Virginia and Georgia Tech will meet for the third time this season, only now with a trip to the ACC Championship game on the line. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:30 PM Eastern Time in Greensboro. The Yellow Jackets advanced with a win over Miami on Thursday, while the Wahoos punched their semifinal ticket on a Reece Beekman buzzer beater to defeat Syracuse. Both previous games between the two teams were tightly contested, with the Hoos overcoming halftime deficits to pull out wins.
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What Georgia Tech has done this season
The Yellow Jackets come in with a 16-8 overall record. They finished fourth in the ACC regular season standings. Winners of seven straight, they’re playing their best basketball at the right time. An NCAA Tournament bid is safely secured now, despite some bad early season losses. With victories over Florida State, North Carolina, and Virginia Tech already on the resume, only the Wahoos have escaped them among the upper echelon of the league.
Georgia Tech’s Personnel
Head Coach Josh Pastner’s team is led by a pair of elite seniors. Point guard Jose Alvarado (15.5 ppg) is their heart and soul. He led the league in steals while shooting over 50% from the field and 40% on three-point attempts. Big man Moses Wright (18.0 ppg) was the ACC Player of the Year. He’s an absolute stat sheet stuffer, a problem at both ends of the floor. Those guys have already left their mark on the program by helping rebuild it. Now they’re hungry to take it a step further by capturing an ACC title.
Junior guard Michael Devoe (15.0 ppg) is a star in his own right. Essentially a big point guard playing on the wing, he makes their lineup very difficult to defend. Southern Cal transfer Jordan Usher (11.2 ppg) is their primary four-man. His versatility on both ends of the floor is a crucial ingredient in their success. They’ll go eight deep. Rotating in Bubba Parham (6.7 ppg) and Kyle Sturdivant (3.4 ppg) at guard, Khalid Moore (4.5 ppg) at forward, and Rodney Howard (1.7 ppg) up front.
Georgia Tech will play a variety of defenses, mixing it up from possession to possession. Pastner will use a 1-3-1 zone, and at times a 2-3. If he finds something is working, they’ll stick with it. UVA handled their zone well in previous meetings. So they mostly were faced with man-to-man. They did a lot of switching as other teams have done recently against Virginia. The Yellow Jackets force the most turnovers in the ACC. Taking care of the ball is extremely important.
Their three-guard lineup posed matchup problems for the Virginia defense. Trey Murphy’s improvement on that end has made it less of an issue. In the first meeting, Bennett chose to go more with his own small look, having Casey Morsell replace Murphy for the most of the 2nd half. In the rematch, he stayed with Trey who responded with a big game. That will be a key to watch. If Trey can hold his own defending GT’s small guards, Bennett won’t need to sacrifice offense to get the job done.
Jose Alvarado is the one guy who’s scored well against UVA in both meetings, going for 18 and 20 points. He banged his knee in their quarterfinal win against Miami, leaving the game for a while before returning. We expect him to play, but it’s something to monitor.
Georgia Tech will win if
The Yellow Jackets need their supporting cast to rise to the occasion. Devoe didn’t give them much in the two previous meetings. That has to change. More than anything, they have to keep responding against a Virginia team that knows how to win tight games on a big stage.
Virginia will win if
The Hoos need to come out focused, locked in from the tipoff. Syracuse seemed to catch them a little flat-footed defensively early on. It’s important to limit turnovers and Georgia Tech’s transition opportunities. In the end, this likely will again come down to making plays late in the game.
Score Prediction: Virginia 62 Georgia Tech 60
(Image: ACC Sports)