We have reached the point in the season where every game matters. March is right around the corner, and teams only have a handful of games left, with much still to be decided. The ACC picture will look a lot clearer after Thursday’s matchup between No. 19 Notre Dame and No. 16 Georgia Tech. Both teams are 10-4 in the ACC, and the winner of this game will not only notch another win against a Top 25 team late in the season but also take sole possession of fourth place in the conference. Fourth place means a double-bye in the ACC tournament.
Notre Dame has had a rough couple of weeks. The Irish have lost two of their last three games, including a blowout loss against Louisville, 73-47. They are indeed talented, but it seems their youth becomes a detriment on the road. Their last three losses have all been road games, and they haven’t won a road game since Jan. 23 against Pittsburgh.
Notre Dame has to execute on a few key things to come out victorious against the Yellow Jackets. The Irish will need Maya Dodson to dominate the boards like she usually does; she’s averaging 7.8 boards per game. Guard Olivia Miles will have to have an explosive offensive game, she’s currently averaging 13.8 points and 7.0 assists.
The team will also need to get something from its bench. Notre Dame usually plays Sam Brunelle and Anaya Peoples, so those two have to have productive games for the Irish to have a chance. Maybe another player can hold their own for a shift and play four to five minutes of good basketball to end a quarter, but this late into the season, the bench mob is a bench duo, and they need that duo to perform well.
Georgia Tech has had a successful season. The Yellow Jackets are ranked No. 16 in the country, are fourth in the ACC, and have Lorela Cubaj projected to be a first-round draft pick. All of the games they have left are ACC games, so they can end the season as high as third in the conference if they can finish February strong.
Finishing February strong starts with a win against Notre Dame. To do this, Georgia Tech will need to keep turnovers at a minimum, maximize the offensive production of their bigs, and outproduce the Irish bench. The Yellow Jackets will be at home, which bodes well for them against the young, road-challenged Notre Dame team.
Offensively, Georgia Tech has to utilize its two bigs, Cubaj and Nerea Hermosa and Lorela Cubaj. They each rank in the top two in minutes, points, and rebounds on the team. The frontcourt is where the Yellow Jackets have an advantage against the Irish. If they can get their two bigs going early, it could be a smooth night in Atlanta.
No. 16 Georgia Yellow Jackets (19-6, 10-4 ACC) vs. No. 19 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (19-6, 10-4 ACC)
When: Thursday, Feb. 17 at 8 p.m. ET
Where: McCamish Pavillion in Atlanta, GA
How to watch: ACCN
Key to the matchup: Georgia Tech needs to keep turnovers to a minimum and passes inside to their bigs to a maximum. If the Yellow Jackets can control the pace and style of play, especially at home, it could be a long night for Notre Dame. For the Fighting Irish, they need to get all they can from their bench duo of Brunelle and Peoples. If Olivia Miles gets going early, Notre Dame can dictate a faster pace of play and make Georgia Tech uncomfortable. This game is an even matchup with two conference rivals with the same record late in the season. It should be a good one to watch in Atlanta tonight.