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Georgia Tech freshman forward Khalid Moore (photo courtesy of ramblinwreck.com)

Finals week has concluded and it is time to get back to business on the court for Coach Pastner's Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Coach's crew will get back into the swing of things on Monday evening against Big South opponent Gardner-Webb.

The Runnin' Bulldogs out of Boiling Springs, NC come into Monday night's game with a 7-5 record and winners of 5 in a row. Two of those wins are a against non-D1 opponents, while the other three are against teams that rate 328 or worse in KenPom.

Gardner-Webb is led by sixth year head coach Tim Craft. This is Coach Craft's first stint as a Division 1 coach and he has compiled a record of 95-83. He was an assistant coach at the program under Rick Scruggs in the early 2000's as well. He has served as an assistant at Auburn and East Carolina (not ECU). He is the program's third head coach since they joined D-1 in 2002-03, and he was preceded by current Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann.

Gardner-Webb is led by two dynamic scoring guards, senior David Efianayi and freshman Jose Perez. Efianayi owns over 1,300 career points and is currently on pace to set a career high for triples made in a season. He is averaging 17.2 points per game and shooting 42% from three on the season. In his last three contests however, he is only connecting at a 31% clip. He has scored in double figures every game this season and has had 20 or more five times.

Perez, a 6'5 wing out of the Bronx, is also averaging 17.2 points per game. He has been named the Big South freshman of the week twice and recorded Gardner-Webb's first triple double in nearly 20 years earlier this season. He had exactly one scholarship offer out of high school that I could find. Over his last five games, Perez is averaging 18.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.8 steals and shooting 53% from behind the arc. Regardless of competition, that is really impressive.

A couple of additional players that should be mentioned are Nate Johnson and DJ Laster. Johnson, a 6'4 RS sophomore guard, is averaging 11.3 points per game. He has kind of burst onto the scene this year. He is shooting 42.6% from three and has an effective field goal percentage of 63% on the season.

Laster, an undersized forward, also averages double figures at 11.6 points per game, he is also good for about 5 rebounds. He is the only player on the roster taller than 6'6 that plays more than 12 minutes per game.

Gardner-Webb is an interesting team. While their numbers have certainly been impacted by the level of competition they have played, they have also played VCU, VPI and Furman. They are currently 291st in the country in tempo (KenPom) while being a top 50 team in points per game at 82.2. They do not have one particular player who dominates on the glass, but they are a very good rebounding team, ranking 23rd in nation in total rebounds.

This game will again give Georgia Tech an opportunity to flex their perimeter defense muscles as the Bulldogs rank 27th in triples made and 29th in the country at 39%

Make no mistake, Craft will have this team ready to play and Georgia Tech has a long history of playing poorly after finals week. During his time in Boiling Springs his program is 1-3 against the ACC. The win was on a neutral court against Clemson in 2014-15. He also owns a win at Purdue (same season) and a win at Nebraska in 2016. This year they lost to Furman on the road by only two points in overtime.

To make a long story short, this is not a team the Yellow Jackets can afford to take lightly.

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KNOXVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 13: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets guard Michael Devoe (0) takes a shot over Tennessee Volunteers guard Jordan Bowden (23) during a college basketball game between the Tennessee Volunteers and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on November 13, 2018, at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, TN. (Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Coach Josh Pastner's Jackets remain on the road this week. After dropping a game to Northwestern in the ACC/B1G challenge, they head down to Florida to play an undefeated St. John's squad on Saturday. The contest is being called the Air Force Reserve Hoop Hall Miami Invitational and tips at noon EST on ESPNU.

St. John's is one of 17 remaining undefeated teams in the NCAA and is currently ranked 46th by KenPom. This game will mark the first time St. John's has played outside of the NY/NJ area this year. The Red Storm currently rank 245th in strength of schedule and their highest rated opponent, according to KenPom, is Rutgers. Despite the poor schedule and their ability to score in bulk (83 points per game), their average margin of victory is only 11.5 points.

The Red Storm are led by dynamic junior point guard Shamorie Ponds who averages 2o points, 5.2 assists, 3.3 assists per game. Going back to 1992-93, he is the only St. Johns player to have a season of 550 points, 100 assists, 65 steals and less than 10o turnovers. He has done it twice. He is joined this year by high scoring Auburn transfer Mustapha Heron, who was granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA. Heron is currently averaging 18.2 points and 6.2 rebounds. He is also shooting 43.5% (23 attempts) on the young season. As a team St. John's shoots an impressive 38% from three. LJ Figueroa, a budding star for Coach Chris Mullin, shoots 54% from deep on the season.

As mentioned, St. John's is coached by former Red Storm superstar Chris Mullin. As a player, Mullin appeared in 125 games, averaged 19.5 points and won the Big East Player of the Year award for three straight seasons. His coaching acumen thus far has been a bit underwhelming, having yet to lead his alma mater to an above .500 season in his first three tries. His record coming into the 2017-18 season was 38-60.

