Video courtesy of ballislife.com

Coming out of Spire Academy with the ability to run the floor, make flashy passes and play above rim, many would assume I am talking about LaMelo Ball. But in fact I am talking about a 6’10” big man originally from France, Josaphat Bilau.

The Frenchman has been on Georgia Tech’s radar for a little while and on April 10th the Yellow Jackets pulled the trigger with an offer. “Coach (Julian) Swartz is leading my recruitment,” said Bilau. He has been hearing from the head man Coach Pastner too and how much he would love to have him at Tech.

Bilau is still in the research phase on Georgia Tech but wants to learn more. “I am definitely trying to come down for a visit soon,” said Bilau. “I just don’t know when yet.”

When you watch the tape of Bilau, you see a big man whose can really run the floor well, make plays for his teammates and hit the open shot. When I asked who he would compare himself to, Bilau responded with the same initial thought as me - Draymond Green. “I’m able to grab the rebound, push the ball, and either set up my teammate or make a play for myself.”

Bilau currently holds a 3.0 GPA and wants to major in Business Management. He has identified Wake Forest, Virginia Tech and Washington State as his other top schools along with Georgia Tech at the moment, and he wants to go to a place where he can continually get better. “I’m looking for a school where I can come in and have an impact right away and where I can keep developing my game.” That should be music to Georgia Tech’s ears since they employ the unofficial “big man whisperer” in Coach Eric Reveno. Reveno has had a wide field of success developing bigs from the Lopez twins to the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, Ben Lammers.

If Tech can make it to the finish line with this baller from France, and with rising senior James Banks being the only true post player currently on the roster, Bilau could see tons of minutes early on in Atlanta.

Video courtesy of Refine | Hoops

This happens every single year. The basketball season will start and a freshman who was barely recruited starts tearing it up on the court. Then everyone is left wondering, “How in the world did this guy not have more offers?” Georgia Tech might be onto their diamond in the rough with a 6’5” shooting guard out of W.J. High School in Columbia, South Carolina, Asanti Price.

Just one glance at his highlight tape and you can see Asanti takes the “shooting” portion of “shooting guard” to heart. Price has one of the smoothest, purest jump shots in the ’19 class and has now put himself on the map with big Power 5 schools. When asked who he tries to emulate his game after, he offered a list of shooters led by Ray Allen. He also included a cool little nugget that his high school coach actually coached Ray Allen. If Price can continue doing what he is doing and follow the guidance of his coaches, there is no telling how high the ceiling is for him.

Price recently took an unofficial to Georgia Tech for the FSU game and enjoyed himself. “The game was good and I loved the atmosphere,” said Price. Coach Anthony Wilkins is leading the recruitment of Asanti along with the head man, Coach Pastner. Price has been hearing from them a lot but is still waiting on the official offer. “They said they were going to come to my championship game, so hopefully they offer me after that.”

Price has also been hearing from Xavier, Kansas State, St. Mary’s, and Maryland and says he is looking for a school that is, “the best for me on the court, can offer a good education, along with a good environment.” Price let it be known he wants to major in either Sports Medicine or Psychology. He told me if Tech does offer he will set up an official visit and let me know when it would be.

Asanti is targeting a decision by the end of April and is very determined and focused to get the right fit. After talking with him, I get the feeling that the ball is in Georgia Tech’s court. All they have to do is offer and pass the ball to Price….because if they do, you know he is going to turn it into points.

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Following a short hiatus, guard Brandon Alston is available again for the Jackets (photo courtesy of Glenn Beil, USA TODAY Sports)

Georgia Tech is flirting with dipping under .500 for the first time this season on Wednesday night

This league is such a gauntlet. Only in the Atlantic Coast Conference is it a relief to play the 45th ranked team in KenPom. A team that still ranks just about middle of the pack in the ACC in every defensive category. A team that just blitzed you a mere three weeks ago.

Clemson comes to town on Wednesday sporting a modest two game winning streak (Pittsburgh and Wake). Both games were played at Littlejohn where the Tigers generally take care of business. The Tigers are a less impressive 1-4 in true road games this season though and have yet to put one in the left hand column on the road since before Christmas.

Marcquise Reed continues to put up numbers for the Tigers, averaging a career best 19.1 points per game, but he is not receiving a ton of support. Through eight league games this year, only Elijah Thomas is averaging double figures (13.5) alongside Reed, who leads the Tigers at 17.8 points per game in ACC play.

