By Andy Demetra | Voice of the Yellow Jackets
The last time Georgia Tech and Florida State met in Greensboro at the ACC Tournament, the confetti fell and Tech raised its first conference title since 1993.
The Yellow Jackets and Seminoles won’t meet Tuesday to close the tournament, but rather to open it – though Tech will aim for the same outcome as that March night at Greensboro Coliseum.
Georgia Tech (14-17, 6-14 ACC) ended the regular season looking nothing like the team that began it. And certainly not like the team that took the floor two months ago to the day in Tallahassee, when they fell 75-64 to Florida State (9-22, 7-13 ACC). A 6-2 finish to the regular season, including a grind-it-out win over Boston College, has given Tech a confidence that’s completely unbecoming for a 13-seed in the ACC Tournament.
“We’ve had to reinvent ourselves in a way,” head coach Josh Pastner said.
They won’t try to reinvent what’s brought them success of late. It won’t earn them a confetti shower. But another game in Greensboro will gladly do. Enjoy the top notes from my chart as the Yellow Jackets open the curtain on 2023 ACC Tournament (2 p.m. ET, Georgia Tech Sports Network from Legends Sports):
Tech’s turnover rate this season is its best on record. (photo by Danny Karnik)
Their three-point barrage got the most attention. But in the cauldron of intensity that was Conte Forum, Georgia Tech did a terrific job playing with ball toughness on offense. Boston College came in ranked second in the ACC in turnover rate in conference play (17.9%). The Yellow Jackets only committed five turnovers, none in the second half.
Turnover Rate (ACC only)
- Boston College: 17.9%
- vs. Georgia Tech: 7.5%
Like BC, Florida State likes to swarm paint touches and use their length to agitate for steals. They also switch every ball screen (and go over the top when they do, a rarity for teams that play that way). That switching and swarming has a downside though: the Seminoles allowed 40.6-percent three-point shooting in ACC play this year, the highest average in the league.
For a Tech team that’s made double-digit threes in three straight games for the first time since 2002, that stat could have them salivating. Can the Jackets skip and re-attack, avoid pick-six turnovers, and be sharp in “play after the play” situations to get FSU scrambling? While Kyle Sturdivant has deserved praise for his clutch shooting, don’t overlook the play of Deebo Coleman. The sophomore, who has handled more point guard responsibilities in the absence of Deivon Smith, has 11 assists and only 1 turnover over his last two games. Pastner called him the MVP of last week.
Turnovers became an official NCAA statistic in 1992-93. Georgia Tech’s media guide has tracked them since at least 1986-87, when the Yellow Jackets committed six in a non-conference game against SMU.
In a 35-year span from 1987-2022, Georgia Tech committed five or fewer turnovers in a game seven times.
|Fewest turnovers in game – Since 1986-87
Georgia Tech has done it five times this year alone (Utah, Alabama State, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Boston College).
Florida State lurches into the postseason having lost six of its last seven, but its lone win was an eye-opener. On February 25 at the Watsco Center, the Seminoles rallied from a 25-point deficit to upset conference champion Miami, breaking the ACC record for largest comeback.
That game – not to mention their win over Tech in Tallahassee – should give fans an insight into FSU’s firepower. Six-foot-7 sophomore Matthew Cleveland (14.0 ppg) had 21 points and 12 rebounds against Tech, showing an ability to get downhill from the elbows and sink soft jumpers from the short corners. He’s also terrific at single-handedly starting fast breaks with defensive rebounds. Guard Caleb Mills (13.2 ppg) is a loping slasher who had 27 points against Boston College in February; he’s only made four of his last 23 three-pointers but buried three confidence-boosting treys in the first half against Tech. Guard Darin Green Jr. (13.5 ppg) leads the ACC in three-pointers (88) and caught fire in the second half, scoring all 18 of his points after halftime. He’s a deep-range shooter whom Tech can’t afford to lose in its mixing defenses.
One X-factor to pay attention to Tuesday: 7-4 Naheem McLeod only logged two minutes in the Seminoles’ season-ending loss to Virginia Tech. After Tech raced out to a 16-7 lead in January, Leonard Hamilton inserted McLeod into the lineup. The ACC’s tallest player immediately changed the geometry of the halfcourt – though he only finished with seven points and four rebounds, McLeod’s +13 plus-minus was the highest on the team. He also had a then-career high 10 points against Tech last season. Could he be ticketed for more minutes in Greensboro?
Ja’von Franklin cost himself another double-double but helped BC fans get free food when he missed two free throws in the final minute. (photo by Danny Karnik)
Florida State’s Baba Miller, a 6-11 freshman from Mallorca, Spain, served the final game of a 16-game suspension against Tech in January. Regarded as one of the top international recruits in college basketball, he’s averaged 4.3 points on 48-percent shooting since his return.
Miller may be new to the scouting report, but he won’t be unfamiliar to Tech freshman Freds Pauls Bagatskis. The two played each other for the past several years in Spain (Bagatskis spent his high school years at an academy in Valencia).
Miller adds to a Florida State lineup that ranks second in the nation in average height according to KenPom. That hasn’t always manifested itself in stingy defense – the Seminoles rank 13th in the ACC in defensive efficiency – but Georgia Tech shot a dreary 42 percebt from two-point range in Tallahassee. Can Miles Kelly handle that length better as well? The ACC Player of the Week exploded for 16 of Georgia Tech’s first 23 points, but he didn’t score for the final 32:34 of the game.
Ja’von Franklin had Boston College fans feeling both defeated and delighted Saturday.
The grad transfer ripped off another strong stat line in Chestnut Hill, becoming the first Jacket to pull down 15 rebounds in back-to-back games since Charles Mitchell in 2016. He had a chance at a third straight double-double, but a pair of missed free throws with 17 seconds remaining left Franklin just short.
The Jackets led by eight at the time, meaning the outcome was no longer in doubt. Yet when Franklin toed the line for his second foul shot, Conte Forum erupted into an ear-splitting wall of noise.
“I was wondering why they were getting so loud,” Franklin told me afterwards.
Here’s the reason, Ja’von. Boston College has a promotion where if an opposing player misses two straight free throws, everyone in attendance gets an order of free bacon cheese fries.
Thanks to Franklin, Eagles fans trudged out of Conte Forum with a loss. But thanks to Franklin, at least they could eat their feelings.
Now that we’re prepared, we hope you are as well. Join us for pregame coverage starting at 1:30 p.m. ET on the Georgia Tech Sports Network from Legends Sports. See you in Greensboro. Let’s stay awhile.
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ABOUT GEORGIA TECH MEN’S BASKETBALL
Georgia Tech’s men’s basketball team has completed six seasons under head coach Josh Pastner, winning the Atlantic Coast Conference championship in 2021 and making its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 11 years. Tech has been a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference since 1979, won four ACC Championships (1985, 1990, 1993, 2021), played in the NCAA Tournament 17 times and played in two Final Fours (1990, 2004). Connect with Georgia Tech Men’s Basketball on social media by liking their Facebook Page, or following on Twitter (@GTMBB) and Instagram. For more information on Tech basketball, visit Ramblinwreck.com.