Who: Virginia Tech Hokies (13-5, 3-2 ACC) @ Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (9-9, 2-3 ACC)
When: Tuesday, January 25 @ 9:00 p.m.
TV: Regional Sports Network
Where: Alexander Memorial Coliseum, Atlanta, GA
The Opponent: The Hokies resume ACC play with their final visit ever to the Alexander Memorial Coliseum to take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. I say ever because the “Thriller Dome” is being torn down after this year. As for the home team in the AMC, the Jackets are coming off a 62-54 defeat at Virginia on Saturday.
This GT squad has some questionable losses along with some good wins. The Jackets have lost at Kennessaw State by 17, at Northwestern by 20, at Siena by five, and at home against UNC-Charlotte by three in double overtime. However, their last two home games were a 20-point victory over UNC and a 35-point drubbing of Wake Forest. Overall, they are a much better team at home than on the road, going 7-2 in the friendly confines of the AMC.
Here’s a look at GT’s projected starting lineup:
|41||Glen Rice Jr.||G||6-5||206||So.||12.9||5.2|
|3||Maurice “Moe” Miller||G||6-2||189||Sr.||5.8||2.4|
The key to the Jackets offense is Iman Shumpert. The junior guards leads the Jackets in a wide range of statistical categories, including points, steals, assists, turnovers, and, amazingly, rebounds. As Shumpert goes, so do the Jackets. In their nine wins, Shumpert is averaging 21.8 points, but in their nine losses, he averages just 11.8. He currently leads the ACC in steals with 45, a big reason the Jackets lead the conference with 9.7 steals per game.
Unlike previous GT teams, this one relies on their backcourt, so much so that they have just one true forward and two centers on their roster. The Jackets top six scorers are guards, including Glen Rice Jr. and Mfon Udolfia (6-2, 187). Udolfia, who averages 7.9 ppg, started the first 11 games of the season before giving way to Rice. All Rice did was rip off 10 straight games in double figures before going 2-for-11 against UVA on Saturday.
Brian Oliver (6-6, 220) is the only other Jacket to average in double figures with 10.6 ppg. The sophomore guard leads GT in three-point attempts, but makes just 30.5%, the same percentage the Jackets do as a team. Overall, GT shoots just 42% from the field and takes a ton of shots, nearly 61 per game, scoring just 70 ppg. By comparison, the Hokies take eight less shots per game and average 72 ppg.
Keys to VicTory:
- Dialing Long Distance
- As noted above, Georgia Tech isn’t a good three-point shooting team. That stat carries over to three-point defense, where the Jackets allow opponents to shoot nearly 40% from beyond the arc. The Hokies have been hot from deep in the ACC, shooting 40% (31-of-77) in their five conference games. Manny Atkins has been red hot for Tech, connecting on 8-of-13 (62%) three’s in his last five games. I’d expect a big game from the Stone Mountain, GA native.
- Foul Fest
- Georgia Tech averages over 23 fouls per ACC contest, allowing opponents to attempt an average of 29 free throws per game. The Hokies have been getting to the line in ACC games and making their opportunities count. VT is 73-of-90 (81%) from the charity stripe in its five conference contests. If you take out the UNC game, the Hokies are making a mind-blowing 87% of free throws. Getting fouls, especially on GT’s “bigs” could spark a big game for Jeff Allen among others.
- Speed vs Control
- The Jackets want to run, plain and simple. That’s shown by them taking nearly 61 shots per game, as stated above. UVA and Clemson did a good job of slowing down GT, which led to easy wins for the Cavaliers and Tigers. By contrast, North Carolina and Wake Forest didn’t slow GT down and both suffered the consequences. The Hokies lead the ACC in scoring defense, giving up just 59.7 ppg. If VT wants to win this game, they’ll need to slow it down and force GT into the turnovers their prone to make.
This will be the Hokies third game in six days, and they didn’t get as much rest as expected Saturday against Longwood. That could be critical, as for the third consecutive week, VT has a 9 p.m. road game, so fatigue may become an issue. However, in those last two road games (UNC & Maryland), the Hokies have gotten off to fast starts only to fade a little bit in the second half. A strong start in Atlanta could go a long way in defeating the Jackets tonight. If GT gets in a hole, they’ll start launching shots, which plays right into VT’s favor.