SF Josh Okogie and SG Tadric Jackson
Head Coach Jim Boeheim
Head Coach Josh Pastner
SF Josh Okogie and SG Tadric Jackson
Head Coach Jim Boeheim
Head Coach Josh Pastner
Thursday night at McCamish Pavilion, the Virginia Cavaliers, the #2 team in the country, come to town...of course, ice and snow permitting. Virginia is 16-1 on the season and 5-0 in ACC play. They currently sit atop the ACC standings but might be moving back after a battle with the #3 team in the ACC, the Duk.....Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
Leading the Cavaliers is Seth MacFarlane’s long-lost brother, Tony Bennett. The two-time National Coach of the Year and in his 9th season at Virginia, Coach Bennett is the other half of Coach Pastner’s get old, stay old motto with Notre Dame’s Mike Brey. Tony Bennett is known for his grind it out defense and working the clock for a good shot on offense. While this type of game plan does not attract the 1 and done guys, UVA has been able to land those four-star players that are super talented but need 3-4 years of development to go pro or be a really solid college basketball player. So far this year, it is no different. The Cavaliers are still playing rock solid defense, but they added something that was missing in the past...offensive weapons, and even scarier...from multiple different players.
To start it off, I will begin with probably the most notable player on the UVA roster. Even though he has let down thousands of people on Twitter by shaving off his man bun, the 6’2” sophomore #5, Kyle Guy is still a fan favorite. Guy is averaging 15.5 points per game and is shooting 44% from behind the arc. If you need a reference, think of Fletcher Magee from Wofford. He can flat out shoot the ball, plain and simple. Now that you have wiped off your sweat following Magee flashbacks, we can continue breaking down Kyle Guy. He has added a nice pump fake and pull up if you close out too strongly on three-point attempts, along with a nice floater if he gets closer to the rim. Defensively, he has been improving and is now constantly sliding his feet, moving over to take a charge and getting those slap down steals that lead to fast breaks. Due to his size, it will be interesting to see if Tech tries to get Tadric on the block against Guy. Especially with a good defender in Devon Hall focusing on Okogie.
Speaking of Hall, #0, he is one of the biggest pieces for Virginia as a 6’5” redshirt senior. The lefty is averaging 12.5 points per game and is shooting 47% from three. He usually plays the 3 in the lineup and can do a little bit of everything for UVA. Hall has nice court vision, hits open shots, and plays tough defense all game, as you will see is a trend for all these Virginia players. Not much more to say. Hall will play hard and get the job done. Every. Single. Night.
Here comes the “Human Highlight” #21, Domin....Isaiah Wilkins. The 6’7” senior out of Greater Atlanta Christian Academy, previously known as “oh hey, that’s Dominique’s kid” during the first two and half years of his career at UVA, is now a vastly improved, above average ACC player. He has always had the athleticism and energy, but has finally put it all together. If you don’t believe me just look at college hoops and one of GTSwarm's posters favorite's, Jon Rothstein’s twitter. Book it. It seems like every game he tweets “Isaiah Wilkins, ultimate glue guy” and that is what he is. His defense is spectacular and at the moment, I say he wins ACC Defensive Player of the Year. Now that he has added an offensive game, he is a serious threat and someone that needs to be held in check.
The other guard for UVA is the 6’5” sophomore out of New York #11, Ty Jerome. Even though he was rated a 4-star by most of the services, I believe he is severely underrated. As you might be shocked, he is sound player that does a lot of things right (they have those at UVA?). He can shoot it, play defense as he loves to get the poke from behind steals, and works the ball around to the open teammate. It seems like he is always the one to make the extra pass to Guy in the corner for the three and assist. Despite not wearing any accessories or having the “off the bus factor”, Ty Jerome is a baller.
The big man for Tony Bennett is #33, Jack Salt. Not only does his name sound like some fake name celebrities use when booking a reservation, but the 6’10” redshirt junior out of New Zealand has a lot of skill. He feeds off of drop-off passes in the paint for the two-handed jam and hits the backside offensive glass for easy put backs. He has a huge frame much like Purdue’s Isaac Haas and is a force down low. You are not going to move him out of the way, and if he boxes you out like he typically does, you might as well start running back on defense. Though, an area where Salt struggles is with fouling. He tends to hack and reach when he does not need to. If Lammers or AD are at the line a lot tonight, Tech should be in an advantageous position.
