This year, the Georgia Tech vs. Georgia game is very meaningful for both teams. Each team has postseason ambitions, but have an underwhelming resume so far. Georgia Tech is being held back by a loss to East Tennessee State, but just picked up their biggest win of the year against VCU on Tuesday. A win against Georgia would be their second biggest win and would bring the Jackets to 8-2 overall and 3-0 against the SEC. This is their last chance at a big non-conference win and would be a huge boost to their resume. Georgia came into the season with high hopes but has disappointed so far. They lost their opener to Chattanooga and followed that up with losses to their only other quality opponents, Kansas State at home and Seton Hall on the road. In addition, they've barely pulled out wins against some of the weaker schools. They only won by three against High Point and by four against Oakland. Their next two non-conference games, against Georgia Tech and Clemson, are their only chances at a quality non-conference win. If they lose both of these, they go into conference play in need of some big wins to be considered for post-season play.
Both Georgia and Georgia Tech have very experienced teams. The Jackets start four seniors and a junior while the Bulldogs start two seniors, two juniors, and a sophomore. Georgia does play two true freshmen a fair amount while GT is redshirting their only freshman. The Jackets run a true ten deep while the Bulldogs generally run about 8-9 players a game. Georgia's clear strength is their guard play. JJ Frazier, Kenny Gaines (who was injured for their last game against Winthrop but is expected to play), and Charles Mann lead the strong Bulldogs backcourt, butKenny Paul Geno also gets some minutes on the wing. Yante Maten is the star of the frontcourt which also features Mike Edwards, Houston Kessler, and E'Ttorrion Wildridge. Unlike the Jacket's balanced attack, the Bulldogs rely on Frazier, Gaines, Mann, and Maten for almost their entire offense. Those four have combined for almost 80% of Georgia's points. No other player has scored more than thirty points on the year. Slowing down Georgia's top scorers and forcing the other Bulldogs to score will be a focus for Georgia Tech.
Georgia on offense is very average. They are very average shooting the ball, on two pointers, three pointers, and free throws. They turn the ball over slightly more than average and rebound a little less than average. The only thing that makes Georgia's offense really stand out is that they get to the free throw line better than almost anybody in the country. They take 53 free throws for every 100 attempted shots from the floor, good for fourth in the country. Guard Charles Mann is a major reason for this. He actually takes more free throws than field goals. On the other hand, Georgia Tech is very good at keeping other teams off the charity stripe, allowing only 25 free throws for every 100 shots. This battle is going to be a match-up of strengths, but I give Georgia Tech the advantage. Foul trouble has been a problem for almost every team playing Georgia this year, but the Yellow Jackets have the depth to withstand foul trouble, especially from the big men. If the referees call the game very tight, that might swing the advantage to the Bulldogs, as GT does not get to the line very much on offense.
What the Bulldogs lack on offense they make up for with strong defense. They don't rely on turnovers, like VCU does, they just play solid, physical defense. Teams shoot very poorly against Georgia from everywhere on the floor. They play especially solid defense in the interior and defend drives well, blocking 17% of shots taken against them which ranks 7th in the country. Selling out for the block does have it's downside though as it often leaves them vulnerable to offensive rebounds. Once again, this likely favors Georgia Tech. The Jackets are one of the best in the country at avoiding blocks, getting blocked on only 5.6% of shots this year, and one of the best at offensive rebounds. If Georgia sells out to challenge shots, the Jackets might make them pay on the glass. If they stay home to prevent the rebounds, it might limit the effectiveness of their defense.
On both sides, I expect this to be a low scoring game. Both defenses are strong, and both teams play relatively slow basketball. The Bulldogs haven't played a game in 11 days, so watch out for a slow start for them, just as GT and VCU came out with slow starts after long breaks on Tuesday. Yellow Jackets point guard Travis Jorgenson was out with an ankle injury on Tuesday, but is expected to play on Saturday. Brian Gregory is looking to go 5-0 for his career against the Bulldogs. Georgia Tech has not beaten Georgia four times in a row since the early sixties.