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Georgia Tech Basketball Game Preview: Jackets on Road Against Wake Forest

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Tech looks to get back in the win column this afternoon in Winston-Salem

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

The Yellow Jackets will take to the hardwood again this afternoon for another big matchup against a team on the NCAA Tournament bubble. Earlier this week, Georgia Tech lost a tough game at Clemson despite a career-high 25 points from junior center Ben Lammers. Their opponent in today’s game will be the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest, who most recently took down Boston College for the second time this season. This game is a big opportunity for Georgia Tech to pick up a high-level (by many advanced metrics, anyways) road win. On the other hand, Wake doesn’t have a ton to gain by beating Tech, but a loss would be their worst of the season.

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 13-9 5-5 N/A 11 seed (Last 4 in) 65 76 5-5 North Carolina (11) Ohio (107)
Wake Forest 13-9 4-6 N/A First 4 out 30 34 1-8 Miami (44) at Syracuse (53)
Bracketology is from ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. Record against KenPom Top 50 and Best Win/Worst Loss are per the current KenPom.com rankings.

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 66.9 66.9 43.2 39.5 33.7 32.9 68.3 37.0 36.1 15.1 6.2 6.3
Wake Forest 81.6 76.5 46.9 45.1 38.5 34.9 76.9 36.5 34.0 16.2 5.5 3.9

Projected Starters

Georgia Tech (13-9, 5-5)

Position Number Name Year MPG PPG Notable
Position Number Name Year MPG PPG Notable
G 30 Corey Heyward Sr. 18.0 2.3 27.7 mpg last 3 games, 6.6 mpg previous 7
G 11 Josh Heath Sr. 28.7 5.6 4.1 apg
G 5 Josh Okogie Fr. 28.7 15.1 17.3 ppg vs ACC
F 12 Quinton Stephens Sr. 33.5 10.6 8.2 rpg (6th in ACC)
C 44 Ben Lammers Jr. 35.0 15.1 9.6 rpg (2nd in ACC), 3.2 bpg (1st in ACC)
6th Man 1 Tadric Jackson Jr. 21.6 10.9 46.4% FG%

Wake Forest (13-9, 4-6)

Position Number Name Year MPG PPG Notable
Position Number Name Year MPG PPG Notable
G 13 Bryant Crawford So. 31.0 15.1 6.0 apg (2nd in ACC)
G 1 Keyshawn Woods R-So. 30.6 12.6 45.1% 3FG% (5th in ACC)
F 34 Austin Arians Gr. 23.5 8.2 88.0% FT%
F 44 Dinos Mitoglou Jr. 24.5 9.8 6.0 rpg
F 20 John Collins So. 24.9 17.5 9.2 rpg (5th in ACC)
6th Man 10 Mitchell Wilbekin Jr. 25.5 7.4 3.0 ast/TO ratio

Player to Watch

G - Bryant Crawford

The play of their mercurial point guard has been a popular point of debate among Wake Forest fans. His critics will point to turnover problems and poor shot selection in big moments. However, there is a strong argument to be made that Crawford is one of the best point guards in the ACC, as was laid out last month in an excellent three article series from our sister site, Blogger So Dear. He has the third highest assist rate in the conference and is starting to clean up those turnover issues, all while being a dynamic scorer and a strong defender.

At 6’-3” with a 6’-7”+ wingspan, Crawford has the profile of a player that will play at the next level and could give our guards a lot of trouble on both ends of the floor. Josh Heath’s recovery from a bout with the flu and ability to take care of the ball could be critical to the Yellow Jackets’ offensive chances. Corey Heyward could see heavy minutes as a strong body that Crawford may have problems pushing around.

What to Watch

This game will feature a matchup between two of the ACC’s breakout big men. Ben Lammers has proven himself to be an exceptional defender and a versatile scorer but he will have his hands full with Wake Forest’s John Collins. Collins is one of the highest usage players in the ACC but has maintained a high efficiency, ranking 1st in KenPom’s offensive ranking among players with a usage rating over 28%. Lammers will need to stay out of foul trouble, especially with the news that backup big man A.D. Gueye suffered a broken wrist against Clemson and is likely out for the season. It will be interesting to see how (if?) Coach Josh Pastner spells Lammers. Will Pastner turn to the redshirt freshman big, Sylvester Ogbanda? Will Quinton Stephens see a few minutes at the 5? Neither solution is particularly enticing.

From a more macro perspective, this game provides a really good strength-on-strength matchup. Georgia Tech’s defense has been phenomenal so far this season, currently ranking 10th nationally in defensive efficiency per KenPom (3rd in the ACC behind Louisville and UVA). By the same metrics, Wake Forest brings in the nation’s 12th best offense (2nd in the ACC behind UNC). The inverse matchup isn’t quite as enticing (GT’s offense is 220th nationally, last in the ACC; Wake’s defense is 149th nationally, 13th in the ACC) but the unit that can get the upper hand there may tip the game.

One interesting note I found looking at some of the advanced metrics: Tech ranks somewhat low in most tempo statistics (239th nationally, 11th in the ACC by KenPom) while Wake Forest likes to get out and run (92nd nationally, 5th in the ACC in tempo). So far this season, the Yellow Jackets have played three of the four ACC teams ahead of Wake Forest in tempo. The results? A 12-point win against North Carolina, a 10-point road win against NC State, and a 22-point win against Florida State. If Georgia Tech’s defense can disrupt Wake in transition and get the Deacons to play sloppy, the Jackets may just come home with another victory.

Where to Watch

The game will be broadcast on your RSN affiliate starting at 3:00 pm ET.