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Game Preview: Georgia Tech

Florida State is coming off of an incredibly emotional game against Florida, and in more ways than a usual rivalry should, given the news of Keyontae Johnson (latest reports say he is following simple commands and has been transferred to Shands in Gainesville). FSU then gets just two days to rest, ease their minds, and get prepared for a tricky Georgia Tech team that is starting to show some signs of life recently.

The ‘Noles were updated to #15 in the AP Poll, and once again look to defend their home court, looking for their 27th straight win in the Tucker Center and their first conference win of the young season.

This game will be at 8:30pm EST on the ACC Network.

Georgia Tech Yellowjackets (2-2) Breakdown

This team opened their season at home against Georgia State, Mercer, and Kentucky (*technically* was in the Atlanta Hawks gym, but it was still in Atlanta), before traveling to face Nebraska in the B1G/ACC challenge. I’ll let you guess how it’s gone so far for them.

You probably missed every pick if you haven’t been paying attention to their season so far. They lost to George State in 4OT and got handled by Mercer, before absolutely walloping Kentucky and pulling away at the end against Nebraska. It’s a very, very weird team. Plus, Kentucky is kind of horrible right now. Statistics are going to look a little different for most of this section of the breakdown since a lot of Georgia Tech’s stats are inflated due to the 4OT Georgia State game, essentially an extra half of basketball in the same game.

So, how has Georgia Tech won these last two games against much bigger name brands? The biggest difference is turnovers. In the first two games, Georgia Tech forced 0.28 turnovers per minute (1 for every four minutes, basically. 9 TOs for Mercer, 19 for Georgia State) while forcing 0.45 ToPM against Kentucky and Nebraska; almost double the turnover percentage. While on the other end of the floor, Georgia Tech coughed it up against GSU and Mercer 0.35 times per minute (21 total GSU, 14 total Mercer), but against Kentucky and Nebraska it was 0.175 turnovers per minute (total of 14 turnovers through those two games).

That’s really the major difference. The FG and 3-point percentages for any opponent in a game have been sporadic, free throws haven’t mattered so far (GT shot 59 FTs against GSU and lost, have shot a combined 42 free throws in the other three games), and Georgia Tech has actually been out-rebounded in their two wins.

Their offense is actually fairly simple. Usually just pass and cut that leads to a top-of-the-key handoff into a ball-screen if they can’t get anything from their drive-and-kicks. They’re going to test Florida State’s switching scheme. FSU switches every off-ball motion to keep their own movements down, but it’s going to be putting a lot of people in a screen guarding Moses Wright and it might cause a couple of issues. Here is their major shot distribution: 29.5% spot-up, 17.8% transition, 11.5% pick-and-roll ball-handler.

Defense is their bread and butter, but it’s such a complex defense. They bounce back and forth between a man-to-man and this lifted 1-3-1/1-1-3 hybrid that acts as a 2-3 as the game progresses. Let’s focus on this since we’ve already seen a lot of FSU vs Man defense.

A little bit of miscommunication on this play, but you get the gist. It looks like a 1-3-1. As someone takes the guy with the ball, another defender is dropping back onto the nail (term for the center of the free throw line) to keep a defender from getting the ball there. As the ball gets rotated down, then it starts acting more as a 2-3, and they’ll even occasionally match-up in a man in these scenarios. The biggest key to attacking this is getting to the corner as fast as possible. Watch what happens here when the ball gets there.

5 seconds into the shot clock and the ball is in the corner, beautiful. It forces a miscommunication on defense and Nebraska is playing 5-on-3 for the rest of this quick possession. Quick cut from the top of the key and that’s that. We’ll talk about how Florida State will attack this in the next section of the breakdown.

When Georgia Tech is in their man-to-man defense, they don’t switch, ball-screen defender is up next to the screener, and there is heavy help on drives to leave for kickouts. These kick-out opportunities have to be quick though, Georgia Tech does a fairly good job on getting back out on shooters. When they don’t force turnovers, teams actually score fairly easily on them, especially from 3 where they allow teams to shoot 39.2% from 3.

This is an extremely experienced Yellowjacket team. 80% of their starting lineup consists of seniors, and the one that isn’t a senior is a junior. Having guys that have been together for this long means they know where they expect their teammates to be. Case in point:

That’s an unreal pass, something you see the LeBron James’ and the Luka Doncic’s of the world make. Georgia Tech really only plays about 6-7 guys consistently too, so these guys really know each other and their system like the back of their hand.

