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Notre Dame Basketball: Georgia Tech Preview

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The Irish travel to Atlanta to take on a dangerous Georgia Tech team.

NCAA Basketball: Florida State at Georgia Tech Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The No.14 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (17-4, 6-2 ACC) look to get back on track on Saturday when they travel to take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (12-8, 4-4 ACC).

The Irish are coming off their worst loss of the season — a 17-point rout by Virginia at home. The Cavaliers did a great job of taking Notre Dame out of their game, and the Irish compounded that by shooting 17 percent from three-point land.

We finally have had the first crazy week of the college basketball season (top 10 teams fell down left and right), and Georgia Tech is one of the teams that contributed it. Georgia Tech is coming off a rout of their own. The only thing different is that they were on the winning side. The Yellow Jackets blew out No. 6 Florida State on Wednesday night in Atlanta, 78-56. The Seminoles are one of the highest scoring teams in the country, and Georgia Tech held them nearly 20 points under their average.

What was once thought to be one of the easier games on the slate, this Georgia Tech matchup could turn out to be a dog fight.

Game Notes

  • Georgia Tech owns the all-time series record 8-6, including a 5-1 advantage in Atlanta.
  • Notre Dame has won four of the last five meetings.
  • The Irish and Yellow Jackets tend to play closely contested games. In six ACC matchups, the average margin of victory has been 4.6.
  • Notre Dame has won 37 ACC games over the last four seasons. Those 37 wins are the most of any team in their first four years in the conference.
  • Georgia Tech is one of two teams (with Boston College the other) that Notre Dame will face twice this year.
  • The Yellow Jackets are ranked 77th on the 2017 Pomeroy College Basketball Ratings; the Irish are 23rd.
  • Georgia Tech is 22nd in adjusted defensive efficiency, and 205th in adjusted offensive efficiency.
  • V.J. Beachem needs just 10 more points to eclipse 1,000 point plateau.

When: Jan. 28, Noon ET

Where: McCamish Pavilion, Atlanta, GA

How to Watch: ESPNU or WatchESPN

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (12-8, 4-4 ACC)

Before conference play began, Georgia Tech seemed like one of the easier teams on Notre Dame’s (17-4, 6-2 ACC) slate. The Yellow Jackets were picked to finish 13th in the ACC this season.

Flash forward a month and the Irish’s matchup with the Yellow Jackets won’t be a walk in the park. First year head coach, Josh Pastner, has turned some heads over the last month. Aside from the rout of Florida State, Pastner’s Yellow Jackets knocked off traditional power North Carolina. They also have wins over tournament hopefuls Clemson and NC State.

NCAA Basketball: Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

The Yellow Jackets are one of the best defensive teams in the ACC (4th in defensive efficiency), but they also have four players averaging double figures on offense. With that being said, Georgia Tech plays in a similar style to Virginia. The Yellow Jackets rarely get into track meets. They’re going to want to limit Notre Dame’s possessions and make it a grind-it-out type of game.

Freshman guard Josh Okogie leads this group offensively. He is coming off a 35-point explosion against Florida State. Junior forward Ben Lammers is enjoying a breakout year. His scoring average is up 11.1 points from last season.

This is a dangerous Georgia Tech team. Notre Dame can’t be looking ahead to Monday night’s game against Duke. If they do, Georgia Tech can easily come up and bite them. Just ask North Carolina and Florida State.

Three Weaknesses

Three-point Shooting: Not only does GT shoot the outside shot poorly (35 percent, good for 154th in the NCAA), they also don’t shoot it very often. The Yellow Jackets are averaging just 12.1 three-point attempts a game. That ranks 350th out of 351 NCAA teams.

Inside Scoring: The Yellow Jackets are shooting just 53.9 percent on shots at the rim. They have trouble scoring from almost everywhere on the court.

Free Throw Shooting: Another game, another team who doesn’t shoot free throws well. Virginia statistically didn’t shoot well from the charity stripe, but they went 12-for-14 from the line against ND. Georgia Tech is shooting 68.6 percent from the line this season — which is good for 205th nationally.

NCAA Basketball: Florida State at Georgia Tech Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Three Strengths

Scoring Defense: Much like Virginia, Georgia Tech does not surrender many points. Opponents are averaging 66.8 points per game this season, which ranks 52nd in all of college basketball.

