The Virginia Tech Hokies came up short this past Saturday against the last unbeaten in the ACC, Notre Dame, but get the chance tonight to get back to .500 in ACC play as they finish up a three-game home stand with a late night game in Cassell Coliseum against the surprise of the ACC, Georgia Tech.
The Yellow Jackets are off to a 3-2 start in ACC play that includes wins over North Carolina and Clemson plus a road win at NC State. The Yellow Jackets enter tonight’s game looking to add another quality win knowing that the only way they can get to the NCAA Tournament is if they do quite well in ACC play as they have only one quality non-conference victory over VCU.
The Hokies enter this game still comfortably in the NCAA Tournament, but knowing that they can’t afford to lose a game like this tonight. Both teams also have important road games coming up after this game with Georgia Tech heading to Virginia this weekend looking to pull another upset while Virginia Tech heads to Clemson in a battle of two NCAA Tournament quality teams that could be 7 or 8 seeds.
This is an interesting matchup as Georgia Tech has not been very good offensively shooting 42.8% from the field and only 34.8% from beyond the arc while the Hokies are averaging about 16 more points per game than the Yellow Jackets and are shooting 48.8% from the field and 39.4% from beyond the arc. However, Georgia Tech has been built on their defense holding 3 of 5 ACC opponents under 70 points with a big blip coming at Duke when they gave up 110 points.
One interesting matchup should come on the wing between Georgia Tech’s breakout freshman Josh Okogie and Virginia Tech’s Ahmed Hill. Okogie has gotten off to a great start in ACC play scoring in double figures in all 5 ACC games while having 26 against UNC and 27 at NC State.
Meanwhile, Ahmed Hill has been steady averaging 14.4 points per game this season but enters tonight coming off a disappointing game against Notre Dame where he only had 2 points. That game was only the third time that Hill has shot under 30% from beyond the arc but after the previous two times he shot under 30% from deep, he’s averaged 19 points in those two games and shot 6-for-13 from beyond the arc.
If Hill can limit Okogie and have a bounce-back game along with Justin Bibbs playing much better on the wing, the Hokies should look a lot stronger.
Georgia Tech doesn’t have a huge size advantage over Virginia Tech, but they do have some more size led by 6’10” Ben Lammers who is averaging 15.1 points, 9.9 rebounds, and an insane 3.3 blocks per game. In this game, it will be important for the Hokies to find ways to get Lammers and Quinton Stephens (who is averaging 1.1 blocks per game) out from around the rim to create more open opportunities at the rim while also making scoring on transition opportunities against smaller guards much more important.
It will also be important for the Hokies’ smaller forwards (Zach LeDay, Chris Clarke) to effectively rebound and create situations where taller Georgia Tech’s big men have to foul to get rebounds. Khadim Sy could also have a big impact as someone who could make a difference on the glass if he can put in a solid 15-minute stint tonight.
Georgia Tech has had issues with turnovers this season averaging 14.4 turnovers per game while the Hokies have shown time and time again they aren’t afraid to press while also having some strong defensive players like Hill, Chris Clarke, and Justin Robinson who can cause their fair share of problems. Georgia Tech’s turnover problem could be magnified tonight against a Virginia Tech team that has been quite effective scoring in transition.
The man who could give Georgia Tech nightmares is Virginia Tech’s Chris Clarke who is emerging as a star and led the Hokies this past Saturday in just about every main stat (points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, least turnovers). Clarke is an emerging star that has become a nightmare as someone who can attack the rim, crash the boards, dish the ball out, and force his fair share of turnovers. Clarke is off to a fantastic start and will be a big problem for Georgia Tech.
The Yellow Jackets have gotten off to an impressive start, but they face a Virginia Tech team that may come out angry tonight looking to prove that they’re should be no worries about them making the NCAA Tournament. Virginia Tech will be much more efficient from deep tonight led by Ahmed Hill while Chris Clarke will make some plays and Georgia Tech’s poor shooting efficiency and high turnover rate will prove costly on the road in a game that may not end up being that close.