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Freshman Curtis Haywood III (#13) is 8 for 12 from deep over Tech's last three games (photo credit to ramblinwreck.com)

I know you guys were excited for the Nerd Bowl vs. Northwestern, but tonight we have a match-up that is even better. The Sponsored by Russell Athletics Bowl! Fresh off the game winner against Northwestern in the Big 10/ACC Challenge, which the ACC won by a landslide of 11 games to 3, Georgia Tech sets their eyes on fellow Russell representative, Grambling State. You might know the Grambling State Tigers by their logo. They have a big G, exactly like that one team that Auburn football will be smashing in Atlanta on Saturday. The Grambling State Tigers out of Grambling, Louisiana play in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) and are led by first year head coach Donte’ Jackson. Prior to joining the Tigers, Jackson was the head man at Stillman College in Alabama. A cool fact about Jackson is during the 2016 season, he held both the athletic director position and the head coaching job for Stillman. Safe to say he was not on the hot seat.

So far this season Grambling State is 1-5 with their lone win coming against Texas-Rio Grande Valley. The toughest game they played was on the road against Iowa, where they played tough but fell short 74-85. The Tigers are a tough team to get a solid read on. Obviously when you have only won one game you are struggling, but at times they play so brilliantly. They hung in with a Big 10 team on the road but then turned around and got beat by teams with effectively the same amount of talent as them.

Running the show for the Tigers is the 6’0” sophomore guard out of Tacoma, Washington #1, Ivy Smith Jr. In the lone win for Grambling State, Smith Jr. had a career high 27 points along with 6 assists. Coach Jackson puts his trust in Smith Jr, and gives him the keys to the offense. As Ivy Smith Jr. goes, the Grambling State Tigers go. Most young guards who have the ball in their hands a lot tend to make mistakes and Smith Jr. is no different. Our guards and wings should be able to get him to cough the ball up.

The do it all guy for Coach Jackson’s Tigers is #11, Axel Mpoyo. He is a 6’8” junior out of Meridian, Idaho. He leads the team in minutes and fills the stat sheet in all different categories. His season high in points is 21 vs Iowa. He has racked up double digit rebounds multiple times this season along with multiple steals a game. Mpoyo is a solid upperclassmen that his coach can rely on.

Prediction: Georgia Tech harasses the guards on the perimeter and gets out in transition. I look for Jose to have a huge game on both ends and at least one alley-oop to Moses Wright. If Tech can take care of business early, we should be able to get Ben some more rest before a big game against Tennessee on Sunday. Tech by 12.

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Tadric Jackson (#1) back in action vs. North Texas (photo credit to ramblinwreck.com)

This is what you all have been waiting for…the Nerd Bowl is here. On Tuesday evening, the Yellow Jackets will play host to the Northwestern Wildcats. The last time Tech played the Wildcats was in 2014, and Tech fought for a 66-58 victory led by Chuck Mitchell’s 13 points. On the very end of the bench for the Yellow Jackets was a guy from Texas named Ben Lammers. The Laminator only played 2 minutes, accumulating 1 rebound and 1 shot attempt…which fell short. Tadric Jackson, who was also on the team, played a whopping 5 minutes and scored 0 points. Safe to say things will be different this go around.

Northwestern is coming off a great season, accumulating a school high 24 wins and receiving the first bid to the NCAA Tournament in school history. In the Big Dance, the Wildcats knocked off our friend Bryce Drew and the Vanderbilt Commodores in round 1. In the second round they lost a thriller to the eventual runners-up, Gonzaga Bulldogs. Leading the culture change and winning way is 5th year Head Coach, Chris Collins. Chris is the son of NBA Coach, Doug Collins (the guy who couldn’t win with Michael Jordan). Chris Collins played at *sadly says* Duke University. After playing one season professionally in Finland, he decided to take up coaching. Collins started coaching as an assistant in the WNBA, then moved onto Seton Hall for 2 years, and eventually back to his alma mater Duke, before making the jump to the head man at Northwestern.

