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Georgia Tech Basketball Game Preview: Jackets Set to Face Syracuse

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Georgia Tech looks to white out the Orange

NCAA Basketball: Notre Dame at Georgia Tech Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia Tech continues their quest for an NCAA Tournament bid tonight with a game against fellow bubble team Syracuse. The Orange struggled a bit in the non-conference schedule and lost their ACC opener at Boston College, but turned things around quickly. However, they enter this game on a losing streak, falling at Pitt last weekend and to Louisville on Monday night. The Jackets are also coming off a weeknight loss, stumbling on the road against Miami. This is a critical game for both teams, but probably slightly more important for Tech, who simply must hold serve on their home court to keep hope alive for an NCAA bid.

Resume Comparison

Team Record ACC Record AP Rank Bracketology RPI Rank KenPom Rank Record Against KenPom Top 50 Best Win Worst Loss
Team Record ACC Record AP Rank Bracketology RPI Rank KenPom Rank Record Against KenPom Top 50 Best Win Worst Loss
Georgia Tech 15-11 6-7 N/A First 4 out 78 79 5-8 North Carolina (9) Ohio (103)
Syracuse 16-11 8-6 N/A 11 seed - Last 4 in 76 47 5-6 Virginia (3) at Boston College (147)

Stat Comparison

Team PPG Opponent PPG FG% Opponent FG% 3FG% Opponent 3FG% FT% RPG Opponent RPG APG SPG BPG
Team PPG Opponent PPG FG% Opponent FG% 3FG% Opponent 3FG% FT% RPG Opponent RPG APG SPG BPG
Georgia Tech 67.8 66.7 43.6 39.6 34.8 33.1 68.9 36.7 35.9 15.5 6.3 6.2
Syracuse 76.5 70.3 46.0 42.2 38.4 34.0 71.7 35.4 36.2 16.2 8.3 5.0

Projected Starters

Georgia Tech (15-11, 6-7)

Position Number Name Year MPG PPG Notable
Position Number Name Year MPG PPG Notable
G 30 Corey Heyward Sr. 17.9 2.2 2-15 shooting vs ACC
G 11 Josh Heath Sr. 29.2 5.6 4.4 apg (6th in ACC)
G 5 Josh Okogie Fr. 29.0 15.4 17.4 ppg vs ACC
F 12 Quinton Stephens Sr. 32.0 10.0 7.8 rpg (7th in ACC)
C 44 Ben Lammers Jr. 34.5 14.7 9.4 rpg (2nd in ACC), 3.3 bpg (2nd in NCAA)
6th Man 1 Tadric Jackson Jr. 22.1 11.1 46.5% FG%

Syracuse (16-11, 8-6)

Position Number Name Year MPG PPG Notable
Position Number Name Year MPG PPG Notable
G 4 John Gillon Gr. 28.9 10.7 5.3 apg (5th in ACC), 1.6 spg (6th in ACC)
G 25 Tyus Battle Fr. 29.3 9.7 3.7 ppg over last 3 on 21% FG%
G 3 Andrew White III Gr. 36.6 17.9 (8th in ACC) 1.7 spg (4th in ACC)
F 20 Tyler Lydon So. 35.2 13.8 7.8 rpg (6th in ACC), 1.4 bpg (7th in ACC)
F 12 Taurean Thompson Fr. 16.8 8.6 56.1% FG% (8th in ACC)
6th Man 21 Tyler Roberson Sr. 21.0 6.0 55.2% FG%

Player to Watch

G - Andrew White III

Syracuse’s star guard has taken a long road to get to upstate New York. White started his career at Kansas as part of the same recruiting class as former Jayhawk Perry Ellis. After spending a couple of years coming off the bench for Bill Self’s team, White transferred to Nebraska. After sitting a year, he earned Honorable Mention All-Big Ten honors as the Cornhuskers’ leading rebounder and second leading scorer. For his final year of eligibility, White decided to head to the ACC as graduate transfer.

It’s hard to imagine what Syracuse would look like this season if White hadn’t taken his talents to the Carrier Dome. Not only is he Syracuse’s leading scorer, he leads the ACC in percent of minutes played at a whopping 98.1% (for reference, Ben Lammers is 5th at an even 90.0%). The only game he has scored less than 10 points in all season was the Orange’s blowout loss against St. John’s (2 points in 37 minutes). White is an efficient scorer from anywhere on the court and is a great free throw shooter. Shutting him down completely will be difficult, but minimizing his impact will be important for the Yellow Jackets.

What to Watch

The good news for Georgia Tech is that Ben Lammers and Quinton Stephens returned to practice after the Miami game. Both players are going to be critically important to breaking Syracuse’s vaunted zone defense. Traditionally, the way to beat the zone is with 3-point shooting, but that’s not exactly a strength of Tech’s. Getting Stephens and/or Tadric Jackson hot from deep would be huge for the Yellow Jackets. If the long ball isn’t falling, Tech may try and get behind the zone by putting Lammers at the elbow and drawing the defense away from the basket for cuts from Jackson, Josh Okogie, Justin Moore, and the rest of the Tech’s guards.

All that said, Syracuse’s defense isn’t what it has been in years past. Their adjusted defensive efficiency is 94th in the country, per KenPom. That’s the first time the Orange have been outside of the top 20 in defense since the 2008-2009 season and their lowest mark in the KenPom era (dates back to 2001-2002). They have some vulnerabilities that Tech may be able to take advantage of if Lammers’s ankle is healed and he is back to his full effectiveness.

One kind of crazy stat I found while researching this preview was just how heavily Syracuse has relied on the trio of John Gillon, Andrew White, and Tyler Lydon in recent weeks. White and Lydon rank 1-2 in percent of minutes played among ACC players. White has played the full game in each of Syracuse’s last 7 games. Lydon has done it in each of the last 8. Gillon doesn’t have quite as impressive of a streak, but he hasn’t played less than 36 minutes since January 24th against Wake Forest. Getting even just one of those players into foul trouble or out of sync could spell trouble for Syracuse.

For more information, our very own GTRob did a Q&A over on our sister blog, Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician that is definitely worth checking out.

Where to Watch

If you’re heading to McCamish for the game, make sure to WEAR WHITE. The game has sold out and the atmosphere under the Thrillerdome should be electric.

If you’re like me and can’t make it out, tune into ESPNU at 6:30 PM ET.