Saturday, February 2, 2013
game preview: Georgia Tech
Date/Time: Sunday, February 3; 3:00
Record against the Jackets: 34-38
Last meeting: UVA 70, GT 38; 1/19/12, Atlanta
Last game: UVA 58, NCSt 55 (1/29); Clem. 63, GT 60 (1/29)
UVA: 59.8 (#344)
GT: 66.7 (#165)
UVA: 102.4 (#132)
GT: 96.4 (#224)
UVA: 85.5 (#7)
GT: 87.0 (#17)
UVA: .8651 (#32)
GT: .7419 (#79)
PG: Jontel Evans (3.2 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 4.5 apg)
SG: Paul Jesperson (4.3 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 1.3 apg)
SF: Joe Harris (15.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.4 apg)
PF: Evan Nolte (7.0 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 1.2 apg)
PF: Akil Mitchell (12.4 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 1.8 apg)
PG: Mfon Udofia (9.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.9 apg)
SG: Chris Bolden (6.4 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 1.3 apg)
SF: Marcus Georges-Hunt (10.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.4 apg)
PF: Robert Carter (10.1 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 0.9 apg)
C: Daniel Miller (7.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 2.1 apg)
UVA opened itself up to the dangerous world of possibilities this week with that win over NC State. A three-team top level of the ACC became a four-teamer, and the Hoos are positioning themselves nicely for a first-round bye in the ACC tourney. But there isn't any margin for error, and that's nicely highlighted by this Sunday's game against GT. The Jackets are kind of sneaky-decent with a very good defense and no offense whatsoever, although it hasn't shown up in the win-loss column.
-- UVA on offense
One thing that makes this game dangerous - besides that it's on the road, which is always tough - is that UVA's schedule so far has been filled with the ACC's bottom of the barrel on defense. FSU, BC, VT, NC State, etc. - they range from mediocre to crap. The ACC has four of KenPom's national top 20 defenses (UVA is one, of course) and we haven't seen any of the other three, up til now. The good news is that GT's performance in the conference hasn't been as good.
The number is probably a little inflated, in fact. (Or deflated. Whatever.) GT's best defensive stat that goes into D-rating is their free-throw defense, which they obviously have as much control over as I do the lineups. It's not all smoke and mirrors, of course. Center Daniel Miller is a top-notch shot-blocker and freshman forward Robert Carter (a five-star type) isn't bad himself. Miller against Mike Tobey could be interesting; we'll see if Miller is as good away from the basket, and Tobey's ambidextrousness could help nullify the advantage Miller brings as well. But at any rate, Miller's presence, when he's in the game, will deter guys like Jontel Evans from driving the lane and could do a number on UVA's attacking-the-basket game in general.
Actually, that's what Georgia Tech largely seeks to stop as a team, and they do a good job of it; they're 18th in the country at defending two-pointers. They don't pack it in like UVA, but they'll work to keep you in front and then try and and funnel you to Miller when you entertain thoughts of driving. When Miller comes out, though, they don't have another shot-blocking center and it changes the dynamic considerably.
Plus, they've got good rebounding size to keep you off the offensive glass. It's a good team effort; Miller, obviously, can rebound some, and Carter is big and very athletic and is the Jackets' top glass-cleaner. They lose nothing in this department when Kammeon Holsey enters the game.
UVA should work two strategies here. With Miller in the game, they'll simply have to be very patient and work for their shots. That's obviously something they have no problem doing. Tech's subs, however, can be foul-prone. Holsey and Julian Royal (in his cameos) can be encouraged to hack a shooter, and GT has a number of fringe-rotation types - Pierre Jordan, the Poole brothers - who don't see a lot of time but pick up cheapie fouls when they do. The Hoos should turn up the aggressiveness a couple notches when the subs are in.
-- UVA on defense
This could be fun. Last year the Hoos almost doubled up the Jackets on the scoreboard, holding them to their lowest point total ever in the shot clock era. Of course, parking opponents in the 30s has almost gotten routine these days, but so it goes. GT hasn't gotten that much better on offense since last year and it's costing them games; they have yet to top one point per possession in any of their ACC games.
Horrendous guard play is the reason. It's always been said the ACC is a guard's league, and GT fits that mold because they're 1-6 and their guards suck. Mfon Udofia's always been kind of a crap point guard, but he's elevated his play this season to halfway decent. His shooting has been better this year, but the ACC season is dragging him down to his accustomed levels; he's been getting to the rim, except that the much better defenses in the ACC are keeping his shots out of the hoop now. His three-point shooting is OK too, at .343, but the problem for GT is that's the best they've got.
Udofia's backups suck, though. Pierre Jordan has been displaced by Solomon Poole - Jordan hasn't played except for a zero-minute showing against Wake - and Poole has only been a tiny marginal improvement. There's little help at shooting guard either. Chris Bolden knocked Brandon Reed out of the starting lineup, but they're both interchangeably bad. Below-average three-point shooting and far too much reliance on two-point jumpers characterizes both their games. Paul Jesperson should appreciate the respite after chasing Scott Wood through five screens a minute on Tuesday. In fact, Jesperson being in the game largely for his defense, Tony Bennett might look at this matchup and feel free to go with Joe Harris at the two at times with Justin Anderson at the three.
Anderson's athleticism would be a great thing for helping out on Tech's forwards, who provide nearly all of their scoring punch. Wing Marcus Georges-Hunt and forward Robert Carter, both freshmen, are GT's top two scorers, and placing third is Kammeon Holsey - off the bench. This is another game where Bennett will likely make liberal use of the low-post double team, so as to try and force the ball back into the hands of GT's awful backcourt.
The 32-point blowout last year was chalked up largely to GT having a bad day, but I wonder. To score on this nasty, suffocating pack-line defense that we've developed here, you need some guards that can break it down. The pack-line defenders are supposed to stray outside the line generally only to defend a ballhandler; GT is the kind of team where you might not even bother doing that. If their guards want to pop off a bunch of jump shots, let them. GT is a decent offensive rebounding team, but if they get a long one, who cares - the way they're at their most dangerous is working hard down low with low-post offense and putbacks. What better matchup for the pack-line defense?
I'm not worried about GT's offense and I'm only sort of worried about their defense. What worries me is the road atmosphere. Truthfully, we should've all been rooting for the Falcons to get to the Super Bowl because then nobody in the city would be paying attention to this game and we could play a nice little scrimmage in front of an empty gym. Road games have had a way of putting lids on the rim, though; I know we got some nasty good three-point shooters that actually do put a scare into opponents (the ones that are paying attention anyway - the Tobacco Road types tend to think nobody on our team is any good) but you know how that can go cold sometimes. At any rate, we don't even have to score that much because GT isn't going to.
Final score: UVA 54, GT 46