Looking ahead to Georgia Tech's Saturday game at McCamish Pavilion against No. 17 Louisville at 4 p.m. Game will be broadcast on ESPN2 and online on ESPN3 and on the WatchESPN app.
1. At last check, Tech and Louisville were at the bottom of the ACC in free-throw differential, which I suspect hasn’t changed. In league plays, Tech is minus-64 (opponents are 119 for 149 and Tech is 55 for 85), and Louisville is minus-37 (opponents are 76-for-128 while Louisville is 64-for-91).
“So it’s going to be interesting to see what happens in this game,” coach Brian Gregory said.
The disparity has played a significant role in Tech’s 1-4 start; the Jackets were outshot 93-29 at the line in the four losses. Worse for Tech, the four teams made 80 of 93 (86 percent) while Tech was 15 for 29 (51.7 percent), which played a factor as all four games were decided by eight points or fewer.
During practice this week, Gregory was mindful of this, demanding better on-ball defense and help defense. He suggested players defending off the ball were relaxing, which caused them to not be ready to defend when the ball came to the player they were guarding.
“You have to almost, nowadays, develop the mentality, when you’re guarding the ball, you have to defend it as if there is not help, and then when you’re off the ball, you have to be ready to help guard the ball as if the guy guarding it can’t guard anybody,” he said.
2. That said, Gregory said he didn’t see a difference in the way the team has defended in the first half compared to the second half. I suspect in more private moments, he may have more pointed language for this strange development. In the four losses, opponent free throws increased 174 percent from the first half to the second half, while Tech’s free throw total declined by 24 percent.
“You can’t play not to play the way we’re supposed to play defensively,” he said. “We need to get better in some areas and keep chugging along with some of that stuff.”
The other part of the problem, though, is Tech not getting to the line more – by driving hard to the basket to create fouls, for instance – and not making free throws once there.
“We’re going to be going at these guys,” forward Quinton Stephens said of the Cardinals. “That’s what we’ve been working on; we’re going at one another, we’re working on our defense, but we’re working on our offense at the same time. It’s going to be a battle on Saturday.
3. As noted in my story for Saturday’s paper and myajc, Gregory had yet to make up his mind about the starting lineup.
“One thing we did with the week of practice (without a mid-week game), and you usually do it regardless of what’s going on, you wipe the slate clean and say, ‘O.K., whoever’s doing the things that we need you to do will earn the starting spot,’” Gregory said. “It’s good for the competiveness and so forth in practice.”
4. It’s not entirely apples-to-apples, but two end-of-game non-calls in the past week made for an interesting comparison. You may recall Tech guard Marcus Georges-Hunt trying to get a last-second shot off against Virginia Tech, but got a no call after contact just outside the 3-point arc in the 78-77 loss last Saturday.
In a similar situation, Duke’s Matt Jones tried to get a shot up in the last second of a 64-62 loss to Syracuse and also had contact, but no call was made.
After the game, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was incredulous, repeatedly suggesting the no call was “amazing.” After the Tech loss, I’m not sure Gregory was even asked about it. From my vantage point, it was a play that often goes uncalled, perhaps the officials taking a “let ’em play” posture on the last play of the game unless it’s egregious.
You can see the Georges-Hunt shot at around 57 seconds of the highlight package. The Duke shot is around 1:40.
5. Tech’s first five ACC opponents – North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Virginia, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech – have a combined 71-21 record (.772), the highest winning percentage for any ACC team's first five league opponents. Clemson is next at 85-27 (.759).
Clemson, however, was 4-1 against its first five opponents (loss to North Carolina, wins over Florida State, Syracuse, Louisville and Duke) followed by another win against Miami to move to 5-1. The last three were against ranked opponents, the first time in school history that Clemson has defeated three ranked opponents in succession.
They’re doing it, further, playing home games in Greenville’s Bon Secours Wellness Arena, about 40 minutes from campus. Littlejohn Coliseum is under a renovation similar to Tech’s transforming of Alexander Memorial Coliseum, courtesy of athletic director Dan Radakovich.
Interestingly, Clemson’s RPI is No. 89 at 12-7 and Tech is No. 61 at 11-7. Tech’s strength of schedule is No. 23, second among ACC teams, while Clemson’s is No. 79.