The biggest matchup in the Southern Conference on Monday night will see Wofford and Georgia Tech meet in a key non-conference battle, as the final month of 2015 commences with a SoCon vs. ACC clash.
The Yellow Jackets have already faced one Southern Conference opponent this season, and that matchup didn't go too well, as the Yellow Jackets ended up dropping what was an 69-68 decision to East Tennessee State a little over a week ago.
Now the Yellow Jackets get another program expected to finish towards the top half of the Southern Conference when the Terriers pay a visit to McCamish Pavilion on Tuesday night. It will mark the first meeting between the two since 1980, when the Terriers were able to get a 49-44 win over the Yellow Jackets.
The Terriers are 3-30 all-time against teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference since joining the Division I ranks in 1995-96. Last season, the Terriers were able to pull off a 55-54 upset of NC State in Raleigh, however, the lone win for the Terriers on the road against an ACC foe came in 1999, when the Terriers came up with a 79-74 win at Clemson.
Monday night's meeting between the Terriers and Yellow Jackets marks the first time the two have met since Dec. 21, 2001, when the Yellow Jackets claimed a 79-70 win over the Terriers in Atlanta. Georgia Tech leads the all-time series 12-2.
A LOOK AT THE YELLOW JACKETS:
The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets enter tonight's game having a 4-2 overall record through the early portion of the slate, having knocked off Arkansas (83-73), Green Bay (107-77), Tennessee (69-67) and Cornell (116-81), while losses have come to No. 8 Villanova (L, 69-52) and the aforementioned setback to East Tennessee State.
The Yellow Jackets have been a fun team to watch through the early portion of the season under the direction of head coach Brian Gregory, who is in his fifth season as the head coach of the Yellow Jackets. The Yellow Jackets have hit the century mark twice this season, and come in averaging 82.5 PPG this season.
As so many Georgia Tech teams in the past, which have included the likes of Kenny Anderson, Dennis Scott and Stephon Marbury, the Yellow Jackets are once again highlighted by their backcourt play, starting with Marcus Georges-Hunt (15.3 PPG, 3.5 RPG), who will be making his 100th start for the Yellow Jackets this evening.
Georges-Hunt, who is a 6-5 senior guard comes in as the 43rd player in the history of Georgia Tech basketball to reach 1,000 points in his career, and leads the Yellow Jackets in scoring this season, averaging 15.3 PPG and has five double-figure scoring performances this season.
Georges-Hunt suffered a foot injury early in ACC play last season, but appears to have fully recovered this season, and has shot 44.3% (27-of-61) from the field this season, while connecting on 35% (7-for-20) from three-point range. His 1,219 points ranks him 28th all-time on the program's scoring all-time scoring list.
Joining Georges-Hunt in the backcourt for the Yellow Jackets on Monday night will be junior Josh Heath (4.5 PPG, 1.8 RPG). Heath has started all six games so far this season for the Yellow Jackets, and he has been a role player for this backcourt, running the point. Heath enters the contest with a team leading 28 assists on the season, and ranks seventh in the ACC in assist-turnover ratio this season, having handed out 28 helpers while turning the ball over just nine times on the campaign.
Heath, who transferred in from South Florida a couple of years ago, posted four starts last season for the Yellow Jackets. In the win over Green Bay, he turned in his best game of the season, posting 13 points for his third-career double-figure scoring performance of the campaign.
Rounding out the starters in the backcourt on Monday night will be Adam Smith (11.3 PPG, 2.5 RPG). Fisher is one of four Yellow Jackets starters averaging in double figures this season, and ranks second in the ACC in assist-turnover ratio, having handed out 14 assists with only five miscues this season. Smith has started all five games for the Yellow Jackets and in keeping with the theme of big-time transfers for Gregory, Smith transferred into Georgia Tech from Virginia Tech and was one of the most high-profile transfers in college basketball after graduating from Virginia Tech in May.
He has ranked as one of the top perimeter threats in the ACC each of his past two campaigns at Virginia Tech, as he shot a blistering 40.7% from three-point land, averaging 12.7 PPG in 47-career games for the Hokies. He went a perfect 4-for-4 from three-point range in the win over Green Bay and is shooting 40% (16-for-40) from three-point range this season.
The frontcourt for the Yellow Jackets is highlighted by 6-8 senior forward Charles Mitchell (15.3 PPG, 12.5 RPG ), who is tied for the team lead in scoring this season with Georges-Hunt. The veteran has been a double-double machine so far this season, with double-doubles in six-straight games the last time out against Villanova, with 16 points and 11 boards. He has also scored in double figures in eight-straight games, dating back to last season.
Mitchell has been nearly unstoppable for opponents this season, posting a blistering 62.7% (37-of-59) from the field on the campaign, and has been part of a frontcourt that has combined to connect on an amazing 57.9% of their field goal attempts this season.
Mitchell alone has gone 37-of-59 from the field this season, and combined with frontcourt mates Ben Lammers (5.0 PPG, 4.3 RPG), Nick Jacobs (11.5 PPG, 5.7 RPG) and James White (4.7 PPG, 5.2 RPG), the quartet has connected on an impressive 92-of-159 field goal opportunities this season.
Mitchell has 13-career double-doubles in his Georgia Tech career and has 37 double-digit scoring games and 25 double-digit rebound games in his Georgia Tech career. The former Maryland Terrapin posted his best game of the season against Cornell, posting 21 points for the Yellow Jackets in the lopsided win.
He showed his complete game for the Yellow Jackets in a win over Tennessee earlier this season, posting four steals and blocked three shots in the two-point triumph for the Yellow Jackets.