Shelton Mitchell's senior season has continued to go unexpectedly. The typically solid southpaw is averaging a pedestrian 7.3 points and 3.3 assists in over 30 minutes per game. His historic reliability from behind the arc has also fallen off. Mitchell shot 45.3% two seasons ago and 36.8% last year. This season, he has fallen all the way to 28.4% and even further in conference play to 25.9%. In fact, on the season, Clemson ranks 271st in three point field goal percentage. They are, however, one of the best rebounding teams in the country, so defensive rebounding could be a pivotal part of this contest.

Whether it be the competition or simply the performance, Haslam has Clemson's two most recent games as two of their three best performances on the season.

KenPom predicts the game at 63-62 in favor of Clemson, while Haslam has it at 62-58 in favor of the kitties as well.

It's difficult to get too confident as a Georgia Tech fan right now. The Yellow Jackets have not scored more than 61 points in any of their last six games and suffered defeat in five of those six. The solutions aren't exactly rocket science as we just played a heck of a schedule the last few weeks. That said, James Banks and Curtis Haywood II simply need to play better. In his last three games Banks is averaging 5.3 points and 4.o rebounds along with 4 fouls in 25 minutes. He has also blocked only two shots.

Haywood is just too deep in his own head right now. In his last five games he is shooting 4% from behind the arc. He is obviously a much better shooter than that and a lot of the looks have been clean. He just needs to shoot his way out of it. Something else that could be happening is that he could be hitting the wall. Don't forget that he only appeared in 15 games last season before undergoing surgery on his leg. Recovery from that surgery affected his conditioning from what we heard out of preseason practice. We are now 21 games into the season and he may be hitting that freshman wall a year late.

I honestly don't have any idea what to expect, folks. At a minimum I'm looking for continued development from our young guys and continued health from our leaders. Hopefully we get to pick up the win.

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AD Gueye has notched 10+ points in 5 consecutive ACC games played (photo courtesy of FloridaToday.com

Georgia Tech wraps up a tough 8 game run against Florida State Saturday at Noon

The ACC is a treacherous beast at times. For instance, a young Notre Dame squad just had a Saturday-Monday turn around. While both games were at home, they were against arguably the two best teams in the nation, Duke and Virginia. The Irish lost both games by more than 20 points.

The Yellow Jackets aren't in the middle of a quick turn around such as that, but they are set to wrap up a tough 8 game stretch on Saturday with a trip to Tallahassee. Since January 9th, the Jackets have played four games against top 15 Kenpom teams, while 3 of the other 4 are top 45 teams. Notre Dame was the outlier at #94.

Saturday's opponent, Florida State, has the reputation as an underachiever halfway through the ACC slate while ranking #26 by Pomeroy's metrics. The Seminoles have seemingly righted the ship lately with wins at home against Clemson and on the road in Coral Gables after a three game losing streak. They sit at 15-5 (3-4) and just ahead of the Jackets in the ACC standings.

Florida State is led by longtime ACC head coach Leonard Hamilton who is in his 17th season as the Seminoles' head man. He also led Miami for 10 seasons in the 90's when the 'Canes were part of the Big East. His record at FSU is 342-213 (138-137), but in the past four seasons is 84-40 (32-27) with three postseason births, including an elite eight run last season with almost the exact same roster as this year. Since 2008-09 he has only finished outside the top 6 in the league four times. While he may be the epitome of mediocrity in the ACC, there is something to be said for being consistently competitive in the toughest basketball league in the country.

Unlike most teams in the league, FSU is a "sum of its parts" team instead of being led by one particular star. If I were to choose a player most important to their success, it would be their sixth man Fi Kabengele. The nephew of NBA Hall of Fame Center Dikembe Mutombo has been the lighthouse for FSU during league play, averaging 15.3 points and and 6.4 rebounds off the bench in just 21.3 minutes per game. While Phil Cofer has dealt with a lingering foot injury, Kabengele has seemingly taken over as the leader of this team on the court.

Terance Mann (17 ppg in 3 games against GT) and Trent Forrest make up Hamilton's starting back court and while both are talented, neither is a true point guard. On the season FSU is 244th in the nation in turnover percentage at 19.8%. They have tightened it up in league play a bit, bringing that number down to 17.6%, but that is still just middle of the pack in the ACC. Their turnover problems were somewhat acceptable during the out of conference because they were turning their opponents over at nearly 23%, but in league play that number has also fallen to mirror their own number at 17.6%.

