5 things to know before Georgia Tech-Pittsburgh

Georgia Tech guard Tadric Jackson scored seven points with two rebounds in 14 minutes of play. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Georgia Tech guard Tadric Jackson scored seven points with two rebounds in 14 minutes of play. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Previewing Georgia Tech’s senior day game against Pittsburgh. The game will be broadcast on the ACC Network, including WATL in Atlanta. Complete listings here.

Matchup to watch

One decision worth noting will be how Georgia Tech chooses to defend Pittsburgh point guard James Robinson. In the first game, an 89-84 loss for the Yellow Jackets, Robinson dinged the Jackets for 18 points and eight assists against one turnover. Tech’s inability to defend the point was part of the reason why coach Brian Gregory made the move to put Marcus Georges-Hunt at the point in the following game against Virginia, which has proven a precipitous decision. My guess is that Georges-Hunt gets at least some time on Robinson, who is second nationally in career assist-turnover ratio among active players at 3.52 and whom Gregory has raved about whenever the Jackets have faced Pitt.

Possibly must win

This could be a critical game for Tech to avoid playing in the first round of the ACC tournament on Tuesday. Tech and Florida State are tied in the ACC for 10th place at 7-10, with Tech holding the tiebreaker by virtue of its win in Tallahassee.

The No. 11 seed will play No. 14 seed Boston College in the opening round, with the winner playing the No. 6 seed on Wednesday. Saturday, Florida State will play Syracuse, tipping off at the same time as Tech and Pitt (2 p.m.). Tech can clinch the No. 10 seed either with a win or an FSU loss. An FSU win and a Tech loss drops the Jackets to No. 11.

Obviously, staying out of the first round would be a significant advantage to avoid playing in the quarterfinal round against a rested team. Further, though, beating Boston College is no given.

Who the No. 7 seed will be has yet to be determined, as of Saturday morning. Four teams are tied for sixth (not including Louisville, which is not playing in the tournament) at 9-8 – Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Virginia Tech and Clemson.

Were Tech to claim the No. 10 seed, it would be the first time that Tech has stayed out of the first day of the tournament in Gregory’s tenure.

From an NIT perspective, it’s pretty important. I don’t think there’s a magic number that the Jackets have to hit, but each win counts, and a win over a likely NCAA tournament team would be particularly helpful.

Seeking win No. 8

If Tech can beat Pitt, the Jackets would finish the ACC regular season at 8-10. The seven wins are already the most in Gregory’s tenure – Tech went 6-12 in 2012-13 and 2013-14. From a standpoint of winning percentage, in the 19 seasons since the 1995-96 season, when Tech went 13-3 and won the ACC regular-season title:

Bobby Cremins’ final four seasons were all worse.

Paul Hewitt, in 11 seasons, had four seasons that were better (one at 9-7 and three at 8-8), four that were essentially the same (7-9; 8-10 is better by less than a percentage point) and three that were worse.

Gregory’s first four seasons were worse.

For better or worse, from an ACC regular-season perspective, a win would tie Tech for the fifth best season in the past 20 years, and you could make an easy case that it would have been achieved against a more rigorous schedule.

It would also be the 18th win of the season, which would be sixth most in the same 20-year span.

The ashy truth

For my story for myajc about Georges-Hunt, I spoke with guard Corey Heyward, who came in with Georges-Hunt in the summer of 2012. For stories like this, a question I sometimes like to ask is how teammates make fun of the subject. Heyward did not disappoint. Georges-Hunt, Heyward said, has ashy knees.

“We would tell him and he’d be like, Oh, whatever,” Heyward said. After that, Heyward said, Georges-Hunt would moisten his fingers and wipe them on his knees, “and then try to play like nothing’s wrong.”

Georges-Hunt’s response: “They’re not ashy. I just don’t see the need to put on lotion before practice sometimes. You’re going to sweat anyways. I just feel like lotion is the least of my worries.”

He kept going.

“Corey has an ashy face.”

This was the first thing I asked him at the beginning of a rather lengthy interview. At the end, I asked him if there was anything I was missing.

“Corey has an ashy face and ugly feet.”

There you have it.

The series

Tech has lost all three of its matchups with Pittsburgh since the Panthers joined the ACC prior to the 2013-14 academic year. Each has been by seven points or fewer, including the 89-84 result in January.

In the first game of the home-and-home, guard Adam Smith poured in 30 points on 8-for-13 shooting from 3-point range. It was Tech’s first 30-point game since the 2010-11 season. Forward Charles Mitchell scored a career-high 20 points to go with 17 rebounds.

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