The wild card for Virginia is the redshirt freshman out of Philly #12, De’Andre Hunter. The 6’7” wing who was upset that he had to redshirt last year, has come out with a mission in his first campaign. If you could go to a factory and design a body type for a wing, Hunter would be the model to use. With the help of his athleticism, he has brought some needed change of pace and high-flying action to Charlottesville to go along with the great defense and ball movement already established.
The two other players that typically round out the UVA rotation are 6’1” grad transfer from Rutgers #23, Nigel Johnson, along with 6’9” redshirt sophomore #25, Mamadi Diakite. Out of the two Johnson is the shooter and Diakite is the slasher. Diakite's jump shot is still a work in progress, but his vertical needs no work. Like Hunter, he comes off the bench with energy and tries to get some fast break dunks to extend the lead while the starters get a little rest. When Johnson comes in, he is in there to keep the offense moving, make the smart upperclassmen choices with the ball, and hit the open shot when available.
Prediction: Georgia Tech will have a lot on their plate, but offensively it is setting up for Tadric Jackson to break out. He is due, and I have a "Boston College from last year" feeling about this game. If he can slash and get into the lane, or on the block/high post against Guy, I like Tech's chances. Georgia Tech will also need Alston and Alvarado to hit open threes on the wing when we swing it, along with Haywood when he is in there. I will be surprised if Okogie has a big game, but if he does, I will feel confident in a W. With all this considered, I still can’t bring myself to picking them...them as in Virginia. Tech by 6. *cue Pastner pumping up the crowd as he walks into the tunnel after the game*
It’s caught by Devonta Smith for an Alabaaaaama touchdown!! As Alabama’s confetti fell in Mercedes Benz Stadium last night, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets basketball team was resting up for the always tough Notre Dame Fighting Irish that are coming to town. The Irish are 12-3 on the season with losses to Ball State and Indiana (both by 3) along with a 63-81 loss to Michigan State. Unfortunately for Notre Dame, that is not the biggest loss of the season. Instead that comes in the form of losing last year’s ACC Player of the Year, Bonzie Colston for 8 weeks with a foot fracture. Senior guard and fellow upperclassmen Matt Farrell is also expected to be unavailable for the game (ankle), but who knows, Notre Dame could pull a Coach Pastner and he suits up and plays. I don’t expect them to make that move with more important long-term postseason thoughts, but you never know.
In his 18th year as the lead man at Notre Dame is Coach Mike Brey. He is highly considered as one of the greatest coaches in college hoops right now and one of the inspirations of Coach Pastner’s “get old, stay old” philosophies….and boy does Brey do an excellent job of it.
Without Colson and Farrell on the court to provide that senior leadership, Coach Brey will turn to a fellow upperclassman who stands 6’6” out of Mater Dei High School #0, Rex Pflueger. Not only does his name sound like a cousin of a super-villain but it is also a pain to spell out. A “f” after a “p” seriously, come on guy. Even though his hair and name are annoying, he is a really really solid basketball player. Was the second “really” necessary? Yeah, probably not, but I don’t want you fooled. Pflueger rarely comes out of the game, and will be trusted to do a plethora of things for the Irish. He hits the open shot, grabs the tough rebound, makes the extra pass to his teammates, and will give up his body for a charge (a Notre Dame player taking a charge..you don’t say?). He will more than likely get his 14 points and 7 rebounds, while playing solid hard defense. Tech just can’t let him get fired up and start making crazy shots/plays. If you keep him in a supporting role, you can be successful.
Baller Alert: The 6’3” sophomore out of Scotch Plains, New Jersey is #10, T.J. Gibbs Jr. This young guard is amazing on the offensive end and can shoot it from anywhere. I honestly do not know why he isn’t getting more recognition nationally. To me, he reminds me of the NBA rookie who is taking the league by storm, Donovan Mitchell. I would be interested to see who you guys/gals would compare his game to. Gibbs is averaging 14.8 points per game this season but will be able to add onto that without Colson and Farrell taking shots. He can go off for 30 and easily take over the game, and I am a little nervous he does. For some reason I cannot get the image of him nailing that back side three over and over. <insert PA Announcer in soft voice> “Gibbs for three...again.”
For Notre Dame, the next couple of words are rarely linked together: the impact freshman standing 6'6" out of Bowie, Maryland #3, DJ Harvey. He already has the body for the ACC and the mindset to go along with it. He has no problem shooting the ball, even if there is a better option or his shots aren’t falling. In my opinion this is the guy Tech should force to beat them. Put the pressure on the talented but unproven freshman on the road in the Thrillerdome (trademark pending, I feel like this will catch on).
