Outside of their atrocious performance against Notre Dame in the first meeting, the game against Clemson just a week and a half ago was the offense's worst effort. They only shot 34.5% in this game and it was the main reason why this ended up being the Jacket's worst loss in ACC play. Now, the Jackets are coming off of two big win while the Tigers are coming off a tough loss to NC State.
Keys to the Game for Georgia Tech
Obviously, they have to shoot way better this game to have a chance in this game. You cannot expect to win a game shooting just 34%. Ideally, some perimeter players would get going to spread out the defense just a little and make room to get the ball inside. The curse of Brian Gregory has finally hit Adam Smith as he has now shot about 25% from deep over the last six games. The team has been playing great despite this, but having Smith get hot again would bring them to another level. Defensively this team has to control Jaron Blossomgame (a Johns Creek native). He showed his ability to dominate offensively in the first half of the game against GT, but fell off in the second. The Jackets clearly put more focus on stopping him, which allowed the other Tigers players to step it up. They need to be able to slow down Blossomgame without leaving the rest of the team, especially Donte Grantham and Avry Holmes. The Tigers have very balanced scoring, so they can't just key in on a couple of players.
Keys to the Game for Clemson
Jaron Blossomgame has scored 20 points in 7 of the last nine games. This team relies heavily on Blossomgame and he needs to play well in this one to take the pressure off of the other scorers on the Tigers. He also leads the team in rebounds, which is especially important against a Georgia Tech team who relies heavily on offensive rebounds. If the big men, Landry Nnoko and Sidy Djitte, play well defensively and protect the rim, it could be a long day for the Jackets. I expect the Tigers to pack the paint and dare the Jackets to shoot out of their slump, especially if they miss an early shot or two. Defensively, the Tigers don't apply a ton of pressure, but they should consider it for this game. Forcing Georgia Tech to put a point guard on the floor would really limit the ability of the Jackets to work effectively on offense.
Meaning of This Game
A win in this game for Georgia Tech would be huge. It would be yet another boost to the NIT resume, as well as giving the team a huge boost going into the very end of the season. A win here would make it 4 out of 5 and have the team confident going into the end of ACC play and into the ACC tournament. It would also move Georgia Tech ahead of Florida State for the 10th spot in the ACC. The 10th spot gets a bye in the ACC tournament which would be huge for the Jackets at this point in the season. For Clemson, a win here would guarantee a winning season in the ACC, which is quite impressive. It would mean passing one of their final roadblocks on the way to the NCAA tournament, especially with their recent loss to NC State. It would also essentially tie the Tigers with Miami and Duke in the standings and give Clemson an outside chance at the double-bye in the ACC tournament.
The spread for this game has not yet come out, but I expect Georgia Tech to be favored by 1 or 2 points. KenPom has Georgia Tech the 2 point favorite with a 62% chance to win the game. Sadly, I disagree with both of these predictions. I think Clemson will come in motivated with the NCAA tournament on the line. I think the Jackets are going to be pumped up, but time and time again we've seen Brian Gregory's teams be unable to build off of solid play. If Georgia Tech hits their perimeter shots, I think they have the advantage, but with the team in a bit of a slump, I have to pick Clemson by a slim margin.
This game takes place at McCamish Pavilion on Tuesday, the 23rd at 7 pm.