Georgia Tech hosts Georgia tonight and it is a must-win game for Georgia.
Every game that counts matters. This game is important for supremacy inside the State of the Georgia. Recruiting, alumni base sentiment, tournament resumes, bragging rights and the confidence of the teams are at stake in this game. The intensity of this rivalry is at an all-time low due to a multitude reasons including: Apathy and antipathy toward non-Football sports, more alumni of both schools leaving the state due to increased academic prominence, greater international student contingent at Georgia Tech (1 in 7 students at Georgia Tech, 1 in 14 at UGA), inconsistent scheduling and the growing commonality between the schools as the “Nerds” jokes can easily be applied to UGA and the ugly, xenophobic views of UGA fans are not shared by recent alumni and current students. The Georgia-Georgia Tech rivalry is in need of both reinvention and more inspiration.
It’s a rivalry with passé ingredients. It’s a rivalry that needs to be shaken up. Even Mark Fox knows that the overall rivalry needs a dash of cayenne pepper. Fox is in favor of having this game played at Philips Arena every once in a while and he is right to feel that this rivalry needs something different. Could “Clean Old-Fashioned Hate” on the hardwood be like the way the rivalry is played in baseball every season? Georgia and Georgia Tech play one game against each other on each campus every season, the final game was played at Turner Field, but now will be played at the brand new SunTrust Park.
There could be a three year rotation for this rivalry to wake it up.
- Year 1: Stegeman Coliseum
- Year 2: McCamish Pavilion
- Year 3: Philips Arena
This could become a four year rotation if there is a desire to make this rivalry less of an Atlanta-Athens corridor sort of a rivalry and expand beyond this area. However, there are far fewer Georgia Tech alumni in the rest of the State of Georgia and UGA alumni would probably embrace it, but UGA fans will not care – especially if the location is in South Georgia. It is best to keep this rivalry in the Atlanta-Athens corridor and leave it as a three year rotation as suggested.
The timing is unfortunate for the rivalry as Georgia and Georgia Tech participate in non-conference tournaments that are very beneficial to getting their respective teams up to speed and improves NCAA Tournament resumes considerably. When are these tournaments played? Thanksgiving Week, which is when the Georgia-Georgia Tech Football game is played. The best suggestion for both schools is to pick a time of the year and stick to it. Much of the popularity in College Football is that the partisans are very routine-oriented and associate times of the Fall with particular games. This needs to be the case with this rivalry.
Georgia Tech took two road losses in a row at a bad Penn State and a rebuilding Tennessee. They followed it up by beating VCU at the Siegel Center, which is simply unthinkable considering how tough of an environment that arena is. However, VCU has shown signs this season that they are not the team many expect them to be. VCU looks lost this season as far as their identity and it really showed against Georgia Tech.
Georgia Tech is short on talent as mentioned in their preseason preview and this game is an opportunity for Josh Pastner to show that the win over VCU was not a fluke nor was it a win over a program that could be getting by on name recognition. The Yellow Jackets are 6-3 this season and their worst loss came to Penn State. Wait, what about Ohio at home?
Georgia Tech’s per game scoring breakdown is very similar to Georgia’s last season. The scoring is going to come from their Big Four.
Justin Moore has emerged as the team’s leading distributor. Moore is a Freshman who was thrown into the Point Guard role for Josh Pastner’s Yellow Jackets. He’s not much of a shooter, but he is setting up his teammates off the dribble.
Ben Lammers was projected to breakout and have a big season. He has exceeded all expectations thus far averaging a double-double per game, serving as the leading scorer of the team and happens to be one of the best shot blockers in the country. In fact, Lammers is tied for first in blocked shots per game nationwide with Jo Acuil of Baylor.
Josh Okogie is not much of a shooter, but he is taking a high volume of shots and he is getting to the Free Throw Line a lot. Okogie is benefiting from Pastner’s dribble drive motion offense and he’s just a Freshman! Then again, this is a team short on talent, so someone has to step up and produce. Okogie was one of the most obvious candidates to be productive and he has thus far.
Tadric Jackson is shooting like he has never shot before from three point range. Jackson was a terrible shooter in his prior two seasons at Georgia Tech and now he is shooting 47.6%.
Quinton Stephens needs no introduction. He’s streaky and he can play the 3 or 4 spot, which will put a lot of pressure on Houston Kessler and Kenny Paul Geno.
