Friday, January 21, 2011
game preview: Georgia Tech
Date/Time: January 22, 12:00
TV: ACC Network; ESPN3
History against the Jackets: 31-38
Last matchup: UVA 82, GT 75; 1/13/10; Charlottesville
Last game: BC 70, UVA 67 (1/19); GT 74, Wake 39 (1/19)
Opposing blogs: From The Rumble Seat
National: UVA #103; GT #75
Offense: UVA #86; GT #125
Defense: UVA #123; GT #40
Today's preamble takes the form of a long-running tradition in advance of contests of athleticism against the Georgia Institute of Technology: a Q&A with From The Rumble Seat. Here it is in half of its entirety; the other half, as always, is over there, where you must go if you want my actual prediction for the game.
1. It always seems like Paul Hewitt is going to be the next ACC coach to be shown the door. Is this the season GT makes a change? If not, what saves his job?
Essentially, it all comes down to money. Hewitt's job is safe because of what we've dubbed the "Mega-Contract." The Paul Hewitt Contract states that the contract is always a 6 years contract because of a "rollover" clause (part 2.c). This rollover can be stopped by the GTAA with proper notice given to Hewitt but it would essentially send the worse kind of message to future recruits and send us down the tube worse than merely buying him out. Part 4.a states that Hewitt's minimum compensation per year after the 2009-2010 is $1.375 million. So that means we're stuck with a 6 year buyout at that salary if we choose to remove Hewitt. The only way to reduce it would be to not renew in April after the season ended. It's a perfect situation for Hewitt because April is during or before March Madness so every other year he is "safe" and could make the GTAA look like asses for firing a NCAAT coach. For your information, Hewitt's ACC winning percentage took an 8% dive after he got his mega-contract.
2. What's GT's defensive plan of attack?
Hewitt loves to press and play man-man but this year we've seen a lot of zone to help our guys on the inside. He also tries to take away a team's leading scorer at all costs even if that leaves the #2 guy wide open all game. Iman Shumpert, Daniel Miller, and Glen Rice have all had some decent games as of late shutting down key players on opposing squads in their one-one match ups. A decent small forward might be the only thing we can't guard against.
3. What's the difference between the team that got its ass kicked by Kennesaw State, and the team that kicked UNC's ass?
I don't know if there is a difference. I think there's an issue with motivation. No one can figure out why we lost to teams with 300+ RPI's and played Syracuse tight. It's starting to look like we just didn't care or weren't very focused to start the season. I think as Hewitt has gotten his rotation down pat we've seen some increased success particularly on defense.
4. Give us an Al Groh update. UVA fans love hearing about Al Groh.
The only news we've really got on Al Groh is that we've seen an interesting number of transfers and departures from guys we thought would be stars on Tech after the hiring of Groh. Sophomore Cooper Taylor transferred after only playing a couple of games and recovering from a rare heart disease in 2010. We figure something odd has to be happening in order for him to leave considering his dad played QB at Tech and he endured some pretty tough physical ailments to continue play football. When we thought that was past us, our starting punt returner and safety opted to go to the NFL despite receiving a 6th-7th round status from Draft consultants. (ed.: this would be Jerrard Tarrant.) To me, a player willing to give up his eligibility for a likely free agent contract (that most likely won't be there due to a strike) indicates a really sour grape. What caused this souring? A poem, perhaps?
5. Your turn: Prediction time.
I think Tech continues this hot streak on into Saturday morning breakfast but finds Hooville more of a challenge than UNC and Wake at home. However, Tech is 4-2 in Charlottesville under Hewitt so I wouldn't be surprised to see Tech edge the Cavs by two possessions.
Thanks as ever to the FTRS crew for saving me some writing. On with the show:
HOW WE CAN WIN
- Get Joe and KT going. Bird of FTRS points out that Paul Hewitt likes to try and shut down the opposition's top scorer. GT is a decent defensive team and since there's no dominant Sean Singletary or Sylven Landesberg type for the Jackets to focus on, it's a bit of a crapshoot as to whether they'll even stick with that strategy, let alone who their target will be. But Mustapha Farrakhan is the most likely option, given that he's actually the team's scoring leader and shows a good A/T ratio as well. Mu's smoothing out his game of late and gaining a little consistency, but if GT wants to stop him, they will. They held Harrison Barnes to 3-for-13, so Mu isn't a major obstacle.
So if GT cheats around on defense to Mu's side, Joe Harris and KT Harrell will have to provide the offense. Tony Bennett has found ways to get these guys open, and they'll have their share of open looks if GT focuses on Farrakhan.
- Pack it in. Unlike with UNC and BC, Tech isn't a threat to get hot from the outside. Interior scoring and three-point shooting are close to non-existent; GT likes to drive, drive, drive. If someone gets hot from beyond the arc, ok, but I think that's a chance we should be more than willing to take. Take away the driving lanes and let them hoist from downtown if they like. The two biggest shooters of three-pointers are also the worst: Iman Shumpert is shooting .270 and Brian Oliver, .297. Shumpert is their leading scorer - he can dribble-drive and post up smaller guards, but he's at best a mediocre creater for his teammates. (Not that he can't get them the ball - he can - but he's turnover-prone and almost as likely to get it to the defense.) The principles of the pack-line defense are exactly the medicine for dealing with the Jackets.
HOW WE CAN LOSE
- Keep it close. In order to win I think UVA is going to have to keep a big lead big. Even though the game is at home, our team has yet to learn to close out a close one - the only time they've really been able to do that this year was Norfolk State and I mean come on. Now, yes, they'll have to learn to do this eventually and yes, the only way to learn it is by doing it, and yes, there's a first time for everything. But until they do, the odds are against it. A close game will favor the opposition until we ourselves prove otherwise.
- Bad basketball. OK, this is one step away from "score fewer points." But the point is this: GT isn't a good team. But they're very well equipped to take advantage when the other team is playing poorly. They're good at defensive rebounding - so don't miss shots. They get lots of steals - so don't make it easy on them to do so. For the most part, they shoot free throws very well - so don't foul. You get the picture. GT is very beatable when you're executing well, but if you screw up, they don't return the favor.
HOW THE GAME WILL GO
If you agree with the goal I set for the team - a winning record - then this one is a must-win. GT is one of the conference's more vulnerable teams, and the game is at home. If this game isn't a win, it'll be a major letdown following some competitive losses against the conference's best. And it'll put a serious crimp in future expectations. Fortunately, this is a team we match up well against. There are many similarities, and one major difference: we can shoot threes and they can't. The UVA defense is well-equipped to stop GT's attack, and the crowd should be good on a home-game Saturday. I like our odds of getting back into the win column.