After missing the NCAA Tournament for the second time in four years, IU will begin its fifth appearance in the National Invitation Tournament on Tuesday at Georgia Tech.
IU is the three seed, but declined to host the game at Simon Skojdt Assembly Hall because the students wouldn’t be there to attend because of spring break.
This is IU’s first time playing in the tournament since 2005. The Hoosiers are 2-0 all-time against the Yellow Jackets.
Under first-year head coach Josh Pastner, the Yellow Jackets were considered one of the most improved teams in the country. Georgia Tech was 17-15 and finished 11th in the ACC this season. Pastner earned ACC Coach of the Year for his turnaround effort.
“Georgia Tech has gotten better all year long,” IU Coach Tom Crean said. “Their defense is outstanding in the way they switch defense and put pressure on passing lanes and force you into tough spots. We have to have great ball movement and cutting because last thing that you want to do is stand around on offense.”
Per Kenpom’s defensive efficiency metric, Georgia Tech had the seventh-best defense in the country. The Yellow Jackets give up an effective field goal percentage of just 46.1 percent, 26th in the country. In conference play, Georgia Tech has the best field goal percentage defense in the ACC.
Their strong defense in anchored by junior center Ben Lammers, who had a block percentage of 9.6 percent, which is good for 27th in the nation. Lammers was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year, while also earning second-team All-ACC honors. He averages 14.3 points per game and 9.3 rebounds per game.
“Their inside guys are very active and will battle you,” freshman forward De’Ron Davis said. “We have to do a great job of getting our position and keep them off the glass.”
However, as strong as Georgia Tech’s defense and frontline is, the Yellow Jackets struggle offensively. Their effective field goal percentage of 47-percent is 309th in the country and they disproportionally shoot more twos than threes. Georgia Tech shoots twos on 60 percent of its possessions, which is second in the nation.
Freshman guard Josh Okogie is Georgia Tech’s leading scorer at 15.5 points per game, which is the highest by a freshman at Georgia Tech since Chris Bosh in 2003.
The Yellow Jackets have lost four out of their last five games and lost their first game in the ACC Tournament to Pittsburgh, 61-59.
IU’s mindset is positive even though the Hoosiers missed the NCAA Tournament.
“I feel like we are playing real good,” junior guard Josh Newkirk said. “Whatever we get, we are going to take advantage of and make the most of it. I think that it will definitely help us. We just want to continue to play. We have to come into practice and have a positive mindset and move forward.”
Junior guard Rob Johnson echoed that sentiment.
“It doesn’t matter what tournament it is, we just have to focus on what is next and keep on getting better,” Johnson said.
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