With an even bigger role down on the block with Bonzie out is the 6’10” senior from Vilnius, Lithuania #23, Martinas Geben. Not only is this guy from the same country that is hosting Peac’s favorite family, he is also the fifth European player to play for Brey at Notre Dame. He is averaging 8 points and 7 rebounds on the year and he plays as you might imagine. Big and strong, he hits the boards hard and hits the defenders with screens even harder. They like to get him the ball at the high post and do pick/ball hand-offs to the scorers on the wing for an easy shot. This is a game where Ben Lammers will need his healthy legs to grab those boards, because you know that Geben will be making contact trying to box out.
The Fighting Irish will also turn to a duo of upperclassmen #12, Elijah Burns and #1, Austin Torres. Out of the two Burns is by far more of the scoring threat while Torres is a graduate transfer that is straight energy, and it doesn’t matter if it’s off the bench or starting as he goes all out. The final key piece for the Irish is the 6’9” sophomore big #33, John Mooney. He is still young but can stretch the floor and has the body to compete down low.
Prediction: This game is set up for Lammers to have a nice game if his mid-range shot is falling. AD will be posting up on the block or at the top of the key to get Geben to guard him, which means Lammers will have someone smaller guarding him. Therefore Ben can easily shoot over whoever with a normal jumper or a vintage Dirk’Lammers fadeaway. I feel like Alvarado can get some back-side poke away steals from Harvey in transition and Tech runs the floor for a basket. *paging a Tadric euro step finish*. I keep wanting to pick Notre Dame because of all the talent they have, but I also can’t get over how well we play in ACC games at home. So, it basically came down to one thing. Josh Okogie. We have him, they don’t. Pretty deep analysis there, huh? Gibbs Jr. step over, the real sophomore baller is comin' through. Okogie drops 36 and Techs wins by 5.
After a thrilling victory in Georgia Tech’s ACC home opener against Miami, the Jackets are set to face the Yale Bulldogs out of the Ivy League at McCamish Pavilion Saturday night. If you were excited for the Nerd Bowl vs Northwestern, I think we have raised the bar! Yale is 7-8 overall this year with key losses to Creighton, Wisconsin, and TCU but are coming off a win over Kennesaw State, 89-74.
Coaching the real Bulldogs (roll tide!) in his 19th season is James Jones. He was the Ivy League Coach of the Year back-to-back in ’15 and ’16 and is the winningest coach in school history. In 2016 Yale made it to the NCAA Tournament but sadly lost to Duke in the second round 64-71. With only two seniors on the roster, Yale is depending on some young but talented players to get the job done while continuing to develop.
The main youngster for Yale is the 6’7” sophomore out of Porter Ranch, California #24, Miye Oyi. Coming into this match-up Oyi is averaging 17.2 points per game and is shooting 35% from behind the arc. He has no problem putting shots up and is either on fire or less accurate than Jacob Eason trying to find the open receiver. Against Albany he was 2 for 10 from three and has gone 1 for 6 multiple times, but then goes 4 for 7 against TCU. If Tech can make him shoot tough shots early, it could cause him to not find his rhythm at all or ideally when it’s too late.
Another young talent for the Bulldogs is the 6’10” freshman out of West Palm Beach #20, Paul Atkinson. Most of the shots he takes are high IQ plays (big shock, right?) and his field goal percentage reflects that at 71.3%. Atkinson is coming off a 20-point game against Kennesaw State but like most freshman, he sometimes disappears and has long scoring droughts. Defensively, he plays longer than he is and has a nice wingspan that gives him the ability to affect shots or even block them. This leaves me questioning why he only has 4.7 rebounds per game. He has the tools to make it happen on the glass, so for him it is about continuing to learn the game on the collegiate level and putting a whole game together…hopefully right after Ben Lammers drops a 30 piece on him.
One of the few upperclassmen for Coach Jones is 6’7” junior #32, Blake Reynolds. He was second on the team last year in made three pointers but is only shooting 29% this year while averaging 11.3 points per game. Like Oyi, he is really hit or miss. Against Bryant University he was 4 for 5 from three but turned around next game against TCU and went 0 for 8 on three pointers and 0 for 10 from the field. Don’t get me wrong though, he can still shoot the ball, especially from the free throw line. He has only missed three free throws this entire year and should really try to get there more often. Georgia Tech just has to put pressure on him right off that bat and force bad shot attempts. If his shots fall, give credit, and then clamp down next possession.
