Date/Time: Feb. 17, 2018 / Noon
Opponent: Georgia Tech
Site: Atlanta, Georgia (McCamish Pavilion)
Radio: Virginia Tech IMG Sports Network
Talent: Jon Laaser & Mike Burnop
Talent: Mike Couzens & Cory Alexander
Live Stats: HokieSports.com
Game Notes: Virginia Tech
SIRI 145 (Internet 955)
Don't let the loss cost you two.....
Buzzketball looked like it was walking around in concrete shoes and were caught between defending the perimeter and defending the lane, not exactly doing either. Duke had a season best performance from the perimeter and missing Bagley seemed to be a positive, as the Blue Devils worked better as a team. The Hokies will need to reverse that trend since they face a Yellow Jacket team on the road in another nooner snoozer. Buzz will need to get these guys energized early.
Georgia Tech has been dealing with a combination of injuries and questions about their coach all season, as Pastner is now being investigated by Georgia Tech regarding allegations of sexual assault stemming from an incident with a woman in a Houston hotel while he was still the coach at Memphis. This investigation was opened after the woman opened a countersuit to Pastner suing her for defamation. There are also allegations about recruiting improprieties made by a booster involved in the same defamation cases, as the booster claims he paid for flights, food and clothing for Josh Okogie and Tadric Jackson with Pastner's knowledge. This led to Okogie being suspended the first six games of the season, and Jackson was suspended for three games. Sophomore guard Justin Moore also was suspended for two games for a separate NCAA rules violation at the start of the season.
As if the focus on their head coach wasn't enough, Tech put assistant coach Darryl Labarrie on paid administrative leave in November as they investigated a reported recruiting violation. Labarrie resigned his position ten days ago as the investigation progressed.
Injury wise, the Yellow Jackets lost starting point guard Jose Alvarado for the season four games ago to a fractured elbow. They also lost backup guard Curtis Haywood Jr to a leg injury a few games into the ACC schedule. Sylvester Ogbonda has missed the majority of the season with a sprained MCL. In terms of playing through injuries, the Yellow Jackets have Ben Lammers playing with two injured knees, graduate transfer Brandon Alston playing through a sprained MCL, and Josh Okogie has missed time with a dislocated finger on his shooting hand.
All of this has led to a rather disappointing season for the Yellow Jackets, who are 11-15 on the season so far, with a 4-9 record in ACC play. Their signature wins on the season were upsets of Syracuse and Miami.
The Yellow Jackets are coached by Josh Pastner, in his second season at the helm of Georgia Tech. In his seven previous years as the head coach of Memphis, his team won 20+ games five times. He led Memphis to the NCAA Tournament four times. Georgia Tech has responded well to Pastner's coaching though.
Defensively, the Yellow Jackets have used a variety of defenses, especially zone defense to confuse opponents so far this season. Earlier this season, they used a 1-3-1 zone that completely threw UNC off. Other times they are found in a more traditional 2-3 zone. Defensive pressure though is what they really focus on. This is a team that relies on its defense to make its offense go. Creating turnovers and limiting possessions is what keeps this team in games.
Offensively, Georgia Tech runs a constant motion offense but with more traditional size on the court than many of the 4 out, 1 in offenses the Hokies have seen recently. They rank in the bottom 100 in multiple offensive categories. Scoring, 3 pointers attempted and 3 point shooting all are worse than 300th. One thing Pastner teams are usually noted for is assist to basket ratio but so far this season, the Jackets have struggled even there.
What does that mean for the Hokies?
The Hokies need to determine early what going inside is going to be like. The Jackets come in third in the country in blocked shots per game at 6.6. If the Hokies are not able to get the Jackets bigs off the blocks than they will need to focus on finding offense through their mid floor or perimeter shooting. This is another heavy dose of zone defense, which fortunately the Hokies have managed to break in the past. Clarke will spend a majority of his time on the high post and forcing the Jackets zone to account for Blackshear on the blocks. This should collapse the zone inwards, allowing good open looks outside. If they are going to over pursue scoring down low than they need to ensure they get fouls called rather than throw away possessions.
The Hokies have an opportunity to essentially lock down a team tonight which will force all kinds of issues offensively for the Jackets. They struggle mightily when given a dose of their high paced defense. I would hope that Buzz has his guys turn the pressure all the way up, especially coming out of the gate.
I would expect a moderate pace to this game, especially if Georgia Tech is struggling to score. They are going to want to limit scoring to give themselves an opportunity to get back into the game. The Hokies can ill afford to be lulled though or they will find the Jackets running by them on transition offense. The Jackets are constantly trying to find quick ways to the basket if possible. One thing though to keep in mind is that even the Jackets big are long lean players that move up and down the court with ease.
If the Hokies can establish and maintain a larger lead in this contest than they should not be extremely challenged in terms of a comeback, simply because the Jackets offense isn't really built for making large comebacks right now.
Yellow Jackets Backcourt
Josh Okogie (#5) 6'4, 207 Lbs Sophomore Guard is averaging 19.1 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 2.3 APG and 1.7 SPG. He is shooting 39% from behind the arc and 44% overall. Okogie is the guy you have to always know where he is because he can go games of moderately impressive play and then boom, blow the doors off. In the last six games of ACC play he has scored 20 or more points in five of those contests. He is playing close to 36 MPG so far this season.
