Georgia Tech-Notre Dame Preview
Though Mike Brey realizes ACC play will be a much tougher grind than the non-conference schedule Notre Dame just completed, his team should still be at an advantage Saturday when it hosts Georgia Tech.
The 14th-ranked Fighting Irish (13-1, 1-0) have arguably the most complete offense in the country, averaging a conference-best 86.1 points that also ranks third in Division I. Notre Dame’s biggest strength is a ruthless efficiency with the ball – its 55.4 percent overall shooting is 2.5 percentage points better than any other school and its effective field goal percentage of 64.1 on 2-point shots and 63.4 percent overall also are tops among Division I schools.
The 63.4 percent effective field goal percentage is the best by any team through 14 games since Air Force was clicking at a 64.2 percent clip in the 2006-07 season. The ball movement that generates most of the offense – the Irish are also among the nation’s leaders with a 1.71-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio – is something Brey is counting on for success.
”Our offensive efficiency is an unbelievable weapon for us,” Brey said. ”Even when we’re having defensive lapses or people are getting to us, our offensive efficiency has been excellent.”
It was on display again Tuesday as the Irish shot 53.2 percent and hit 13 of 30 from 3-point range in an 87-60 rout of Hartford. Demetrius Jackson scored 18 points as four players had 15 and Notre Dame improved to 11-0 at the Purcell Pavilion, where they have scored at least 75 in every game and outscoring opponents by 28.3 per contest.
”We’ve been winning by 25 and 30, but those days are over,” Brey said. ”We’re going to be in a lot of dog fights.”
That balance and guarding the perimeter will be areas of concern for Brian Gregory and Georgia Tech (9-3, 0-0). Opponents have shot 43.9 percent (29 for 66) from 3-point range in the Yellow Jackets’ defeats – well above their season mark of 28.3 percent – and the Irish enter shooting 44.9 percent (48 for 107) from beyond the arc and 54.8 percent overall in their last five games.
"I think every starter they have has led them in scoring so far this year," Gregory said. "There’s not a real weak spot in their game offensively. They shoot the ball well, they play great in transition, they finish at the rim, they go in the post when they want to go in the post … you have to be at the top of your game on the defensive end and you can’t allow your offense to create scoring opportunities for them on the other end."
If there’s one area Georgia Tech can exploit, it may be on the offensive glass. The Yellow Jackets had 17 second-chance points from 15 offensive rebounds in a 67-66 win Tuesday over Charlotte and rank third in the ACC at 14.7 offensive rebounds per game.
Marcus Georges-Hunt had a career-high 25 points but Georgia Tech has been prone to offensive struggles at times, averaging 66.8 points – ahead of only Clemson in the conference – and its 42.9 shooting percentage is also second-worst in the 15-team ACC.
The home team won both games last season, with Notre Dame victorious 65-62 in the most recent meeting Feb. 26. Pat Connaughton, who will become the 10th player in Irish history to start 100 games, had eight rebounds and six assists to offset 3-for-11 shooting and nine points.