1) Take care of the ball
N.C. State has a turnover problem. Georgia Tech doesn’t force a ton of turnovers but neither does Miami and the Wolfpack turned the ball over 15 times in the ACC opener on Dec. 31.
N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried learned a lot from John Wooden when he got his coaching start as an assistant at UCLA in the 1990s. The sixth-year Wolfpack coach could use a quick primer from Tennessee legend General Robert Neyland. The first of Neyland’s game maxims: The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win.
2) Find Josh Heath
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Big man Ben Lammers is Georgia Tech’s best player and freshman wing Josh Okogie is most likely to be the “Wolfpack Hero for a Day,” but it’s Heath who has made the difference in the Jackets’ two ACC wins.
The senior point guard (and son of former Kent State/Arkansas coach) had 15 points in a 75-63 win over UNC on Dec. 31 (nearly doubling-up Joel Berry in the process) and eight assists in a 75-63 win over Clemson on Thursday.
In Tech’s two ACC losses Heath has been held scoreless (Louisville and Duke) in 46 minutes.
N.C. State will probably use some zone today against the Jackets but when it’s time to play man, Dennis Smith Jr. needs to control Heath.
Given Smith’s talent, that should be an advantage for State.
3) They gotta guard us, too, pal!
N.C. State had an advantage inside against Boston College and couldn’t capitalize. The Wolfpack tried, especially with Connar Tava (who’s at best 6-6) defending Abdul-Malik Abu.
The Wolfpack gets another “TGGUTP” game with Georgia Tech, specially with the impossibly thin Quinton Stephens at the 4.
Even in a zone defense, N.C. State should be able to find Stephens and work a mismatch.
Incredibly, I can’t find a link to Gottfried’s famous, “They gotta guard us, too, pal!” speech from the 2012 ACC tournament. That’s one of his favorite taglines.
Georgia Tech at N.C. State
Records: Georgia Tech (10-6, 2-2 ACC), N.C. State (12-5, 1-3 ACC)
When: 6:30 p.m., Sunday
Where: PNC Arena, Raleigh
TV/radio: ESPNU, 101.5-WRAL