Tadric Jackson, (#1) 6'2, 215 Lbs Senior Guard comes in averaging 11.3 PPG, 3.8 RPG, and 1.9 APG. He is going through a drought of perimeter shooting this season, shooting 25%. While his overall averages are up because he is playing more minutes, he has struggled to be consistent all season in most facets of his offensive game. This is the older brother of the Hokies Pig Jackson.
Brandon Alston, (#4), 6'5, 195 Lbs is a graduate transfer from Lehigh University and is originally from Herndon, VA. He is giving the Jackets about 23 MPG while averaging 5.5 PPG, 1.8 RPG, and 1.5 APG while dealing with a sprained MCL. His role will likely increase with Alvarado out for the season.
Yellow Jackets Frontcourt
Ben Lammers, (#44), 6'10, 241 Lbs Senior Center is averaging nearly a double-double with 11.3 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.2 SPG, and 2.5 BPG. Lammers is going to be difficult to deal with down low all game. Blackshear needs to be able to play his most minutes of the ACC schedule so far. Lammers does not bother to shoot from outside but his interior scoring is at 46% while shooting over 73% from the line. He is dealing with injuries to both knees so his mobility is slowed but he has greatly improved his defensive discipline, staying out of foul trouble most of the season.
Abdoulaye Gueye, (#34) 6'9, 208 Lbs Junior Forward, is averaging over 25 MPG and comes in putting up 6.6 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.8 SPG and 1.3 BPG. He is shooting 46% from the field, 20% from behind the arc and only 61% from the line.
With the recent injuries, two freshman forwards have been called upon to play more minutes. Moses Wright (#12), 6'9, 210 Lbs and Evan Cole(#3), 6'9, 211 Lbs. They have combined for 6 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 1 APG so far this season but in the last contest Cole played 35 minutes, scoring 8 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and a block.
What to expect from Georgia Tech?
The Yellow Jackets are a team that is prone to foul trouble at 16 per contest but spread across only the starting five essentially. Opponents are taking 20 attempts per game at the line though which is a major factor in the Yellow Jackets record this season. Taking that into account and with the Hokies prevalence to get to the line, this could easily shoot up to 25 attempts or more.
The Yellow Jackets rely on a rotation essentially their starting five plus one big and one guard off the bench. Expect them to feed the ball down low to Lammers and allow him to work with his back to the basket. Lammers on Blackshear will be the matchup to watch most of the evening if Blackshear can stay on the floor.
Expect to see Georgia Tech switch defenses several times. I expect to see a 1-3-1 zone to start with unless the Hokies begin hitting perimeter shots. If the Hokies are hitting their shots than the Yellow Jackets will likely switch to a man to man defense.
Offensively, expect to see the Jackets move with or without the ball, especially around the perimeter. Pastner is a big fan of pick and rolls, and a high assist to basket ratio. This is still a work in progress with this team so the Hokies need to take advantage of this inexperience to force mistakes and change the possession game.
Tech should aim to keep this game as high paced as possible because it is when this offense is at its most effective. They need to take advantage of transition basketball but not out of control. The bad, rushed passes after defensive stops have to be limited to allow the Hokies to build a solid lead in this contest. If the offense is moving then the Hokies can avoid the sluggish play like we saw against Duke.
Tech needs to be ready to utilize the baseline and the dribble drive pass to keep the ball in an open Hokies hands. Don't succumb to allowing the Jackets to clog the lane and then block shots over the top. Robinson and Clarke need to drive and draw contact without allowing the Jacket bigs to get their hands on the ball. Tech can ill afford to have Robinson on the bench for long stretches.
Blackshear needs to be able to hang with Lammers in this game. If Blackshear is forced to the bench for long stretches than Lammers could have a career night which would not be good for the overall result.
Hill needs to come out of his funk, as it appears his confidence has been shaken. Bibbs and Hill both need to have an impact on this game from the outside to open up the floor for Clarke and Robinson.
Highlight of the Duke Game
It didn't hurt as badly as it looked.
Georgia Tech will look to funnel offense through the Hokies mistakes. The Hokies have to find a way to play a clean bill of a game. Don't give the Jackets the momentum to stay in this game. Take them apart systematically by playing hard-nosed defense and then not making mistakes on the offensive end to get them going.
The most critical thing for Tech in this game is energy from the start. Tech has to be in this game mentally right from the start. It's a road game, I am not sure what the student environment will be like, but they have to find a way to keep this game even or build a lead early.
This is a game that talent wise the Hokies should be able to run away with it. That's if they come to play 40 full minutes of basketball the way they are capable of. If they don't, than this game could change entirely.
Georgia Tech may win the lane in this contest both offensively and defensively. That can still happen and Tech wins the day by getting clean perimeter looks, knocking down mid-range shots, and realizing when driving in isn't going to be effective. Stay out of the trap the Jackets regularly set down low and everyone should do well.
It's an away game in a bad time slot but its still ACC college basketball. They have the talent to beat this team but it will take a total team effort considering the experience they are going up against on the floor. Robinson and others need to find their way to the rim or the line and if we can get even half as improved performance at the free throw line as we got last game, we should come out of Atlanta with a win. The Hokies win 81-67 by coming to play defense and converting that into transition and second chance baskets.