This is an interesting match-up for Georgia Tech. The Johnnies are a live by the three, die by the three team and the Jackets currently rank 14th in the nation in three point percentage against at 25.7%. The good guys only give up 59 points per game, good for 16th in the nation. The contrast in styles is one of the most intriguing parts of this contest. St. Johns is 56th in adjusted tempo (KenPom), while Georgia Tech is currently 190th.

The KenPom metric currently gives St. Johns a 73-70 edge. If Georgia Tech can maintain their defensive intensity and put together a complete game on the road they have a chance. The Red Storm have yet to really play anyone of consequence, while the Jackets have played two opponents inside the top 50 (Kenpom) and both on the road. The Jackets hold the edge as far as being battle tested.

Georgia Tech needs to defend and they need to shoot it. Stop me when this sounds familiar. It is always a grab bag when this program goes on the road. I guess we will just have to see what we see.

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Sophomore Guard Curtis Haywood (photo courtesy of ramblinwreck.com)

Josh Pastner and the Yellow Jackets hit the road for the second time this season on Wednesday, heading to Evanston, Illinois to take on the Northwestern Wildcats. The game is part of the annual ACC/B1G challenge and will tip at 9:15 pm on ESPNU.

The Yellow Jackets are competing in the challenge for the 18th time and have a record of 7-10. You might be thinking that Northwestern is a familiar foe. You would be correct. This will be the fifth time that Georgia Tech and Northwestern face off in the challenge. The two met in 2010, 2011, 2014, 2017 and again this year. In the four previous match ups the Jackets are 3-1, including two wins at Welsh-Ryan Arena and each of the last three games. The average margin of victory is 8.8 points in those four games, the largest being 20 (Northwestern) and the slimmest being 1 (Tech last season).

Currently, according to KenPom, Northwestern is a 68-61 favorite. Georgia Tech is currently 77th in the Pomeroy rankings, while Northwestern is 46th.

While Georgia Tech is mostly led by freshman and sophomores, Northwestern has a lot of veteran leadership. Seniors Vic Law and Derek Pardon have a combined 187 collegiate contests under their belt at the Big 10 level. Two very talented transfers, Ryan Taylor (Evansville) and A.J. Turner (Boston College), bookend the Wildcat staples with 158 more games played. All four players average double figures on the season. The leader of the group is Law, who after a somewhat underwhelming career, has seemingly come into his own as a senior. He currently leads Northwestern in points (18.5), assists (3.0) and blocks (1.5).

Northwestern's strength this season is their defense. While some of the numbers are currently skewed by their offensive tempo, they are currently surrendering 61 ppg (27th in the nation) and allowing 31% from behind the arc. Of course, their strength of schedule is also currently 254th in the country.

Northwestern is led by Chris Collins, who is currently in his sixth season in Evanston. He has compiled a record of 93-78 overall and a 36-54 in the Big 10. The Wildcats are still seemingly cruising after a 2016-17 season that saw them go 24-12 with an invitation to the prom for the first time in program history. That season was highlighted by a last second shot by Derek Pardon versus Michigan. They ended up losing in the second round of the NCAA tournament to Gonzaga. They parlayed that success into a preseason top 25 ranking last year but ultimately under-performed. They were out of the rankings by week 3 and have yet to return.

If this game was in Atlanta I would be tempted to take the Jackets. Though Georgia Tech performed well in Knoxville, I still can't get behind such a young team on the road. I expect the good guys to cover but the Wildcats to win. They have the star power in Law and a quality big man in Pardon that could ultimately negate James Banks, who is still rounding into form. Taylor and Turner have the length and experience to handle players like Brandon Alston, Curtis Haywood and Mike Devoe.

Then again, Northwestern doesn't have a point guard. Georgia Tech has one with an attitude. One that really hates to lose. One that just recently willed his team to victory in a game in which they struggled a great deal. Can you really bet against Jose Alvarado when he plays with a chip on his shoulder? Will Haywood and Devoe combine to go 1-7 from deep two games in a row? Smart money says, emphatically, no.

I have no idea who is going to win, but I think it is going to be extremely tight wire to wire.

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Transfer center James Banks (photo credit to The Athletic)

The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets look to continue to protect their home court Friday, hosting the Prairie View A&M Panthers. The game tips at 4:00pm EST and will be broadcast on ACC Network Extra.

Pastner's Yellow Jackets are 3-0 at home this year and 18-4 in out of conference home games during his tenure. Currently, Georgia Tech ranks #71 in the KenPom rankings while Prairie View A&M sits at #277. Prairie View A&M averages 69 points per game on offense and surrenders 74.8 on the the season. Kenpom predicts a final score of 78-62 in favor of the good guys for this one.

The Panthers come into the game with a 1-5 record. They are led by fourth year coach Byron Smith. During his tenure the Panthers have a record of 36-49 and have never finished with a winning record. It should be noted that he has only coached two full seasons. They are a member of the Southwest Athletic Conference. A traditional one bid league, the SWAC has been represented in the NCAA tournament by Texas Southern in 4 of the last 5 NCAA tournaments.

