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Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Virginia looks to snap its 3-game losing streak against a similarly desperate Georgia Tech. GT has yet to hit the point in their doomed season (they're under a postseason ban this year) that they've started to fracture, so the Hoos will still get a proud, hungry opponent. The metrics have this very much as a toss-up, and Virginia showed some fire in its narrow road loss to FSU. Is this the game that gets Virginia back on track?

Game Details:

Date/Time:Saturday, January 18th, 8:00 pm ET
Location:McCamish Pavilion, Atlanta, GA
TV:ACCN

 

What 'They' Say

Vegas:Pick em. O/U 111.5, equates to ~56-56 tie
Torvik:Ranks GT #99, predicts a 51-50 UVA win, 53% confidence.
KenPom:Ranks GT #85, predicts a 54-53 GT win, 50% confidence.

 

Depth Chart:

Starters
PG#10 Jose Alvarado, 6'0" 179, JR
32.0 mpg, 10.4 ppg, 5.3 apg, 31.1 3P%
SG#0 Michael Devoe, 6'5" 193, SO
35.4 mpg, 16.5 ppg, 2.9 apg, 41.2 3P%
SF#4 Jordan Usher, 6'7" 225, JR
26.6 mpg, 8.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 39.5 FG%
PF#5 Moses Wright, 6'9" 230, JR
30.1 mpg, 13.8 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 55.1 FG%
C#1 James Banks III, 6'10" 250, SR
30.1 mpg, 10.4 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 50.4 FG%
Key Reserves
G#11 Bubba Parham, 5'10" 160, JR
28.0 mpg, 6.5 ppg, 1.7 apg, 34.0 3P%
G/F#23 Asanti Price, 6'5" 177, FR
14.5 mpg, 2.7 ppg, 0.7 apg, 11.1 3P%
F#12 Khalid Moore, 6'7" 203, SO
21.5 mpg, 3.6 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 31.7 FG%
F/C#3 Evan Cole, 6'10" 226, JR
11.8 mpg, 4.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 50.0 FG%

 

The ABC's of Georgia Tech:

A) They run a throwback twin-towers lineup. The Jackets have one of the best front courts in the ACC. Senior James Banks was a known entity coming into this year after averaging 10.5 ppg, 7.7 rpg, and 2.5 blkpg last season. But alongside him, junior Moses Wright has broken out and in many ways surpassed Banks, scoring and rebounding better as a more athletic 4. They combine for over 25 ppg, 15 rpg, and 4 blkpg keying the Jackets on both ends of the floor.

B) Devoe's taken a weight off Alvarado's shoulders. Jose Alvarado is a solid pass-first PG, and has been since he arrived on campus a couple years ago. His freshman year he was able to pad his assist stats with Josh Okogie on the wing, but last year without any proven perimeter scorers, Alvarado had to take on more of a scoring role. He did the best he could, led the team in scoring, but it wasn't his strength and it wasn't best for the team. This year, sophomore Michael Devoe has broken out as GT's alpha wing, and it's taken a lot of pressure off of Alvarado, who now can be more selective with his shooting, but more importantly is allowing him to post the best assist totals of his career, 5.3 apg vs only 2.2 topg.

C) Once again, they're hanging their hat on defense. The presence of elite rim protection from Banks, much as they did with Ben Lammers before him, has once again allowed Georgia Tech to deploy a conservative but highly effective paint-denial matchup-zone defense. They won't exert a lot of effort pressuring the perimeter like FSU did; GT doesn't have those kinds of athletes (Banks and Wright are too traditional of bigs, Alvarado and Parham are too small, so they can't switch screens). The turnover totals for their D are accordingly pretty mediocre. But they're really good at playing assignment defense, currently ranked as KenPom's #28 defense nationally, mostly on the back of chasing shooters off the 3-point line into the teeth of their excellent 2-point-defense. Teams shoot only 44% against them inside the arc, and despite the presence of Banks' rim protection, teams bomb away from 3 only 32% of the time against them, which is just outside the bottom 10% nationally.

 

Their Season To Date

Georgia Tech is 8-9 on the year, 3-4 in the ACC. They opened the year with a win over a short-handed NC State, but since then are just 1-9 against teams in Ken Pomeroy's Top 100. The lone win was a road victory at short-handed UNC. They actually haven't won at home since December 4th (Nebraska), having spent Christmas at an invitation in Hawaii and otherwise on a 4-game home skid to Syracuse, Ball State, Duke, and most recently Notre Dame.

 

Keys to getting the win:

1) Invert the offense. The gameplan now more than ever needs to feature Jay and Mamadi taking 3's. Are they elite knock-down guys? No. Are they better than Morsell and Stattmann? By a long shot. Whenever GT is playing a man defense, the offense needs to use Jay and Mamadi as screen and flare/pop big men. Force Wright and Banks to choose between protecting the paint or defending their man on the 3-point line. If they stay home to protect the rim, than Jay and Mamadi need to be green lit to fire away. Georgia Tech is excellent at defending the paint and seeing as how the paint is the only place Casey and Kody are any good scoring the ball, we need to scheme to open it up for them, even if that means sacrificing Jay and Mamadi's length on the offensive glass.

2) Make them shoot 3's. Georgia Tech hates shooting threes. They take them only 30% of the time, the dead lowest rate in the ACC. And that's because frankly they haven't been very good at it, hitting on only 28.9% of their 3-point attempts. Inside the arc they hit at a healthy 51.4% clip, so the GT offense is geared towards getting the ball inside either with the dribble drive from their guards or by feeding their big men on the blocks. The Pack Line needs to go into full paint-denial mode here, keeping Devoe and his running mates out of the lane, and shutting down passing lanes to the big men, forcing GT to take the low-percentage shot it would rather avoid.

3) Take advantage of transition opportunities. Turnovers have been a big problem for the Jackets this year, coughing them up on nearly 23% of their possessions, and their live-ball TO rate of 11% ranks 319th in D-1. Seven different Yellow Jackets average more than 1.5 TOs a game. The Hoos defense can expect to generate some scramble opportunities and needs to find a way to pick up some transition points on enough of those before the GT defense gets set, hopefully proving the margin of victory in an otherwise tight game.

 

 

Predictions:

Who likes rock fights? GT and UVA are two teams with good defenses and bad offenses. Add in UVA's usual ability to dictate low-tempo, and this is the sort of game where it's highly unlikely either team sniffs 60.

GT's defense is formidable with that rim protection, and since GT wants to force teams off the 3-point line (maybe a blessing in disguise so our guards don't jack up a bunch of long misses?), the Hoos are going to have to become masters of the midrange unless they can manage to use Jay and Mamadi's stretch bonafides to draw Banks and Wright away from the basket.

I trust the Pack Line to do what it needs to do against GT's inconsistent offense, so ultimately this one comes down to UVA's ability to score. I'm going to go out on a limb here and while I don't think it's necessarily a comfortable margin of victory, I think the Hoos do enough with their backs against the wall to end the losing streak.

Hoos Win 51-48