After a tough-fought loss against the No.2 ranked Duke Blue Devils on Saturday, the Georgia Tech men’s basketball team will look to upset No.11 UNC on Tuesday evening.
Georgia Tech fans may be able to recall that Josh Pastner’s first ever ACC win was over a ranked North Carolina Tar Heels team on December 31st, 2016. The upset was the beginning of a memorable day for Tech as a whole as the Jackets upset the Tar Heels and the football team took down Kentucky in the TaxSlayer Bowl.
Now, two years later, a lot has changed at Tech in both programs and both programs are looking to make their mark on 2019. The men’s basketball team is off to a 4-4 start in 2019, with a pair of hard fought losses to Virginia Tech and Duke, two top-10 ranked teams. On Tuesday evening, the basketball team will get their third opportunity at pulling of an upset this month as the No.11 UNC Tar Heels come to McCamish Pavillion.
The Tar Heels lead by senior guard Cameron Johnson are winners of four-straight and are coming off a demolition of No.10 Virginia Tech, a 103-82 victory for UNC. The Tar Heels will enter the game on Tuesday with a 15-4 record overall and a 5-1 record in conference play, their lone loss coming to Louisville. The Jackets on the other hand enter the game with an 11-9 record overall and a 3-4 record in conference play.
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That being said, as the Jackets showed on Saturday, their suffocating, high-pressure defense can stop the best of offenses, as the Jackets were just the second team to keep Duke below the 70-point mark this season. The Jackets defense will have another tough test with North Carolina, as the Tar Heels are averaging 88.1 points per game. As a whole, the Tar Heels are a team that shoots the ball extremely well, shooting at a 47.2% clip this season including 37.3% from beyond the arch. The Jackets will need to keep the Tar Heels from getting wide-open threes because if it turns into a game off long distance shooting, the Jackets are going to be in a whole as they hit just 30.8% of their three-point attempts this season, a drastic difference between the two offenses.
The Jackets will also need to keep their eyes on the ball at all times as North Carolina has four players this season averaging 10 or more points per game. While Cameron Johnson leads the Tar Heels with over 15 points per game, Colby White, Luke Maye, and Nassir Little all are averaging double-digits this season. Maye, who in addition to his 14.4 points per game this season is nearly averaging a double-double with 9.7 rebounds per game. The Tar Heels are also good with moving the ball, averaging assists on 62.5% of their made shots this season.
That being said, the Jackets offense shouldn’t have too tough of a time against North Carolina’s defense. The Tar Heels are allowing just under 74 points per game this season, which ranks them among the bottom third of defenses in the country. If the Jackets can find some offensive consistency and momentum on Tuesday night, the Jackets could have a legitimate shot of pulling off the upset.
For the Jackets, an upset bid will come down to their top players being able to be consistent scoring forces. While Abdoulaye Gueye and Michael Devoe had strong games against Duke, Jose Alvarado and James Banks were not up to their usual standards, scoring just 7 and 4 points. The Jackets will need big games not out of just two or three of those four but will need all of them to show up on Tuesday night with top of the line efforts. Even then, the Jackets will likely need one player to have a heroic type effort to pull off the win.
After Saturday’s loss to Duke, we discussed that the Jackets are arguably one game-changing player away from being a true contender to make the NCAA tournament. The Jackets will need one of the players already on their roster to step up and be that game-changer on Tuesday night. That ultimately be one of the major differences on Tuesday night.
Tomorrow, we’ll have the keys to the game and players to watch as the Jackets look for their biggest win of the season on Tuesday night.