By Andy Demetra | Voice of the Yellow Jackets
Sound waves travel forward. But Georgia Tech (9-16, 2-13 ACC) would be wise to put the sound of referees’ whistles behind them.
After a controversial ending at Wake Forest, the Yellow Jackets know worrying about it is misplaced energy at this point. Not with another opportunity awaiting them at McCamish Pavilion against Virginia Tech (15-10, 5-9 ACC), whose precision offense will require their full attention. After a rough start, the Hokies have won four of their last six and have started to gain momentum for March.
Tech will try to generate a much better game-ending sound – the roar of McCamish cheering them on to victory – as they open a new week in the ACC. Enjoy the top notes from my chart before the Jackets and Hokies tip in Atlanta (7 p.m. ET, Georgia Tech Sports Network from Legends Sports):
Virginia Tech is a study in contrasts.
The Hokies were ranked 21st in the AP poll in mid-December.
They also sputtered to a 1-7 start in the ACC.
They have wins over Virginia, Duke and North Carolina.
They also didn’t collect a road win until Saturday, when they fended off Notre Dame 93-87.
Even sixth-year senior Justyn Mutts acknowledged, “We haven’t been playing to our abilities.” Despite a not-insurmountable NET ranking of 57, the Hokies may have to repeat as ACC Tournament champions if they want to earn a sixth straight NCAA Tournament appearance
Record aside, Virginia Tech still ranks an impressive 25th nationally in offensive efficiency. Grant Basile (16.3 ppg), a 6-9 transfer from Wright State, comes to McCamish having scored 33 points in back-to-back games. At 235 pounds he leverages defenders well, but he also has more range than his predecessor, All-ACC center Keve Aluma, hitting 44 percent of his three-point tries over his last four games).
Virginia Tech still runs a voluminous amount of halfcourt sets, all based on misdirection and “gamesmanship” according to Pastner. One of their favorite plays is a “Zoom” action, where a shooting guard comes around a pindown screen, then takes a handoff from the “5” man on the wing. Not only does it tax the guard who’s chasing around the pindown, teams can run all sorts of slips, counters and throwbacks out of that action. Virginia Tech uses Basile both as the pindown screener and in the handoff of their Zoom sets.
Head coach Mike Young surrounds Basile with polished shooters like sophomore Sean Pedulla (15.6 ppg) and senior Hunter Cattoor (10.6 ppg), both of whom move well and make the heady, “hockey assist” passes that can lead to open looks. The 6-7 Mutts (13.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 4.7 apg) is the ACC’s ultimate Swiss Army knife, a preseason second-team All-ACC forward who’s a terrific passer and post-up threat.
Among the keys for Tech Wednesday: Stay alert, make multiple effort plays, and avoid overhelping on Virginia Tech’s endless actions. Their zone defense has also bothered the Hokies in recent seasons. Can those mixing defenses throw off Virginia Tech’s precision and timing?
As a high school senior, Basile earned first-team all-state honors in Wisconsin while playing for his Dad, the head coach.
As a high school senior, Georgia Tech assistant Julian Swartz earned first-team all-state honors in Wisconsin while playing for his Dad, an assistant coach.
Basile and Swartz grew up 10 minutes apart from each other. Basile hails from Pewaukee, Wis. (hometown of the Watt brothers), while Swartz is a native of Waukesha. Swartz may have bragging rights, though – not only did he earn all-state honors his senior year, he won Wisconsin state player of the year.
Sean Pedulla, meanwhile, hails from Edmond, Okla., making the “ACC point guard from Oklahoma” comparisons to Mark Price inevitable.
Pedulla is averaging 15.6 points per game as a sophomore.
Price’s scoring average his sophomore year at Tech?
Also 15.6 points per game.
Tech has unlocked greater efficiency lately by switching to a small-ball lineup with 6-7 Ja’von Franklin at the “5.” Franklin hasn’t let that height mismatch deter him – after eight offensive rebounds against Wake Forest, the sixth-year senior has raised his offensive rebounding percentage to 12.4 percent.
Check out the company that puts him in:
|Highest OR% – Since 2009-10|
Franklin’s eight offensive rebounds against Wake were the most by a Yellow Jacket in an ACC road game since Josh Okogie had nine versus Florida State in 2018. He and Mutts, another active, athletic switchblade, should make for great theater Wednesday. Look for Mutts to serve as a high post passer against Georgia Tech’s zones.
“Our guards were fronting them – as I like to talk about it, being an ‘offensive post player on the defensive end.’ Because you’re fronting. You don’t want to play behind. You want to get their rear on the offensive big man’s thigh to immobilize their ability to jump and move, and just keep wearing those legs out.”
That’s Josh Pastner on his radio show Monday, explaining his guards’ work defending post players when they switch in their man-to-man. That’s helped Tech mitigate some of the mismatches created by those switches.
The Jackets will need to bring that same intensity Wednesday: according to Shot Quality, Virginia Tech ranks 22nd in the nation in the frequency of possessions that include a post-up. Both Basile and Mutts will post often.
Hunter Cattoor ranks second in the ACC in three-point percentage (42.4 percent).
His numbers against Georgia Tech, though, don’t exactly evoke Steph Curry comparisons:
Hunter Cattoor – 3pt.%
Pastner, meanwhile, said he’d like Lance Terry to get more touches after the senior attempted just one three against Wake Forest. His desire is well-warranted: Terry has averaged 50 percent from three-point range in Georgia Tech’s wins.
Lance Terry – 3pt.%
Virginia Tech doesn’t have the same rim protection that it had last year, but the Hokies still do a good job denying angles on dribble-drives. Tech will need to spread out the Hokies and make them move, similar to what they did against Wake Forest Saturday. Worth noting: The Yellow Jackets’ 1.06 points per possession against the Demon Deacons was their highest efficiency rating in a loss this year.
Now that we’re prepared, we hope you are as well. Join us for pregame coverage starting at 6:30 p.m. ET on the Georgia Tech Sports Network from Legends Sports. See you at McCamish.
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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.
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