Previewing Georgia Tech’s 8 p.m. matchup at Miami. Available on the ACC Network.(WUPA CW 69 in Atlanta)
What a win would mean
For Georgia Tech’s NCAA tournament chances, Wednesday night’s road matchup with Miami would be a pretty big pickup. Every win is important, but beating the Hurricanes would serve two significant purposes – providing a healthy bounce to its RPI ranking and adding a second noteworthy road win.
Both RPI and road- and neutral-court records are both heavily considered by the selection committee. Tech’s road record thus far is 2-7 with wins over VCU (RPI: 27 after Tuesday’s games) and N.C. State (108 and falling). Miami’s RPI is 54. Beating a likely NCAA tournament team on its own floor would probably undoubtedly help establish the Jackets’ worthiness to be included in the field of 68.
Tech’s RPI is 76. Beating Miami would be worth about 10 spots, according to rpiwizard.com. The Jackets’ chances likely would be helped by getting into the high 50’s. (Another way of saying this is the Jackets’ chances likely would be helped by getting more wins, which is perhaps more the point.) As noted in a story written last week, Tech would probably be in good shape if it could get to 19-12 by the end of the regular season. (The Jackets are 15-10 right now, including the win over Division II Tusculum.)
On defense, there are two standards that the Jackets trying to hit defensively – hold the opponent to 40 percent shooting from the field and 30 percent from 3-point range.
In 12 ACC games, the Jackets have held opponents to 40 percent shooting seven times and 30 percent shooting from 3-point range six times. They’re 5-2 in the former, 4-2 in the latter and 4-1 in the five times when they accomplished both.
The two work hand in hand.
“We’re good at just guarding, especially inside the paint,” he said. “We’re just good at limiting teams driving capabilities, which I think is another reason why maybe they haven’t been shooting as well (from 3-point range), because a lot of guys need a couple points inside the paint to kind of get your confidence to get going.”
With Lammers challenging post players and then extending his range with help defense, Tech’s two-point field-goal percentage is 43.1 percent, which ranked 13th nationally going into Tuesday’s games.
In ACC games, Tech leads the conference in defensive field-goal percentage at 39.9 percent. Miami will not be an easy team to keep under 30 percent shooting from 3-point range, as the Hurricanes hit at a 36.9 percent clip. The Hurricanes average 19.2 3-pointers per game. Guard Davon Reed takes the most – seven per game in ACC play – and has made 41.7 percent of them.
Hitting the glass
Forward Quinton Stephens ranks sixth in the ACC in rebounding at 7.8 per game. He’s a little overshadowed by Lammers, who is second at 9.7. Consider this: Over the last 10 years, 7.8 rebounds per game would have led Tech in rebounding seven times.
It’s all the more impressive considering that Stephens, in his first three seasons, had eight or more rebounds in a game just four times and last season averaged 3.8 rebounds per game.
He’s falling a little bit short of coach Josh Pastner’s directive to average a double-double, but he’s not far off. He’s averaging 10.2 points per game. Stephens said he wasn’t daunted by the expectation.
“It wasn’t really a question” of whether he was capable, he said. “It was like, I have to go do it. You have to go get 10 rebounds, and not really so much as me counting how many rebounds I’m getting. It’s just every possession, I need to go try to rebound the ball. If a ball’s about to fall out of bounds, or if it’s me and another guy, I’ve got to get myself in position to rebound. I think that’s the beginning of it all.”
One thing Miami does really well is offensive rebound. The Hurricanes are ranked 19th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage, according to KenPom. Tech is not particularly strong on the defensive glass, though the Jackets have been markedly better in ACC play. A particular onus will be on guards Josh Okogie and Josh Heath to do their part. Okogie hammered the glass for 12 rebounds against Boston College on Saturday, his third double-figure rebounding game of the season.
Pastner: “Miami’s really good. They’re athletic, they’re great on the glass, their guards are multi-dimensional stat-sheet stuffers. They’re sort of like us, they don’t play a lot of guys but they’ve got good players. Their starting five is high-level guys. Their perimeter players are as good as any perimeter players in the ACC.”
Interesting to note: Tech has won its past two trips to Miami. The Jackets won 71-69 on a Marcus Georges-Hunt putback in March 2013, upsetting then-No. 6 Miami on a night when a win would have clinched the ACC regular-season title outright. They won 70-50 in January 2015, breaking a seven-game losing streak behind Georges-Hunt’s 24 points.