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Georgia Tech Basketball: Virginia Preview

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The Jackets are still in search of their first ACC home win

Georgia Tech v Virginia Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

Q&A Preview with Streaking the Lawn


Game 18: Virginia 11-5 (3-3) AT Georgia Tech 8-9 (3-4)

8:00 PM on ACC Network

UVA -1

Coming into Saturday’s matchup against Virginia, Georgia Tech will have as good a chance as ever in recent season’s to defeat a team the Jackets have traditionally struggled with. Uva has won seven of the last eight meetings in the series including five in a row; all by double digits. The lone Tech win came at McCamish Pavilion in 2016 when the Cavaliers were a top 5 team in the nation.

Not only are the defending national champions playing at a significantly lower level this season than they have become accustomed to, but Georgia Tech is also coming in playing their best basketball of the season, looking great in its last four games. Unfortunately, that hasn’t always led to wins particularly at home as the Jackets have gone 2-2 over that stretch with blowout road wins against Boston College and North Carolina and tight home losses to Duke and Notre Dame. In sports like everything else however, context matters and the reality is that they played a top 5 Duke team to the wire before fading late and would have defeated Notre Dame had the Irish not gotten insanely hot from the field in the second half.

UVA enters this game low on confidence coming off three straight losses to BC, Syracuse and most recently, Florida State. It was always expected to be a rebuilding year for the Hoos after losing so much talent from last season’s championship winning squad but early on it looked like Tony Bennett would be able to squeeze the absolute maximum out of a lightly talented squad, leading them to a 9-1 start and top 5 ranking. However, the issues for UVA on offense that were apparent even in the early portion of the season have started to create an untenable situation as it relates to winning games. On the other side of the ball, the Hoos are grinding their opponents to a halt at an all time rate even for them and it’s resulted in some pretty wacky statistics. UVA in first in the nation in points allowed at 49.0 and 463rd (!!) in points scored at 55.3. I’ll be honest, I didn’t even know there were that many teams in Division 1. Equally absurd is the fact that no UVA game so far has featured a team to eclipse 70 points. A glance at their schedule reveals some scores that look more like football games than basketball. It is safe to say that the first to 50 will win tonight and it may not even take that many points.

Virginia’s team is made up of four key contributors in Mamadi Diakite, Kihei Clark, Braxton Key and Jay Huff. Casual March Madness fans will remember those first two names as the players that connected on the incredible tying basket that sent UVA into overtime against Purdue in the Elite 8. Coincidentally, they are the two best players on this year’s squad with Diakite being the team’s leading scorer and interior presence and Clark runs the show in the mold of the typical UVA point guard, providing great ball distribution (5.9 apg) and solid outside shooting. Key is a strong wing defender that can chip in some offense and Huff is another post player that provides elite finishing and defense (top 100 in the nation in both block% and fg %). Ultimately though, this team doesn’t have a go to scorer that past UVA teams have had really lacks any depth beyond those four guys.

For Tech, the improved health of Jose Alvarado over the last few weeks has made all the difference. Always a solid defensive team, the Jackets have made clear strides in improving their half-court offense because of how Alvrado’s presence has allowed them to change things up schematically. On this week’s radio call-in show, coach Pastner talked about how they have been using more pick and roll sets as opposed to a Princeton based offense that was being run through James Banks in the high post. The results have been evident as the team is showing a consistent ability to get the ball into the paint off of drives. This is leading to layups or quality passes when the defense collapses as opposed to turnovers or the ball getting stuck in those stagnant Princeton sets. Obviously getting your point guard back allows you to even consider making this adjustment, but I give the coaching staff a lot of credit for going through with it. I implored the team to make this exact change when I graded the coaching staff in my quarter-pole report cards so it’s been a welcome sight to see, as the personnel of this team is clearly geared toward what they are running now.

Tonight’s game will no doubt be a grind and will likely come down to late game execution, but based on the recent form of both teams, I think Tech has a great shot to get a win tonight.

What are your thoughts?

Poll

Who do you think will win?

This poll is closed

  • 55%
    Georgia Tech
    (10 votes)
  • 44%
    Virginia
    (8 votes)
18 votes total Vote Now