Busting Brackets

North Carolina vs. Georgia Tech: Game Preview, TV Schedule, Prediction

CHAPEL HILL, NC - JANUARY 16: Kenny Williams
CHAPEL HILL, NC - JANUARY 16: Kenny Williams /

The North Carolina Tar Heels have turned things around recently and are carrying a three-game winning streak into a Saturday with a matchup against a Georgia Tech team who is over .500 in the ACC.

TV Schedule: Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018. 2 p.m. ET ESPN 2

Arena: Dean Smith Center, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

After two consecutive ACC losses to Florida State and Virginia, the North Carolina Tar Heels fell to as low as 20th in the country. Since then, they have blown out Boston College, won a thriller over Notre Dame and defeated Clemson in a shootout.

The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets haven’t done anything impressive this season. When they began conference play, they fell under .500. Since then though the Yellow Jackets have won four in a row including a game over Yale and a revenge win over Notre Dame. A Miami Hurricanes win headlines their run of victories.

Recently though, the Jackets have fallen to Virginia. The Cavaliers are one of the best teams in the country. Their defense is tremendous as they held Tech to just 48 points.

Let’s focus on the big time wins Georgia Tech has picked up. This team has received huge performances from Josh Okogie since he’s returned from a finger injury and accepting benefits. The sophomore guard exploded for 30 points over Miami. He dropped 17 in the victory over Notre Dame and 12 in their win over Pittsburgh.

The last two games also featured senior forward Ben Lammers recording double-doubles bringing his total to seven this season. He’s a 6-foot-10 forward who’s averaging 12.1 points, 9.2 boards, and 2.9 blocks per game.

North Carolina has been led by the usual suspects all season. Joel Berry II is averaging 17.4 points per game and Luke Maye is slightly ahead at 17.8 points per game. Both are capable of hitting the three-pointer and taking over whenever called upon.

Two guys who jumped out to me that were difference-makers in the win over Clemson were Cameron Johnson and Kenny Williams. Johnson played in his first game of the season on December 20. He went off for a season-high the other night against the Tigers. He scored 21 points and made six of nine three-pointers. Williams contributed two three-pointers and had his best scoring night in four games.

UNC believes if Johnson can be added to the mix as a serious scoring threat, the team is going to get that much better. Roy Williams made a smart move by adding him to the starting lineup against Boston College for the first time this season. He now averages double-figures at 11.1 points per game. Williams has flashed signs of being a scoring threat as he’s at 12.3 points per game.

Georgia Tech is going to have to use their defense to stay in the game. The Jackets have the 14th ranked defense at 62.8 points allowed. UNC ranks 159th at 71.5 points allowed per game.

The Tar Heels have the advantage over the Yellow Jackets in just about every statistical category. The only three things that Georgia Tech has going for them are steals, blocks, and less fouling. Other than that, UNC is clearly the better team.

The Tar Heels did not respond well to Virginia’s great defense. No one for that matter has been able to figure out that defense. If Georgia Tech though can play shutdown defense like they did over Miami and Notre Dame the second time, that should keep them in the game against these hot-shooting Tar Heels.

Next: ACC Power Rankings

Don’t be surprised if the Yellow Jackets pull the upset because of their great defense. The Tar Heels have shown to be vulnerable against teams with tremendous defense. It’ll be a battle for sure, and they’re going to need a great game plan, but I believe they’ll be ready. This Tar Heel team is hot and are really rolling.

Prediction: North Carolina 72 Georgia Tech 64