The ACC Championship will be decided Sunday between a team many expected earlier this week to be here and another that many expected to be here at the beginning of the season.
These teams split the regular season series, each winning on their home court.
In the first meeting of the season, Gani Lawal led Georgia Tech to a 71-67 win, scoring 21 points on 8-of-9 shooting from the floor. The Yellow Jackets held Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith to nine points each in the win.
Lawal was not able to make the same impact in the second meeting of the year , collecting two fouls in the first minute of the game. His frontcourt mate and ACC Rookie of the Year, Derrick Favors, also found early foul trouble, sitting the final 12 minutes of the first half. The two played a combined 40 minutes, each with foul trouble in the 86-67 loss. (Link shows the stats for this game.)
Duke's big three accounted for 65 points, almost equaling Tech by themselves.
Keys to today's game:
1. Under Pressure
Duke's coaches have watched two teams press Georgia Tech into a 41 turnovers. The Blue Devils are limited on depth, but surely they will use a full court press to wreak havoc on the Jackets' careless passes.
The Yellow Jackets have to get much better at getting the ball out quickly from made baskets and into the hands of their ball handlers. Then their guards have to value the basketball and move it up court.
2. Play Your Game
We know Duke lives and dies by the three-pointer. In the 19-point win, Duke hit 12-of-18 from beyond the arc, including Singler's 8-for-10 performance. The Blue Devils make their living with dribble penetration and kick out for open shots. Georgia Tech has to be able to stop the penetration.
Conversely, Tech cannot fall into a game of trying to match threes. They have to pound the ball inside to their bigs where they have an advantage.
3. Favors for Favors
Derrick Favors is the most talented player on the floor tomorrow. During the Yellow Jackets' ACC Tournament run, the freshman has stayed out of foul trouble, and that means he has stayed on the court creating havoc for the opposition.
You can bet Coach K is going to instruct his players to go at No. 14 to try and pick up some early fouls. Georgia Techs needs to play smart defensively and catch some breaks from the officials to allow their best player to make the maximum impact.
In the end, there are too many questions for Georgia Tech to pull of the upset and win an ACC title. The Yellow Jackets have tired legs from playing three tough games thus far and the last two within 48 hours.
Barring an off shooting night from Duke and inside domination from Tech, expect the Blue Devils to capture their league-leading 18th ACC Championship.
Duke 74-Georgia Tech 64