What To Watch For Vs. Virginia

Matthew McGavic

Playing consecutive home games for the first time in a month and a half, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (8-9, 3-4 ACC) ran into yet another speed bump, falling to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. They'll get another chance to get on the right track this weekend, continuing ACC play with a showdown with the defending national champion Virginia Cavaliers (11-5, 3-3) Tip is set for 8:00pm EST and can be viewed on the ACC Network.

Here are a couple of the more significant storylines to follow ahead of Tech's 83rd all-time matchup with the Cavaliers:

Not Your Father's Cavs

Virginia might be the defending national champions, but they are missing a majority of their key pieces from last year's title run. The Cavaliers lost their three leading scorers in Kyle Guy (15.4), De'Andre Hunter (15.2), and Ty Jerome (13.6) to the NBA Draft, with Mamadi Diakite (7.4 in 2018-19) being their leading returning scorer.

As a result of losing so much talent to the NBA Draft, there has been a significant drop in offensive production. Last season according to KenPom.com, Virginia finished with the #2 offense in Division I, behind only the Gonzaga Bulldogs. This season, UVA's 233rd ranked offense is the second worst in the ACC, only ahead of Boston College (266th).

The biggest impact has been felt at the 3 point line. The Cavs team that won the title last season shot 39.5% from beyond the arc, good for 8th in the nation. This season, that mark has plummeted to 26.5% (348th). That has helped UVA's effective field goal % drop a whopping 10% from last season (55.2% in 2018-19, 45.2% in 2019-20).

Pack Line Defense

As much as the Hoos have struggled offensively, they are still very much an elite defensive team. No matter who suits up for head coach Tony Bennett, he can still get them to execute his pack line defense to near perfection.

In fact, UVA has an even better defense than they did last season. Their Adjusted Defensive Efficiency has improved from 89.2 during their title season to 82.7 in 2019-20, ranking as the best defense in all of Division I. Not only is it the best defense in the land this year, as it stands right now it is statistically the most efficient defense since 2002 (When KenPom.com started tracking stats).

Rise To The Occasion

With the departure of so much talent for the Cavaliers, redshirt senior forward Mamadi Diakite has elevated his game in order to try and give his team the best possible chance to win. He leads Virginia in made field goals (75), points per game (13.7), total rebounds (101), tied for first in blocks (19) and is second in three point percentage (38.7%).

Diakite is unquestionably the catalyst for everything Virginia does on the floor. If Georgia Tech wants to get back on the right track, more than likely it will start with eliminating Diakite's effectiveness.

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Matthew McGavic
Matthew McGavic

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