After coming back to earth via a 22-point loss to #12 Duke, Virginia Tech finishes their three-game road stand with a trip to Georgia Tech against a struggling Yellow Jacket team that has been the ACC’s biggest disappointment. The Yellow Jackets have lost 8 of their last 9 games, lost freshman PG Jose Alvarado for the season against Duke, and have the NCAA circling around the program.
Despite all of this, the Hokies can’t afford to take the Yellow Jackets lightly whatsoever.
Virginia Tech remains in very good shape to make the NCAA Tournament thanks to their win over UVA, but VT could fall right back towards the bubble with a loss to Georgia Tech. With GT’s RPI outside of the top 150, this loss would fall in the quadrant 3 category along the loss to Saint Louis, something that would take away a lot of VT’s gains from their win over UVA.
Meanwhile, Georgia Tech has struggled losing eight of their last nine after starting off ACC play 3-1. The Yellow Jackets’ season has had its low points including a home non-conference loss to Grambling and a 17-point loss this past week at struggling ACC team Wake Forest.
Despite all of this, Georgia Tech still has the talent to make things more interesting than their record would suggest with VT likely knowing that GT will be playing for their own pride in this game.
Virginia Tech: Justin Bibbs
Virginia Tech’s senior wing was the one player who had a solid offensive performance against Duke with 15 points on 6-7 shooting including 3-4 from three-point range. Bibbs has scored in double figures in five of his past games highlighted by 20 points against Notre Dame which has helped him become the team’s leading scorer averaging 13.6 points per game.
Bibbs gives the Hokies the type of veteran scoring presence that can be critical down the stretch even if its simply done by drawing opposing defensive attention to create space for your teammates. We saw it down the stretch against UVA where Bibbs semi-disappeared from the score books, but did an excellent job at doing his role well to set up his teammates to be more effective and get the victory.
The experience of Bibbs has proved valuable at times when the Hokies needed some stability from their veteran guys. Bibbs has been playing well recently and don’t be surprised if he another strong offensive performance today.
Georgia Tech: Josh Okogie
Josh Okogie has been in some hot waters off the court but on it, Okogie has been on fire lately with 20 or more points in five of his last six games. Overall, Okogie leads Georgia Tech averaging 19.1 points per game along with averaging 6.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.7 steals per game.
Okogie has stepped up in some big games to help GT pull off some upsets including 30 points in their home victory over Miami and 20 points in their home victory over Syracuse. Okogie has combined consistency with some big game performance that have helped Georgia Tech pull off some home upsets and could help give them a shot against the Hokies.
Josh Okogie is one of the best young players in the ACC and though this year has been a disappointment, you can expect to see the sophomore guard having success again at some point in his collegiate career.
Keys to the Game
1. Don’t Sleep on Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech may be struggling immensely and set to see their season end on either the first or second day of the ACC Tournament, but this team still has the talent to play the role of spoiler. Led by Josh Okogie and Ben Lammers, GT has the talent to make games interesting even if that team has struggled as a whole.
For the Hokies, they can’t afford to overlook this Georgia Tech team because of how the Yellow Jackets will punish teams that overlook them and can play the role of spoiler, pushing VT back towards the heart of the bubble.
If VT can avoid overlooking this game to focus on the Wednesday night showdown with Clemson, the Hokies should comfortably take care of business against Georgia Tech, avoiding a potential bad loss.
2. Attack the Lane
Virginia Tech’s offense has had some issues lately with their three-point shooting struggling and overall scoring decreasing significantly. Now part of that came against UVA’s tough defense but in general, the biggest fixable issue for the Hokies is to drive the lane more often as they did a lot in previous two games.
With guys like Justin Robinson and Chris Clarke who are extremely good finishers attacking the basket, VT should be more aggressive at attacking the paint whether that be with a guy like Robinson or getting Kerry Blackshear more paint touches. If VT can do that, space should open up on the outside whether that be from a collapsing zone defense or help defense in man-to-man that creates that space.
Virginia Tech has missed some three-pointers that they shouldn’t but you would much rather have open threes than contested ones. To do that, VT needs to attack the basket early and often to force the defense to collapse in to create space for three-point shooters.
If VT can get guys like Robinson, Clarke, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and Justin Bibbs to all be aggressive attacking the basket, VT’s offense should get back on track. If not, this game will be a lot more interesting than Hokie fans would like it to be.
Virginia Tech came back to earth against Duke, giving VT a few days to refocus after a loss that should be an eye opener. After two tough road games, the Hokies face a struggling Georgia Tech team that could be easy to sleep on given the circumstances. However, VT can’t afford to do that against a Yellow Jacket team that still has some talented guys like Josh Okogie and Ben Lammers.
The thing is Virginia Tech has responded well to recent losses and will be ready for this early afternoon game in Atlanta.
One of the big things for VT is to find a way to slow down or contain Ben Lammers. Lammers should have a strong performance given the Hokies’ lack of size outside of Kerry Blackshear, but it’ll be important for the Hokies to make sure that Lammers doesn’t go off for a big upset performance.
The biggest difference in this matchup is shown by the shooting percentages as VT is shooting 51.1% from the field including 39.6% from beyond the arc while Georgia Tech is shooting 42.9% from the field including 32.2% from beyond the arc. This gap is significant and will force GT to find second chance opportunities to stay up with the Hokies, something they struggled to deal with against GT.
Virginia Tech’s shooting will make a difference as Justin Robinson and Justin Bibbs will both have big games. Georgia Tech has a solid core but without freshman PG Jose Alvarado, Virginia Tech has too much perimeter talent combined with Kerry Blackshear being able to help contain Ben Lammers.
While Georgia Tech can keep this game interesting for way more than a half, Virginia Tech is the better team and in front of former Hokies like Bruce Arians and Malcolm Delaney, VT will get the job done and avoid a possible bad loss.