It’s caught by Devonta Smith for an Alabaaaaama touchdown!! As Alabama’s confetti fell in Mercedes Benz Stadium last night, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets basketball team was resting up for the always tough Notre Dame Fighting Irish that are coming to town. The Irish are 12-3 on the season with losses to Ball State and Indiana (both by 3) along with a 63-81 loss to Michigan State. Unfortunately for Notre Dame, that is not the biggest loss of the season. Instead that comes in the form of losing last year’s ACC Player of the Year, Bonzie Colston for 8 weeks with a foot fracture. Senior guard and fellow upperclassmen Matt Farrell is also expected to be unavailable for the game (ankle), but who knows, Notre Dame could pull a Coach Pastner and he suits up and plays. I don’t expect them to make that move with more important long-term postseason thoughts, but you never know.
In his 18th year as the lead man at Notre Dame is Coach Mike Brey. He is highly considered as one of the greatest coaches in college hoops right now and one of the inspirations of Coach Pastner’s “get old, stay old” philosophies….and boy does Brey do an excellent job of it.
Without Colson and Farrell on the court to provide that senior leadership, Coach Brey will turn to a fellow upperclassman who stands 6’6” out of Mater Dei High School #0, Rex Pflueger. Not only does his name sound like a cousin of a super-villain but it is also a pain to spell out. A “f” after a “p” seriously, come on guy. Even though his hair and name are annoying, he is a really really solid basketball player. Was the second “really” necessary? Yeah, probably not, but I don’t want you fooled. Pflueger rarely comes out of the game, and will be trusted to do a plethora of things for the Irish. He hits the open shot, grabs the tough rebound, makes the extra pass to his teammates, and will give up his body for a charge (a Notre Dame player taking a charge..you don’t say?). He will more than likely get his 14 points and 7 rebounds, while playing solid hard defense. Tech just can’t let him get fired up and start making crazy shots/plays. If you keep him in a supporting role, you can be successful.
Baller Alert: The 6’3” sophomore out of Scotch Plains, New Jersey is #10, T.J. Gibbs Jr. This young guard is amazing on the offensive end and can shoot it from anywhere. I honestly do not know why he isn’t getting more recognition nationally. To me, he reminds me of the NBA rookie who is taking the league by storm, Donovan Mitchell. I would be interested to see who you guys/gals would compare his game to. Gibbs is averaging 14.8 points per game this season but will be able to add onto that without Colson and Farrell taking shots. He can go off for 30 and easily take over the game, and I am a little nervous he does. For some reason I cannot get the image of him nailing that back side three over and over. <insert PA Announcer in soft voice> “Gibbs for three...again.”
For Notre Dame, the next couple of words are rarely linked together: the impact freshman standing 6'6" out of Bowie, Maryland #3, DJ Harvey. He already has the body for the ACC and the mindset to go along with it. He has no problem shooting the ball, even if there is a better option or his shots aren’t falling. In my opinion this is the guy Tech should force to beat them. Put the pressure on the talented but unproven freshman on the road in the Thrillerdome (trademark pending, I feel like this will catch on).
With an even bigger role down on the block with Bonzie out is the 6’10” senior from Vilnius, Lithuania #23, Martinas Geben. Not only is this guy from the same country that is hosting Peac’s favorite family, he is also the fifth European player to play for Brey at Notre Dame. He is averaging 8 points and 7 rebounds on the year and he plays as you might imagine. Big and strong, he hits the boards hard and hits the defenders with screens even harder. They like to get him the ball at the high post and do pick/ball hand-offs to the scorers on the wing for an easy shot. This is a game where Ben Lammers will need his healthy legs to grab those boards, because you know that Geben will be making contact trying to box out.
The Fighting Irish will also turn to a duo of upperclassmen #12, Elijah Burns and #1, Austin Torres. Out of the two Burns is by far more of the scoring threat while Torres is a graduate transfer that is straight energy, and it doesn’t matter if it’s off the bench or starting as he goes all out. The final key piece for the Irish is the 6’9” sophomore big #33, John Mooney. He is still young but can stretch the floor and has the body to compete down low.
Prediction: This game is set up for Lammers to have a nice game if his mid-range shot is falling. AD will be posting up on the block or at the top of the key to get Geben to guard him, which means Lammers will have someone smaller guarding him. Therefore Ben can easily shoot over whoever with a normal jumper or a vintage Dirk’Lammers fadeaway. I feel like Alvarado can get some back-side poke away steals from Harvey in transition and Tech runs the floor for a basket. *paging a Tadric euro step finish*. I keep wanting to pick Notre Dame because of all the talent they have, but I also can’t get over how well we play in ACC games at home. So, it basically came down to one thing. Josh Okogie. We have him, they don’t. Pretty deep analysis there, huh? Gibbs Jr. step over, the real sophomore baller is comin' through. Okogie drops 36 and Techs wins by 5.