The Virginia Cavaliers head to Atlanta on Saturday to face the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, hoping to end their current three-game skid. GT is no pushover, despite the 8-9 season record. In order to get more information on what to expect this weekend, we chatted with Robert Pensa from our Georgia Tech sister site, From the Rumble Seat.
You can find my answers to their questions here.
Streaking the Lawn: Georgia Tech is sitting at 3-4 in the ACC, and probably should have beaten Duke! What is your overall feeling on how GT has played this season so far?
From the Rumble Seat: This season has been almost more frustrating than past seasons because it seems like the record should be better than it is. Tech nearly beat Duke, lost on a buzzer beating banked in three-pointer against Arkansas, and lost to Notre Dame despite shooting almost 10% higher from the field. I think this team can hang with anyone in the conference, but seems to almost always play to its competition (whether that’s up or down).
A brutally tough non-conference schedule means Tech almost certainly has to finish above .500 in conference play, something the Jackets have not done since 2004 (yes, that is a shocking and depressing stat that gets brought up every year). There’s still a lot of the season left, but it’s frustrating to know Tech could easily have 2 or 3 more wins on their resume and fans would be feeling a lot better about where things are at.
STL: Alvarado is back and crushing it...what makes him so good? He will likely be guarded by Kihei Clark, one of the best on-ball defenders in the league...how does that matchup impact the game?
FTRS: Jose Alvarado’s intensity is really what separates him from the rest. A quote that has been thrown around since his high school recruitment is that “he would rather win than breathe”. When he’s on the court, there isn’t anyone else out there that will outwork him. Not only does this make him successful, but it energizes the entire team. From a more technical perspective, he plays smart and does not turn the ball over much. He is very crafty and can find ways into the lane.
Despite his size, his craftiness allows him to finish around the basket. Despite being a streaky shooter, when he is hot he can be lethal from behind the arc. Shutting him down defensively will certainly be one of the keys for Virginia, but the good news for Tech fans is that Alvarado’s impact stretches so far beyond just his own play and he doesn’t need to stuff the stat sheet to have a major impact on the game.
STL: Virginia has had success in the paint lately...how do you like that big man combo vs. Diakite/Key/Huff?
FTRS: I would put the Jackets big man combo of James Banks and Moses Wright up against anyone else in the league. Banks ranks second in the conference in blocks and Wright may be the most athletic big man in the conference. On the offensive end of the court, these two have both come up huge for Tech recently. Over the past four games, they’re combined averaging nearly 30 points per game on 54% shooting. If these two can stay out of foul trouble, which would be my biggest concern, the matchup between them and the Virginia trio you mentioned may be the matchup that determines this game.
STL: This could be an offensively ugly game...how comfortable are you in GT’s outside shooting against the Pack Line?
FTRS: To be frank with you, not good at all. After I wrote in the preseason about why the Jackets should be a much better three point shooting team, they have definitely not delivered on that expectation. Tech currently ranks 326th in the nation in three point percentage (they have not ranked higher than 280th under Josh Pastner). Some of Tech’s three-point shooting performances this season include 4-15 vs Notre Dame, 5-16 vs Duke, 5-23 vs Boise State, 3-15 vs Houston, and 2-10 vs Hawaii (I could go on further). All that said, the Jackets have some talented shooters. Michael Devoe ranks inside the top 10 in the conference in three point percentage. Bubba Parham, a transfer from VMI, made 40% of his three pointers a season ago, but has yet to become the sharp shooter the Jackets need. The previously mentioned Jose Alvarado is a streaky three-point shooter, but is starting to pick it up, making 9 of his last 18 threes over the last four games.
STL: Prediction time! How do you see it going?
FTRS: This game is incredibly tough to predict. A win for Tech would be huge and Virginia does come into this one struggling. However, the Cavaliers are still the reigning NCAA champs, have lots of talent, and one of the best coaches in the country. In my opinion, the biggest keys to the game for Tech are to make some threes and keep the big men out of foul trouble. The crowd at McCamish Pavilion should be electric and for that reason, I will give the edge to the Jackets. Final score: 57-56.
Huge thanks to Robert and From the Rumble Seat for chatting!