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UNC vs. Georgia Tech: Three Things to Watch

Can the Tar Heels avoid getting stung in Atlanta?

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Florida State Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

There are a number of Carolina fans that have been dreading tomorrow night’s game against Georgia Tech. Playing in Atlanta has been a bad experience for the Heels as of late, and observers of the team have been conditioned to believe that they will lose a nonsensical game any moment now. But how much of the fear of losing to the Yellow Jackets is rooted in reality, and how much of it is just trauma from year’s past? I’d like to think that there isn’t really a whole lot to worry about when it comes to a team that is ranked 208th in adjusted defense according to KenPom, and I would also like to think that a team that shoots 32.2% from three doesn’t have enough firepower to get the job done. Realistically, this should be an easy one for the Tar Heels, but it’s hard to shake the bad vibes that come with playing this matchup outside of the Dean Dome.

This is going to be a big game for Georgia Tech, though I don’t know that their NCAA Tournament hopes exist even if they were to win. For the Tar Heels, they need to avoid putting a bad loss on their resume so that they continue their pursuit to earn a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament. Let’s take a look at three things to keep an eye on during tomorrow’s game.

Avoid playing down to the competition

As I alluded to above, on paper the Tar Heels should have no issues putting away the Yellow Jackets Tuesday night. GT’s defense has been really bad this season, they aren’t shooting very well, and they are averaging 12.1 turnovers per game. There’s nothing that they do well enough to make me think that the Heels shouldn’t win this one, but here’s the thing: Georgia Tech has pulled off some wins that they have had no business pulling off this season, and it only adds fuel to the fire for fans that have dreaded this game.

The Yellow Jackets managed to take down a #7 Duke team in McCamish Pavilion last month, and a couple of weeks ago they took down Clemson on the road. Both of these teams have had very questionable moments throughout the season, but when looking at the Blue Devils in particular, they had absolutely no business losing against a bottom-three ACC team. UNC’s number one job Tuesday night is to not sleep on the Yellow Jackets and to play with as much intensity as they’ve played with since the loss to Kentucky. It’s not asking a lot when it comes to this team, thankfully, but it doesn’t help to reinforce the idea in order to avoid the upset.

Is a double-double in Elliot Cadeau’s future?

Continuing the discussion of Georgia Tech’s poor defense, tomorrow night’s game seems like a perfect opportunity for Elliot Cadeau to record his first assist double-double of the season. He finished Saturday afternoon’s game against Florida State with 16 points and six assists, but it felt like he could’ve pulled of a double-double had he hunted to make a few more plays passing the ball. Still, his aggression shooting the ball has been a welcomed addition to his game, and it doesn’t feel like he is forcing up shots very often. We’re all familiar with how that can be a problem with freshman guards, and thankfully he only took a few ill-advised shots against the Seminoles.

Assist double-doubles are pretty hard to pull off in college basketball, but if there’s anybody that could pull it off on this roster, it is Elliot Cadeau. Georgia Tech doesn’t have the athleticism to deal with how fast Cadeau is, and his basketball IQ is something that has given tougher opponents fits. It would be a lot of fun to see him take advantage of a good situation and carve up the Yellow Jackets, but of course we will have to see what looks they are willing to give him. He is undoubtedly becoming more of a priority on opposing teams’ scouting reports now, but he is also becoming harder and harder to stop when he gets going.

Getting more from UNC’s bench

Another big opportunity for the Tar Heels going into tomorrow night’s game is getting more production out of the bench following a lackluster performance against Florida State. While the Seminoles’ bench managed to score 35 points, Carolina only scored seven points with their reserves. Those seven points were spread out between Seth Trimble, Jalen Washington, and Paxson Wojcik.

It’s worth noting that UNC’s bench didn’t play as many minutes as we’ve seen them play in other games this season, and I’m not really sure if that was a pre-meditated choice on Hubert Davis’ part or if that’s just where the chips fell. The Seminoles made things really difficult for UNC for most of the game, so it could be that Hubert Davis was utilizing his starters as much as possible in order to secure the win. Things should play out differently against Georgia Tech, which would be ideal so that the starters don’t cook their legs before having to deal with Duke on Saturday. Put the Yellow Jackets away early, get the bench a good amount of burn, and get home to prepare for yet another top-ten showdown this weekend.