One of the most common opinions in college basketball this season is that the ACC is in a down year. That said, the ACC Tournament tips off this afternoon, and there is certainly not one clear favorite. A big reason for the “down year” talk is teams like Florida State, who struggled all year and will now play in the first round this afternoon against Georgia Tech. We’ll preview the game before going over which side I’ll be backing.
In the ACC preseason poll, Florida State was picked to finish 5th in the conference while Georgia Tech was selected to finish last, and yet here we are on the first day of the tournament with the Yellow Jackets favored to beat the Seminoles. Florida State finished with a 7-13 conference record, and due to a 108.7 defensive efficiency rating, the Seminoles are ranked 212th in the country, according to KenPom.
The Seminoles allowed an average effective field goal percentage of 53.3% and an opponent three-point percentage of 37.9%, so it is not much of a surprise that they finished the regular season ranked 326th in average points allowed per game. On top of that, FSU did not have the offensive capabilities to make up for their defensive shortcomings, as the Seminoles could not score more than 69 points in six of their last ten games.
In the one matchup between these two teams this season, the Seminoles were able to walk away with a 75-64 win at home. That loss to FSU started a nine-game losing streak for Georgia Tech, which led to their 6-14 record in conference play. The positive for Josh Pastner and his Yellow Jackets is that they put together a nice run at the end of the season and will have positive momentum heading into this afternoon.
Georgia Tech was able to win six of their last eight games and are currently in the midst of a three-game winning streak. With that big stretch at the end of the season, the Yellow Jackets will enter today ranked 166th in KenPom. Georgia Tech showed massive improvement on the defensive end during the end of the season, leading to a 104.2 defensive efficiency rating that ranks 140th, according to KenPom.
Georgia Tech can currently be found as -2.5 point favorites, and I’ll be backing them for my play in this one. Not only do the Yellow Jackets have an advantage when it comes to momentum, but they were also a much better ATS team. Over their last nine games, the Yellow Jackets went 8-1 ATS and were 6-2 ATS when favored this season. FSU, on the other hand, was 2-8 ATS over their last ten games and 8-13 ATS when listed as an underdog.
The Yellow Jackets' offense is finding its stride at the perfect time, as on the year, they averaged 68.5 PPG, but over their last eight games, they are averaging 77 per game. The three-ball is a big part of the Yellow Jackets' offense, which gives them an ideal matchup this afternoon against an FSU defense that ranks 347th in the country in opponent average three-pointers made per game.
Florida State will not be able to find the same success from three-point range, as they shot 33.3% from deep this season, while Georgia Tech was among the best teams in defending the three. The Yellow Jackets were 28th in the country in opponent three-point percentage, and between their advantages on both ends of the floor, I think they’ll make it to the next round while covering the spread.
Georgia Tech (-2.5)