Mitchell will be joined underneath the basket by Nick Jacobs (11.5 PPG, 5.7 RPG), who rounds out the starting five for the Yellow Jackets. The 6-8 redshirt senior has been dependable throughout his career, first with the Alabama Crimson Tide and now with the Yellow Jackets. He scored a career-high 23 points in the recent narrow win over Tennessee.
Jacobs was forced to sit out the entire 2014-15 season per NCAA transfer requirements. He has reached double figures in four out of his six games in his young Yellow Jackets career, and just missed a double-double against the Volunteers, posting nine rebounds. During his time with the Crimson Tide, he averaged 7.3 PPG and 3.4 RPG and currently ranks third on the Yellow Jackets team in scoring (11.5 PPG) and rebounding (5.2 RPG).
The Jackets will utilize as many as four players off the bench, with Lammers, White and Travis Jorgenson (2.3 PPG, 1.2 RPG) set to see time as reserves off the bench in the front court for the Yellow Jackets, while Tadric Jackson (5.5 PPG, 0.7 RPG) will be the top performer off the bench in the frontcourt.
A LOOK AT THE TERRIERS:
Wofford enters Monday's contest looking to become the second team to knock off Georgia Tech this season, and to do that, the Terriers will need to get another big game out of their big gun--Spencer Collins (15.2 PPG, 2.8 RPG).
It's the fifth true road game for Wofford out of the gates this season, including the second of what will be three against ACC foes, as the Terriers have their most games on the road through their first six games since the 1976-77 team.
I got the opportunity to see the Terrers play in person earlier this season against Maryland-Eastern Shore, and I think the Terriers are a legitimate contender for the SoCon crown for the SoCon title once again this season.
Collins is the senior leader, and of late, has started to emerge as the player many, including myself, thought he had the potential to be, which is one of the top players in the Southern Conference. The last three times the Terriers have taken the floor, it's been the Easley, S.C., native has led the way for Wofford.
His 21 points in the road contest at Presbyterian proved just that. He led the Terriers with 21-point output, leading the Terriers to the 68-58 road win. Without Karl Cochran or Lee Skinner this season--two players that were huge in the championship runs of the past two seasons for the Terriers--it's now on Collins to help spearhead the team on both ends of the floor.
His 21 points helped him pass former Terrier sharp-shooter Seth Chadwick on the school's all-time scoring charts, and is now 21st on the school's all-time ledger, with 1,299 career points. The 21-point effort against the Blue Hose was the 10th of his career and second this season.
After starting the season just 4-for-18 from three-point range in the first three games of the season, Collins has posted an impressive 5-for-9 effort over the past couple of games. He has scored in double figures in all four games this season, and dating back to last season, has posted double digits in nine-straight games for the Terriers and now has 77 double-figure games in his Terrier career.
Teaming with Collins in the backcourt on Monday evening will be both junior Eric Garcia (10.2 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2.8 APG) and Jaylen Allen (7.2 PPG, 2.0 RPG). Garcia is sometimes the player goes un-noticed for Mike Young's club, but has played a huge role in the success of the team so far in now his three seasons for the Terriers.
Garcia, a native of Aurora, Colorado, has reached double figures twice this season, scoring 14 points in games against both Missouri and Maryland Eastern-Shore. He is shooting the ball well from the perimeter so far this season, having connected on 9-of-24 (37.5%) from three-point range, however, the normally reliable foul shooter has made good on just 14-of-21 attempts (66.7%) to the charity stripe this season.
Allen is in the starting lineup for the first time in his career this season, and has scored six points in each of the past three outings, with his best game coming in the Terriers' second game of the campaign against top-ranked North Carolina, posting 15 points in the road loss. Allen was the Terriers' sixth man a year ago, and the normally reliable perimeter threat has struggled out of the gates in the first five games this season, connecting on just 27.8% (5-for-18) from three-point land this season.
The Terriers will go with the tandem of C.J. Neumann (2.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG) and Justin Gordon (13.2 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 2.6 APG) for the sixth-straight game to open the season, and it's been who's stepped up and been the second scorer for the Terriers, while Neumann is once again proving to be head coach Mike Young's "glue guy" in the lineup this season, providing key rebounds and doing other things that helps the Terriers win games, which sometimes don't necessarily show up in the statistical data at the end of a game.
Gordon, a senior human highlight reel with some of the dunks he has provided during his career, enters the contest with double-figure scoring efforts in all five games this season for the Terriers, including a career-high 19 points in the season opener against Missouri. He is shooting a blistering 54.5%() from the field this season. That ranks Gordon sixth in the SoCon in field goal percentage through the early portion of the season.
Wofford's top player off the bench so far this season has been Fletcher Magee (11.8 PPG, 3.2 RPG), who is the fourth player averaging in double figures for the Terriers this season, and has been among the top newcomers in the SoCon through the early portion of the season.
He currently ranks third on the team in scoring, and has proven to be the Terriers' top perimeter threat early on this season, connecting on 50% (11-for-22) from three-point land through the first five games. He ranks tops in the league in three-point FG percentage and is sixth in made threes.
WHO WINS: This game will come down to pace. If Georgia Tech is able to get out and run, the Jackets will win, however, if Wofford's defense is able to dictate the flow of this one, look for the Terriers to emerge as the victors. I think given Wofford's success and ability to stay in games against teams from power conferences over the past couple of seasons, it will enable them to defend well enough on the road to come out with their fourth ACC win in program history.
WOFFORD 71, GEORGIA TECH 68