Coach Josh Pastner's Jackets remain on the road this week. After dropping a game to Northwestern in the ACC/B1G challenge, they head down to Florida to play an undefeated St. John's squad on Saturday. The contest is being called the Air Force Reserve Hoop Hall Miami Invitational and tips at noon EST on ESPNU.
St. John's is one of 17 remaining undefeated teams in the NCAA and is currently ranked 46th by KenPom. This game will mark the first time St. John's has played outside of the NY/NJ area this year. The Red Storm currently rank 245th in strength of schedule and their highest rated opponent, according to KenPom, is Rutgers. Despite the poor schedule and their ability to score in bulk (83 points per game), their average margin of victory is only 11.5 points.
The Red Storm are led by dynamic junior point guard Shamorie Ponds who averages 2o points, 5.2 assists, 3.3 assists per game. Going back to 1992-93, he is the only St. Johns player to have a season of 550 points, 100 assists, 65 steals and less than 10o turnovers. He has done it twice. He is joined this year by high scoring Auburn transfer Mustapha Heron, who was granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA. Heron is currently averaging 18.2 points and 6.2 rebounds. He is also shooting 43.5% (23 attempts) on the young season. As a team St. John's shoots an impressive 38% from three. LJ Figueroa, a budding star for Coach Chris Mullin, shoots 54% from deep on the season.
As mentioned, St. John's is coached by former Red Storm superstar Chris Mullin. As a player, Mullin appeared in 125 games, averaged 19.5 points and won the Big East Player of the Year award for three straight seasons. His coaching acumen thus far has been a bit underwhelming, having yet to lead his alma mater to an above .500 season in his first three tries. His record coming into the 2017-18 season was 38-60.
This is an interesting match-up for Georgia Tech. The Johnnies are a live by the three, die by the three team and the Jackets currently rank 14th in the nation in three point percentage against at 25.7%. The good guys only give up 59 points per game, good for 16th in the nation. The contrast in styles is one of the most intriguing parts of this contest. St. Johns is 56th in adjusted tempo (KenPom), while Georgia Tech is currently 190th.
The KenPom metric currently gives St. Johns a 73-70 edge. If Georgia Tech can maintain their defensive intensity and put together a complete game on the road they have a chance. The Red Storm have yet to really play anyone of consequence, while the Jackets have played two opponents inside the top 50 (Kenpom) and both on the road. The Jackets hold the edge as far as being battle tested.
Georgia Tech needs to defend and they need to shoot it. Stop me when this sounds familiar. It is always a grab bag when this program goes on the road. I guess we will just have to see what we see.