The main two players to watch for Georgia Tech are Moses Wright and Jose Alvarado. Wright is a double-double machine who mercilessly attacked Kentucky’s bigs, going for 21 points and 8 rebounds against Olivier Sarr and Isaiah Jackson, both guys who are quick on their feet and taller guys. Wright is just solid muscle, but is still a good athlete. He can bully just about anyone, which isn’t common for someone that’s 230 pounds. He’s going to be a massive test for Florida State, especially since he plays more than 39 minutes per game; he almost never comes off of the floor. Wright’s rebounding numbers looks insane at 10 RPG, but he’s the biggest beneficiary of the 4OT game where he had 31 points and 19 rebounds and has the best offensive rating on the team.

Alvarado is a quick and fearless guard, who once he gets rolling is really hard to stop. Unless he’s in foul trouble, this is another guy that rarely comes off of the floor. So far, he’s played 58 of a possible 60 minutes against GSU and 39 of a possible 40 minutes against Kentucky. Great scorer, but if you can take away his chances to score and force him to become a distributor, his impact isn’t nearly as felt. Mercer did a great job of this. The Mercer game has been the only game so far where he has had more than 5 assists, and it’s also the only game so far where he’s been in the single digits scoring wise.

Bubba Parham has taken the most 3s of anyone on the team so far, but is hitting them at a meager 26.9%. Besides that, he’s a really talented scorer and is back to where he was before he transferred in from Southern (21.4 PPG). He was a great shooter his second season there at 39.7% from 3, while he’s at just 29.5% in his Georgia Tech career. As the season progresses, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him be a more efficient scorer.

Michael Devoe has been really disappointing so far this season; you can even made the argument he’s taken a massive step back since last season. He looks nowhere near as confident. Last season, he was averaging 16 PPG, 3.4 APG, and 3.4 ToPG compared to 12.5/2.8/4.o through four games so far. The shooting splits are massively different too: 47.6/42.7/75.0 last season to 34.7/28.0/81.8 this season. He’s the second leading 3-point attempter for the team, but hasn’t been hitting them yet. If he went off and had a huge game, it wouldn’t surprise me, but analytically, he’s been by far the worst starter so far. Just looking at this box plus/minuses, no other starter has an offensive BPM below 3.0, a defensive BPM in the negatives, and an overall BPM in the negatives (0.2, -2.2, -2.0; respectively). This doesn’t even include him having the lowest offensive rating of the starters or him having the highest turnover rate. He’s the worst defender on the team overall too, at least analytically. Just a bad opening to the season, he’s more likely to get it turned around than continue being this this bad.

Jordan Usher acts as a second big in this system, but I’m not convinced it’s the best fit for him. For now, he’s got the second-highest rebounding rate, but also has the second-highest turnover rate. He’s one of the team’s better overall defenders, but also seems to have the shortest leash with Head Coach Josh Pastner, as he’s the only one that gets subbed out with any consistency and is lacking far behind his fellow starters in shot attempts.

These 5 are really the only ones to worry about. When Pastner makes subs, the first one in is Khalid Moore, who is unspectacular, at least offensively. Moore has the lowest field goal percentage on the team, but also doesn’t take a ton of shots. Moore make his money on defense, where he has the highest DBPM and the lowest defensive rating on the team. If FSU starts taking off offensively, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him subbed in and tasked with guarding MJ Walker.

Kyle Sturdivant is a USC transfer, who is also the worst analytical player on the team, and Rodney Howard has started two games but has played a total of 21 minutes so far. If anyone else comes in, it’ll be those two.

Like I’ve mentioned a few times, their per-game numbers don’t paint the right picture of this basketball team. For those that prefer those numbers, though, here they are.

As a team: 86.8 PPG, 40.5 RPG (13.25 ORB, 27.25 DRB), 15.3 APG, 10.0 SPG, 3.0 BPG, 13.0 ToPG, 43.5/30.4/73.3

They allow: 83.0 PPG, 40.3 RPG (12.5 ORB, 27.8 DRB), 17.0 APG, 5.8 SPG, 3.8 BPG, 16.8 ToPG, 44.4/39.2/70.7

