Game 16: Georgia Tech (7-8, 2-3) at Boston College (9-6, 3-1)
6 PM on ACC Network
After a brutal stretch of games to open ACC play, most thought today’s game against Boston College would be an opportunity for the Yellow Jackets to catch their breath and grab a key victory among the conference gauntlet. In early December the Eagles sat just 4-5 and were on track to assume their place among the ACC cellar that was predicted for them before the season. But after running off five victories in its last six games including a win over Virginia on Tuesday for BC, Tech would be wise not to overlook the Eagles coming into today’s game.
BC are a lot like the Jackets in that they rely on a balanced scoring effort and solid defense to win games. Specifically, their ability to force turnovers has been a primary driver to their success on the defensive end as evidence by two KenPom metrics. The Eagles are 12th in the nation in steals rate and 29th in forced turnover percentage. Given the turnover issues that we are well aware of for Tech, this could be a bit of a match-up nightmare.
Offensively, the Eagles are much less threatening with an adjusted offensive efficiency that ranks just 234th in the nation and not really exhibiting a clear identity that that end of the floor. Senior point guard and former Duke and USC transfer Derryck Thornton leads them in scoring and is complemented by a large group of secondary options. Freshman guard Jay Heath has been a nice early surprise as the Eagles second leading scorer.
BC will be without go-to big man, Nik Popovic, who has been out for the last month after undergoing ankle surgery. This has made the Eagles recent play even more impressive as they have had to rely on small lineups and a lack of depth in the frontcourt. Steffon Mitchell has taken over as the team’s starting center and while undersized at 6’8”, Mitchell boasts one of the keys to the Eagles defense with one of the best individual steals rates in the nation. Still, the Jackets will want to crash the boards early and often against a team that isn’t great rebounding group and are missing their best interior presence.
Tech is coming off a solid effort against Duke, a game that the Jackets led late in the second half before ultimately losing 73-64. The final score does not do justice to how well Tech played for the vast majority of the game minus a couple of bad stretches at the end of each half. That game was played in front of a raucous McCamish Pavilion crowd that no doubt gave the Jackets a ton of energy. While playing a lesser opponent on the road is a totally different situation, if the Jackets play like they did on Wednesday night they should win today. This feels like a team that is starting to get healthy and specifically Jose Alvarado, who had his second straight solid game. He’s the glue that holds this team together and while I don’t think he’s this team’s best player, he might be its most important player.
Who do you think will win?
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