Georgia Tech Basketball: Next Three Games Will be Very Telling for Yellow Jackets

Georgia Tech Basketball

After opening up ACC conference play with  .500 record, Georgia Tech’s next three game stretch will be very telling for where the Yellow Jackets truly lye in the conference.

For the second time this season and the second time in less than a month, Georgia Tech has a string of games with three ranked opponents.

While they won’t face three straight top ten opponents like they did with UNC, Duke, and Louisville, the Yellow Jackets will have a mighty task ahead of them. Over the course of seven days, the Yellow Jackets will take on 16th ranked Virginia, 10th ranked Florida State, and 15th ranked Notre Dame.

For the Yellow Jackets it won’t be easy by any standard as the three ACC foes have a combined record of 45-9 overall and 14-4 in conference play.

The good news however is after the three game stretch, they will have faced the currently six top teams in the ACC and will only have to face Notre Dame again in the regular season. Allowing them to potentially rebound against the bottom half of the ACC if they falter through the next three games.

With all that being said, the upcoming stretch will be a very telling stretch of games for the the Yellow Jackets of where they are going forward both short term and long term.

If Georgia Tech can compete in the next three games like they have so far in ACC play, it would be a good sign for Josh Pasnters’ squad going forward. All three teams give their own unique challenges for the Yellow Jackets. Which will allow Pastners’ squad to grow in a variety of ways.

 NCAA Basketball: Virginia at Boston College

Jan.21st: @ Virginia Cavaliers

The 16th ranked Virginia Cavaliers will be the biggest challenge for the Yellow Jackets on offense. Entering Saturday, the Cavaliers have only allowed a nation leading average of 53.5 points per game. Opposing offenses are also shooting just 37.9% against the Cavaliers, the ninth lowest shooting percentage in the country. So far this season, Virginia has held 11 of 17 opponents under 60 points including three games where opponents scored less than 40.

That being said, while the Cavaliers specialty is their defense, their offense is highly efficient despite averaging just 70 points per game. Through 16 games, Virginia is shooting just under 50% on the season at 49.9%. While the primary focus should be figuring out how to get pass their defense, the Yellow Jackets can not by any means look past the Cavaliers offense.

If Josh Okogie wants to cement himself as the face of the program going forward, a strong game against Virginia would be a good start. Okogie has continuously played strong this season and being able to continue that against one of the best defenses in the country would be a strong confidence boost for him going forward.

While Okogie is one of the main players for the Yellow Jackets on offense, Saturday’s game against Virginia will also be important in the aspect of spreading the ball around to get the best scoring chances. If the Yellow Jackets can find a way to spread the ball around more it will allow them to gain better scoring chances and put up more points against teams such as Virginia.

If the Yellow Jackets can compete with Virginia defensively, keeping the Cavaliers on the lower end of their scoring abilities, will give Georgia Tech a quality chance at pulling out a win. However, putting up points against a defense like the Cavaliers is a challenge, therefore if the Yellow Jackets can score around 60-65 points, a win is very much possible, and would be a strong indicator of the program going forward.

NCAA Basketball: Notre Dame at Florida State

Jan.25th: vs Florida State

Florida State overall will be the best team the Yellow Jackets face in this three game stretch and most likely in all of the regular season (at the time of the game). As of the date of being published, the Seminoles have the 13th highest scoring offense in the country. Averaging 86.5 points per game, the Seminoles have relied heavily on their offensive play so far in ACC conference play. In their five ACC wins this season, the Seminoles are averaging 82.4 points per game and while allowing 72 points per game, just a tad above their season average.

The good news for the  Yellow Jackets potentially going into next week’s game against Florida State is that the Seminoles will be coming off six consecutive games against ranked opponents. Which could make the game a potential trap game for Florida State.

That being said, Florida State will challenge the Yellow Jackets defensively. The Yellow Jackets who have at times struggled against top of the line offenses could have a fit with the Seminoles. However, if they could figure out a way to keep the Seminoles out of the paint and force more outside shots, it will be a great sign of the teams defensive capabilities going forward. While the Seminoles are a quality three point shooting team, outside are the lower percentage shot.

Another major focus for the Yellow Jackets will be trying to shut down a team’s top offensive threat(s). This has been a struggle at times for the Yellow Jackets. For example, against Virginia Tech, the Yellow Jackets despite a strong firs half performance defensively allowed Zach LeDay and Seth Allen to have 24 combined points in the second half. Both players had 12 points in the second half after just five each in the first.

When going up against Florida State, Georgia Tech will need to find a way to stop guard Dwayne Bacon who’s averaged 17.4 points per game. Too many times this season the Yellow Jackets have failed to lock down top scorers, often allowing easy baskets. While a win isn’t expected against Florida State, the Yellow Jacket will need to make progress on such a defensive aspect if they wish to compete in the ACC going forward.

NCAA Basketball: Notre Dame at Florida State

Jan.28th: vs #15 Notre Dame

While Florida State may be the best team the Yellow Jackets face, the most difficult test may be their last in Notre Dame for several reasons. The first major reason is the Yellow Jackets by the time of the game could be physically and emotionally gassed. Near the end of the Louisville game a few weeks, it was clear that the Yellow Jackets “ran out of gas” down the stretch, eventually allowing the Cardinals to pull away.

The second reason that the Fighting Irish will be the hardest test for the Yellow Jackets is that their the deepest of the three teams talent wise especially on offense. Currently, four Notre Dame players are averaging double-digit points, with the lowest being 13.9 points per game.

Notre Dame this season is just  few lays away from being 15-2 or 16-1. A talented team, the Irish at one point had a nearly 20 point lead on #1 ranked Villanova before the Wildcats fought back and eventually pulled out a victory.

That being said, the Irish are one of the most dangerous teams in the country and a lot of the credit can be given to dynamic junior guard Matt Farrell. So far this season, Farrell has averaged 14.2 points per game and five and half assists per game. He has only failed to be in double digits for points four times this season.

The major key to look for against Notre Dame for the Yellow Jackets will be resiliency. Notre Dame provides a team that is almost a perfect mixture of Virginia and Florida State. Therefore, in that aspect, it’s a game that will offer the best measuring stick of where the Yellow Jackets stand in the ACC.

Notre Dame is a team that can be strong on defense and can light up their oppositions defenses. The Irish are a team that offensively will score in bunches and metaphorically throw punches throughout the game. The Yellow Jackets this season is a team that has shown plenty of heart and grit. That being said, they do struggle when down a considerable margin, which is expected.

However, for a program in the midst of a rebuild or retool, forming a team identity is key in the first few years. If the Yellow Jackets can continue to build that heart and grit personality and become a more resilient team, the future of the program become much brighter.

While not a physical aspect of the game, the mental aspect of the game is almost as important if not more important for a program like Georgia Tech’s going forward.

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