Florida State's biggest assets are their length and athleticism combined with their depth. As mentioned before, their leading scorer comes off the bench. That is mostly due to Kabengele's inability to stay out of foul trouble (5.9 fouls per 40) as well as having a 7'4" behemoth at starting center, JM Christ Koumadje. JMCK, now a senior, only plays 16 minutes per game but has an incredible impact in the paint while on the court. His per 40 stats are 15-12-4 blocks.

Depth on the wing is not a concern for Hamilton, who has a plethora of capable players, some excelling offensively and others locking down on defense. Former McDonald's All American MJ Walker is still trying to figure it out in his sophomore season that was impacted early on by a leg injury, but the 6'5" scorer is coming off of his best game of the season, scoring 22 points (6-7 from deep) against Miami on the road. PJ Savoy is also still in Tallahassee and still hunting his shot like Adam Greentree hunts Elk.

Defensively, David Nichols, a transfer from Albany, is relentless on the ball and gives maximum effort. 6'5" Devin Vassell also gives quality defensive minutes off the bench as one of the best freshman defenders in a league this year.

Cofer, who led the team in scoring last season, missed most of the out of conference slate with a foot injury. Since his return in late December he has not been as effective, averaging just 8.4 points and 3 rebounds and notching double figures only twice in 8 games. He sat a couple of recent games due to the injury before returning for the Miami game where he scored 4 points in 19 minutes.

Perhaps the most concerning statistic for this game is Florida State's ability to rebound the ball on the offensive glass. The Seminoles are 20th in the nation at 35.6% in offensive rebounding, while Georgia Tech ranks 283rd in the nation and 13th in the ACC in giving up second chances. The interesting thing here is that Georgia Tech just held the fourth best team in the league in offensive rebounding (UNC) to just 5 OR's for the game on Tuesday. Yet another feast or famine statistic when it comes to the Yellow Jackets.

During the Josh Pastner era the Jackets have split the series with FSU 1-1, with each home team collecting a win. Dating back to the 2010-11 season however, Georgia Tech is 2-6 against the 'Noles with a 1-3 record in Tallahassee. That singular win came in February 2016. The Seminoles are also an impressive 51-7 in home games dating back to the 2015-16 season.

All in all, it doesn't look great for the good guys in this one, but after the first 25 minutes of the Duke game, who knows? FSU has not looked great since Cam Reddish hit that triple in Tallahassee, and their wins over Miami and Clemson don't look as good as the losses to Pitt and Boston College look bad. Kenpom has the game at 71-61 FSU, while Haslam has it at 71-58 FSU. I think it is too many points in both instances. I like the Jackets to cover, but Tallahassee is a tough place to play. I think this will be a squeaker.

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Josh Okogie led the Jackets with 26 points in an upset of UNC in 2016

Georgia Tech returns home looking to get even in conference play.

Let's just get it out of the way. The last time the wine and cheese crowd came to Atlanta we ruined their New Years Eve. The Tar Heels were ranked #9 in the country. As of today, North Carolina is ranked #9 in the country. I'm not saying, I'm just saying.

Carolina comes into this game on a bit of a hot streak. After suffering their worst loss at the Dean Dome since 2002 at the hands of Louisville, they have won three in row. One of those games was a whoopin' they laid on fellow ACC power Virginia Tech. The Heels are currently 5-1 in league and a half game back of first place. They are #1 in the league in tempo, 2nd in 3pt%, 3rd in offensive rebounding percentage and top 4 in offensive efficiency and effective field goal percentage. Those numbers are of course according to Kenpom.

However, it is not the offense that is giving Roy Williams heartburn. While Carolina's defensive numbers are pretty respectable according to the metrics in league play, they aren't world beaters on that end consistently enough. They give up decent looks from deep and are susceptible to the blow-by on close-outs.

The boys in powder blue are still led by Hall of Famer Roy Williams, who is now in his 17th season in Chapel Hill. It doesn't seem that long, but maybe that is just me. He is 438-130 in his time with the wine and cheese crew and has won three NCAA titles. In those 17 seasons he failed to finish outside the top 3 in the ACC only three times and has been omitted from the NCAA tournament only once.

