Coming off a 93-91 victory against Wake Forest, the Hokies must turn their attention quickly to Georgia Tech. The Hokies are currently an unspectacular 11-6, but are one of the surprises of the ACC so far, posting a 3-1 conference record for the first time since 2008-2009. They’ll look to continue their winning ways against a Georgia Tech side which is also 11-6, but are just 1-3 in the conference. However, the Yellow Jackets’ schedule has been relatively difficult so far. They’ve had to play Villanova, UNC, Pittsburgh, UVA, and Notre Dame, none of which were easy games.
The Hokies will see a familiar face Saturday afternoon in Adam Smith. After leading the ACC in 3-point percentage last year, he’s continued his success in Atlanta, averaging a respectable 15 PPG this year. In addition, Smith is currently tied for 7th in the country in three-pointers made with 60 on a very efficient 46.2% shooting. Smith remains deadly as a catch-and-shoot player and he’s got the range to make shots well behind the three-point line. Hokies fans should remember these big time shots against Pittsburgh season:
Like Virginia Tech, the Yellow Jackets don’t rely on three point shots, ranking just 242nd in three point attempts per game. However, unlike Virginia Tech, they are efficient when they shoot them. Georgia Tech ranks in the top 50 in 3-point percentage at 37.7%, mostly due to Smith’s play. Expect more three point attempts from the Yellow Jackets this week. Virginia Tech has allowed their last three opponents to shoot 45.6% from downtown which means Adam Smith has a high probability of going off against his former team.
Another reason Georgia Tech should have success on offense is the presence of Charles Mitchell. He’s not a dynamic offensive player like Devin Thomas of Wake Forest, but his rebounding could prove to be a problem. He’s 6th in the country in total rebounds and grabs more than 4 offensive rebounds a game. He’ll force the backside wing defender to collapse on him to help on the glass. Wake Forest was able to exploit this when Devin Thomas forced this action to happen and a shooter from the opposite corner would roll towards the ball handler to get a wide open look because his defender would’ve collapsed on Thomas. I expect Georgia Tech to use plenty of these looks, especially if the Hokies’ interior can’t hold up against Mitchell on the defensive glass.
In addition to his rebounding, Mitchell is a good interior scorer. He gets a good portion of his 12.6 PPG from putbacks, but he is a reliable option for entry passes into the paint. At 270 pounds, his strength in the frontcourt can give problems to opposing forwards. Expect Mitchell to go at LeDay early and often to get him into foul trouble, and then take advantage of his replacement. It was a successful strategy for Duke and Wake Forest, who each had offensive success against the Hokies.
Georgia Tech’s leading scorer, Marcus Georges-Hunt, is also a talented scorer. He’s averaging the same amount of PPG as Adam Smith, in addition to being one of better passers on the team. With a Free Throw Rate of .661, he’s excellent at driving to the basket and getting fouled. And he’ll make the Hokies pay at the line with his 80% free throw percentage.
Overall, Georgia Tech’s offense has been the strength of the team. Although they average 77 PPG (114th in the country), their 112.3 Offensive Rating is in the top 50 in the country. After the game against Wake Forest, Buzz addressed his flawed defense and said it needed to get better. A strong showing against Georgia Tech’s offense is needed to get the defense back on track.
While the Yellow Jackets’ offense has been above average, they’ve been mediocre on defense. Part of that is due to the strength of their opponents. The average Adjusted Offensive Efficiency of their opponents ‘ offenses is 7th in the country. Essentially, they’ve played a lot of good offenses, which skews their defensive statistics.
Georgia Tech’s best defender is Charles Mitchell. His 97.7 Defensive Rating is the best on the team. Mitchell isn’t a great shot blocker, but his strength inside makes it difficult for opposing offenses to attack the paint. Having said that, Zach LeDay should look to attack the paint consistently. His three-point barrage on Wednesday was likely in Georgia Tech’s film room session this week. Mitchell will have to respect his shooting ability, which leaves space for the quicker LeDay to get around Mitchell. LeDay should get a lot of opportunities in this one.
As we’ve seen in the Hokies’ 3 ACC wins so far, they’re deadly when their defensive energy creates turnovers and fast break opportunities. In those three games, they forced a total of 39 turnovers, leading to multiple opportunities in the open court to attack. Georgia Tech may make that strategy difficult. The Yellow Jackets turn the ball over just 10 times a game, which ranks 12th in the nation. The Hokies will need to capitalize on fast break opportunities because it’s likely Georgia Tech won’t make too many mistakes with the ball in their hands.
Even when they don’t have a fast break opportunity, Virginia Tech should still attack the basket. Mitchell will make the Hokies’ task of finishing inside more daunting than it should be. All things considered, the Hokies are at their best when they are playing downhill and getting to the free throw line. Georgia Tech isn’t one of the more foul-happy teams in the conference, but forcing the issue will force the Yellow Jackets to foul. Virginia Tech has also shown great improvement at the free throw line, shooting 83% against Wake Forest. Georgia Tech only forces 10 turnovers a game, so driving inside should be an efficient scoring option.
Even though the Hokies are 3-1 in conference play, they have a +/- of -15 because Duke slaughtered them. The Hokies have shown the ability to win close games this season, and if this game stays close, I think the Hokies should win. But I don’t think the game stays close. The defense worries me, and being in Atlanta won’t help. Buzz needs to instill a "road dog" mentality on the defense, meaning they’ve got to be more relentless since they’re away from home. But until I see improvement, I will assume it hasn’t happened.
Hokies lose, 81-69. We took football, they take basketball.