At 10-6 (2-1), some might consider Georgia Tech to be the surprise of the ACC. They are a couple of free throws and layups away from being 11-5 (3-0). Coming off of an impressive win at the Carrier Dome, Josh Pastner's feisty bunch head to Clemson on Wednesday. Littlejohn Coliseum has not been friendly to Georgia Tech over the years, the last win coming in 2005.
The Tigers are led by longtime coach Brad Brownell, who has a shiny new contract extension. He is 159-119 overall and 67-76 in league play during his tenure.
Clemson 10-6 (0-3) came into the season with high expectations after a sweet 16 appearance in 2017-18. They eventually fell in the dance to Kansas but were impressive in the loss. Gabe Devoe and D'onte Grantham are long gone, but Marcquise Reed, Shelton Mitchell and Eli Thomas remain. Reed, an all-ACC guard is a stud both offensively and defensively, playing the passing lanes aggressively leading to easy buckets. Thomas, who suffered a foot injury in the preseason, came into the season a little out of shape but has still been effective. He is averaging a career high in points at 13.2, but his rebounding and block numbers are both down from last year.
Shelton Mitchell has been the most disappointing of the trio. The historically steady guard is posting lower than expected numbers across the board following a very productive junior campaign. In conference play so far he's averaged just 7.0 points and 2.0 assists in over 28 minutes per game. His 29% from deep and 24% overall are by far career lows.
While the Tigers' Kenpom number is still a respectable 47, their best wins are Lipscomb at home and Georgia on a neutral floor. Those are not exactly needle movers, though Lipscomb is a tournament team. The biggest difference from last year to this year can be boiled down to turnovers and shooting. Clemson's turnover rate is nearly 21%, up from 17.5% last year, ranking 269th in the nation. Last season, the Tigers shot 36.6% from deep; this year only 30.6%.
If you look at individual match-ups, you would give Clemson the edge all day. Reed, Thomas and Mitchell are household names to any ACC fan who pays attention, but the on-court performance hasn't quite been there this year. Combine that with the fact that Brad Brownell never knows what he will get out of sophomore forward Aamir Simms and it is difficult to trust the Tigers regardless of venue. In their three conference losses this year they have averaged a dreadful 54.7 ppg.
I'm going with the good guys here. Georgia Tech is long past due to get a win at Littlejohn. Jose Alvarado and Mike Devoe have been very good lately outside of Devoe's shooting woes. Coach Pastner shortened the rotation against Syracuse and the results were impressive. Trusting a Tech team on the road is always shaky, especially after they just landed a big road win, but I like our coaching and I like our guards. Keep the rotation short, don't let Reed take over the game and we get out of town with a W.