Two-point defense: The Yellow Jackets do a great job of defending everything inside the three-point arc. GT is allowing teams to shoot just 43 percent on two-pointers this season — 20th nationally. They are vulnerable from three-point land, which we all know is one of Notre Dame’s strengths — last game not withstanding.

Rim Protection: Georgia Tech is the third best shot blocking team in the country, which is one of the reasons why they defend two-point baskets so well. They come into the matchup averaging 6.5 blocks per game. They have two players averaging over a block a game — Lammers and Quinton Stephens.

Yellow Jackets to Watch

Josh Okogie - 6’4”, Guard, Freshman

NCAA Basketball: Florida State at Georgia Tech Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Okogie is, without a doubt, the best scorer on this Georgia Tech team. He’s leading the team with 15.6 points per game, but he’s been even more impressive in ACC action. In eight ACC games this season the freshman has 19.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and is shooting 55 percent from the field. He can be contained though. In losses to Virginia Tech and Virginia, Okogie was held to single digit FG attempts and thus didn’t explode for huge games. If Notre Dame can limit his shots and keep his attempts under 10, they should be able to negate his impact on the game.

Ben Lammers - 6’9”, Forward, Junior

NCAA Basketball: Florida State at Georgia Tech Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame’s Matt Farrell gets a lot of attention for being one of the most improved players in the ACC — and for good reason — but Lammers needs to be put in that category as well. Last season, the junior averaged just 3.6 points and 4 rebounds in 14.8 minutes of action each game. This year, he’s the teams second leading scorer (14.7 PPG), leading rebounder (9.7 RPG) and he’s playing almost 35 minutes a game. Not to mention he’s also the ACC’s leading shot blocker at 3.4 BPG.

Watch for Lammers down on the block. He does most of his damage close to the basket as he’s shooting nearly 70 percent at the rim this season. The matchup between Lammers and Bonzie Colson of Notre Dame will be one to watch.

Quinton Stephens - 6’9”, Forward, Senior

NCAA Basketball: Wofford at Georgia Tech Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

If Georgia Tech has anything close to a sharp shooter, Stephens is it. He’s attempted the most three-pointers of anyone on the team and by a wide margin too. He’s attempted 90, while the next closest has shot 52 (Tadric Jackson). Stephens will not use his size on offense. Eleven percent of his shots have come at the rim this season. He’s essentially a 6-foot-9 jump shooter (89 percent of his shots have been two-point or three-point jumpers). The weird part is he doesn’t shoot the ball that particularly well. He’s shooting only 34 percent on threes and 35 percent on twos. Where he does use his size is on the glass. He’s second on the team in rebounds at 8.1 RPG, and 48th in the country in defensive rebounds per game at 6.5.

Pick to Click

Steve Vasturia - 6’6”, Guard, Senior

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

I really like Vasturia — and really all of Notre Dame’s perimeter orientated players — in this matchup. Even though teams aren’t shooting the three well against Georgia Tech (32 percent), the Yellow Jackets allow teams to shoot a boatload of ‘em (21.9 3PTA per game). Vasturia will get his chances from behind the arc, and so far this season he’s done a great job at converting on those — 44 percent from three.

I’d expect Vasturia to be matched up with Okogie of Georgia Tech. That will be another matchup to watch as well.

Prediction

Notre Dame 72 - Georgia Tech 67

This one will be closer than most people think. Notre Dame and Georgia Tech always seem to play close games and I don’t see that changing this time around. I don’t expect Notre Dame to shoot the outside shot as poorly as they did on Tuesday night against Virginia. They are going to get more than their fair share of three-point attempts against Georgia Tech and they’ll cash in this time.

If Notre Dame can start off hitting shots from the outside, that will only open things up down low for Colson and Martinas Geben, as well as driving opportunities for the Irish guards.

A lot of this will depend on which V.J. Beachem decides to show up. Will we get the super aggressive Beachem we saw against Syracuse or will we get the non-existent one we saw against Virginia? Beachem is an important cog to this team.

The three-point shot will play an important role in this game. If Notre Dame can knock them down, I like them in a close one.

All stats from TeamRankings.com, HoopMath.com, KenPom.com, ESPN.com, UND.com