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50 Days to Tipoff: Opponent Previews - Wright State, Coppin State, and Yale

Tech should take all three of these, but don’t sleep on Yale

NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at Georgia Tech Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

As we continue our opponent previews today, we’ll take a look at the last three mid/low-major opponents on the schedule. Starting tomorrow, we’ll move onto the major conferences.

Countdown to Tipoff: 23 Days

Wright State Raiders

Perennially a Horizon League Contender, Wright State was in the thick of it again last season under first year head coach Scott Nagy. The Raiders finished with a 20-12 record but were bounced in the first round of the conference tournament and did not play any additional post season games. They finished the season ranked 164th in the KenPom but lose two of their biggest impact players in G Mark Alstork (grad transfer to Illinois) and C Steven Davis (graduation).

NCAA Basketball: Wright State at Penn State
Wright State G Justin Mitchell
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

This season, Wright State will be led by a pair of seniors. Justin Mitchell is a 6’-4” guard but was one of the best rebounders in the Horizon League. He finished second in the conference with 8.3 rpg and ranked in the top 100 nationally in defensive rebounding percentage. The Raiders’ offense ran through Mitchell, who led the team with 4.0 assists per game. He’s a good scorer (11.5 ppg) but is not a threat at all from long range. On the other hand, there’s sharp shooting guard Grant Benzinger, who shot 42% from 3-point land last season. Benzinger is Wright State’s top returning scorer (12.8 ppg) and most experienced player, having started his whole career. He underwent surgery for a hernia earlier this month but should be back by the time the Raiders make their way down to Atlanta on December 22nd.

The Raiders will have to work several new players into the rotation, including transfer point guard Cole Gentry (who has to sit out the first semester but should make his debut sometime around when this game is scheduled), but Scott Nagy is a pretty good coach and Wright State is a solid mid-major program. The Yellow Jackets should win this game without too much trouble, but don’t be surprised if the Raiders hang around for a little bit.

Coppin State Eagles

Remember what Drew wrote yesterday about Florida A&M? Yeah, most of that applies here. Coppin State is also part of the MEAC and, like Florida A&M, ranked near the bottom of the conference last season. The Eagles went 8-24 and finished the season ranked 343rd in KenPom. The season led Coppin State to make a change at coach, hiring former Maryland great and hometown hero (Coppin State is located in Baltimore) Juan Dixon.

It’ll be an uphill battle for Dixon to get Coppin State even into MEAC contention and year one could be rough. Of the six players who averaged more than 20 minutes per game last season, only 2 return. Guard DeJuan Clayton came in as a freshman and led the Eagles in scoring (12.4 ppg), assists (3.1 apg), and minutes (32.4 mpg). Clayton was a strong player across the board for the Eagles and could develop into a special player for Coach Dixon. Aside from Clayton, rising senior guard Tre’ Thomas was the Eagles’ biggest scoring threat last season. He was more of a spot up shooter than Clayton, shooting 34% from downtown with over 60% of his shots coming from beyond the arc. Thomas rarely turns the ball the over, though he doesn’t handle the rock often.

Coppin State comes to Atlanta on December 27th. The Eagles are Georgia Tech’s last warm up before starting ACC play and the Yellow Jackets really should be able to put them away easily. Though, as Drew noted yesterday, Tech did struggle mightily against NC A&T in this same spot a year ago. Hopefully the Jackets learned from that experience and don’t repeat past mistakes.

Yale Bulldogs

Last season, the Yellow Jackets filled their ACC off week with a game against Division II Tusculum. This year, they scheduled a harder test: the Yale Bulldogs. Under longtime head coach James Jones, the Bulldogs won the Ivy League in 2015 and 2016 and were picked by the media to make it three titles in four years this season. Yale took a bit of a step back in 2017, going 18-11 and finishing 151st in KenPom after two straight 20 win, top 100 seasons.

NCAA Basketball: Yale at Pittsburgh
Yale G Miye Oni
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, Yale played just 7 players significant minutes. They return five of those seven this season, led by the guard duo of Alex Copeland and Miye Oni. Copeland, a junior, and Oni, a sophomore, tied for the team scoring lead last season with 12.9 ppg. Copeland is more of a ballhandler, leading the team in usage, though Oni is Yale’s returning leader in assists (2.7 apg). At 6’-7”, Oni has really good length and is a strong rebounder and shot blocker for his position. A really interesting returning player is sophomore big man Jordan Bruner. If you look at Bruner’s stat line and squint a bit, it starts to look pretty similar to Ben Lammers’. Bruner was one of the country’s best shot blockers last season, blocking 10.4% of two point shots while on the court. He’s also a good rebounder and will likely see an uptick on his 8.4 ppg this season. Bruner vs. Lammers is definitely a matchup to look forward to.

Georgia Tech tip off against Yale on January 6th after just 2 ACC games. The Bulldogs’ visit is sandwiched between home games against Miami and Notre Dame, two teams who will likely be near the top of the ACC. Tech can’t afford to overlook Yale, who have a very good chance of returning to the NCAA tournament this season. This will probably be Tech’s toughest test among their mid-major opponents.