Georgia Tech at N.C. State
Georgia Tech (7-8, 0-1) at NC State (12-4, 1-0), 9:00 PM, RSN/ESPN3
Georgia Tech played extremely well in a near-upset of Duke last Saturday. The Yellow Jackets are entering a stretch of games that are winnable (if they play like they did against Duke) and their ACC schedule isn’t particularly daunting (Duke, North Carolina, Virginia and Florida State once each). They could end up with a better record in league play than they perhaps should. N.C. State had a nice win on Sunday night against Maryland, but let the Terrapins hang around a bit longer than they would have liked. It’s wide open for N.C. State to finish as high as third in the league if it can win the games it should, including this one. The Wolfpack could go into one of their toughest stretches (at Miami, at UNC and Virginia at home) 4-0 in the ACC.
Stat to watch: Offensive rebounds/second-chance points. Georgia Tech dominated Duke on the backboards on Saturday, 38-26 (Duke’s largest rebounding deficit of the year). Georgia Tech has been a good rebounding team all year, ranking 4th in defensive rebounding percentage and 6th in offensive rebounding percentage. But N.C. State has been even better in offensive rebounding percentage (3rd) and close in defensive rebounding percentage (5th). The Yellow Jackets have really improved their offensive rebounding; their 15 against Duke were their most since the second game of the season (as were their 15 second-chance points). Georgia Tech held Duke to just six second-chance points on nine offensive rebounds. The nine offensive boards were Duke’s fewest in a month and their six second-chance points are their fewest since the Michigan State game.
N.C. State has thrived on getting second looks; the Wolfpack are averaging 14.1 second-chance points off of 12.7 offensive rebounds per game. In wins this year, State has out-scored opponents 183-118 (+5.4) on second-chance points and in losses, they’ve been out-scored 44-42. For the most part, they’ve been able to keep that in check but Maryland put up 16 second-chance points (a season-high by a Wolfpack opponent) on 13 offensive rebounds. Georgia Tech has been pretty bad offensively most of the year, and if N.C. State can hold them to one shot per trip, Tech’s offense shouldn’t pose many problems to the Wolfpack defense. But if they allow multiple looks, it could come back to bite them.
Most important players: C.J. Leslie, N.C. State and Mfon Udofia, Georgia Tech. As Mark Gottfried took over at N.C. State, “C.J.” Leslie was put to bed and “Calvin” was born. “Calvin” has been excellent for the Wolfpack this year, but an example of how head-scratching “C.J.” could be is last season against Georgia Tech. Leslie played 20 minutes and scored three points on 1-of-10 shooting (0-of-3 from three, 1-of-4 from the foul line) and added three fouls and three turnovers. Observers wondered how interested “C.J.” was in playing hard and/or intelligently for his former head coach, Sidney Lowe. That is not an issue for “Calvin”, who is averaging 13.5 points on 53% shooting and is always active and engaged. Georgia Tech doesn’t really have anyone that can guard him. But this is exactly the type of game that will solidify how C.J. has morphed into Calvin.
Udofia is frustrating. He has some spectacular games but he sprinkles in plenty of inauspicious-to-blah performances. It’s been difficult for him to take the reins of this team after all that Iman Shumpert did for the Yellow Jackets last year. He’s trying his best, averaging 10.8 points on 40% shooting to go with 2.5 assists (and 3.1 turnovers). But against Duke, he showed how tantalizing he can be at times with 19 points, four rebounds and four assists, making 6-of-9 shots (2-of-3 three’s). Last year at State, Udofia had 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting (3-of-5 from three) in the RBC Center. State’s defense hasn’t been great and while Glen Rice is likely to have a big night, if State can’t contain Udofia, they are in trouble.
Random Stat(s): N.C. State has won six straight games, their longest winning streak since winning seven straight during the 2007-08 season. …. N.C. State’s Scott Wood has hit 47 straight free throws dating back to last season (37 straight this year) and is seven shy of tying J.J. Redick’s ACC record of 54 straight …. Mark Gottfried was only the second N.C. State head coach to win his ACC debut. The other? Les Robinson.
Prediction: N.C. State 78, Georgia Tech 64
Last week: 6-3 (4-2)
Season: 66-22 (5-3)