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In his last two games, Brandon Alston has dished out 6 assists with just one turnover in 29 min per game (photo courtesy of USA Today)

After a thrilling victory in Georgia Tech’s ACC home opener against Miami, the Jackets are set to face the Yale Bulldogs out of the Ivy League at McCamish Pavilion Saturday night. If you were excited for the Nerd Bowl vs Northwestern, I think we have raised the bar! Yale is 7-8 overall this year with key losses to Creighton, Wisconsin, and TCU but are coming off a win over Kennesaw State, 89-74.

Coaching the real Bulldogs (roll tide!) in his 19th season is James Jones. He was the Ivy League Coach of the Year back-to-back in ’15 and ’16 and is the winningest coach in school history. In 2016 Yale made it to the NCAA Tournament but sadly lost to Duke in the second round 64-71. With only two seniors on the roster, Yale is depending on some young but talented players to get the job done while continuing to develop.

The main youngster for Yale is the 6’7” sophomore out of Porter Ranch, California #24, Miye Oyi. Coming into this match-up Oyi is averaging 17.2 points per game and is shooting 35% from behind the arc. He has no problem putting shots up and is either on fire or less accurate than Jacob Eason trying to find the open receiver. Against Albany he was 2 for 10 from three and has gone 1 for 6 multiple times, but then goes 4 for 7 against TCU. If Tech can make him shoot tough shots early, it could cause him to not find his rhythm at all or ideally when it’s too late.

Another young talent for the Bulldogs is the 6’10” freshman out of West Palm Beach #20, Paul Atkinson. Most of the shots he takes are high IQ plays (big shock, right?) and his field goal percentage reflects that at 71.3%. Atkinson is coming off a 20-point game against Kennesaw State but like most freshman, he sometimes disappears and has long scoring droughts. Defensively, he plays longer than he is and has a nice wingspan that gives him the ability to affect shots or even block them. This leaves me questioning why he only has 4.7 rebounds per game. He has the tools to make it happen on the glass, so for him it is about continuing to learn the game on the collegiate level and putting a whole game together…hopefully right after Ben Lammers drops a 30 piece on him.

One of the few upperclassmen for Coach Jones is 6’7” junior #32, Blake Reynolds. He was second on the team last year in made three pointers but is only shooting 29% this year while averaging 11.3 points per game. Like Oyi, he is really hit or miss. Against Bryant University he was 4 for 5 from three but turned around next game against TCU and went 0 for 8 on three pointers and 0 for 10 from the field. Don’t get me wrong though, he can still shoot the ball, especially from the free throw line. He has only missed three free throws this entire year and should really try to get there more often. Georgia Tech just has to put pressure on him right off that bat and force bad shot attempts. If his shots fall, give credit, and then clamp down next possession.

Prediction: Georgia Tech should control this game from the start but that remains to be seen. I expect Jose Alvarado to build off of the best 7 turnover game I have ever seen and play well again. Yale does not have anyone in the back court that can control Jose or Jackson. This is another game where Tadric and Okogie should get in the lane whenever they want, and if Atkinson goes up to block the shot, drop it off to Gueye or Lammers for the dunk (grab the ball with two hands AD!). Based on patterns from the past we will play down to the competition and let them hang in all game…I say, nah, time to put a whole game together. Tech by 12.

Georgia Tech, 0-1 in ACC play, is coming off a hard-fought effort that fell just short on the road against Notre Dame. Luckily the Yellow Jackets are able to turn their focus over to the Miami Hurricanes on Wednesday in a home tilt. The U is 12-1 on the season and was one of the five undefeated teams remaining before being knocked off against New Mexico State two days before Christmas. Some can say that their record is a little skewed due to the opponents they have played, with the best win coming on the road against Minnesota, 86-81. According to CBSSports.com Miami’s strength of schedule is 90th in the country.

The man leading the way for Miami is Jim Larrañaga. He is in his seventh year at the U, with two trips to the Sweet 16 along with ACC Coach of the Year in 2013. Before coming to Miami, he had long stops at George Mason and Bowling Green. Coach Larrañaga has been the National Coach of the Year according to AP & Naismith and is known as one of the top coaches in college hoops and has the hardware to prove it.

