Georgia Tech is coming off a 65-62-win against the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats, led by Ben Lammers’ 19 points and 13 rebounds. Up next for the Yellow Jackets is the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros. Located in Edinburg, Texas, the Vaqueros are 3-2 so far in the season, with this upcoming game against the Jackets being their fourth straight road game in a row. They have a win against our previous opponent Bethune-Cookman and also in their most recent game, a victory against another future Georgia Tech opponent, the North Texas Mean Green, by a final of 75-63.
Texas-Rio Grande Valley, who play in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), was 10-22 last year and 1-14 on the road and are led by the first year Head Coach, Lew Hill. Coach Hill spent the previous 5 seasons as an assistant coach at Oklahoma and followed Lon Kruger from University of Las Vegas (UNLV). Hill was an all-American at San Jacinto Junior College before taking his talents to the Wichita State Shockers his senior year, helping them make the NCAA Tournament. He played one season professionally in Germany before returning to America. Hill got his Paul Johnson-esque start by coaching the JV boys at Wichita East High School in Kansas before moving up the rankings to varsity, then making the jump to an assistant role in the collegiate level at South Alabama.
The Texas-Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros are led by redshirt senior guard, #4 Nick Dixon. Dixon is the team captain and listed at 6’2”, 180 pounds out of Hillside, Illinois. Take one look at the Vaqueros and he sticks out like the belly on a UGA fan (it’s hate week boys!) #THWg. Through 5 games this season he is averaging 23.4 points per game, with his career high coming last year on the road against Utah Valley when he dropped a whopping 41 points. If this game is close in late game situations, this is the one guy you do not want to foul. Dixon led the WAC and was 21st nationally last year in free throws made last year.
Next in line for the Vaqueros is another redshirt senior guard, #10 Moe McDonald. Standing 6’4” and 195 pounds, he came out of IMG Academy by way of McAllen, Texas. McDonald is one of the glue guys for the Vaqueros as is the only other player leading Nick Dixon in minutes on the team. He has his occasional scoring outburst, but for the most part he will make a few assists, make a couple jumpers, and grab some boards. Overall, McDonald is a solid player that every program needs and his minutes show that.
Outside of Dixon and McDonald, the Vaqueros have a very unusual rotation of players and minutes. No trend or tendencies have shown up the first five games, which makes it hard for opposing coaches to gauge what strategy to follow. They can choose the long and athletic route with 6’7” sophomore #11, Leslie Varner Jr and 6’6” sophomore #25, Xavier McDaniel Jr to pair with the formable duo, Nick Dixon and Moe McDonald. Varner Jr is averaging 9.5 points per game and brings intensity on defense and the boards. Pastner would love his “guard rebounding” skills. McDaniel Jr, is a wild card. He can go off like he did against UT Martin for 27 points, or not show up like the last game against North Texas where he had only 5 points.
The Vaqueros can also choose to go with a more stable, older group consisting of 6’8” redshirt senior #32, Adonis Rwabigwi and the second team captain, redshirt junior guard #13, Lew Stallworth. Rwabigwi has shown to be nothing more than an experienced big body out there that the coach can trust to not make an unwise decision, which is why would could see him tonight on the road against an ACC opponent. The same can be said for the 6’1” Stallworth who was ranked third in the WAC in assist-to-turnover ratio and 205th in the country. He gets way more playing time than Rwabigwi but doesn’t tend to put up the numbers to match his minutes. Stallworth is out there to once again play smart and get the ball to the playmakers.
The final option they have is the young and fast group with 6’3” 165-pound freshman #0, Greg Bowie and 5’10" 165-pound freshman #14, Javon Levi. Both players can get the ball up the court and in a hurry. The only drawback is that the can get out of control and make mistakes, especially when going up against an ACC team. It will come down to who Coach Hill thinks he can trust with the ball and make smart decisions. #22 Jordan Jackson, the junior out of Houston, Texas also fits this bill. He is a little bit older but still carries the same skills as Bowie and Levi.
Down low they have 6’8 senior #23, Dan Kimasa. Along with the third team captain and 6’8” redshirt senior #21, Mike Hoffman. Both men provide the same service for the Vaqueros: play sound defense, screen for Dixon, and get most of the rebounds. They are not counted on for much scoring and play their role well. An interesting thing about the big men of the Vaqueros is that they have a big 7’1", Ole Miss transfer Johnny Crnogorac who is mostly glued to the bench. It leads me to wonder if they will put him in to try and contain Ben “Marta” Lammers.
Prediction: Ben Lammers should have another huge game, and Georgia Tech forces the Vaqueros to get reckless with the ball like Bethune-Cookman. I would be worried about foul trouble for whoever is guarding Nick Dixon, but I’m assuming we will stick with the zone this game. Only things I worry about is not over-rotating in the zone and stopping the transition. If we make them play in the half court, we will be in an advantageous position to succeed. They lack the presence down low on offense to beat the zone and do not have a shooter the caliber of Bethune’s Brandon Tabb on the perimeter. The key to the game is keeping Dixon out of the lane and away from the free throw line. Tech by 10.