March 7, 2017
By Andy Demetra | Georgia Tech Radio
– It might be terra incognita for the ACC Tournament, but Georgia Tech and New York City have a storied history together. Kenny Anderson was a schoolboy legend in Queens. Stephon Marbury announced his commitment to Tech at Junior’s in Brooklyn. Two decades on the Flats did little to soften the Bronx lilt in Bobby Cremins’ voice.
Something about Georgia Tech and New York City, where the Yellow Jackets open up the 2017 ACC Tournament Tuesday, just feels right. They’ll try to honor that tradition when they face 14-seed Pittsburgh (15-16, 4-14 ACC) at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, their NCAA Tournament hopes intact but in need of work.
As the Yellow Jackets and Panthers brace for a rematch, here are my five favorite notes from my chart in preparation for tonight (7 p.m. EST, Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network):
Which team attempts the highest volume of threes in the ACC? Surprise – it’s the Panthers, who let it fly on 39 percent of their field goal attempts. Much like Kevin Stallings’ teams at Vanderbilt, Pitt has four willing three-point shooters lurking on the floor at any time. Even 6-9 Michael Young (19.9 ppg), whom the Panthers typically play at the “5,” attempted four threes in the game at McCamish.
Pitt has lost four straight games, including a desultory 67-42 loss to Virginia over the weekend. An early flurry of threes, though, could do wonders for its confidence (see: NC State). Tech was also buried by 15 threes against Syracuse Saturday. The Jackets will have to be strong in their ball-screen coverages and recover hard on the Panthers’ outside shooters. Pay close attention to 6-8 Cameron Johnson (11.8 ppg), who has made 46 percent of his threes over the last 10 games.
With Josh Heath hampered by three first-half fouls, freshman Justin Moore saw extended playing time against Syracuse, logging four points in 17 minutes. He’ll likely remember the trip for something else: on Saturday morning, as the team boarded its bus for shootaround, the San Diego native touched snow for the first time in his life.
It may seem odd that a 14th-place team has a formidable one-two scoring punch. Yet Pitt has that in Young (19.9 ppg) and 6-7 senior Jamel Artis (18.4 ppg), both of whom rank in the top six in the ACC in scoring. Young, whom assistant Eric Reveno describes as a “Swiss Army knife,” is a versatile hybrid who can post up smaller defenders or pick-and-pop against taller ones. He also attempts 32.8 percent of his team’s overall shots, the highest percentage of anyone in the ACC. Artis, who occasionally runs the point, is a rugged playmaker but coming off a season-low four points against Virginia.
Both Young and Artis scored their points against Georgia Tech last week. The Yellow Jackets did a good job, though, of forcing them to earn their points inefficiently: the pair needed 27 shots to score 28 points. The Jackets also limited Pitt to 10 free throw attempts, half their season average. Can Tech’s switching defenses coax another inefficient stat line out of the Panthers’ gifted scoring combo? And can they do another good job shrinking the floor in the halfcourt, forcing Pitt to “see bodies” when searching for driving lanes?
Two areas that could benefit Tech Tuesday: Pitt finished last in the ACC in steals (4.0) and allowed 38 percent of its opponents’ field goal attempts to come at the rim, among the highest figures in the league. The Yellow Jackets have struggled with turnovers lately, and their lack of punch from outside has been well-documented.
On his call-in show Monday, Josh Pastner said his team also needs to renew its commitment to offensive rebounding. In its last four games, Tech’s offensive rebounding percentage has fallen well short of its season average: Last 4 games: 22.6% Season: 28.6% Stickbacks and free throw trips can be a valuable cheat code for a team that’s not high-powered offensively. The numbers suggest teams can get to the basket against the Panthers (perhaps it’s no surprise that Ben Lammers scored a game-high 20 last week). Can Tech do it more consistently on Tuesday?
Pitt’s reserve point guard might ring a bell. Panthers sophomore Damon Wilson, a Powder Springs, Ga., native, is the son of former Georgia Tech football player Damon Wilson. Damon Sr., wore No. 84 for the Jackets in the early 1990’s. Wilson’s sister, Dominique, plays basketball at NC State and faced the Jackets earlier this year. Wilson might see more playing time with the dismissal last week of backup guard Justice Kithcart.
Now that we’re prepared, we hope you are as well. Our pregame coverage starts at 6:30 p.m. EST on the Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network. Hopefully it’s the first of many games in Brooklyn this week. See you at the Barclays Center.