March 19, 2017
By Andy Demetra | Georgia Tech Radio
– Josh Pastner is betting dollars to donuts that Georgia Tech will win its school-record 17th home game.
Literally. The Yellow Jackets’ head coach has once again sprung for student tickets for Sunday’s second-round NIT game with Belmont at McCamish Pavilion. He’s bought 150 dozen Krispy Kreme donuts for fans to sate their appetite before the noon tip-off (Krispy Kreme has donated another 150 dozen).
Pastner hopes the sugar and savings will lead to another super-charged atmosphere at McCamish, where the Yellow Jackets (18-15) will play for a spot in the NIT quarterfinals. The Bruins (23-6, 15-1 OVC) have been a March mainstay, advancing to seven NCAA Tournaments in the past 12 seasons. A semifinal loss in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament foiled their chances this year, but winning in the postseason has become embedded in the culture at Belmont. So has winning on the road: the Bruins racked up an NCAA-leading 10 straight road wins earlier this season.
Bring your appetite. Here are my top five notes from my chart in preparation for Sunday’s matchup at McCamish (12 p.m. EST, Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network):
In many ways the Bruins resemble Notre Dame: hard-nosed, stocked with veterans, and with four three-point shooters surrounding an undersized, ultra-efficient post player. Belmont will launch threes ruthlessly: 52.7 percent of the Bruins’ field goal attempts come from three-point range, the second-highest percentage in the nation. Point guard Austin Luke averages the second most assists in the country (7.1) behind UCLA’s Lonzo Ball. On the perimeter, Dylan Windler (41.7 pct. 3pt.), 6-8 Amanze Ekegeze (38.9 pct. 3pt.), Virginia transfer Taylor Barnette, and stretch-four Nick Smith (10 for 13 from three in a win over UT-Martin this year) will look to launch off skip passes and kickouts.
Belmont from 3pt. range
3ptrs./game: 10.1 (No. 7 NCAA)
3pt. Rate: 52.7 (No. 2 NCAA)
Then there’s 6-7 Evan Bradds, a two-time OVC Player of Year rated by KenPom.com as the No. 5 most efficient player in the country. At 20.2 points per game (63.3 pct. FG), Bradds has the highest scoring average of any player the Yellow Jackets have faced this year. Like Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson, Bradds is a superb roll man to the rim, using his craftiness and competitiveness to create angles against taller defenders. He and Luke like to team up on a flat middle ball screen on many of Belmont’s halfcourt sets.
Not surprisingly, the keys for the Yellow Jackets might be the same as the ones versus Notre Dame or Indiana. Stay alert on the weak side. Don’t get sucked in – Belmont wants to put teams in rotation. Ben Lammers’ post defense against Indiana’s Thomas Bryant was a key ingredient of the Yellow Jackets’ first-round win on Tuesday. Without the need to send a second defender, Tech stayed in position against IU’s fleet of three-point shooters, leading to an uncharacteristic 26.3-percent shooting from long range. Can those same concepts apply against Belmont and its dangerous spacing?
Pay attention to the snowman Sunday.
Since the start of ACC play, Georgia Tech is 2-6 when its opponent makes eight or more three-pointers. When its opponent makes less than eight, they’re 7-5.
The number makes sense. The Yellow Jackets aren’t liable to get into a three-point shooting contest with opponents. The more a team connects from three, the harder it becomes for Tech – by its own admission not an explosive offense – to make up those extra points.
Belmont averages 10.1 three-pointers per game, seventh most in the country. Can the Yellow Jackets keep the Bruins behind the “eight” ball Sunday?
The Jackets closed practice Saturday with their typical free throw shooting at both ends of the floor. In the last two games, Tech has curiously been ice cold in the first half, followed by red hot in the second half.
Free Throw % – Last 2 games First Half: 37.5 pct. (6-16) Second Half: 90.5 pct. (19-21)
An encouraging sign at the end of the year: Georgia Tech has had consecutive season lows in turnovers, with only nine against Indiana. That figures to continue against the Bruins, whose steal rate ranks among the lowest the Yellow Jackets have faced this season. Pastner praised Josh Heath’s “simple, sound and solid” point guard play against the Hoosiers on Tuesday. Can he, Tadric Jackson and the rest of the Georgia Tech guards be strong with the ball, especially on their takes to the rim?
Now that we’re prepared, we hope you are as well. Our pregame coverage starts at 11:30 a.m. EST on the Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network. For the last time this season, see you at McCamish!