This is the first big home game for Georgia Tech, but both teams were certainly hoping it was a bigger matchup. Georgia Tech has struggled without two of their best and most experienced players (Tadric Jackson and Josh Okogie). Jackson thankfully returned last week against North Texas, but Okogie is still suspended and is now looking at missing even more time due to his injured finger. Northwestern started the season ranked on the heels of their first ever NCAA tournament, but things haven’t totally gone to plan. They lost a close one against Creighton then got bombed by Texas Tech in their first two big games. Now they come to Tech looking for a decent OOC win for their resume.
This game is going to match strength vs. strength. The solid GT defense is taking on a very good Northwestern offense (they’ve scored at least 75 in 5/6 games so far). Not only that, but the worst part about Tech’s defense is it’s rebounding and the Wildcats also struggle on the boards. NU is decent at shooting from deep which is concerning because that has also been a weakness all year. One other similarity is that both teams have very little depth. Both are near the very bottom of the country in bench minutes with 24.6% for the Wildcats and 23.9% for the Jackets versus a 31.6% average. Josh Pastner has experimented with the rotation so far, but that’s largely because we have so many new faces. Expect him to tighten up the rotation very soon.
Northwestern leans heavily on their five starters. Guards Scottie Lindsey and Bryant McIntosh are their best scorers, but forwards Dererk Pardon (No that’s not a typo), Vic Law, and Gavin Skelly can all hold their own. The main bench players are Anthony Gaines in the backcourt and Aaron Falzon in the frontcourt.
The key to this game for Tech is getting the offense humming a little bit. They’ve definitely struggled so far this season, especially from deep. Curtis Haywood has started to find a rhythm and Jackson is a competent three point shooter so their abysmal shooting may improve this game. Ben Lammers and Jose Alvarado have really been leading this offense and both need to play well in this game to get Georgia Tech the win. One bright spot in the offense has been the ability to draw a lot of fouls. Given Northwestern’s reliance on their starters and the fact that Northwestern actually fouls a fair bit, foul trouble could come into play this game. That would give the Jackets a huge boost.
This game is taking place tonight at 7 pm at McCamish Pavilion. Crowds so far have been pretty small, but given the increase in competition I would like to see it get very full. If you can’t make it to Midtown, the game is being shown on ESPN 2. As of this writing, the ACC is up 2-0 in the challenge thanks to a last minute win by Syracuse over Maryland and a defensively dominant performance by Virginia over Wisconsin. Go Jackets!