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Georgia Tech Game Preview: NIT Championship - TCU Horned Frogs

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One way or another, the season ends tonight

NCAA Basketball: NIT Semifinals-Georgia Tech vs Cal State Bakersfield Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Well, we’re here, folks. It’s March 30th and Georgia Tech is still playing basketball. One way or another this magical ride of a season ends tonight.

When the Yellow Jackets needed overtime to win their exhibition against Shorter, nobody expected them to end the season in Madison Square Garden with a championship on the line. The story has been rehashed countless times by now. In their first year on The Flats, Coach Josh Pastner and freshman guard Josh Okogie have re-energized the program to a level it hasn’t been at since Derrick Favors signed on to spend a season with the Jackets. Now one game is all that stands between Tech and an NIT Championship.

Their opponent, the TCU Horned Frogs, are nearly as unlikely to be here. When their seniors were freshmen, the Frogs were in their second year as members of the Big 12 and went winless in conference play. This season, under former Pitt coach Jamie Dixon, they were picked to finish last in the conference by the Big 12 coaches. After a strong non-conference schedule, TCU stumbled down the stretch, losing their last 7 regular season games. They rallied in the Big 12 tournament to knock off top seeded Kansas in the second round, giving them a signature win and pushing them into the NIT. Things didn’t get easier there. In the first round against Fresno State freshman guard Jaylen Fisher, the Frogs’ 3rd leading scorer, fractured his wrist knocking him out for the remainder of the season. TCU barely missed a beat, defeating Iowa, Richmond, and UCF to earn a berth in the NIT Championship.

Resume Comparison

Team Conference Record Conference Record RPI Rank KenPom Rank Record Against KenPom Top 50 Best Win Worst Loss
Team Conference Record Conference Record RPI Rank KenPom Rank Record Against KenPom Top 50 Best Win Worst Loss
Georgia Tech ACC 21-15 8-10 106 75 6-8 North Carolina (3) NC State (109)
TCU Big 12 23-15 6-12 67 34 5-13 Kansas (6) Auburn (81)

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 66.2 44.0 39.4 32.8 33.0 68.5 36.1 36.1 15.5 6.7 6.0
TCU 74.4 70.1 46.4 44.5 35.5 35.9 68.3 35.8 32.3 16.9 6.4 4.5

Projected Starters

(6) Georgia Tech (21-15)

Position Number Name Year MPG PPG Notable
Position Number Name Year MPG PPG Notable
G 30 Corey Heyward Sr. 16.7 1.9 1 TO in 80 min of NIT play
G 11 Josh Heath Sr. 30.7 5.5 5.0 apg in NIT
G 5 Josh Okogie Fr. 30.7 16.2 21.8 ppg in NIT
F 12 Quinton Stephens Sr. 33.3 10.5 15.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg in NIT
C 44 Ben Lammers Jr. 35.5 14.4 15 ppg, 9 rpg, 4.5 bpg in NIT
6th Man 1 Tadric Jackson Jr. 23.7 11.9 12.8 ppg in NIT

(4) TCU (23-15)

Position Number Name Year MPG PPG Notable
Position Number Name Year MPG PPG Notable
G 25 Alex Robinson So. 32.9 11.3 5.7 apg
G 1 Desmond Bane Fr. 20.7 7.1 34.7 mpg, 10.3 ppg last 3 games
G 34 Kenrich Williams Jr. 32.6 11.0 9.6 rpg
F 15 JD Miller So. 18.7 7.2 33% 3FG% on 3 per game
F 10 Vladimir Brodziansky Jr. 23.9 13.9 5.7 rpg, 2.1 bpg
6th Man 11 Brandon Parrish Sr. 18.7 6.0 36.8% 3FG

Player to Watch

NCAA Basketball: NIT Semifinals-UCF vs TCU Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

G - Kenrich Williams

In Williams and forward Vlad Brodziansky, TCU has two of the most effective offensive players in the country. Brodziansky is the Frogs’ leading scorer but Williams is the do-everything swingman that makes the offense go. He’s recorded a double-double in every game of TCU’s NIT run and, in the quarterfinal against Richmond, put up the second triple-double in school history with an 11 point, 14 rebound, 10 assist effort. Williams can score from anywhere on the court. He’s a capable three-point shooter (36% on the season) but is probably at his best when he’s attacking the basket.

Listed as a guard, Williams’s 6’-7” frame gives the Frogs’ a lot of versatility. He has the size to shift over to the 4 spot and does so in several of their most used lineups. Williams is the team’s best rebounder so TCU doesn’t really lose anything by going small. With his length and ability, Williams looks the part of a future pro and his KenPom player comparisons agree. Among his most similar players are current NBAers Jae Crowder and Chandler Parsons.

What to Watch

As befits a Championship game, TCU will be the best team that Georgia Tech has faced in the NIT. KenPom thinks very highly of the Frogs, ranking them 34th - the highest ranked team that did not make the NCAA Tournament. Their offense and defense are both very good though neither is elite.

As always the key match up will be Tech’s defense against TCU’s offense. The Frogs get most of their points in the paint and they’re pretty efficient there, led by Brodziansky. The 6’-11” Slovakian forward is yet another quality big man that Ben Lammers will try and shut down. Brodziansky can step out and knock down a shot behind the arc when he has to but he spends most of his time around the basket. With Fisher injured, the Frogs’ best 3-point shooter by percentage is freshman Desmond Bane however its senior 6th man Brandon Parrish and Kenrich Williams that are most likely to get hot from deep. Williams is also a force on the offensive glass which is the one area where Tech’s defense has been lackluster this season.

When the Jackets have the ball they’ll face a TCU defense that is good at defending the rim. Opponents shoot slightly worse than average inside the arc against the Frogs. Tech has had some trouble converting looks around the basket into points this season and TCU has the defense to exacerbate that problem. The Frogs don’t quite have a Ben Lammers on defense but Brodziansky blocks shots at almost as high of a rate. He just doesn’t have the raw or per game numbers to match Lammers because he plays about 10 fewer minutes per game.

While they might be a problem around the basket, TCU is not particularly good defending the arc. Teams are able to get off a high number of threes and convert them at a pretty good rate. Quinton Stephens has been doing everything in his power to end his career with a postseason tournament championship. One more big shooting night from him could propel the Jackets to a win.

To close, there was a lot of debate in the comments of yesterday’s Tidbits article about the merits of the NIT. While I am firmly in the camp of preferring to make the NCAA Tournament and lose in the first round, this has been a huge postseason for Georgia Tech basketball and, win or lose, sets the program up well going forward under Coach Pastner. I know I’m excited to have a chance to end the season with a win and bring home some hardware. As I heard someone say recently in relation to the NIT (I can’t find where I heard it, so my apologies for not being able to properly attribute), the NIT might not be the National Championship but it is a national championship. Let’s win this thing.

Where to Watch

The NIT Championship tips off at 8:00 PM ET on ESPN.