The Northwestern Wildcats are 4-2 so far this season with losses coming against a solid Creighton team and an under the radar all-senior led Texas Tech team. Leading the Wildcats is the 6’3” senior point guard out of Greensburg, Indiana #30, Bryant McIntosh. He has the most assists in Northwestern history and led the team in points last season at 14.8 points per game. The Wildcats run their offense through him, and you will see an endless amount of pick and pops to get him or a spot-up shooter open for a three.

One of those spot-up shooters is 6’5 senior, #20, Scottie Lindsey. To put it in the most formal way possible, this guy gets buckets. He has 8 three point attempts in each of the last 2 games and has a season high of three-point attempts at 11. He averages 17.8 points per game this year with a season high of 26. He will get his shots up, it just comes down to limiting his open looks. If he hits a tough contested jumper, give him props and move onto the next play.

Next in the arsenal for Coach Collins might be a familiar name to Jacket fans. Standing 6’7” out of South Holland, Illinois is #4, Victor Law. Coming out of high school, some including me thought Law was Tech bound. We now know how it played out and Law is making the best of his decision. Law is a long elite defender and is built like Coach Pastner’s former player at Memphis and current Denver Nugget, Will Barton. He was named to the All-Big 10 defensive team and his wingspan is ridiculous. He is no slouch offensively as he has already busted out a 30-point game against Creighton and is averaging a respectable 13.2 points per game this year. Vic Law is a player every team needs on their team, and I am still a little bitter about losing out on him…. good ol’ Brian Gregory.

A duo of 6’8” upperclassmen hold down the front court for the Wildcats, #5 Derek Pardon and #44 Gavin Skelly. Pardon is more of the down low on the block guy, and Skelly stretches out the floor and expands to the three-point line. Last year Pardon lead the Big 10 in field goal percentage at 61.7% during conference play. To go along, Shelly has reached 14 points twice this year already and is shooting 54% from three.

Prediction: Northwestern comes out in a zone, most likely 2-3, to offset the size of their big men and to force the Jackets to knock down the three-point shot. They will likely focus on taking away Lammers and make someone else beat them. I’m expecting that if they do turn to the zone, Tadric will have a big game in the paint from the low block or high post. When he gets the ball close to the basket, he is very hard to guard. Though, this game might come down to if Curtis Haywood II can keep his silky shooting going, along with Tad, Alston, Jose and one of Moses, Evan, or AD hitting the open jumper. Defensively, I am looking forward to seeing how Alvarado handles McIntosh and if he can speed him up causing a few turnovers that we know McIntosh has in him. I think we put it all together in this one, and grind it out against a solid team without Okogie. Tech by 4.

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The Governor's Cup

ATLANTA, GA – Tech fans, this one will be short. It’s as tough to write about this game as as it is to continue reading or hearing about it.

We lost. We lost in all three phases of the game – offense, defense and special teams. There should be no confusion about the outcome. Georgia Tech was outplayed and outcoached, according to head coach Paul Johnson.

There’s not much else to say. There’s not enough lipstick to disguise the pig today.

Was there a silver lining? No, not from today’s thrashing.

So how did we arrive here this year? That part is unclear.

What is clear is that no one’s expectations were met – not the players nor coaches. Said Johnson, “This [season] was disappointing to me. This season we had a chance – ‘woulda, shoulda, coulda’ – you can’t play that game but we had a chance for this to be a much better year than it turned out.”

The odds of backing into a bowl game are slim to none. Said Johnson of his team’s prospects, “I don’t think there’s any uncertainty.”

The season ended with a thud, and I will take the opportunity to end this article the same way.

P.S. Go Jackets.

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Freshman point guard Jose Alvarado (#10) gets to the rack vs. UT-RGV (photo credit to ramblinwreck.com)

Coming off a 78-68 win against Texas-Rio Grande Valley, Tech is ready to battle the Mean Green from the University of North Texas. The Mean Green are in Conference USA (C-USA) with a record of 3-2 overall this season and 0-1 on the road. They lost by 20 to Nebraska and by 12 to Texas-Rio Grande Valley. North Texas does have a win against Bethune-Cookman, who Tech only beat by 3. At the head of the snake is first year head coach Grant McCasland. On March 13th, 2017, he was hired after leading Arkansas State to a 20-win season and having an 80% career winning percentage. McCasland was a three-year letterman at Baylor University where he was an assistant coach with Scott Drew before taking the Arkansas State head job.

