Finals week has concluded and it is time to get back to business on the court for Coach Pastner's Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Coach's crew will get back into the swing of things on Monday evening against Big South opponent Gardner-Webb.
The Runnin' Bulldogs out of Boiling Springs, NC come into Monday night's game with a 7-5 record and winners of 5 in a row. Two of those wins are a against non-D1 opponents, while the other three are against teams that rate 328 or worse in KenPom.
Gardner-Webb is led by sixth year head coach Tim Craft. This is Coach Craft's first stint as a Division 1 coach and he has compiled a record of 95-83. He was an assistant coach at the program under Rick Scruggs in the early 2000's as well. He has served as an assistant at Auburn and East Carolina (not ECU). He is the program's third head coach since they joined D-1 in 2002-03, and he was preceded by current Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann.
Gardner-Webb is led by two dynamic scoring guards, senior David Efianayi and freshman Jose Perez. Efianayi owns over 1,300 career points and is currently on pace to set a career high for triples made in a season. He is averaging 17.2 points per game and shooting 42% from three on the season. In his last three contests however, he is only connecting at a 31% clip. He has scored in double figures every game this season and has had 20 or more five times.
Perez, a 6'5 wing out of the Bronx, is also averaging 17.2 points per game. He has been named the Big South freshman of the week twice and recorded Gardner-Webb's first triple double in nearly 20 years earlier this season. He had exactly one scholarship offer out of high school that I could find. Over his last five games, Perez is averaging 18.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.8 steals and shooting 53% from behind the arc. Regardless of competition, that is really impressive.
A couple of additional players that should be mentioned are Nate Johnson and DJ Laster. Johnson, a 6'4 RS sophomore guard, is averaging 11.3 points per game. He has kind of burst onto the scene this year. He is shooting 42.6% from three and has an effective field goal percentage of 63% on the season.
Laster, an undersized forward, also averages double figures at 11.6 points per game, he is also good for about 5 rebounds. He is the only player on the roster taller than 6'6 that plays more than 12 minutes per game.
Gardner-Webb is an interesting team. While their numbers have certainly been impacted by the level of competition they have played, they have also played VCU, VPI and Furman. They are currently 291st in the country in tempo (KenPom) while being a top 50 team in points per game at 82.2. They do not have one particular player who dominates on the glass, but they are a very good rebounding team, ranking 23rd in nation in total rebounds.
This game will again give Georgia Tech an opportunity to flex their perimeter defense muscles as the Bulldogs rank 27th in triples made and 29th in the country at 39%
Make no mistake, Craft will have this team ready to play and Georgia Tech has a long history of playing poorly after finals week. During his time in Boiling Springs his program is 1-3 against the ACC. The win was on a neutral court against Clemson in 2014-15. He also owns a win at Purdue (same season) and a win at Nebraska in 2016. This year they lost to Furman on the road by only two points in overtime.
To make a long story short, this is not a team the Yellow Jackets can afford to take lightly.