GREENSBORO, NC – Watching the Duke-Virginia game, thought I’d do some reflecting on Georgia Tech, as you guys who actually have to work today might be thinking about the Jackets and not watching the noon game.
You’ve got a few more hours to bask in last night’s come-from-behind (gulp) win over North Carolina and what would seem at this point a likely berth into the NCAA tournament for the Yellow Jackets.
Much better crowd today at the Coliseum, by the way. Duke in the noon game surely helps. Quite a bit of a blue in the arena. And pretty quiet too. The game is tied at halftime here 27-27. Virginia’s gunning for the fourth upset in five games so far in the ACC tournament. Could it happen?
Meanwhile, some thoughts.
It’s not just chilly in the media workroom up here in the Greensboro Coliseum. Young Brian Oliver went 0-for-5 last night, all from 3-point range, in his first taste of the ACC tournament. Tech coach Paul Hewitt didn’t fault some of the shots he was taking last night. I think most of them were open; they were good looks.
But Oliver was conspicuously absent for much of the game afterward a flurry of four misses. He played five minutes in the first half, only four in the second.
Oliver hasn’t actually been on target, really, since the game at Wake Forest on Feb. 13. In the six games since then, including last night, Oliver is 6-for-26 (23.1 percent) from 3-point range. Perhaps this the freshman wall for him, and the need for sugar at the shoot-around the other day was a sign of bigger things.
Or maybe not. But you can bet he’ll keep shooting. That’s how Oliver is wired, and what good shooters do. And what a huge bonus it would be for Tech against Maryland if Oliver could make some of those shots and open up the defense packing in on Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors.
Though I have to say, the way Favors is playing right now, and how hungry he is for a rematch with Maryland, I’m not sure it really matters how many guys are pounding with him down low. Jordan Williams is probably a tougher defensive matchup for him, than Tyler Zeller or Travis Wear, but you saw what Favors did in the last game with Maryland on Feb. 20 – 21 points, 18 rebounds, and what would have been the game-winner on a putback with 3 seconds left.
He, for one, cannot erase the memory of Cliff Tucker’s 3-pointer at the buzzer (or Greivis Vasquez’s half-court shot that was wiped away by a timeout call by Maryland assistant coach Keith Booth.)
It’s going to be an interesting game. Tech’s locker room was awfully relieved and happy last night. Perhaps now they can quit sweating the NCAA tournament berth and focus on getting some revenge on Maryland.
Lawal and Zaharis
Just a little tidbit on the exchange between Tech assistant coach Peter Zaharis and Gani Lawal in the first half of last night’s game. I didn’t see it myself, my head was down in my play-by-play, but I’m told that Zaharis said something to the effect of “run back” because Gani and the rest of the Yellow Jackets were getting killed in transition defense during UNC’s 17-0 first-half run.
I think Gani must have made a face, or something, in reaction, but it got the attention of Hewitt, who had a few words for Lawal during the next timeout. Here’s what Hewitt had to say about that conversation last night:
“My point to him was if we tell you you’re capable of doing something, then that’s what we expect you to do,” Hewitt said. “We have high expectations of you. He’s our leader. He’s our No. 1 guy and he sets an example, off the court, before the games, in practice. If he tells you you’re not getting back quick enough, he knows you can do better and that’s all it was.”
I know lots of people like to point to the number of McDonald’s All-Americans Tech has to equate to talent (3, Lawal, Favors and Iman Shumpert). It’s an easy measure, and often a good one. But I thought I’d point this one out too – North Carolina has seven All-Americans on its current roster, the roster that just finished 16-16 on the season (unless they go to the NIT and keep playing), with the most losses by a team in the year after winning the national championship.
So it’s not always that simple, is my point. There’s more to it than projected talent.
UNC’s seven McDonald’s All-Americans are David and Travis Wear, Ed Davis, John Henson, Dexter Strickland, Tyler Zeller and Larry Drew.
OK chat away. Get psyched for the Maryland game tonight at 7. Mark Bradley will do an in-game blog, but I’ll be around in the meantime.