The Hogs hit the road for the first time Monday night to battle the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. The Hogs are hoping for revenge after last season’s loss in Fayetteville that helped derail the early part of the season.
Josh Pastner’s team has only played three games, but they’ve been tough: the Yellow Jackets won a road game against ACC foe NC State in overtime, then beat Elon by 21, then lost to a much-improved Georgia team 82-78 in their last outing. They project as a possible bubble team, likely to finish in the lower-middle part of the ACC field.
A loss would not be seriously damaging for the Hogs... but a win would be a very nice sign of progress from Eric Musselman’s first squad.
(NOTE: Confused by any of these stats? Check out Arkansas Fight’s Basketball Glossary.)
Don’t expect a lot of points from either team in this one. Our model’s projection is Arkansas 65, Georgia Tech 57. Both teams can play some defense.
- Expect a pretty fast pace. Both teams like to play slightly faster than the Division I average.
- The Yellow Jackets are huge and perfectly-built to take advantage of Arkansas’ lack of size. They like to feed forwards like 6-foot-10 James Banks III, who had a big game against Arkansas last year.
- Georgia Tech’s offense is pretty dependent on drawing fouls, while the defense is very good against shooters.
- Georgia Tech is not good at rebounding or turnovers, on offense or defense. Arkansas is likely to generate a lot more shot opportunities.
When Arkansas has the ball
The Hogs will have to win this game by sheer volume: avoid turnovers, get offensive rebounds, and get to the foul line. Georgia Tech’s defense is designed to shut down jump-shooting teams.
The battle at the rim will be interesting. Improved shot selection in Muss’ pace-and-space system has helped the Hogs jump to 23rd in two-point shooting... but Georgia Tech’s defense is 4th in two-point defense. Like Arkansas, they’ll smother the perimeter to limit three-point attempts. The Jackets do a foul a decent amount, so there’s some opportunity for the Hogs there.
What stands out about Georgia Tech’s defense is its inability to end possessions prematurely. Opponents are getting 0.99 shot opportunities per possession, which ranks 329th out of 353 teams. They don’t force turnovers (287th) and give up too many offensive boards (220th). If the Hogs avoid turnovers and crash the offensive glass, they can easily overcome poor shooting.
When Georgia Tech has the ball
The Hogs don’t have any obvious weaknesses on defense. Eventually, their lack of size will hurt them in terms of rebounding (76th) and fouls (93rd), but so far, those numbers are in an acceptable range. Georgia Tech has some height, and foul trouble will be the biggest thing to watch.
The Yellow Jackets are a decent shooting team, but getting to the foul line is their best bet. They tend to avoid three-pointers, instead crashing inside and looking for fouls.
You would think that kind of strategy would create a bunch of offensive rebounds, but that hasn’t been the case for Georgia Tech. They’re just 303rd in offensive rebounding, so they don’t give themselves many opportunities. They also turn it over at a high rate, something the Hogs can definitely take advantage of.
Keys to the Game
- No dumb fouls. Several Hogs will probably get into foul trouble in this game: that’s life on the road and it’s part of GT’s strategy. That makes silly arm-bar and charging fouls hurt even more. Georgia Tech will struggle if this game turns into a jump-shooting contest due to Arkansas’ ability to generate more shots, so they need a foul-fest that puts them at the line every possession.
- Clean up missed shots. Georgia Tech wants to crash the ball inside to get shots at the rim and draw fouls. An easy way to draw fouls is to get offensive boards. The Jackets aren’t very good at that, but it’s a potential vulnerability for the Razorbacks.
- Find the hot shooter. Georgia Tech’s interior defense is going to force the Hogs to make some three-pointers. This would be a great game for Isaiah Joe to get hot from downtown.