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Georgia Tech Basketball Game Preview: NIT Round 2 - (7) Belmont Bruins

Survive and Advance

NCAA Basketball: Florida State at Georgia Tech Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

When the NIT brackets were announced a week ago, it’s safe to say that many Georgia Tech fans were excited by the prospect of a Clean, Old Fashioned rematch in round two. While Tech defeated Indiana 75-63, our rivals out to the east were unable to hold up their end of the bargain. Instead, the Yellow Jackets will get one more game in the friendly confines of McCamish Pavilion when they play host to the Belmont Bruins today. The Bruins advanced by defeating georgia 78-69 behind a barrage of three pointers.

Belmont, located in Nashville, may not have a ton of name recognition, but the Bruins and long-time coach Rick Byrd (6th among active Division I coaches in career wins) have built one of the best mid-major programs in the country. Byrd took over the program all the way back in 1986 when Belmont was still an NAIA team. Byrd coached the team through their transition into the NCAA and has led the Bruins to 7 NCAA Tournament appearances over the last 12 seasons. This year, the Bruins dominated the Ohio Valley Conference, going 15-1 and winning the regular season crown by 5 games. Unfortunately their NCAA hopes were destroyed in their first OVC Tournament game, where they were upset by Jacksonville State. By winning their conference regular season title but failing to earn an NCAA berth, Belmont was awarded an automatic berth to the NIT.

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 67.2 66.7 43.7 39.7 33.0 33.4 68.0 36.2 35.9 15.1 6.5 6.0
Belmont 77.4 69.2 47.4 42.5 34.2 31.6 76.7 35.1 32.3 16.1 4.4 2.7

Projected Starters

(6) Georgia Tech (18-15, 8-10)

Position Number Name Year MPG PPG Notable
Position Number Name Year MPG PPG Notable
G 30 Corey Heyward Sr. 16.5 1.9 17 TOs in 543 min
G 11 Josh Heath Sr. 30.9 5.8 4.2 apg
G 5 Josh Okogie Fr. 30.2 15.8 24 pts vs Indiana
F 12 Quinton Stephens Sr. 33.1 10.1 7.7 rpg
C 44 Ben Lammers Jr. 35.3 14.2 9.4 rpg, 3.3 bpg
6th Man 1 Tadric Jackson Jr. 23.4 12.1 19 pts vs Indiana

(7) Belmont (23-6, 15-1)

Position Number Name Year MPG PPG Notable
Position Number Name Year MPG PPG Notable
G 1 Austin Luke Jr. 30.7 8.0 7.1 apg (2nd in NCAA)
G 20 Taylor Barnette Sr. 33.1 11.6 7.3 3FGA, 29.1% 3FG%
G 3 Dylan Windler So. 30.2 9.4 6.3 rpg, 1.0 bpg
F 35 Evan Bradds Sr. 31.9 20.4 63.3% FG%
F 32 Amanze Egekeze Jr. 27.3 11.3 5.6 rpg
6th Man 2 Nick Smith Sr. 13.8 8.8 41.7% 3FG%

Player to Watch

NCAA Basketball: Belmont at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

F - Evan Bradds

Belmont senior Evan Bradds is nearing the end of a career that will go down as one of the greatest in program history. Bradds enters today’s game just 9 points shy of the Belmont Division-I era scoring record, held by former All-American Ian Clarke, currently of the Golden State Warriors. What’s remarkable about Bradds isn’t just the amount that he scores; it’s how efficiently he does it. Each of the last two seasons, Bradds led the NCAA in field goal percentage, making 68.8% of his shots in 2015 and 71.4% in 2016. This season he’s dipped down to 63.3%, only good for 15th in the nation. On a team that is built around the three point shot, Bradd rarely ventures out to three point range. Instead, he operates in the space created by the other four players and does it to great success. While best known for his scoring, Bradd is also a very good rebounder, pulling in 8.6 boards per game and ranking in the top 100 nationally in defensive rebounding percentage. His matchup with Tech’s Ben Lammers will be fascinating to watch.

What to Watch

If you happened to watch Belmont’s first round game, you probably noticed that the Bruins take a lot of 3-point shots. Against georgia, they went 14-31 from deep with three different players making at least three threes. That game was no fluke. Over half (52.7%) of Belmont’s shot attempts are three pointers. Only one team (Savannah State) takes a higher percentage of their shots from behind the arc. That said, Belmont is not a particularly efficient shooting team; they’re more of a high volume team from deep. Inside the arc is a different story. Led by the efforts of Evan Bradds, no team makes a higher percentage of their two point field goal attempts. Combine a highly efficient and effective inside game with a lot of guys that have the green light to bomb threes and can make them at a good enough rate and you have the recipe for a dangerous offense.

While Belmont’s offense is pretty threatening, they have seen very few defenses that match the caliber of Tech’s defense. When they have, they generally haven’t done well. Belmont has played four teams that ranked in the top 100 in both three point defense (GT ranks 86th) and’s adjusted defensive efficiency (GT ranks 6th). They went 1-3 in those games, with their only win coming against georgia. Tech absolutely has the type of defense that can slow down Belmont’s high octane offense, but it will be a challenge. When Tech’s in a matchup zone defense, the guards tend to stay active, swarming to the ball carrier. At times throughout the season, this would result in a man getting loose for a wide open three, something Tech can’t afford against a team with four players who can and will shoot when they get the opportunity.

On offense, the Jackets seem to match up pretty well with Belmont. The Bruins have a solid defense but are stronger defending the three point line than they are guarding the rim. This plays well to Tech’s strengths - attacking the basket with Josh Okogie, getting Tadric Jackson into the post, or letting Lammers do his thing. Additionally, Belmont’s defense does not force many turnovers. If Tech can avoid self inflicted mistakes and sloppy play they should have a good chance to take care of the ball and get the shots they want.

Where to Watch

Georgia Tech and Belmont tip off at noon in McCamish Pavilion. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.

The winner will advance to play Ole Miss in Oxford.