Georgia Tech was seen as one of the teams that would be sitting near the bottom of the ACC at the end of the season. Through five conference games, that has not been the case at all. With wins over UNC, Clemson, and NC State, the Yellow Jackets have a 3-2 record in ACC play and are 11-6 overall. Head Coach Josh Pastner has done an outstanding job maximizing the talent on his roster.
Virginia Tech has done fairly well against the Yellow Jackets in the series history, posting a 15-6 head to head record. Buzz Williams has yet to lose to Georgia Tech in his tenure (2-0).
Despite their impressive start, Georgia Tech’s lack of talent really shows when you look at their anemic offensive statistics. They average 68.2 PPG (290th) and their KenPom adjusted offensive efficiency ranks 207th. For what it’s worth, GT also ranks as the third luckiest team in the NCAA by Pomeroy. The fact they have won three conference games is incredible given the fact they are only shooting 43.8% from the field during their five ACC games.
One of the reasons Georgia Tech does not score a lot of points is because they do not take or make a lot of three-pointers. Most of their offense comes from inside the paint. The Yellow Jackets’ primary scoring threat is big man Ben Lammers. He averages over 15 per game and has been excellent on the glass with 10 rebounds per game as well. Those numbers are slightly inflated because he plays over 34 minutes per game, due to the lack of depth on the Yellow Jackets’ roster. For a big, Lammers shows a soft touch around the rim, allowing him to take short jumpers and drain them with ease.
During conference play, the Yellow Jacket’s leading scorer has been freshman Josh Okogie. In those five games, he has been the most efficient player on the team, shooting 47.8% from the field. Due to his high shot volume, he has been scoring over 18 PPG. Okogie is not someone who will settle for a lot of jumpers (taking just 2 three’s per game), preferring to do most of his work inside. The Hokies will need to play strong on-ball defense to keep Okogie from penetrating, which has been inconsistent over the last few games.
There are only two more players averaging double digits on the Yellow Jacket’s roster. Tadric Jackson, a 6-2 guard from Tifton, is fairly bulky, listed at 215 pounds. That size allows him to get downhill and attack the basket. Jackson is statistically the best three-point shooter on the team, knocking down 42.6% of his threes. However, he is only shooting 25% from deep during conference play. Against a Hokies team that has for the most part been solid defending the three ball, they should not have too much trouble containing Jackson on the outside. Jackson has been horrific from the foul line this season, only hitting 51% of his free throw attempts. That could also play into how Buzz Williams will decide to play him.
The last threat the Hokies have to watch out for is forward Quinton Stephens who averages 10.6 PPG. At 6-9, he has been very good on the glass averaging 7.6 boards per game. He is not as much of a threat as Lammers is on the offensive glass, as Stephens has only posted a 5.3% OREB rate. He is also not afraid to let it go from deep, averaging 5 three point attempts per game during conference play but is only shooting 30.4% on the year from behind the arc.
Behind those four, Georgia Tech has a couple of playmakers at the guard positions. Freshman Justin Moore and senior Josh Heath are averaging 3.5 and 3.6 assists respectively which leads the team. Moore averages 6.1 points and Heath scores 5.5 per game (35.7% from three).
Because of the Yellow Jacket’s unimpressive offense, they rely on their defense to win games for them. They allow 68.1 PPG, ranking 89th in the country. They have had some pretty good performances on that side of the ball. In their first ACC game, they held the explosive Tar Heels offense to just 63 points. That is beyond impressive.
During conference play, opponents are shooting just 41.1% from the field on the Yellow Jackets’ defense, which ranks second among their ACC peers. Only two of their last nine opponents have shot over 41%. The Hokies just played the best defense in the ACC in their loss to Notre Dame which is good practice against an energetic and disciplined defense they will face tonight. Like the offense, Georgia Tech’s biggest strength on defense is on the interior. Lammers is one of the best shot blockers in the nation with an outstanding 9.5% Block Percentage. He ranks third in the country with 56 blocks on the season. His rim protection will force the Hokies to make extra passes in the paint, where Virginia Tech has shown they will turn the ball over from time to time.
One of the weaknesses of GT’s defense has been on the perimeter against three-point shooters. The Hokies have a clear advantage in this phase of the game. Despite not shooting well from deep against the Irish, Georgia Tech has allowed ACC teams to shoot 38.5% from downtown. Justin Bibbs in particular really needs to get going. His shot just is not as confident as it was last year. Tonight is another opportunity for him to get into a rhythm, as the Hokies could really use him to boost their offense.
If the Hokies can keep Lammers off the glass, it should lead to transition opportunities in the open floor. LeDay and Clarke will need to play really well in that aspect for the Hokies to score points against a stingy Yellow Jackets defense.
In GT’s two conference losses, they were outscored by a total of 68 points. Both Louisville and Duke were able to generate open looks and knock down those shots at a consistently high rate. If the Hokies can get off to a fast start, Georgia Tech will be in trouble. They are not a team that can score in bunches and will likely try to force things that aren’t there. I believe Virginia Tech gets the win convincingly before they head on the road next week to take on Clemson and UNC.