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.