The Mean Green are led by sophomore #3, Roosevelt Smart. He is a 6’3” 185-pound guard from Chicago, Illinois. Smart is a transfer from New Mexico Junior College, was ranked 79th for JUCO prospects, and a 3 star according to ESPN. He was originally committed to play for Coach McCasland at Arkansas State, but after McCausland switched jobs to North Texas, Smart followed him to the Mean Green and it has paid off. In the last game against Rogers State, Smart put up 26 points in 28 minutes, going 6-12 from the three-point line and not missing from the charity stripe (4-4). Smart has a nice high release and reminds me a little bit of Adam Smith from a few years ago for Tech. He has no problem putting shots up, and continues to knock down his opportunity at the line.

Running the Mean Green Machine (my trademark is pending), is another 6’3” guard #0, Ryan Woolridge. He is a transfer from University of San Diego and was a two-time winner of C-USA player of the week last year. This year, Woolridge rarely comes out of the game and does a little of everything for his team. He can set up his teammates, like he did last game against Rogers State racking up 9 assists. Woolridge can also call his own number as evidenced by a season high of 21 points to go with a couple 18-point game outings. The only downfall of his play right now is he can get reckless with the ball, along with some poor decision making that is often seen in underclassmen. If we can speed him up, like I think Alvarado can, we should be able to get a lot of chances in transition.

To round out the guard play is yet another sophomore, #1 A.J. Lawson. 6’5”. Lawson was named to the Conference USA all-freshman team last year, while leading the team in scoring at 11.4 points per game. He also can get up on the boards and is another player Coach Pastner would “love to give a big kiss on the cheek” for his guard rebounding skills. He got multiple double-doubles last year and worked for one the last game against Rogers State (10 points and 11 rebounds). He is a big, tough, physical guard who will be a problem for us if we do not box out or over rotate in the zone.

In the post, Georgia Tech should have a Thanksgiving feast with Lammers getting all the stuffing and blocks of meats he wants (pun intended). The Mean Green have a big 6’10” big man from Russia, Mark Tikhonenko, but he is not ready to contribute yet, so they’ll turn to 6’9” senior #50, Shane Temara. Temara’s game is simple: get rebounds, make your put back lay-ups, and set screens for Smart to come off from to get up his shot.

Outside of Roosevelt Smart, Ryan Woolridge, and A.J. Lawson the Mean Green rely on role players such as previously mentioned, Shane Temara, along with a pair of juniors: 6’1” guard, #2 Jorden Duffy and 6’7” forward #5, Allante Holston. Both are solid upperclassmen players and can do a plethora of things for North Texas. Duffy is more of the shooter of the two and Holston is the slasher. Both men can run the floor, with ease, and play in your face defense. I have a feeling Coach McCasland will turn to these two tonight, along with the formidable trio for North Texas.

Prediction: They try to play zone against us, due to their small ball line-up and lack of big men. But Ben Lammers continues his dominance and gets another double-double. Jose Alvarado racks up the steals again and pushes the ball in transition for easy lay ups and dunks (quick S/O to that alley-oop to Moses Wright, I saw a glimpse of the future, and man did I get excited). Also, I am very intrigued to see if Haywood can follow up his solid performance from last game, and even add onto it by finishing a few of those lay-ups that went in and out. Similarly, it'll be interesting to see if Evan Cole can contribute offensively off the bench again. The biggest question for me is if we will play zone given Smart’s shooting ability or take advantage of our size mismatch. I got my prediction right on the dot last game (humble brag) by saying Tech by 10. So this game, even though I want to say 12, Tech by 8.

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Ben Lammers drops in a hook shot vs. Bethune-Cookman. (photo credit to ramblinwreck.com)

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.