I picked this UNC team to win the ACC regular season title this year in the preseason. As far as rosters go, they have it all. Length, shooting, athletes, depth, size, coaching and experience.

The Tar Heels currently boast four players averaging double figures in the scoring category. Cam Johnson has taken the reigns as the programs best player and been a terror from behind the arc this season. Through his first 10 games this season he has shot a ridiculous 49% from deep. He has hit a slump recently though and regressed to 46% on the season. His production has dropped a little bit during conference play so far, but that could be attributed to fellow wing Kenny Williams finally getting it together on the offensive end.

Luke Maye came into this season with a lot of luster after averaging 16.9 and 10.1 in 2017-18 season. He is one of only two players in the ACC since 2000-01 to average 16 and 10 while shooting better than 40% from three. Many, myself included, selected him to be an All-American as well as the ACC Player of the Year. For me it was a foregone conclusion. His numbers are a bit down this year, but UNC has tremendous depth this season and that has alleviated some the load Maye has to carry. Both his minutes and usage rate are down this year compared to last season when it was basically the Berry and Maye show.

Along with the two seniors come a duo of talented freshman. Coby White, an incredible scoring guard, runs the show for the Heels and is as quick as a hiccup. Even on made baskets he will get the ball and be at the logo by the time you get turned around. It will be imperative that Georgia Tech gets back down the court and into their 1-3-1 without White running up their back. White has taken a bit of criticism this season due to not being the typical Carolina point guard. He is not Ed Cota, Ty Lawson or Joel Berry. He is going to score first and second and maybe third, but he is not incapable of making highlight passes either. White has scored 15 or more point in every game during league play with the exception of the Louisville game. He also scored 33 points in 30 minutes earlier this season against Texas.

The other freshman should be familiar to Tech fans. That is former top 5 recruit Nassir Little who is the Tar Heel's sixth man this season. It has been an interesting season for Nassir. Defensive inconsistency has led to him being a weapon off the bench instead of a fixture in the starting lineup, causing some fans questioning Coach Williams. A media member recently brought this to Roy during a press conference and the question obviously agitated Williams. In-game commentators later brought to light that it had been a tumultuous time for Little which was simply not true. It was a media fabrication.

While his defense is still not quite where it needs to be with a rating of 101 (prone to the blow-by on close-outs), his offense is starting to show up in limited minutes. In his last three games he has averaged 15.3 points and 4.7 rebounds in only 17 minutes per game. A week ago in the whoopin' of VPI, he scored a career high 23 points in just 20 minutes. He is a unique athlete that will cause match-up issues for Georgia Tech in the half court, though the Jackets just played pretty well against maybe the biggest match-up nightmare in the last 20 years so we will see.

Just because Carolina's defensive metrics as a team aren't great, they have some individual guys that play defense. Senior Kenny Williams is the Tar Heels' best perimeter defender and will no doubt find himself on Jose. While his defensive rating is not fantastic, it is also not reflective of his impact on that end on the floor. He is a good defender with good size. Jose is going to have to get crafty.

Other players of note are Garrison Brooks who is a really good rebounder and is fantastic at hedging ball screens at the top of the key, pushing guards towards half court. Brooks paired with Maye could cause major problems for the Jackets on the offensive glass. Seventh Woods and Brandon Robinson (another former GT recruit) also provide quality depth this year for the Heels as both are finally living up to the prep evaluations.

Perhaps the most overlooked player is 2018 5* recruit Rechon "Leaky" Black. While he only plays about 11 minutes a game, they are typically a very good 11 minutes. The kid simply plays winning basketball. He is a 6'7" guard who can handle the ball and wreak havoc on the defensive end playing the passing lanes. Look for him to make an impact at some point during this game.

Tech will not have to deal with reserve big man Sterling Manley who has not played since December 29th due to knee soreness.

Overall, this is a scary match-up for the Jackets. Tech has been susceptible to surrendering offensive rebounds out of the zone, and this Carolina team is built to excel in that single aspect of the game. Carolina's size on the wing is another issue. Cam Johnson is actually the Tar Heel's tallest starter and he is typically going to play 22 feet from the hoop hunting clean looks.

The good guys surprised me in the most hostile environment in the league on Saturday and have always played better at home under Pastner. Similar to the Duke game, keep it close, keep it respectable. Anything can happen in the last two minutes of a five point game.