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NIT Quarterfinals Preview: Georgia Tech vs. San Diego State

After smoking 1st seeded South Carolina, the Jackets head all the way across the country for a matchup with the cruising Aztecs

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Remember last game? When Georgia Tech scored 83 points, hit 11-22 from deep, and 19-37 from inside the arc?  Well don't expect that again.  San Diego State is one of the best defensive teams in the country, ranked number 3 by KenPom.  Opponents shoot just 41.2 percent from two pointers and 29.6% on threes against them, first and second in the nation respectively.  They block 15.1% of opponents shots good for fourth in the country.  They are also solid at avoiding fouling and preventing offensive rebounds which could be key against the Yellow Jackets.  The reason this defense isn't playing in the dance, is an offense that is mediocre in nearly every way.  They aren't a good shooting team and they turn the ball over too much, but are decent at offensive rebounds and getting to the free throw line.  Oddly enough, in the Aztec's previous game against Washington, the offense went off for 93 points while the defense gave up an uncharacteristic 78 points.

Georgia Tech is on a roll.  They have gone 8-2 in their last ten games and started off the NIT with blowout victories over decent Houston and South Carolina teams.  This has largely come on the back of solid production from everybody led by very good games from Marcus Georges-Hunt.  Everybody has chipped in in these games and the Yellow Jackets are going to need that to continue against a very stingy defense.  Charles Mitchell and the rest of the big men need to fight for every rebound.  Getting extra possessions against such a strong defense is a necessity.  Georgia Tech has shot 50% from deep in each of the last two games.  Keeping up that pace would be unlikely, but they can't fall into the low 20s like they did early in the ACC season.  The Yellow Jackets played fantastic defense until the very end of the game against the Gamecocks.  They had every player playing together defensively and forcing South Carolina to use the entire shot clock and end up taking a lot of poor shots.  Houston also was forced to settle for a lot of deep twos.  San Diego State does not have one star player they rely on heavily for offense, so every piece of the GT defense must work together well to prevent the Aztecs from scoring.

As I said above, the Aztecs score by committee.  Point guard Jeremy Hemsley, shooting guard Trey Kell, and Forward Winston Shephard (who also plays some point forward) lead the way all scoring between 11 and 13 points per game.  The Aztecs are the rare team who has the size and depth down low to match the Yellow Jackets.  Malik Pope, Skylar Spencer, Angelo Chol, and Zylan Cheatham all play at least ten minutes a game and clock in at 6'9'' or above.  Pope provides a bit of a three point threat, but none of these guys add too much offense.  They are very good defensively and strong rebounders, but look to the backcourt for the scoring.  The Aztecs are going to be looking to penetrate and draw a lot of fouls.  Nobody on their team is a sharpshooter, they mostly get it done from inside the arc.  If they can get Nick Jacobs or Charles Mitchell in foul trouble, which has been an issue for the Jackets at times, that could hamper Georgia Tech's offense.  Look for Ben Lammers and James White to get a lot of time if San Diego State is getting to the rim too easily.

This game is happening on Wednesday the 23rd at 9 pm Eastern and will be shown on ESPN2.  The winner will head to Madison Square Garden for the semifinals against the winner of George Washington vs. Florida.  KenPom has the Aztecs a four point favorite with a 67% chance to win the game.  San Diego State is a good team, but it's hard to bet against the Jackets with the way they are playing right now. Go Jackets!