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NC State hopes to avoid a letdown at Georgia Tech

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There’s not much to like about the Yellow Jackets this season.

NCAA Basketball: Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech
I PLAYED HAMLET AT CAMBRIDGE
Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

NC State is on the road for the final time this season, hoping both to continue its win streak and stay in good shape for an ACC tournament double bye. In the way is Georgia Tech, which has dropped seven consecutive league games after a respectable 4-5 start.

The Jackets picked up some quality wins early in ACC play but Josh Pastner has been unable to sustain his team’s solid start the way he did last year. Part of that is bad luck in the form of injuries—Tech has been without freshman guard Curtis Haywood since late January, and point guard Jose Alvarado has been sidelined with an arm injury since Feb. 11.

That’s left them with limited rotation depth, which has only made life harder on a team that wasn’t very good at the offensive end to begin with. But Georgia Tech still has Josh Okogie, the one genuine go-to guy on the team who can put up a lot of points on any given night.

Okogie could use a bit more help from big man Ben Lammers, who is capable but hasn’t been as steady as he was in 2017. Lammers’ decline in shooting accuracy has been especially painful since that isn’t a strength of anybody else in the rotation. Tech ranks just 323rd nationally in effective field goal percentage.

In ACC games, the Jackets are dead last in three-point accuracy (30.8%) and rank 13th in two-point accuracy (45.7%). They also happen to be one of the most turnover-prone teams in the conference, which is extremely unhelpful in mitigating those shooting woes.

Georgia Tech won eight conference games last season on the strength of its defense, with ranked sixth in efficiency. This season, that defense ranks 88th. This is not the sort of drop off an offensively-challenged team could afford, and the results have been more predictable for this undertalented group as a result.

The Jackets still play good interior defense—they block a lot of shots—but they have been poor on the defensive glass and they are prone to fouls. As long as NC State doesn’t force too much action in the paint, there’s plenty to exploit here. Definitely enough to give the Pack its fifth straight.