The Notre Dame Fighting Irish may have lost two of their last three against Ball State and Indiana, but make no mistake about it: they’ll be one of the season’s toughest tests for your struggling, worn out Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
On a regular day, Tech likely wouldn’t match up well against the Irish. Today the Jackets simply don’t match up at all, in large part because much of the roster is dealing with an absurd number of lingering injuries. Backup point guard Josh Moore will not be present due to a death in the family, neither Sylvester Ogbonda nor Abdoulaye Gueye (who account for roughly all of Tech’s frontcourt depth) played last time out against Coppin State, forward Curtis Haywood II is still dealing with a shin injury, center Ben Lammers hasn’t fully recovered from his early-season ankle injury, starting point guard Jose Alvarado remains questionable with an injury of his own, and U-18 Team USA member Josh Okogie is still in the early stages of returning to game action following his hand injury. Is that enough for you?
More bad news for Tech is that Notre Dame is excellent on perimeter shots, something that the Jackets have been straight-up incapable of stopping this year. The Irish rank 127th nationally in three-pointers made but 30th nationally in three-point percentage at an impressive 40.1% -- the second-highest mark for a team that Tech has faced this season, behind only the satan-channeling Wofford Terriers (43.7%). If that stat doesn’t scare you, remember that Tech just allowed a Coppin State team which currently shoots 28.4% on threes for the season -- good for 342nd nationally — to hit on 12-26 attempts.
The Irish, meanwhile, feature one of the best players in the nation in the Bonzie Colson — a man that Tech almost certainly won’t have answer for, especially with a dinged up frontcourt. Standing just 6-foot-6, Colson currently averages 21.3 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game at his strange pint-sized center position after averaging a double-double last season as a junior. He’s flanked by a pair of high-scoring, veteran guards in T.J. Gibbs and Matt Farrell, a duo that averages nearly 30 points per game combined this season and which could prove too much to handle for Tech’s defensively challenged backcourt — with or without Jose Alvarado.
Of course, don’t forget that we’ve seen some pretty crazy things happen when the Jackets and the Irish get together for a basketball game. I seem to remember something about Josh Okogie making a nice shot last year...
Ah yes, that happened. And it very well could happen again if the Jackets finally rise to the occasion and put their defensive struggles, fueled by injury and the absence of assistant Darryl LaBarrie, behind them once and for all. Ben Lammers will have a size advantage over the Notre Dame starting lineup, but whether or not he’ll be healthy enough to fully exploit it (and whether or not the team will show any interest in getting an inside game going) remains to be seen.
In the interim, Vegas likes the Irish by 15 points over the Jackets. Hopefully they can prove the desert folks wrong once more with a big and unexpected ACC upset.