Previewing Georgia Tech's Wednesday night matchup with N.C. State in Raleigh, N.C. The game will tip off at 8 p.m. on the ACC Network (WATL in Atlanta) and streamed on ESPN3.
Player to watch
N.C. State point guard Anthony “Cat” Barber is the one player whom the Jackets will need to slow down. Barber leads the ACC in scoring at 22.1 points per game. He is exceptional at getting to the free-throw line, a noted problem for the Jackets. He has taken 162 free throws in 20 games, a total that was tied for sixth nationally after Monday’s games. (Marcus Georges-Hunt was tied for 50th at 127.)
“He’s just an unbelievable player because he can hurt you in so many different ways,” coach Brian Gregory said. “He’s got unbelievable quickness, shooting the ball extremely well.”
Gregory said that multiple guards will take turns defending him, including Tadric Jackson and presumably Josh Heath, Travis Jorgenson and Marcus Georges-Hunt.
“I think when it comes to defending him, you need to try to keep him off balance as much as possible,” Gregory said.
If you’re wondering, the nickname does not come from his quickness, but from his childhood. Barber evidently liked climbing onto the kitchen counter to procure oatmeal cream pies. One time he did it, but stepped on the stove and burned his foot, prompting his mother to tell him to stop climbing around “like a little cat.” Barber’s sister started calling him Cat, and it stuck.
One area where Tech could exploit N.C. State is with its depth. The Jackets go 10 deep in players who average at least 13.7 minutes per game. N.C. State goes seven deep, all averaging 23 minutes or more. Barber is averaging 38.5 minutes per game, second in the country.
Barber has played seven games in which he never came out, including an overtime loss to Virginia Tech.
Gregory is 1-5 against N.C. State, the only win coming in the first ACC road game of his career. The last two have been particularly painful. Tech lost in Jan. 2014 in overtime in Raleigh, N.C. after leading by 11 at the 15-minute mark. The Jackets had chances to win in the final seconds of regulation and overtime with 3-point tries, but both were off the mark.
Last year, Tech led by six at the 7:38 mark of the second half but went to overtime. With 4.7 seconds remaining in overtime, Quinton Stephens had two free throws to give the Jackets a virtually insurmountable four-point lead but missed both, giving the Wolfpack the stage to hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Trevor Lacey to win 81-80. Tech fans will be pleased to know that Lacey is
The Jackets need to get guard Adam Smith scoring again. After a scorching (and probably unsustainable) start to the ACC season, when he averaged 20.3 points with 22-for-43 (51.2 percent) shooting from 3-point range, Smith has 17 points in the past two games and has made 2 of 12 3-point tries. It’s his poorest two-game total this season.
The Wolfpack may help. Defending the 3-pointer doesn’t appear to be their bag – N.C. State is ranked 310th in the country in defensive 3-point field-goal percentage at 37.5 percent.
Forward Charles Mitchell has also had a more difficult time scoring (not surprisingly) since ACC play began. Mitchell was averaging 12.8 points on 58.4 percent shooting from the field. He’s now at 9.2 points per game at 41.7 percent shooting in six ACC games.
Georges-Hunt, on the other hand, has gone the other way. In the non-conference, he was averaging 14.5 points per game and shot 42.3 percent. In the ACC, he’s at 18.7 and 49.3 percent.
Four factors review
If you've been reading the recaps, you hopefully saw that I've started to include a review of the four factors (four statistical categories deemed critical to winning. You can read about it here.). I thought it might be worth looking at the Jackets' numbers after six ACC games.
eFG - effective field-goal percentage, which proportionately values 3-point baskets into field-goal percentage
TO - turnover rate. Turnovers per possession.
OReb - offensive rebounding rate. Offensive rebounds divided by all available rebounds.
FT/FG - Free throws per field-goal attempt, which measures how effective a team is at getting to the free-throw line.
Effective field-goal percentage is basically a wash, though the breakdown is a little different. Tech’s opponents, though, are shooting 51 percent on two-point field-goal attempts. The Jackets are shooting 44.2 percent. From 3-point range, due in no small part to Smith’s marksmanship, Tech is hitting 39.2 percent of its 3-pointers. The opposition has made 27.3 percent.
The difference in turnover percentage works out to about 1.5 turnovers per game. The Jackets’ rate is a considerable improvement from last season, when they were at 19.0 for the entire year. Tech is No. 10 nationally, according to teamrankings.com.
Once again, Tech has had a pretty strong advantage in offensive rebound percentage as Mitchell continues to dominate the offensive glass. The Jackets are plus-23 in second-chance points compared to their ACC opponents.
Free-throw rate is where the Jackets are getting flogged. The 51 percent rate that Tech opponents have produced is extremely high. Virginia Tech (whom the Jackets faced) leads the country at 51.1 percent. Dealing with that sort of disadvantage, on average, on a game-by-game basis is a bit of a killer. Gregory said last week that his staff keeps a hustle board with stats like loose balls won, charges taken, second-chance points and the like. Gregory said that, typically, his team wins 90 percent of the games when it wins the hustle board.
“The one outlier is always free throws,” he said. “This year, (the winning percentage) is about 60 percent, and It’s all due to the free-throw situation.”