4 things to know before Georgia Tech-N.C. State

 

January 12, 2017, Atlanta: Georgia Tech defenders Josh Heath (left) and Abdoulaye Gueye force a turnover on a double team against Clemson forward Jaron Blossomgame during an NCAA basketball game on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

January 12, 2017, Atlanta: Georgia Tech defenders Josh Heath (left) and Abdoulaye Gueye force a turnover on a double team against Clemson forward Jaron Blossomgame during an NCAA basketball game on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Looking at Georgia Tech’s fifth game of the ACC season, Sunday at 6 p.m. at N.C. State (ESPNU).

Biggest threat

Georgia Tech’s primary objective may be trying to slow down point guard Dennis Smith. The No. 1 point guard recruit in the country last year (ESPN) despite missing his senior season with an ACL tear, Smith is fifth in the ACC in scoring at 18.8 points per game, first in assists at 6.2 and first in steals at 2.2. He is No. 3 in the draftexpress.com mock draft for the 2017 draft. In short, he’s trouble.

The Wolfpack also have a banger in 6-foot-8, 240-pound power forward Abdul-Malik Abu and an effective 3-point gunner in guard Terry Henderson (39.6 percent from 3-point range).

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Not in top form
However, the Wolfpack (12-5 overall, 1-3 ACC) are a little disjointed. They lost by 51 points to N.C. State and then by eight to Boston College, which was picked to finish last in the ACC. Coach Mark Gottfried infuriated some segments of the fan base by saying after the loss to Boston College that “we got better tonight” and that “we took a step forward” and following up by responding to a question that fans wouldn’t share his perspective by saying, “I don’t really give a (expletive) if anybody does.”

In ACC games, N.C. State is last in the league in turnover percentage and 14th in offensive efficiency. The Wolfpack are 1-3 in the league for a reason. Tech may not be able take advantage of the Wolfpack’s propensity for giving up the ball as it plays out of a zone on defense, which typically is less likely to create turnovers.

It’s a confounding group. The Wolfpack have cleared 85 points eight times, most recently in a 104-78 defeat of Virginia Tech (a game in which Smith had a triple-double, becoming the first freshman in ACC history to do so against an ACC opponent). However, they’ve been held to 63, 56 and 66 points in their three ACC defeats. Tech’s potential for success depends a good bit on which N.C. State team shows up.

Looking at Tech

However, Tech is last in the ACC in offensive efficiency in league games, last in 3-point percentage (22.2 percent – yikes) and last in defensive rebounding percentage.

What Tech has done really well is defend inside the arc. Tech’s defense of 2-point shots is better than anyone in the ACC, which has come at something of a cost of its defense of the 3-point shot. Clemson was 7-for-24 from 3-point range, but I put that on Clemson having a bad night more than I do Tech defending well.

This could be a race to 70 points. The Jackets are 9-0 this season when they score 70 or more.

“Forget about getting to 80,” coach Josh Pastner said. “If we can get to 70, we just thank the basketball gods for that. We’re not anywhere near that. That’s where we’re at right now. We’ve got to try to get to 70 and hope our defense holds true to form.”

Three numbers 

The metrics website kenpom.com gives N.C. State a 79 percent chance of winning.

Through Saturday’s games, home teams are 25-11 in ACC play.

Tech has not been 3-2 (or better) after five games in the ACC since the 2009-10 season, the last time the Jackets reached the NCAA tournament.

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