‘Hoos previews: Cavaliers return home to face Georgia Tech

uva georgia techAfter back-to-back impressive road wins against top-25 teams, No. 2 Virginia (24-2, 12-2 ACC) returns home to face Georgia Tech (12-16, 4-11 ACC) for the first time this season.

The Yellow Jackets are young this season. Six players of their rotation players are either freshmen or sophomores. And that youth has led to some struggles on the offensive end, where Georgia Tech ranks last in the ACC in offensive efficiency, turnover percentage and offensive rebounding percentage. Josh Pastner’s team plays slowly and relies on its defense, which is currently ranked 25th in the nation in efficiency. Opponents struggle shooting against this Yellow Jackets team, too. The Yellow Jackets play zone, a system that has slowed Virginia at times this year, but often matches up out of it and has used some man defense recently. How Virginia handles a pretty solid defense will be interesting to watch.

Furthermore, Georgia Tech has punched above its weight plenty of times during ACC play. Pastner’s bunch beat Syracuse at the Carrier Dome and at one point opened up an eight-point lead at Duke before the Blue Devils came storming back. If Virginia allows the Yellow Jackets to stick around, they can certainly make life difficult.

Three Cavaliers to watch

De’Andre Hunter. Coming off a career-high 26-point performance that Tony Bennett could only describe as “special,” Hunter will look to continue his high level of play back in the friendly confines of John Paul Jones Arena. Georgia Tech has some good, long-limbed defenders that can challenge Hunter, but as was on display Saturday in Louisville, when he gets going, it’s hard for anyone to stop him. Another thing to keep an eye on will be his foul situation. In the last two games, he has picked up two quick fouls that forced him to sit long stretches of the first half.

Jay Huff. Huff came to Virginia’s rescue in the first half against Louisville, racking up 10 points in just under nine minutes. He finished with 12, tied for the most he’s ever scored in an ACC game, and he also snared five rebounds and added two blocks. Huff’s playing time this season has been up-and-down at best this year — he hadn’t played double-digit minutes in the three games prior to Louisville — but Saturday’s showing should help him see more of the floor. Huff can terrorize a zone with his length and jumping ability, and Georgia Tech’s tallest player who receives significant minutes is just 6-foot-9.

Kyle Guy. For the Cavaliers to take advantage of the Yellow Jackets’ zone, they will need to hit outside shots, and there’s no one more equipped to do that than Guy. He’s coming off an uncharacteristic 0-for-5 performance from deep against Louisville, but he still managed to make an impact with two nice drives to the basket for scores and four free throws. He should have some open looks Wednesday. Whether he makes or misses them will determine how this contest will go.

Three Yellow Jackets to watch

Jose Alvarado. The Yellow Jackets’ leading scorer at 12.6 points per game, Alvarado is the only player on his team averaging double figures this season. The sophomore guard is a good passer, too, and he’s on a roll coming into this game after scoring 17 against Florida St., 29 in a win over Pittsburgh and 20 against Miami. He’s an aggressive attacker who, despite his small stature, gets to the free throw line a lot. Keeping him quiet is the best way to keep this Georgia Tech offense dormant.

Michael Devoe. A four-star prospect out of high school, Devoe chose Georgia Tech out of a long list of impressive offers, including one from Virginia. Like most of Georgia Tech’s young roster, the freshman guard has had his ups and downs, but he’s scored in double figures seven times in ACC play, including a 22-point outburst when Georgia Tech gave Virginia Tech a run for its money. The younger half of a promising young backcourt duo, Devoe is coming off a 13-point performance against Miami, but he needed 12 shots to get there. He shoots 39.1 percent from three, the second-best mark on the team.

James Banks III. After two seasons at Texas, Banks sat out last year due to transfer rules but has provided a nice boost inside for the Yellow Jackets this season. Banks got off to a pretty strong start in ACC and had a pair of 20-point games, but he has struggled of late and didn’t score against Miami on Saturday. Still, Banks is an athletic, long-limbed big who will look to limit Jay Huff and Mamadi Diakite, both of whom are coming off big performances.

KenPom says: Virginia, 69-47 (98 percent chance of victory)

Final notes

  • Georgia Tech has one player, Brandon Alston, from Virginia (Vienna).
  • Virginia has no Georgia natives.
  • Virginia is 41-39 all-time against Georgia Tech. The Cavaliers are currently on a four-game winning streak in the series.
  • Tony Bennett has never lost at home to Georgia Tech (7-0). The last time the Yellow Jackets won in Charlottesville was 2008.
  • With its win Saturday, Virginia now owns five road wins over top-25 teams this season, an ACC record.
  • Georgia Tech’s last win over a ranked team was last year against Miami on Jan. 3, 2018. Its last road win over a ranked team was against Miami on Jan. 28. 2015.

Story by Zach Pereles



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