Feb. 17, 2018
By Andy Demetra
– Tadric Jackson has had several hallmark moments at McCamish Pavilion.
The upset of No. 4 Virginia his sophomore year. His buzzer-beating layup versus Northwestern earlier this season. His assist on Josh Okogie’s buzzer-beating layup against Notre Dame last season. His career-high 29 points against Boston College. His 1,000th career point last month against Syracuse.
Saturday’s game against Virginia Tech (18-8, 7-6 ACC) will rank right alongside them. For the first and only time in his Tech career, Jackson will square off against his younger brother, Tyrie “Pig” Jackson, a redshirt freshman guard for Virginia Tech. Tyrie has appeared in 22 games off the bench for the Hokies, averaging 3.0 points. Tyrie and Tadric both wear the number 1.
Jackson told me family, friends and fans from their native Tifton, Ga., have chartered three buses to travel to Atlanta and watch them play (Virginia Tech freshman P.J. Horne is also a Tifton native). Also, you read that correctly: Tyrie goes by the nickname “Pig.” Back home, nobody calls him anything else. According to Tadric, his family gave him that name because “he was chubby and he always came into the house looking dirty.”
Family loyalties will be temporarily suspended Saturday as Jackson and the Yellow Jackets (11-15, 4-9 ACC) look to snap a four-game ACC losing skid. Enjoy the top five notes from my chart in preparation for game day at sold-out McCamish (12 p.m. EST, Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network):
Tadric Jackson told me family, friends and fans have filled 3 charter buses from his hometown of Tifton, Ga., to come to today's game. Tadric's younger brother Tyrie plays for VT, as does another Tifton product in P.J Horne.
— Andy Demetra (@AndyDemetra) February 17, 2018
For a team that has languished defensively lately, Virginia Tech offers yet another tricky matchup. The Hokies bring in similar numbers to when they faced Tech last season in Blacksburg:
PPG 82.6 82.5
3pt.% 39.4 39.6
The most impressive number: Virginia Tech ranks sixth in the nation in two-point field goal percentage (56.4 pct.). They shoot plenty well from long range, too: the Hokies also have 13 games with 10 or more three-pointers.
Head coach Buzz Williams believes in “switchables,” those position-less players who can weave interchangeably throughout an offense. The Hokies are adept at stretching the floor and running to their spots, and they love to generate offense through their speed in transition. Key for Georgia Tech: locate shooters early, shut off secondary fast breaks (after the initial fast break is stopped but before a defense can set up), and deny dribble penetration. The Hokies also have several players who will be looking to rejuvenate their three-point shooting Saturday:
Virginia Tech shooting slumps
Season 3pt.% Slump
Justin Robinson 38.1% 4 for last 16
Ahmed Hill 42.1% 2 for last 19
Kerry Blackshear 37.8% 1 for last 10
Robinson managed just five points against Duke, but had averaged almost 25 in his previous three games.
If you believe in the idea that teams come in hungrier after a loss, then the Yellow Jackets have had some rotten luck lately. Virginia Tech represents the fifth straight opponent that will face Georgia Tech following a loss. After upsetting then-No. 2 (and now-No. 1) Virginia in Charlottesville, the Hokies were swamped by Duke Wednesday, 74-52.
The Yellow Jackets have only led for 1:06 in the first half of their last three games. In their prior three games, they only trailed for 1:12. Can Tech latch onto an early rhythm against a Virginia Tech team (RPI: 59) that knows it can’t afford a bad loss if it wants to keep its NCAA Tournament ambitions on solid ground?
The silver linings may have felt scarce against Wake Forest, but Georgia Tech did have its best two-point shooting percentage of ACC play (21 of 34, 61.8%).
Earlier this year I asked Josh Okogie to compare himself to a current NBA player. With his shooting, rebounding, versatile defense, and ability to wear out the nail at the free throw line, Okogie has a skill set that’s hard to pigeonhole.
Okogie answered with current Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jimmy Butler… who was coached at Marquette by Buzz Williams.
As dynamic as the Hokies can be offensively – they’ve racked up wins over North Carolina and Virginia – they’re also prone to lapses on defense.
Virginia Tech (conference games only)
FG% defense – 45.7% (#12 ACC)
3pt.% defense – 39.8% (#15 ACC)
That last stat may not favor a Georgia Tech team that ranks last in the ACC in three-point shooting. But if the Yellow Jackets want to match serve against the Hokies’ souped-up offense, they may be well-served to hit the boards. Virginia Tech has been outscored by 51 in second chance points over its last seven games, including an 18-2 rout against Duke.
The Hokies prioritize mobility over size in their forwards, which in turn has given them the smallest average frontcourt height in the ACC. Six-foot-10 Kerry Blackshear, Jr., (12.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg) has a game that’s vaguely European, while Chris Clarke (8.5 ppg, 6.9 rpg), a ferocious floor runner and offensive rebounder, only stands 6-6. Can players like Okogie, Ben Lammers, A.D. Gueye and Evan Cole hustle their way into stickbacks? Pay attention to Gueye and Cole’s ability to run the floor in defensive transition – it may be crucial against the Hokies’ mobile bigs.
Now that we’re prepared, we hope you are as well. Join us for pregame coverage starting at 11:30 a.m. EST on the Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network. See you at McCamish. –AD–