A look at No. 10 seed Georgia Tech’s Thursday night matchup with No. 2 seed Virginia. The 7 p.m. game will be broadcast on the ACC Network in the ACC footprint and ESPN2 elsewhere. Listings here.
Old friends from the south side
Georgia Tech guard Adam Smith and Virginia guard Malcolm Brogdon, the Atlantan and Greater Atlanta Christian grad who was named the ACC player of the year and defensive player of the year (the first player in league history to accomplish that double), know each better even for two guys from the area.
Brogdon transferred to GAC from Fayette County High, which is Smith’s alma mater.
“It was funny, because when we first got to school, first day of school, first day of classes, he was in one of my classes and I sat by him,” Smith said. “I didn’t even know he was a basketball player, but we just kind of hit it off in class. He’s funny; he’s so down to earth.”
Brogdon transferred after one year to GAC, but the two stayed in touch and were reunited in a way when Smith transferred from UNC-Wilmington to Virginia Tech, becoming Brogdon’s rival.
“We didn’t let the rivalry come between us,” he said. “It was kind of funny, actually.”
Chances are, Brogdon will defend guard Marcus Georges-Hunt, with London Perrantes drawing Smith. Brogdon knows Georges-Hunt. Both played for the Georgia Stars AAU team, although Brogdon was a year ahead of Georges-Hunt and played in a different age group. Georges-Hunt occasionally played up on Brogdon’s team.
Late night for Jackets
Coach Brian Gregory’s plan following the win over Clemson was to get the team a late dinner, provide individual scouting reports on the Cavaliers and then get them to bed. The full game plan was to be taught Thursday morning at practice (held at Archbishop Carroll, alma mater of Tech great Jeremiah Attaochu). It had already been prepared by an assistant coach. Post-game, he had yet to see any Virginia video.
“That’s taboo,” he said of looking ahead. “You can’t do that.”
He planned to watch four or five of the Cavaliers’ games overnight.
“We’ll keep the game plan simple,” he said. “We’re going to have to play extremely well. I don’t think we’ll be able to come back from 18 against them.”
A look at Virginia
The Cavaliers, pegged for a No. 1 or 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, are playing at a high level. They are ranked No. 1 in the Pomeroy ratings, with the ninth most efficient offense and the sixth most efficient defense, the only team rated in the top 10 in both categories. (Tech is 61st, two spots higher than its RPI ranking) In their final regular-season game, the Cavaliers limited Louisville to 27.6 percent shooting from the field in a 68-46 route. Louisville, then the No. 11 team in the country, scored 17 points in the first half.
“You have to be on top of your game defensively,” Gregory said. “You can never relax on them on the defensive end because they just kind of pick you apart if you do that. Then you’ve got to be able to score. You’ve got to be able to make some shots. Some of them have got to be some tough shots. You’ve got to live with that because they’re so good defensively.”
A particular key will be how Tech’s big men handle Virginia’s post trap, in which the Cavaliers double team the low post, coming from different angles and with different players to disrupt the ball handler. In the Cavaliers’ 79-74 win over North Carolina, All-America forward Brice Johnson had five turnovers.
In the teams’ only meeting, Charles Mitchell, Nick Jacobs, James White and Ben Lammers had a total of six turnovers, which is probably a little high for Gregory’s liking. Collectively, the four averaged 4.1 per game during the ACC regular season.
A look back
The difference maker in the game, a 68-64 win for the Jackets at McCamish Pavilion, was forward Quinton Stephens, who was 4-for-4 from 3-point range and scored 16 points, his season high. What also helped Tech was that Brogdon was just 8-for-20 from the field and 1-for-9 from 3-point range for 19 points. From a point-per-shot perspective, it was his second poorest game of the ACC season. It would probably not be reasonable to expect a duplicate performance from him.
Stephens will be important, as well. He suffered through a pretty miserable scoring game against Clemson – 2-for-8 from the field and 1-for-5 from 3-point range, including two air balls – but he still gave out three assists and had seven rebounds and was called on to defend Clemson forward Jaron Blossomgame.
Reasons for hope for Jackets
While Tech is playing without rest and Virginia hasn’t played since Saturday, the Jackets have the advantage of being acclimated to the surroundings of the Verizon Center and have presumably rid themselves of jitters. Gregory said that team was out of sorts, which it showed with careless play in the first half.
The last time Virginia had this much rest, it lost to Miami on a week’s rest.
As it typically does, Tech’s frontcourt poses a matchup problem for Virginia, which has comparable height but not the same size to match the Jackets’ thumpers, Nick Jacobs and Charles Mitchell. (Virginia could well start 7-0, 260-pound center Mike Tobey to counteract Tech’s size. He has started only seven games this season, the Tech game being one.)
While it was an unlikely victory that needed Virginia’s help, Georges-Hunt wasn’t playing at the level he has reached since that point.
Tech is playing with a high level of confidence. It just needs to pair it with better offensive execution. The Jackets need to get hold of their turnover problems of late (14.5 in the past four games) or Thursday may well be the end of the tournament run.