Stats will be listed as PPG/RPG/APG/SPG/BPG/ToPG          FG%/3PT%/FT%

#5 Moses Wright 21.3/10.0/2.5/1.5/1.5/1.3             55.4/66.7/65.5

#10 Jose Alvarado 17.8/4.3/4.0/2.3/0.3/2.3           43.1/33.3/87.0

#3 Bubba Parham 13.0/3.3/2.3/1.8/0.0/0.5           43.9/26.9/75.0

#0 Michael Devoe 12.5/6.0/2.8/1.0/0.0/4.0          34.7/28.0/81.8

#4 Jordan Usher 11.0/5.8/2.5/1.3/0.5/2.0               47.4/30.0/62.5

#12 Khalid Moore 5.5/3.8/0.3/2.0/0.5/0.8              31.8/22.2/66.7

#1 Kyle Sturdivant 4.3/2.0/1.0/0.3/0.0/0.8             42.9/20.0/66.7

#24 Rodney Howard 3.0/2.5/o.o/0.0/0.5/1.5          33.3/NA/100

#15 Florida State Seminoles (3-0) Breakdown

Last game was a huge step in the right direction for freshman Scottie Barnes. He was fantastic with 17 points on 6/8 shooting. So far in his career, he’s faced three entirely different defenses, and now gets ready to face a fourth completely new defense. Everything is being thrown at him right away, and he seems to be taking them in stride. He worked on attacking ball-screens last game, and while I want to see that continue, the next thing he needs to do is convert his free throws. Georgia Tech doesn’t foul a ton, so he may not get a lot of chances, making it even more important for him to make his chances count.

When Georgia Tech is in their zone, expect a lot of this.

In transition, ball immediately gets to the corner and it forces the defense to react without thinking. The ball swings back around the top quickly and gets Devin Vassell an open shot in the corner. FSU did they a few times to start the game to get some shots in the deep corner. Vassell was an elite mid-range/3-point threat, so FSU will have to find someone to take that spot; it’ll most likely be MJ Walker.

Last season’s game at home was a close game most of the way until Florida State started getting out in transition towards the end of the game. That’s another thing you’re going to have to against GT, get down the floor before they can get set in their defense. Because their zone acts as more of a 2-3 than a 1-3-1, you’re going to see FSU try and get in the gaps off-ball to get some high-low actions. Like any zone, you just have to get it moving and get it caught out of position.

This is a big test for Scottie Barnes to see how he takes care of the ball against an opportunistic defense. This goes for MJ Walker as well, who has struggled handling the ball with 9 turnovers in the last two games. If they’re going to be turnovers, don’t allow them to be live-ball turnovers. Make Georgia Tech work for every offensive opportunity.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see some more Nate Jack in this game if he can fit a few 3s to force the defense out a little bit. Would also love to see some more Sardaar Calhoun.

Injury Report

No injuries have been reported on either side.

Projected Starters

Florida State

G: Scottie Barnes

G: MJ Walker

G: Anthony Polite

F: RaiQuan Gray

C: Balsa Koprivica

Georgia Tech

G: Jose Alvarado

G: Michael DeVoe

G: Bubba Parham

F: Jordan Usher

F: Moses Wright

Keys to the Game

Get the Ball to the Corners

Georgia Tech’s zone defense shifts once the ball gets to the corners, the key is getting the ball to the corner quickly and making even faster decisions once the ball is there. FSU has the pieces to shred a zone defense like this apart if they play it correctly. Then if GT is forced to go to man, they don’t really have the athletes to keep up with Florida State.

Be Disciplined Down Low

Moses Wright is one of the best big-men in the ACC who very rarely checks out of the game. GT will give Wright the chance to bang down low, and whoever Florida State has guarding him at that moment is going to have to stay disciplined and not foul or fall for fakes; trust the defense behind you. Because Georgia Tech has shot poorly from 3 so far, I’m expecting FSU to do something special to get the ball out of Wright’s hands and to force long passes.

Win the Turnover Battles

This is the biggest key to the game. When Georgia Tech has won the turnover battle, they’ve also won the game and vice versa. And when they’ve won the turnover battle, it hasn’t even been close, in terms of the difference in the amount of free throws. As long as FSU keeps this close, like in the 12-14 turnovers each range, I think Florida State stands a great chance in this game.

Georgia Tech’s natural defense could either be really beneficial for FSU, since the ‘Noles have so many secondary playmakers and creators, or it could go poorly given they have very few primary ball-handlers that need to drive the gaps.

Prediction

Florida State opens as an 8.5 point favorite, with the o/u set at 140.5.

I like Florida State’s chances here, but I get the feeling it won’t be very high scoring. Just looking statistically, you’d maybe expect a 77-71 type of game, but because Florida State hasn’t had much time to prepare or recuperate, I think it’s going to be an ugly start like we’ve seen the last few games. The spread number to me is right, I wouldn’t touch it. The fact this is a later game plays into FSU’s hand though, they seem to play better in these 8:30/9:00 tips (which we’ll see at the end of the week against UCF).

This will likely be a closer game than people expect for most of the game, but I’ll still take Florida State 70-61.


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