Jim Larrañaga has another nice squad this year with multiple pieces to work with, the main man being 6’5” sophomore guard #11, Bruce Brown Jr. Brown flirted with the NBA last year but decided to return to school to increase his stock. So far it is paying dividends as Brown is currently projected to go 20th to the Indiana Pacers on NBADraft.net. He is a beast when he drives to the hoop and attacks the rim. His outside game and shot is still a work in progress, which is one of the reasons why he came back to school, but don’t be fooled…he can still knock down the open shot, and force his way to the paint to get buckets.

Along with Bruce Brown Jr. is the 6’5” McDonald’s All-American and true freshman #4, Lonnie Walker IV. Walker was considered one of the top players in the 2017 class and was a huge get for the Hurricanes, not only for his unique Elfrid Payton style hair, but also his crazy athleticism. He is widely considered to be a 1-and-done and is projected to be the 14th overall pick to the New York Knicks according to NBADraft.net. His potential leaves me a little confused with the way he is being used so far this season, as he has yet to have constant minutes nor find a solid place in the rotation. His season high for minutes was 29 against Pittsburgh, but before that it was 28 minutes against Boston University (where he scored 26 points in that time). It might be that Coach Larrañaga was waiting for ACC play to unleash him, but you would think that you would want to utilize a talent such as Lonnie Walker IV as much as possible.

Running the show for the Hurricanes is 6’3 senior #0, Ja’Quan Newton. He attacks the paint hard like Brown Jr. and has the combination of speed and strength to be successful. He is as sound as it gets on defense and plays tough in your face D all game. One of the few downfalls for the steady upperclassmen is he sometimes coughs the ball up. When you make him go left on the drive he can get out of control, which can be beneficial if Georgia Tech takes advantage of this.

The other guard is 6’3” sophomore out of Melbourne, Australia #1, Dejan “Can I Buy A Vowel” Vasiljevic. At first glance with Vasilievic, you'd think "who let this guy from the Rec League put on a uniform?" But then he starts shooting. Swish, swish, swish. He is a pure shooter who can also take you off the dribble. It might be on purpose, but he has a floater that is highly similar to fellow Aussie and NBA player Matthew Dellavedova. He will hit you with a pump fake after nailing two threes, then complete a nice floater to keep you from closing out on him the next time down.

On the wing for Miami is 6’7” junior #3, Anthony Lawrence II. He is the nice solid player that every team needs. Lawrence is good on defense, can set up his teammates, hits the boards, and can knock down the three. It is hard to find a weak spot in his game. He is that reliable upperclassman that can be trusted in ACC play and the tournament to make the right play.

Down on the block is 6’11” sophomore #20, Dewan Huell. He is long and physical with a filled-out body for such a young player. He hits the boards aggressively along with nicely set screens. He has nice touch around the paint and is starting to hit the mid-range jumpers. He is the type of player that Ben Lammers tends to have a challenging time against as he's relentless and active.

Prediction: Jose Alvarado and company will have the opportunity to get some turnovers. It just comes down to if they take advantage of them. I want to see better free throw shooting and continued tough defense. I expect a big game from Tadric Jackson with Vasilievic guarding him and most of the points coming from Tad. But after playing it out, it is hard to imagine a scenario where Tech can get it done. Anything can happen in the ACC but Miami by 9.

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Moses Wright was an efficient 8 of 9 shooting in Tech's home game vs. Florida A&M (photo credit to ramblinwreck.com)

After a brutal loss to uGA and, on top of that, losing our top 2019 target to the dwags, the Yellow Jackets needs a big morale and confidence boost. That chance will come tonight against the Wright State Raiders out of Dayton, Ohio. The Raiders play in the Horizon League with a current record of 7-5, without having played a Power 5 conference (P5) team. In his second year following a stint at South Dakota State, Scott Nagy is the man in charge for the Raiders and is coming off an impressive 20-win season. This season Wright State is a very heavy guard led team, with multiple guys getting playing time at the same position.

The leading scorer for the Raiders at 13.6 points per game is 6’3” senior #13, Grant Benzinger. This guy is a straight up sniper who I witnessed first hand last year. He put up a 32 piece against Georgia State one year ago and almost left Atlanta with the win. He can fill it up quickly, and if we try to guard him like Fletcher Magee we will be in trouble. This is a game where we should not be playing zone.

