Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
The Heels look to keep the ball rolling against a winless in ACC play Yellow Jacket team that is better than the record shows.
Now that UNC has shown some signs of life the next step is two fold. The first is putting together a more complete effort on the court. The Tar Heels have been very good in one half in some games but not consistent across the whole game. Secondly, UNC needs at Reggie Bullock, James Michael McAdoo and P.J. Hairston to have productive offensive games all on the same night. The FSU game was close. The trio all scored in double digits with Hairston leading the way with 23 points. The key to consistent offense would be three guys showing up every night. There are indications they can but until it is seen it will remain on the "hope for" list.
Georgia Tech has been a source of trouble for UNC in the Roy Williams era. That may have changed with the exit of Paul Hewitt and his ridiculous buyout. The only meeting between UNC and Georgia Tech in Brian Gregory's tenure came last season with the Heels winning by 20. This contest should be a much tougher challenge despite the Yellow Jackets being 0-4 in ACC play. Georgia Tech has played well despite the losses. The Jackets led most of the way at Illinois and led NCSU and Duke at the half before ultimately losing all of those games.
Georgia Tech has a solid defense ranked 17th in defensive efficiency, 16th in eFG% defense and 10th in 2P FG% allowed. In addition, the Jackets handle the defensive boards quite well allowing only a 28.4% offensive rebounding rate for the opposing team. For UNC's very average offense, Georgia Tech is going to give them plenty of fits. As for UNC's very average defense, the story is different. Georgia Tech struggles on the offensive end with an OE ranked 237th. The Jackets take care of the basketball but have issues shooting the ball hitting only 29.9% of their threes and missing a fair share of free throws.
Since Georgia Tech is 201st in tempo, the pace question will come up. UNC has not been playing as fast as they could and probably want to in ACC play. After playing the entire non-conference schedule with games at 70+ possessions, UNC has only cracked that barrier once and that was Saturday versus Maryland. Not that playing at over possessions is a cure-all for UNC but the Heels are more comfortable in that kind of game versus a half-court contest against a highly ranked defense.
Given the progression of the season, UNC cannot afford a home loss here, much less one against a team ranked in the 100s of the RPI. Georgia Tech on the other hand is simply trying to get an ACC win and will be plenty motivated. UNC has proven to everyone and most importantly themselves they are more than capable of playing good basketball. If the do it again tonight, it could give them momentum heading into the NC State game on Saturday.
UNC 70 Georgia Tech 58