Georgia Tech once again finds itself playing on the first day of the ACC tournament after they finished the regular season in 10th place at 6-12. They will face last place Notre Dame who lost to Pitt on Saturday and subsequently lost the tie-breaker to them to get bumped down to last place. The game will take place at 2 pm eastern on Tuesday so most of us won’t be able to watch.
Georgia Tech’s season looked to be going off the rails after they lost 9 of 10 ACC games. Their offense, which was never very good, had fallen off in large part due to a slump by Jose Alvarado and the normally stout defense was struggling to stop anybody. However, over the last two games of the season things started to change. The Yellow Jackets offense was rock solid in an OT win against BC, although you would have liked to see the team put Boston College away earlier. Then they went on the road to NC State and got their second best win of the season against a team fighting to get into the NCAA tournament. At one point NC State looked like they were going to pull away, but GT held firm and pulled out a late win.
Both games the offense played a lot better than they had for most of the year with 1.21 points per possession against BC and .95 PPP against NC State. But it did things differently in both games. Against BC the Yellow Jackets were attacking from outside, usually a poor strategy with this poor shooting team, but they did hit 8/25 in that one. Against the Wolfpack the Yellow Jackets only took 6 threes, hitting just one. Both games though, the big difference was the play of James Banks and Moses Wright inside. Against BC they hit a combined 13/17 from inside the arc with AD Gueye adding 3/3. Against NC State they hit a combined 14/18 (Banks was 8/8!). Additionally, Jose Alvarado has broken out of his slump with 21 points and 4 assists against the Eagles and 11 points and 4 assists against the Wolfpack.
The Yellow Jackets split the series against Notre Dame this year winning at home and losing on the road. Notre Dame has struggled this year after losing several players for the year to injury and transfers. Their last win came on February 10th against Georgia Tech, since then they have lost 7 straight games. Notre Dame plays an extremely tight rotation of 7 players, and one of their mainstays, DJ Harvey, is doubtful to play on Tuesday after he tweaked a hamstring last week.
Notre Dame’s team is led by center John Mooney who averages 14.1 points and 11.2 rebounds per game on 46.6% shooting. No other rotation player even hits 40% from the field. He has been consistently very good all ACC season until the finale when he went 1-11 from the field. Stopping him will be key. Joining him is guard TJ Gibbs who is a very capable scorer. He put up 20 in the win against GT earlier in the season. Forward Nate Laczewski is not normally a big scorer, but he put up 19 in the first matchup this season in large part because he hit 4 threes. Point guard Prentiss Hubb is not much of an offensive threat, but he is not a total black hole either and his size helps him on defense. Forwards Dane Goodwin and Juwan Durham will also play and their size will be vital to helping stop Tech’s front court which has gone off the last two games.
One thing Tech needs to improve on in this game compared to it’s earlier matchups with the Irish is their fouling. In the first game Tech didn’t foul much and it limited Notre Dame’s offense to John Mooney making plays and the rest of the team chucking up threes. In the rematch the Irish got much better penetration and Tech couldn’t resist fouling. They gave up 25 free throws which was a big difference in the game.
The winner gets a second round matchup against Louisville who comfortably beat both of these teams in the regular season.