When: Saturday 2pm
Where: The Well in Greenville
Well, the last week of games was not too good to say the least. It started with a horrendous offensive display in a very disappointing loss at Virginia Tech (very similar to the Alabama game performance), and then the Tigers decided to get into a shootout with Notre Dame in Greenville which had me thinking about THIS. Yeah, we were Mr. Kinney in that situation.
Now the Tigers have put themselves firmly on the outside looking in to the NCAA tournament with only one true RPI booster left in the UVA game. Losing the Notre Dame game now means sweeping the Georgia Tech Yellowjackets and Boston College Eagles is imperative. This would give the team a slight margin of error facing UVA in the regular season finale and help position the team for a winnable ACC tournament game which will likely be needed. UVA is playing lights out now so that will be a very tall task when it comes around. Can this be done? Certainly, but the team must find the consistency it had in January to make it a reality.
Georgia Tech is by far the best of the bottom rung ACC teams. They have had a bevy of heartbreaking losses in ACC competition. Not once have the Jackets lost by double figures in league play and they managed to beat UVA. Ken Pom has them ranked 60th despite the 12-11 overall record and the 2-8 league mark. Like Virginia Tech, they are capable and the Tigers have to find a way to get it done at home. GT is built to beat you inside with Jacobs, Mitchell, Stephens, and White who are all 6'8" to 6'9". Jacobs and Mitchell are big bodies to go with that height. I'm sure their plan will be to try to get Nnoko and Djitte in foul trouble and force the Tigers to try to guard them with Josh Smith or Blossomgame inside. The Jackets have veteran guard Marcus Georges-Hunt back for what feels like an 8th year and he can cause the Tigers problems with his strength. Clemson isn't exactly big with Roper and Holmes up top. I expect to see a lot more zone from the Tigers in an effort to force the Jackets to beat them from the perimeter. GT's effective 3 point FG% in league play is 35.2, good for 9th, but they are 14th in attempts. This should be a welcome sight for the team after having to chase the Notre Dame sharpshooters all over the floor on Monday night.
If the Jackets get their inside game going, it will be an uphill fight for the Tigers. They allowed the Irish to find a rhythm early and it haunted the team for sure. I'd be OK with GT hitting a few outside shots early on if it meant their inside guys weren't getting good touches. They won't do enough damage out there to win the game, in my opinion, and it would take them out of their comfort zone. The Jackets did rip up the Duke zone the other night, but they couldn't adjust once the Devils went to man and the game flipped on them completely. I would still start zone and try to protect Nnoko and/or Djitte inside from early fouls. Even starting Djitte might be a good call here in that he can eat a foul or two when the refs seem to want to send their messages and then go to Nnoko.
From the other side of the page, the Jackets don't have a guy suited to handle Jaron Blossomgame one on one. He's too quick for Nick Jacobs or Charles Mitchell off the dribble and will certainly look to draw them out of the paint. This is a game where either JB or Grantham getting a nice rhythm from 3 would be hard for the Jackets to deal with. GT hopes to bully the Tigers inside while the Tigers should hope to use a quickness advantage. Rebounding is going to be something to watch for sure. GT is a top 5 rebounding team in the ACC and can hurt you with the second chance points. This helps them make up for not turning folks over that much or generating much in transition.
KenPom gives the Tigers a 67% chance at a win at home. It would be a backbreaking loss should it occur, so hopefully the nice break from Monday to Saturday allowed the team to get the necessary recharge to make this stretch run. Being relevant in March would be a nice boost to the program heading into the new Littlejohn next year.