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UNC vs. Georgia Tech: What to Watch

Another team that plays slower than winter molasses? Great.

NCAA Basketball: Clemson at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The North Carolina Tar Heels welcome 2017 ACC Coach of the Year Josh Pastner and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets into the Smith Center on Saturday. So far, the Heels have had anything but an easy road in conference play. The match up with Georgia Tech promises to be just as unpredictable. Georgia Tech comes into this game at 10-7 (3-1 ACC) with big wins over Miami (64-54) and Notre Dame (60-53).

What should you be keeping your eyes on during Saturday’s contest?

Clash of the Tempos

Georgia Tech’s Adjusted Tempo is 65.4 possessions. That’s practically at the bottom of Division I basketball, but still not the slowest that the Tar Heels have seen. Compare that to Michigan’s 64.5 or even Virginia’s (slowest by a wide margin, naturally) 59.7. However, when looking at their defensive rating, they rank just outside of the Top 50 at 95.0 points per 100 possessions. In terms of raw scoring, they are allowing teams to score 62 points per game. This means that the Yellow Jackets are excellent at slowing the tempo down on both offense and defense. The major drawback to this, however, is a much lower output on the offensive end. Georgia Tech currently scores just 66 points.

North Carolina, as we know, plays at a vastly different pace. With an adjusted tempo of 72.8 possessions coupled with an average of 83 points per game and an offensive rating of 113.1 per 100 possessions, the Tar Heels always look to push the ball down the court. Hopefully, the Tar Heels learned a thing or two from that offensive debacle against Virginia.

The Brooks/Manley Enigma

There have been six ACC games. Three of them were started by Garrison Brooks with Sterling Manley coming off of the bench. The next three still saw Manley coming off of the bench, but Brooks was now as well.

In the three games before “the switch,” the freshman duo saw an average of 30 combined minutes per game. They were producing just over six points and close to 10 rebounds per game. In the three games since, their minutes have fallen to a hair over 23. Their point production has gone up to 9.6 points per game, while the rebounding has taken a dip to 6.5 rebounds per game. If they could have those numbers reach towards the 25 minutes, 10 points, and 10 rebounds mark, the freshmen bigs could be well on their way to becoming the next generation of great UNC low-post combinations.

We’ve talked ad nauseam about the new starting lineup. Don’t expect it to change Saturday, but Brooks and Manley will need to get their share of the burn. Georgia Tech has three contributors in the rebounding game 6’9” or taller. Looking back to the win over Clemson, lineups WITH Brooks or Manley in the lineup were +9 in scoring (35-26) while those without were -1 (52-53). The rebounding game tells a bigger story. When either Manley or Brooks were in the game, the rebounding margin was +9 (15-6). When they found themselves sitting, the Tar Heels were out-rebounded by 6 (14-20). The big guys are needed on the court, even if they are still taking their lumps.

Prediction: North Carolina will struggle early against the Georgia Tech slow-it-down zone, but will begin to find a way to break it down. The hot shooting of Cam Johnson will continue as he shoots his way to a 15 point, 10 rebound performance. Luke Maye finds his way again with another double-double. We see the reappearance of 2nd Half Joel as the Tar Heels pull away for the 78-64 win.