Prediction: Georgia Tech should control this game from the start but that remains to be seen. I expect Jose Alvarado to build off of the best 7 turnover game I have ever seen and play well again. Yale does not have anyone in the back court that can control Jose or Jackson. This is another game where Tadric and Okogie should get in the lane whenever they want, and if Atkinson goes up to block the shot, drop it off to Gueye or Lammers for the dunk (grab the ball with two hands AD!). Based on patterns from the past we will play down to the competition and let them hang in all game…I say, nah, time to put a whole game together. Tech by 12.
Georgia Tech, 0-1 in ACC play, is coming off a hard-fought effort that fell just short on the road against Notre Dame. Luckily the Yellow Jackets are able to turn their focus over to the Miami Hurricanes on Wednesday in a home tilt. The U is 12-1 on the season and was one of the five undefeated teams remaining before being knocked off against New Mexico State two days before Christmas. Some can say that their record is a little skewed due to the opponents they have played, with the best win coming on the road against Minnesota, 86-81. According to CBSSports.com Miami’s strength of schedule is 90th in the country.
The man leading the way for Miami is Jim Larrañaga. He is in his seventh year at the U, with two trips to the Sweet 16 along with ACC Coach of the Year in 2013. Before coming to Miami, he had long stops at George Mason and Bowling Green. Coach Larrañaga has been the National Coach of the Year according to AP & Naismith and is known as one of the top coaches in college hoops and has the hardware to prove it.
Jim Larrañaga has another nice squad this year with multiple pieces to work with, the main man being 6’5” sophomore guard #11, Bruce Brown Jr. Brown flirted with the NBA last year but decided to return to school to increase his stock. So far it is paying dividends as Brown is currently projected to go 20th to the Indiana Pacers on NBADraft.net. He is a beast when he drives to the hoop and attacks the rim. His outside game and shot is still a work in progress, which is one of the reasons why he came back to school, but don’t be fooled…he can still knock down the open shot, and force his way to the paint to get buckets.
Along with Bruce Brown Jr. is the 6’5” McDonald’s All-American and true freshman #4, Lonnie Walker IV. Walker was considered one of the top players in the 2017 class and was a huge get for the Hurricanes, not only for his unique Elfrid Payton style hair, but also his crazy athleticism. He is widely considered to be a 1-and-done and is projected to be the 14th overall pick to the New York Knicks according to NBADraft.net. His potential leaves me a little confused with the way he is being used so far this season, as he has yet to have constant minutes nor find a solid place in the rotation. His season high for minutes was 29 against Pittsburgh, but before that it was 28 minutes against Boston University (where he scored 26 points in that time). It might be that Coach Larrañaga was waiting for ACC play to unleash him, but you would think that you would want to utilize a talent such as Lonnie Walker IV as much as possible.
Running the show for the Hurricanes is 6’3 senior #0, Ja’Quan Newton. He attacks the paint hard like Brown Jr. and has the combination of speed and strength to be successful. He is as sound as it gets on defense and plays tough in your face D all game. One of the few downfalls for the steady upperclassmen is he sometimes coughs the ball up. When you make him go left on the drive he can get out of control, which can be beneficial if Georgia Tech takes advantage of this.
The other guard is 6’3” sophomore out of Melbourne, Australia #1, Dejan “Can I Buy A Vowel” Vasiljevic. At first glance with Vasilievic, you'd think "who let this guy from the Rec League put on a uniform?" But then he starts shooting. Swish, swish, swish. He is a pure shooter who can also take you off the dribble. It might be on purpose, but he has a floater that is highly similar to fellow Aussie and NBA player Matthew Dellavedova. He will hit you with a pump fake after nailing two threes, then complete a nice floater to keep you from closing out on him the next time down.
On the wing for Miami is 6’7” junior #3, Anthony Lawrence II. He is the nice solid player that every team needs. Lawrence is good on defense, can set up his teammates, hits the boards, and can knock down the three. It is hard to find a weak spot in his game. He is that reliable upperclassman that can be trusted in ACC play and the tournament to make the right play.
Down on the block is 6’11” sophomore #20, Dewan Huell. He is long and physical with a filled-out body for such a young player. He hits the boards aggressively along with nicely set screens. He has nice touch around the paint and is starting to hit the mid-range jumpers. He is the type of player that Ben Lammers tends to have a challenging time against as he's relentless and active.
Prediction: Jose Alvarado and company will have the opportunity to get some turnovers. It just comes down to if they take advantage of them. I want to see better free throw shooting and continued tough defense. I expect a big game from Tadric Jackson with Vasilievic guarding him and most of the points coming from Tad. But after playing it out, it is hard to imagine a scenario where Tech can get it done. Anything can happen in the ACC but Miami by 9.