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Georgia Tech Basketball Game Preview: Regular Season Finale at Syracuse

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AIRBALL AIRBALL AIRBALL AIRBALL AIRBALL

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

This afternoon the Georgia Tech basketball team travels to upstate New York to close out the regular season against Syracuse with a chance to sweep the season series. When these two teams met a little under two weeks ago in Atlanta, the Yellow Jackets were led to victory behind a superb performance from junior center Ben Lammers and a raucous McCamish Pavilion crowd. Tech enters into this game coming off of an emotional Senior Night win over Pitt. The Orange did not have a midweek game and last took the court on February 26th, when they were blown out at Louisville.

With just this game remaining, neither Georgia Tech nor Syracuse have locked in their ACC Tournament seed. With a win, the Yellow Jackets will get the 9 seed and a first round bye. With a loss, Tech will fall to the 11th seed, where they will likely face Pitt again. If Syracuse wins, they can jump up as high as the 6th seed. If they lose, they could also fall all the way to the 11th. Similarly, neither team is locked into the NCAA Tournament just yet. A win today would go a long way for either team and could possibly lock Syracuse in. However, the loser will likely need to make a run to at least the ACC Tournament semi-finals to have a chance at an NCAA at-large berth.

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 17-13 8-9 N/A First 4 Out 91 77 5-8 North Carolina (4) Ohio (102)
Syracuse 17-13 9-8 N/A 10 seed 78 51 6-7 Virginia (6) at Boston College (160)

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 67.5 66.2 43.9 39.4 33.8 32.8 68.4 36.3 35.9 15.2 6.4 6.2
Syracuse 75.9 71.0 45.4 42.7 37.7 34.1 72.8 35.1 36.3 15.7 8.0 4.8

Projected Starters

Georgia Tech (17-13, 8-9)

Position Number Name Year MPG PPG Notable
Position Number Name Year MPG PPG Notable
G 30 Corey Heyward Sr. 17.0 2.0 5 turnovers in ACC play
G 11 Josh Heath Sr. 30.3 6.0 8.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 4.5 apg last 4 games
G 5 Josh Okogie Fr. 30.0 15.5 17.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg vs ACC
F 12 Quinton Stephens Sr. 32.9 9.6 7.6 rpg
C 44 Ben Lammers Jr. 35.0 14.8 23 pts, 7 rebs, 7 blks vs Syracuse on 2/19
6th Man 1 Tadric Jackson Jr. 22.9 11.7 20 pts on 8-15 shooting vs Syracuse on 2/19

Syracuse (17-13, 9-8)

Position Number Name Year MPG PPG Notable
Position Number Name Year MPG PPG Notable
G 4 John Gillon Gr. 29.6 11.1 42.1% 3FG%
G 25 Tyus Battle Fr. 29.8 10.4 20 pts at Louisville on 2/26
G 3 Andrew White III Gr. 36.9 17.1 Played full game in last 10 games
F 20 Tyler Lydon So. 35.7 13.6 Played full game in last 11 games
F 12 Taurean Thompson Fr. 17.6 9.0 18 pts, 12 rebs at Georgia Tech on 2/19
6th Man 21 Tyler Roberson Sr. 20.4 5.6 55.0% FG%

Player to Watch

NCAA Basketball: Florida State at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

G - John Gillon

To put it lightly, John Gillon did not have a good game when Syracuse made the trip down to Atlanta a couple of weeks ago. The grad transfer from Arkansas Little-Rock by way of Colorado State airballed a shot early in the game and the McCamish student section did not let him forget. Gillon was visibly rattled by the constant “AIRBALL” chants and had one of his worst games of the season; a 7 point out on 2-10 shooting with 6 assists but 5 turnovers. However, late in the game Gillon showed some resilience. With the jeers raining down, Gillon nailed his only three of the game to cut Tech’s lead to 3 points. It wasn’t enough that night, but three days later the point guard lead Syracuse with 26 points and hit the game-winning buzzer beater to upset #10 Duke.

Those two games are a near perfect microcosm of Gillon’s season. At times he can be the Orange’s best player. Against Duke, Gillon played the full game, shooting 9-14 from the field and 3-4 behind the arc while recording 6 assists and never turning the ball over. His best performance of the year came in Raleigh against NC State. Gillon had 43 points and 9 assists while shooting 9-10 from downtown. When he’s on, Gillon is among the best point guards in the ACC and can lead Syracuse to a win against anyone. For their sake, the Jackets need to force Gillon to repeat his performance from their last meeting.

What to Watch

To come back to Atlanta with a win in the Carrier Dome, Georgia Tech will have to rely on a defense that has become truly elite. The Yellow Jackets’ swarming defense (pun somewhat intended) has seemingly gotten stronger as the season has progressed and currently ranks 5th nationally (2nd in the ACC behind Virginia) in adjusted defensive efficiency per KenPom.com. In the first meeting, Tech held Syracuse to 36% from the field and 27% from three, roughly 10% below their season average in each category. A repeat of that lock-down performance, or something similar, is an absolute necessity for the Jackets.

In the first game, Syracuse was led by Andrew White and Taurean Thompson. White is about as consistent of a scorer as there is so he is liable to get his 15-20 points. Thompson could be a bit of an X-factor again. He did little to stop Ben Lammers from having his way in the middle of the Syracuse zone, but Thompson did nearly enough to make up for it on the offensive end. If Thompson has another good day and Tyler Lydon and/or John Gillon play better than they did in Atlanta it could be a long game for the Jackets.

Tech has struggled to on offense away from McCamish all season which does not bode well going into the Carrier Dome. The Dome can be a bit of a weird shooting situation for even the best shooting teams if they’re not used to playing there. Tech is not one of the best shooting teams. While it’d be nice for someone to get hot from three, it’s not something the Jackets can count on. Instead, they’ll need to attack Syracuse by running into the teeth of the zone. Just as in the first meeting, the offense will play off of Ben Lammers in the high post, with guards cutting towards the basket or the big man taking advantage of a soft spot in the zone with his jumper.

Where to Watch

The game will be broadcast on your ACC Network affiliate (Peachtree in Atlanta) and tips off at 4:00PM ET.