Date: Wednesday, January 18
TV: RSN (TV listings) and ACC Network Extra (online)
Virginia Tech (13-4, 2-3) has a big game tonight inside Cassell Coliseum against Georgia Tech (11-6, 3-2). The Hokies are looking to get back on track after their home loss to Notre Dame, who remains unbeaten in ACC play.
— TechSideline.com (@TechSideline) January 18, 2017
A “Must Win” Game?
There’s really no such thing as a must-win game this early in conference play, but I highlighted the phrase in the title to this section to let you know how important tonight’s game truly is.
To understand the importance of the matchup with the Yellow Jackets, you have to look into the future at Virginia Tech’s upcoming games (AP rankings shown)…
@ #9 UNC
vs. Boston College
@ #16 UVA
vs. #16 UVA
@ #12 Louisville
Six of Virginia Tech’s next eight games are on the road, including four of their next five after the Georgia Tech game. Four of those games are against ranked opponents, and three of those are on the road. That stretch is going to be brutal.
Would you rather go into that stretch with a 2-4 ACC record coming off two straight home losses to Notre Dame and Georgia Tech? Or would you rather head to Clemson with a 3-3 record in conference play? The answer is obvious. The Hokies can’t afford to drop a home game against a team they are heavily favored to beat.
Georgia Tech: Improved in Conference Play
Outside of an overtime win at VCU, non-conference play did not go particularly well for Josh Pastner, Georgia Tech’s new head coach. The Jackets dropped home games to Ohio and in-state rival Georgia. They also lost at Penn State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, and they were blown out by Tennessee.
Things have gone much better in ACC play. Georgia Tech upset North Carolina to start league play, and that remains the Tar Heels’ only conference loss. The Yellow Jackets have also knocked off Clemson at home (75-63) and defeated NC State in Raleigh (86-76). Their two defeats came at the hands of Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium (110-57) and Louisville at home (65-50).
Overall, Georgia Tech has played better basketball since the ACC schedule opened. They’ve won two games in a row, and they are coming off that road win at NC State. This is a confident basketball team that will be looking to push their ACC record to 4-2. They’ve been one of the surprise teams in the ACC since the calendar flipped to 2017, and they want to keep the momentum going.
Eight different players have started games for Josh Pastner so far this season. According to Georgia Tech’s game notes, here are their projected starters for tonight’s game.
- G Josh Heath (6-2, 175, Sr.): 5.5 ppg, 1.8 rpg. Heath is a veteran guard who is the son of former USF head coach Stan Heath. He had 10 points and a career-high 10 assists in Georgia Tech’s win over NC State.
- G Justin Moore (6-4, 162, Fr.): 6.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg. Moore leads Georgia Tech in assists, averaging 3.5 per game. He’s only attempted six three-pointers all season, making just one, which indicates that he’s not usually a threat from the outside.
- F Josh Okogie (6-5, 207, Fr.): 14.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg. The Georgia native has begun his college career on a high note. He is the second-leading scorer on the team, and he is also tops on the team in steals.
- F Quinton Stephens (6-9, 196, Sr.): 10.6 ppg, 7.6 rpg. Stephens is a long, lengthy player who can step out and make open jumpers. However, he’s shooting just 35% from the field this year, which indicates that his shot selection might not always be good.
- C Ben Lammers (6-10, 227, Jr.): 15.1 ppg, 9.9 rpg. Lammers is third in the NCAA in blocks per game at 3.29. He has nine double-doubles this year. He will be a difficult matchup for Virginia Tech.
The Yellow Jackets have played better basketball since they shortened their bench and inserted Josh Heath into the starting lineup. They should play seven or eight players against the Hokies tonight, but it would not be a surprise to see four of their five starters play around 35 minutes. We’ll see how that plays against Virginia Tech’s 8-man rotation, which at times is basically a 7-man rotation depending on how much Ty Outlaw plays.