Smith's crew comes into McCamish with a back court trio of guards that can score the ball. Seniors Gary Blackston and Taishaun Johnson along with junior Gerard Andrus combine to average 37.8 points per game so far this season. Though they are led by their backcourt, the Panthers are not a threat from deep. They currently rank 334th in the nation, shooting 25.5% from three. They are however 50th in nation in three point percentage allowed at 27.7%.

The Panthers are led by junior Devonte Patterson in the paint. An undersized post, Patterson averages 12.8 points and 7 rebounds per game. He is not much of a rim protector, collecting just 2 blocks in four games.

The Jackets and Panthers have three common opponents so far this season. While Tech is 3-0 against Lamar, UTRGV and East Carolina, Prairie View lost to all three squads. Those games are all part of the Panther's current five game losing streak. The first game of that streak was a loss at Baylor, a game in which Prairie View actually hung around, eventually falling 91-80. To date, the Bears are the only power 5 school that the Panthers have faced. It should be noted that the Panthers did play UNC-Greensboro tough in Greensboro, only falling by 8 points.

This is a game that the Yellow Jackets should handle quite easily. It's not a game that I would expect to see Evan Cole, as his presence is most likely unnecessary. My prediction for today is that James Banks has a big day. The transfer big man saw his minutes played jump from 16 to 19 last game and given the energy and rim protection he brings, I think that trend continues. He is currently averaging 16.5 rebounds and 5.5 blocks per 40 minutes played through his first three games.

In light of Prairie View A&M's poor shooting, I would expect Pastner's crew to sag a bit and pack the paint, daring the Panthers to shoot. Missed long shots typically lead to long rebounds which could lead to easy baskets in transition for the Jackets. The line for this game has moved from GT(-14.5) to (-16.5) and back down to (-16). Pastner and the Jackets should cover easily at home.

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Josh Pastner's Jackets to host ECU on 11/16

Fresh off a hard fought game against Tennessee, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets will host the Eastern Carolina Pirates on Friday night. The game will be broadcast on ACCNE at 7:30pm.

So who is Eastern Carolina? Well aside from being the largest school in North Carolina and being known as the NC "party school", they are currently making their way into the conversation as the up and coming program in the American Athletic Conference. The ECU program made a fantastic hire during the offseason, luring Florida Gulf Coast coach Joe Dooley away from Fort Myers.

Dooley spent time in the Bill Self coaching tree prior to his hiring at FGCU. He was widely known to be one of the Jayhawk's most effective recruiters early in the Self era, credited with landing players such as Cole Aldrich, Tyshawn Taylor and Mario Chalmers. In 2013 he left Lawrence for Fort Myers for his second head coaching position, replacing Andy Enfield after he departed for USC. In five seasons at FGCU he made the NCAA tournament twice and the NIT twice. He won 21 games or more in all five seasons and never finished worse than second in the Atlantic Sun Conference. He departed the Eagles with a 114-58 record.

The interesting thing about Dooley is that he was actually the Head Coach of the Pirates before this season. He led the purple and black from 1995-1999 after Eddie Payne departed for Oregon State. During his first stint at ECU, Dooley went 57-52.

The Pirates come into the GT game with a 2-1 record, averaging 79 points per game. ECU also played Lamar early in the 2018-19 season, a game in which they needed overtime to win. ECU has an ACC flavor as Dooley brought on former Virginia Tech Assistant Coach Steve Roccaforte, who in turn brought former Hokie Seth LeDay with him. He's also bringing former Hokies Tyrie Jackson and Khadim Sy in for the 2019 class.

LeDay has led the Pirates through the first three games, averaging 16.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Freshman Jayden Gardner and sophomore K.J. Davis give Dooley a nice duo to back up LeDay, combining to score 25 points and snag better than 12 rebounds per contest early in the 2018-19 season.

The straw that stirs the drink is senior point guard Isaac Fleming. The former Hawaii Rainbow Warrior has been a fantastic addition to the Pirate program, averaging 12.2 points, 4.8 assists and 1.4 steals per game through 33 games. Fleming is solid but does not provide an outside threat, shooting less than 28% from deep over the course of his career.

Strangely enough, one of Georgia's own is the player that concerns me. Freshman Tae Hardy, a Miller Grove product, has played well early for the Pirates. The 6'3" guard averages 9 points, 2.7 rebounds, an assist and a steal per game early in his career. He likes to jump passing lanes and get out in the open court. He could be a huge X-factor in this game.

At the end of the day it's hard to predict what we will see here. This is a new coach with a new program who has yet to stock the pond with his players. Dooley keeps the tempo pretty low and doesn't historically play a ton of defense (according to KenPom).

Given the most recent performance by the Jackets against Tennessee, I can't imagine the spread is going to be crazy. I do like the Jackets to cover in this contest if the spread is set at single digits. East Carolina is not Tennessee. I think this is the game where Jose Alvarado and Shembarri Phillips both get right.