Georgia Tech will look to strengthen their resume on Saturday with a win over a struggling Virginia Cavaliers team.
Georgia Tech’s hopes of making the NCAA Tournament are still alive and on Saturday, the Yellow Jackets can strengthen their win with a win over the Virginia Cavaliers.
The Yellow Jackets enter Saturday’s game with an 8-9 record after dropping Wednesday night’s game to Notre Dame 78-74. The Cavaliers, on the other hand, are struggling of recent, losing three-straight to Boston College, Syracuse, and Florida State. This certainty isn’t the same Virginia team that won the national championship a year. Overall, the Cavaliers enter Saturday with an 11-5 record.
The Cavaliers have struggled offensively this season, scoring just 55.3 points per game. They’re still one of the best defensive teams in the country as they have been in the past under Tony Bennett, allowing under 50-points per game but their offensive struggles have been too much recently to overcome.
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Senior forward Mamadi Diakite is the Cavaliers leading scorer with 13.1 points while shooting at a 45% clip on the season. Outside of Diakite, only two other Cavaliers are scoring over 10 points per game this season in senior guard Braxton Key and sophomore guard Kihei Clark.
Part of the Cavaliers struggles offensively come from their pace offensively. The Cavaliers have the slowest pace in the country this season at 62.1. The Yellow Jackets for comparison come in at 58th in the country at 74.4. While pace is impacted by defensive performance as well, the Cavaliers are known for taking their time on offense but when you take up your entire shot clock and still struggle to make your shots, it’s not a good mixture to say the least.
While the Cavaliers have been struggling on offense, the Yellow Jackets on the other hand, have been playing some quality offensive basketball as of late. Over their last five games, the Yellow Jackets are averaging 72.6 points per game while the Cavaliers have surrendered 54.5.
The Jackets defense has also been quality over the same five-game stretch considering some of their opponents such as North Carolina and Duke. Against the Blue Devils, the Yellow Jackets surrendered just 73 points. They also allowed just 52-points to Boston College last Saturday as well.
In years past, it has felt the Jackets needed to play perfect offensive games to take down the Cavaliers. This year, it doesn’t feel like a perfect game is required offensively. Do the Jackets still need to hit a high percentage of their shots? Without a doubt but with Virginia’s struggles of their own offensively, there is certainly breathing room for the Yellow Jackets.
Now how important is a win over Virginia on Saturday? Quite important it would seem.
Picking up a win on Saturday would be quite big for the Yellow Jackets as they have two tough match-ups against Louisville and North Carolina State scheduled for next week. While the Jackets still have a shot at the NCAA Tournament despite an up-and-down season thus far, picking up one or two wins over the course of the next week would be big.
With 14 games remaining in the regular season, the Jackets are only scheduled to play one ranked opponent the remainder of the season. That opponent is the currently No. 11 ranked Louisville Cardinals. Outside of the Cardinals, the Jackets have a rather manageable path the rest of the way.
With that and based off the last few seasons, the magic number for the Jackets to have a shot at the NCAA Tournament appears to be about 19 wins. That would mean the Jackets need to pick up 10 wins in their last 14 regular season games or at least put together a strong ACC Tournament run following the regular season. While possible, such a run from the Yellow Jackets feels unlikely despite their schedule. Of course, picking up wins over teams such as Virginia would go a long way in the Jackets argument for an NCAA Tournament spot if they fail to get to the 19/20 win mark this season. In a season that he may be coaching for his future, the next month and half looms largely over Josh Pastner to say the least.
The Yellow Jackets and Cavaliers are set to tip off at 8:00 pm on Saturday night at McCamish Pavillion.