This team is stronger on defense than on offense this season and their adjusted offensive efficiency is below average (102.1) and their adjusted defensive efficiency is pretty good at 98.2.
Georgia Tech does not attempt many threes (second to last in the country in 3 point attempts) and they are very focused on scoring in the restricted arc and getting to the Free Throw Line. Georgia Tech will test an opponent’s defensive interior and their ability to guard without fouling.
Tech’s defense will allow money zone opportunities, but Ben Lammers does block quite a bit of shot attempts. However, Lammers is not going to be able to stop everything in the restricted arc.
Georgia Tech is effective at grabbing the offensive rebounds, but not necessarily efficient at getting the second chance points. The Yellow Jackets are able to end opponent possessions with turnovers, but not as able to end possessions with defensive rebounds.
What about Georgia?
This sort of a scoring distribution will not cut it for Georgia. It is strange to say that J.J. Frazier is playing the role of an anchor for this offense, but he has been far less efficient when he is placed in a situation where he feels the need to carry the team on his shoulders. He is shooting 30.5% from three point range and it is undetermined as to whether this is a short term slump or on-going problem this season. Frazier is a sparkplug, but he is forcing his hand as a scorer to the point where he is holding the team back. With options and when he is unselfish is actually when he has been at his best this season.
Derek Ogbeide has emerged as a force on both ends of the floor. He finishes possessions quite well for both teams on the floor. Defensively, Georgia has been rather strong for much of the lineup. In all facets of the game, the sample sizes of attempts, touches and critical possessions are low due to the lack of trust in much of this roster.
What is this Georgia team’s identity? It’s still an open question. The talent is there to make an opponent feel uncomfortable in some fashion, but the strategy is not.
This team is slowly working their way back to the Free Throw Line. This team can hit Free Throws and have guys that can force shooting fouls. The number of screens set in the half court and fouls drawn on rebounding attempts should result in a high number of Free Throws at the end of the game. Anything that falls short of a Free Throw parade is a result of officiating or a deliberate attempt to not get to the Free Throw Line.
Could it all come down to rebounding in this game?
Defensively, Georgia tries to make it a 4 feet or beyond type of a game for opponents. Georgia’s ability to keep the opposition out of the restricted arc is a strength and better yet UGA keeps opponents out of transition. 15.6% of shots against Georgia are in transition.
Georgia’s defensive flaws are known:
- No active involvement in trying to force turnovers, which means more shots are taken.
- Man-to-Man Defense can get sloppy on switches.
- 4 out 1 High and 5 Out Defenses create easy cutting, driving and three point shooting opportunities.
- 2-3 Matchup Zone pinches too often and far too soon. This leaves cutting lanes and shooters wide open for futile closeout efforts.
- Defense is reactive rather than proactively disrupting the offense. Easy to get into sets and run them.
Georgia’s offensive flaws are known:
- Too much reliance on a two-man game between J.J. Frazier and Yante Maten.
- Predictable flow chart half-court offense.
- J.J. Frazier Hero Ball is losing its luster.
- Too many three point shots being taken off passes along the perimeter or in stop-and-pop fashion.
- With one particular member of this team, there’s no point in defending him on the floor and it is easy just to double team instead.
- Not enough read-and-react opportunities with and without the ball by design.
So what happens?
This game should not be close based on the talent level of both teams, but it actually will be a close game and it has nothing to do with Josh Pastner. Does Mark Fox want to win this game? If he does, he puts in place a strategy that would enable him to blow out Georgia Tech. Otherwise, he will leave this one to chance. Based on Fox’s track record and the way this team has played this season, Fox is going to let Georgia Tech have a shot at winning this game. Fox is not going to change his stripes, he is on the 12 Year Plan that may put some on a 12 Step Plan.
Quinton Stephens will be matched up against Houston Kessler and Kenny Paul Geno for around ten minutes tonight and it is not going to be fun. Georgia Tech will shoot and make a few more threes than they usually do and Georgia will have difficulty guarding them. Georgia will have trouble defending Georgia Tech in man-to-man and shift to zone before it is all too late. However, Georgia’s ability to rebound and get second chance opportunities will prove the difference in this one. Derek Ogbeide is the hero tonight as Georgia cinches a second straight win in Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate.
Prediction: Georgia 70 North Avenue Trade School 66