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Georgia Tech vs. Notre Dame Preview

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On Saturday, the Yellow Jackets play their first re-match of the season against the Fighting Irish

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The first Notre Dame vs Georgia Tech game featured 2 teams with much better offenses than defenses.  Notre Dame in particular has one of the best of offenses in the country, but one of the worst defenses in the ACC.  One would have expected this game to be a shootout, yet the fans were treated to a game that was....very different.  Notre Dame shot a very poor 38.9% from the field, yet still was able to outshoot the Jackets who ended up hitting a horrific 33.3% of their shots.  The offenses could not hit shots, and both defenses had solid games.  I do not expect that to continue for round 2.  Notre Dame has the #1 offense in the country according to KenPom, and there is no way the offense plays that bad twice against us.

Keys to the Game for Georgia Tech

This team absolutely has to shoot better than they did in the first game.  Luckily, that won't be very difficult.  If Notre Dame gets on a roll offensively, this team cannot panic and start jacking threes.  They need to keep playing their game, getting the ball to the inside, and only shooting threes if it's wide open.  If Adam Smith got out of his shooting slump (just 7-28 in the last five games), that would provide a huge boost.  Notre Dame is an average rebounding team, so offensively they need to take advantage of that, like they did against FSU.  However, the Yellow Jacket's defensive rebounding has been a little shaky at times.  They cannot give an offense as good as the Fighting Irish offense extra chances.  Notre Dame plays a tight rotation, their starters average about 32 minutes a game.  The emphasis early should be to go inside, both by passing and driving, and hopefully pick up some early fouls for Notre Dame.  The big men really struggled offensively, but they have to do better against a front line that is lacking in size.

Keys to the Game for Notre Dame

The key for the Fighting Irish is Demetrius Jackson.  The Notre Dame guard averages 16.6 points a game.  While Georgia Tech has done a better job in recent weeks of containing star perimeter players, they are still susceptible to a big game from a guard.  Jackson struggled from the field, just 2-11, in the first game, but still scored 18 points due to his ability to get to the free throw line.  The Jackets big men can be foul-happy so they have to be careful to contest without fouling.  Notre Dame's other star is the big man Zach Auguste.  He dropped 24 on 10-13 shooting as well as 4 offensive rebounds.  He was the difference in the first game so the Jackets are likely to key in on him this time.  Expect a heavy dose of James White and Ben Lammers to try and slow him down.  Neither the Jackets nor the Fighting Irish turn the ball over very much on either end, but the Jackets have had some issues in the last couple of games, so watch out for the Irish being more aggressive to take advantage of sloppy play.

Meaning of This Game

For Georgia Tech, this game is all about finishing the season on a high note and giving themselves a chance at the NIT.  A win in this game would be huge for their resume and would give the Jackets three wins in four games.  This team has not quit at all and should come out with fire for the nationally broadcast game.  In the craziness that is the ACC this season, Notre Dame is still in the hunt for the title.  Although they find themselves one game behind the leaders (Miami and UNC) they have by far the easiest remaining schedule.  Losing this game would leave the Irish out of the title race and would then be fighting just to get the double-bye in the ACC tournament.  This should be a hard fought game on both sides.

Predictions

Despite Notre Dame's impressive ranking and resume and the Jacket's lackluster season, many see this as a very tight game.  Vegas has Notre Dame favored by just a point and a half and KenPom has Notre Dame winning just 51% of the time.  I am not as optimistic as the Jackets have struggled to hold onto any lead, even in their victories.  I don't see Georgia Tech being able to build up a big enough lead to survive another late game collapse.  I think Notre Dame will pull away in the final five minutes of the game for the win.  This game is taking place at McCamish Pavilion at 8 p.m. on Saturday and will also be broadcast on ESPN2.