Also in the backcourt for Coach Nagy is 6’4” senior #1, Justin Mitchell. He is the second leading scorer at 11.2 points per game and leader in assists with 35 this season. He rarely comes out of the game and when fatigue sets in, he is prone to turning over the basketball. His season high of turnovers is 8 against Gardner-Webb. Look for Jose Alvarado to take advantage of this and get multiple steals and fast break opportunities leading to some more Moses Wright/Josh Okogie alley-oops.

The final starting guard for the 3-guard system is 6’4” redshirt junior #3, Mark Hughes. He is averaging 9.9 points per game this season and likes to launch three pointers. In the last game he took 11 three pointers…. he made 2 of them. His season high of three pointers made is 4 and he has done it twice, both going 4 for 6 from the three-point line. If he just spots up and takes the easy shot he is efficient, though he likes to try and create and that is where all the misses occur.

The big man for Wright State is 6’11” redshirt junior #22, Parker Ernsthausen. He does not have much offensive game but still averages 8.9 points per game. He relies on over rotation by the defense and getting easy put backs/layups. Defensively he struggles keeping his arms up and tends to hack. If Lammers plays (as he probably will) expect him to be at the free throw line a lot this game.

The other big is 6’9” 275 pounds #11, Loudon Love. 275 pounds might be a little generous because this is a big boy. As you can imagine he sets hard screens and is hard to move off the block. This is a player Ben Lammers might have some problems with on the boards. While in the game, Love is relentless and is determined to get the rebound as he averages 8.3 boards in 24.1 minutes per game.

Prediction: If Georgia Tech can contain Grant Benzinger and not let him go off, the Yellow Jackets should win by double digits. I expect Jose Alvarado to have a nice game with steals and assists. Okogie and Tadric should be able to get into the paint to draw fouls and convert lay-ups due to poor defense from Benzinger. Moses Wright is once again the wild card tonight, but I think he puts up 15 and is a beast in transition like in the FAMU game. Tech by 12.

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Tech coaches, players and fans hope to see a 100% healthy Ben Lammers on Sunday (photo credit to ramblinwreck.com)

Coming off a well-needed break for finals and healing nagging injuries, the Yellow Jackets are set to take on Florida A&M University on Sunday afternoon at McCamish Pavilion. The Florida A&M Rattlers better known as FAMU are 1-12 this season with their lone win over Albany State.

The leader of FAMU is Coach Robert McCullum. McCullum is in his first season, after spending the previous 3 years as an assistant coach for the Oregon Ducks. He knows that he has a rebuild on his hands and is focusing on changing the culture for the Rattlers.

The Rattlers tend to depend on three main players to succeed, starting with 7-footer #34, Isaiah Martin. He is a long lanky big man who does his job: rebound and try to affect shots at the rim. Another key player for FAMU is a 6’6” senior wing #0, Desmond Williams. Williams is just that solid upperclassmen that can do a lot for a team but doesn’t excel in any aspect. He is a player that McCullum can trust and will be on the floor for most of the game. For scoring, FAMU turns to senior guard #22, Marcus Barham. He is the shooter of the group and can score in bunches. In his last game against Stephen F. Austin he made 5 out of 7 threes while putting up 26 total points.

Prediction: Georgia Tech SHOULD dominate this game and win by double digits. I will be looking to see if Ben Lammers looks healthier and gets back to attacking the boards and blocks like we are used to seeing. I want to see Curtis Haywood II take more shots and be more assertive. He is arguably the best three-point shooter on the team and just needs to trust his skills and trust Coach Pastner that he will not be pulled for shooting the open shot. I imagine another solid game for Jose Alvarado as he can continue to grow as our point guard of the future and present. This game is set up for AD to have a huge game, but I have feeling Moses Wright takes advantage of the open 15 footers when the Rattlers sag off to help with Lammers. Speaking of AD, I want to see Gueye more assertive around the basket, and be on the perimeter about 0.0% of the time. He is a nice rebounder and enforcer around the rim, but does us no good when he drifts out to the three-point line. Lastly, it will be interesting to see if Josh Okogie dresses and warms up with the team due to Pastner’s comments on his conditioning levels. Personally, I think it would be a good morale booster for Okogie to dress and get that game feel again even though he technically is not playing yet. Deep down I had a weird feeling about the Grambling game, but they have way more talent than FAMU. Tech by 15.

Here’s to not playing Fletcher “Steph” Magee.

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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.