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Explaining Georgia Tech’s mysterious success against Roy Williams

Some mysteries can’t be explained.

Then there’s Georgia Tech’s relative success against Roy Williams. Williams’ record against the Yellow Jackets, who face North Carolina on Saturday at the Smith Center, doesn’t make much sense, unless you really look at the results.

The way the schedule breaks, Tar Heels are coming off a game against the ACC team (Clemson) Williams has the best winning percentage (90.9) to one he has relatively struggled against (Georgia Tech).

Williams has won 59.1 percent (13-9) of his games against the Jackets and 73.4 percent (160-58) against the rest of the ACC. Only Duke (12-18) has given the hall-of-fame coach more trouble since he returned to UNC before the 2003-04 season.

You can understand the record against Duke, which has one of the best programs in the country.

But Georgia Tech?

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Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner yells to an official about a call in the first half against Syracuse in Syracuse, N.Y., on March 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Nick Lisi) Nick Lisi AP

The Jackets have had as many coaches as UNC has had national titles (three) since Williams returned to Chapel Hill in ’03. UNC has been to the Final Four (five times) more than Georgia Tech has been to the NCAA tournament (four) since ’03.

So what happened?

Well, lets look at the losses. Atlanta has never been kind to Carolina. The Tar Heels have lost some memorable postseason games there, notably to N.C. State in 1983 and to Indiana in 1984. Williams has a 4-5 mark in Atlanta, compared to 9-1 in Chapel Hill.

Now let’s look at the timing of those losses. Williams’ first two seasons at UNC coincided with former coach Paul Hewitt’s best two seasons at Georgia Tech.

Hewitt led the Jackets to the national title game in 2004 and the second round of the NCAA tournament in ’05. Williams went 1-2 against Georgia Tech in 2003-04 and 1-1 in 2004-05. UNC lost to Georgia Tech in the ACC tournament in both ’04 and ’05.

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Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt watches his team struggle against Maryland press. CHUCK LIDDY - cliddy@newsobserver.com CHUCK LIDDY CHUCK LIDDY-cliddy@newsobserver.

Hewitt didn’t bring the Jackets back to the NCAA tournament until 2009-2010 season. That’s the one bad season Williams has had with UNC. The Heels went 5-11 in the ACC that season and missed the NCAA tournament.

Georgia Tech racked up three wins against UNC that season, including another in the ACC tournament (Williams is 0-3 vs. Georgia Tech in the ACC tournament).

So five of Georgia Tech’s nine wins came either during its best two seasons this century or during Williams’ worst season with UNC.

That doesn’t explain last year’s loss in Atlanta, or the 20-point disaster there in 2011, but some things can’t be explained.

Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio

Georgia Tech at No. 15 UNC

When: Saturday, 2 p.m.

Where: Smith Center, Chapel Hill

TV/radio: ESPN2, 106.1-WTKK

Georgia Tech (10-8, 3-2 ACC)

G Jose Alvarado 12.4 ppg, 3.1 apg

G Tadric Jackson 13.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg

G Josh Okogie 17.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg

F Abdoulaye Gueye 5.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg

F Ben Lammers 11.7 ppg, 9.1 rpg

UNC (15-4, 4-2 ACC)

G Joel Berry 17.4 ppg, 3.0 apg

G Kenny Williams 12.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg

G Cam Johnson 11.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg

G Theo Pinson 9.1 ppg, 4.4 apg

F Luke Maye 17.8 ppg, 10.5 rpg

Storyline: What will UNC do with Georgia Tech big man Ben Lammers? Clemson had an advantage with Elijah Thomas but couldn’t consistently exploit it. The Jackets are really a two-man team with Lammers and wing Josh Okogie, so it’s unlikely they’ll ignore Lammers for long stretches.

Joe Giglio

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