5 things to know before Georgia Tech-Syracuse

Georgia Tech guard Tadric Jackson scored seven points with two rebounds in 14 minutes of play. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Georgia Tech guard Tadric Jackson will try to rebound from an 0-for-5 shooting game against N.C. State. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Previewing Georgia Tech-Syracuse, noon Saturday on ESPNU and streamed live on ESPN3 and on the WatchESPN app.

Not loving the schedule

Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory isn’t the only one with complaints about the schedule.

Following Syracuse’s win over Notre Dame Thursday night, coach Jim Boeheim ranted about his own team’s schedule – the Orange started league play with road games against two ranked teams (Pittsburgh and Miami), came home for three straight home games and then went on the road for three games, including No. 20 Duke and No. 11 Virginia. Syracuse will play Tech less than 48 hours after facing the Irish, an atypical recovery period.

“The schedule is horrific in this league this year,” Boeheim said, according to the Syracuse Post-Standard. “It’s pretty obvious. Everybody knows that. I don’t know why we’re playing Thursday. We could’ve played Wednesday. I don’t know. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Statistic to note

Syracuse is No. 317 in defensive rebounding percentage, collecting defensive rebounds 67.3 percent of the time.

It could be an area to exploit for the Jackets, as they are No. 17 in offensive rebounding percentage at 36.5 percent. How well Syracuse can keep forward Charles Mitchell off the glass could go a long way in determining the outcome.

Syracuse also does well on the offensive glass, at 33.2 percent, No. 45 in the country.

Need for better offense

The Jackets are going to have to do much better in transition than they did against N.C. State. While outscoring the Wolfpack 11-0 in fast-break points according to the box score (fast-break points are kind of nebulous, I think), the Jackets missed probably three or four makeable transition opportunities in the first half, points that I’m going to guess they won’t be able to squander against Syracuse. (It should be noted Tech still scored 90 points, a high for Gregory in ACC play.)

The Orange are one of the best defensive teams in the country (No. 37 in adjusted defensive efficiency in kenpom.com) and are highly effective at forcing turnovers. Further, Gregory said he didn’t think that Syracuse had allowed any transition points in its past three games. Tech may have to play its most precise game offensively this season to pull this out. And, as noted above, attack the offensive glass.

Player to watch

Keep an eye on forward Nick Jacobs. He played one of his best games of the season against N.C. State with 20 points (second most this season and nine above his average) and seven rebounds (one above his average) in 29 minutes (about seven above his average).

The last figure might be the most meaningful – I am working on a story about his improved conditioning, which I think was reflected in his playing time. He has also been putting in extra work with Gregory on his post game, which I think also is producing fruit.

On the flipside…

Gregory said he thought Mitchell is trying too hard to make plays. His season field-goal percentage is 52.5 percent, but he has shot below that in the past six games. Not surprisingly, he hasn’t reached his season scoring average in the past six games also. He was averaging 13.4 points after going for 20 against North Carolina, but since then has produced six, seven, six, two and 11 points.

He has stayed relatively consistent on the glass, with double-figure games in four of the seven ACC games. He’s also still strong on the offensive glass, averaging 4.3 offensive rebounds per game. Going into Friday’s games, Mitchell was ninth in the country at 4.1 offensive rebounds per game.

“He just needs to let it come,” Gregory said. “He’s playing every bit as hard as he’s played before, (but) pressing a little bit.”


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