Feb. 19, 2017
By Andy Demetra | Georgia Tech Radio
– “Lethal Weapon 3” meets “Lethal Weapon 2-3” at McCamish Sunday.
On a day when Georgia Tech’s “Lethal Weapon 3” trio of Dennis Scott, Kenny Anderson and Brian Oliver reunite, the Yellow Jackets will try to pay them tribute by shooting through Syracuse’s famed 2-3 zone. Here are the five best notes from my chart in preparation for the first of two late-season matchups between the Yellow Jackets and Orange (6:30 p.m. EST, Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network).
First, the bad news: Syracuse’s zone practically requires teams to make three-pointers. Among major-conference schools, no team forces opponents into attempting a higher volume of threes than the Orange (43.3% of all FGA).
That may not bode well for Georgia Tech, especially in light of what happened Wednesday. Against a Miami team that played more zone than usual, the Jackets – last in the ACC in three-point percentage – hoisted a 3 on 44.2 percent of their attempts, easily surpassing their season-high.
Now the good news: Syracuse’s zone favors teams that move the ball well. On that, the Yellow Jackets excel: Tech ranks ninth nationally with a 63.3 percent assist rate on its field goal. Syracuse ranks last in the country in opponent assist rate.
Georgia Tech offense – 63.3% assist rate (9th in NCAA)
Syracuse defense – 68.7 percent assist rate against (351st in NCAA)
Furthermore, against teams that rank in the Top 50 nationally in assist rate, Syracuse is 0-3, with losses to Notre Dame, Georgetown and Pittsburgh.
Can the Jackets use their ball rotation to stay in character, and not get sucked into a three point-shooting contest against the Orange? Lammers, with his ability to both score and distribute from the high post, could be a key fulcrum in Georgia Tech’s offense Sunday. That game against Miami may have also provided the Yellow Jackets with an unsuspecting test kitchen. When describing it in our pre-game interview Wednesday, head coach Josh Pastner told me the Hurricanes play a 2-3 zone “sort of like Syracuse’s 2-3.”
At long last, Kellen McCormick will have his shot at revenge. The Yellow Jackets’ graduate transfer played against Syracuse in the first round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament while a member of Western Michigan. McCormick finished with six points, two rebounds and two assists in a 77-53 loss. With three-pointers potentially at a premium Sunday, could McCormick see an expanded role off the bench?
Syracuse guard Andrew White III is a third, wears No. 3, and – surprise – heaves a lot of threes. The 6-6 grad transfer from Nebraska leads the Orange in scoring (17.9 points per game) while also connecting on the most threes in the ACC. Along with quicksilver point guard John Gillon (10.7 ppg), the Orange have a backcourt duo that feed off each other well.
In their win over Boston College last week, the Yellow Jackets did a good job identifying the Eagles’ top long-range threat, Jordan Chatman, and staying attached to him throughout the game. After shooting a season-worst 2 of 14 from three against Louisville Monday, White will look to get reinvigorated. He’ll get his buckets Sunday; key for Tech is making sure those shots are consistently contested.
White also has some underlying family connections to Atlanta and Georgia Tech. His father played at Morehouse, while his younger brother Andrien plays for former Yellow Jacket Mark Price at Charlotte.
It may not favor a reluctant three-point shooting team like Georgia Tech, but the numbers suggest Syracuse’s 2-3 has lost some of its teeth this year:
2013 – 86.7 points allowed/100 possessions (7th in NCAA)
2014 – 92.5 points allowed per 100 possessions (13th)
2015 – 92.1 points allowed per 100 possessions (19th)
2016 – 93.0 points allowed per 100 possessions (17th)
2017 – 100.6 points allowed per 100 possessions (92nd)
The 2-3 can also leave teams susceptible to offensive rebounds. The Orange currently ranks 335th in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage. The Yellow Jackets only managed two offensive rebounds against Miami, four against BC. For a team with limited offensive skill, that puts them on dangerously thin margins. Look for Tech to make a more concerted effort to crash the glass, particularly from the backcourt – in their last three ACC games, Jacket guards have only grabbed three offensive rebounds combined.
Finally, a long-ago quote from a visitor to McCamish Sunday:
“They were the only school really pushing it. They were really on their P’s and Q’s. I got letters every day, left and right. Last week there were at least 20 letters just from Tech. From everybody. The whole Georgia Tech was sending letters.” -“Lethal Weapon 3” member Kenny Anderson, talking to The New York Times in 1998, on Georgia Tech’s pursuit of him after he took his official visit to Syracuse. Anderson chose Tech over Syracuse. Sunday’s game could serve as a “This Is Your Life” moment for the Yellow Jacket legend.
Now that you’re prepared, we hope you are as well. Our pregame coverage starts at 6 p.m. EST on the Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network. See you at McCamish.