prefer to have Wilkins take Lammers and let Salt stay closer to the basket with Gueye.
However the post matchups are set up, Tech has played 15-20 minutes per night in a small lineup of late, which could mean limited floor time for UVA's two-big lineup. When Tech goes small, they have either Lammers or Gueye on the floor with Okogie and can bring in 6-5 freshman Curtis Haywood II or 6-5 junior transfer Brandon Alston. Haywood is the best three-point shooter outside of Okogie. Bennett is unlikely to want Wilkins chasing either of those guys around the perimeter, so look for us to match them and rotate Salt and Wilkins in with four guards.
Hall on Okogie seems a no-brainer, but this season those matchups have not been hard and fast, and the Hoos have freely switched on the perimeter. Look for Virginia to try and keep Guy and Nigel Johnson off of Okogie, who is excellent at overpowering smaller guards. Johnson is a great match for Tech's 6-foot freshman point guard Jose Alvarado, who can be turnover prone. This is another game where Johnson could be a real factor. Keep an eye out for him picking up the Tech guards in the backcourt.
Tech switches defenses frequently and plays a lot of different zones, leaning heavily on a 1-3-1, so diagnosis will be key. When Tech goes small, look for Hall to be particularly aggressive about getting into the lane. Getting inside and attacking is a good strategy as Tech will foul. They are forcing a lot of turnovers in league play, as well as poor shooting, but their defensive foul rate is 9th in the conference. Going small could be to Virginia's benefit as it gets our two best free throw generators on the floor together. If Wilkins winds up with Lammers on him look for the pick-and-pop now that Zay is a long-range bomber.
This is going to be a slow, grinding, defensively oriented game. I don't see our lead ever truly ballooning only because of the quality of GT's defense and the matchup of two of the conference's slowest paces. If we can find our shot on their rims, we should be able to build up a small to moderate lead and then protect it over the second half as GT's offense struggles to ever truly find momentum.
Hoos Win - 61-48