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Georgia Tech Basketball Game Preview: NIT Semifinals - CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners

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LIVE FROM NEW YORK, ITS GEORGIA TECH BASKETBALL

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

For just the second time in school history, Georgia Tech will take tip off in an NIT Semifinal from Madison Square Garden. The only other time the Yellow Jackets found themselves in this position was in 1971, when the Jackets defeated St. Bonaventure in overtime, only to fall in the finals to North Carolina. The 1971 NIT was a more prestigious event than today’s version as only 25 teams made the NCAA Tournament at the time. Nevertheless, there is still plenty on the table for this Yellow Jacket basketball team. Getting a chance to finish the season off with a victory would be huge for this program in its first season under Coach Josh Pastner.

The first team standing in their way is the Roadrunners of CSU-Bakersfield. The Runners traveled a long road to reach Madison Square Garden. Given an 8th seed by the NIT selection committee, Bakersfield played 3 games in opponents’ arenas, knocking off California, Colorado State, and UT-Arlington to reach New York. CSUB won the regular season WAC Championship, going 12-2 in conference. In the semifinals of the WAC Tournament, the Roadrunners needed 4 overtimes to defeat Utah Valley. The next day, an exhausted team fell to regular season runner-up New Mexico State. The Aggies took the conference’s only NCAA Tournament bid, sending CSUB to the NIT.

Resume Comparison

Team Conference Record Conference Record RPI Rank KenPom Rank Record Against KenPom Top 50 Best Win Worst Loss
Team Conference Record Conference Record RPI Rank KenPom Rank Record Against KenPom Top 50 Best Win Worst Loss
Georgia Tech ACC 20-15 8-10 106 77 6-8 North Carolina (4) NC State (110)
CSU Bakersfield WAC 25-9 12-2 75 84 0-2 at Cal (62) at UC Santa Barbara (331)

Stat Comparison

Team PPG Opponent PPG FG% Opponent FG% 3FG% Opponent 3FG% FT% RPG Opponent RPG APG SPG BPG
Team PPG Opponent PPG FG% Opponent FG% 3FG% Opponent 3FG% FT% RPG Opponent RPG APG SPG BPG
Georgia Tech 67.5 66.4 44.0 39.5 32.9 33.0 68.3 36.1 36.0 15.5 6.7 5.9
CSU Bakersfield 71.8 63.5 44.2 37.0 35.1 31.9 63.7 38.6 35.1 14.5 8.3 4.0

Projected Starters

(6) Georgia Tech (20-15)

Position Number Name Year MPG PPG Notable
Position Number Name Year MPG PPG Notable
G 30 Corey Heyward Sr. 16.5 1.9 18 TOs in 579 min
G 11 Josh Heath Sr. 30.8 5.6 3.2 assist/TO ratio in NIT
G 5 Josh Okogie Fr. 30.6 16.1 21.7 ppg in NIT
F 12 Quinton Stephens Sr. 33.2 10.5 9-19 3FG in NIT
C 44 Ben Lammers Jr. 35.5 14.4 20 points, 8 blocks vs Ole Miss
6th Man 1 Tadric Jackson Jr. 23.8 11.9 13 ppg in NIT

(8) CSU Bakersfield (25-9)

Position Number Name Year MPG PPG Notable
Position Number Name Year MPG PPG Notable
G 5 Dedrick Basile Sr. 29.8 12.5 1.6 spg
G 1 Brent Wrapp R-Jr. 24.5 4.9 3.6 apg
F 11 Jaylin Airington R-Sr. 31.6 14.4 79.5% FT%
F 0 Matt Smith R-Sr. 24.9 10.2 5.7 rpg
C 22 Moataz Aly Jr. 12.1 2.5 65.2% FG%, 1.8 bpg
6th Man 23 Damiyne Durham R-So. 21.1 12.8 39.5% of shots taken (3rd in NCAA)

Player to Watch

NCAA Basketball: Cal. State - Bakersfield at Brigham Young Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

G - Damiyne Durham

Like most players on the CSU-Bakersfield’s roster, Damiyne Durham didn’t plan on being a Roadrunner (all but two players on the roster transferred to Bakersfield, whether from a juco or another four year school). Coming out of high school Durham initially signed with Baylor but after just a semester in Waco, transferred to Bakersfield. In his first year with the Roadrunners, Durham was instrumental in the team’s first NCAA Tournament appearance. Now, as a sophomore, Durham has helped lead the team to another postseason berth.

The explosive guard ranks second on the team in scoring, averaging 12.8 points per game, despite coming off the bench as the team’s sixth man. Durham only plays about 20 minutes per game but he makes every second count. When he is on the floor, the Roadrunners revolve around him. He takes nearly 40% of their shots when he is on the floor - a rate that only two Division I players topped this season. Durham can score in a variety of ways; he leads the team in 3 pointers attempted, taking 8 per game at about 35% shooting from deep. He’s also pretty good attacking the basket and doesn’t turn the ball over too often. On top of that, he’s something of a pest on defense, ranking in the top 150 players in the country in steal rate and blocking more shots than would be expected from a 6’ 3” guard. Durham may not play a ton but when he is on the court he will be a focal point for the Jackets on both sides of the ball.

What to Watch

In broad strokes, CSU Bakersfield is very similar to Georgia Tech. Both teams are led by elite level defenses (Tech ranks 6th in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency, CSUB ranks 15th) but struggle to score the ball (Tech ranks 267th in Pomeroy’s adjusted offensive efficiency, CSUB ranks 244th). Taking a look under the surface, a few strengths and weakness unique to each team become clear. One of Tech’s few weaknesses on defense all year has been keeping opponents off the offensive glass. This could turn out to be an issue yet again as the Roadrunners are a pretty solid offensive rebounding team, led by forward Matt Smith. This is a game where Quinton Stephens and Josh Okogie’s rebounding abilities could be a big factor. Stephens will have a big length advantage on whomever he’s matched up against. The Runners use a lot of three guard lineups and their starting forwards, Smith and Jaylin Airington, are a little undersized at 6’-6” and 6’-4”, respectively. Okogie has done an excellent job on the boards in the NIT, grabbing at least 7 in each of the first three games of the tournament.

When the Yellow Jackets have the ball they will face, statistically speaking, one of the best defenses they have seen all season. The Roadrunners’ defense isn’t entirely a product of a weak schedule either. In the nonconference schedule, they had impressive showings against Arizona and SMU, both NCAA Tournament teams with high ranked offenses. The SMU game may have been CSU-Bakersfield’s most impressive of the season. The Mustangs boast a top 10 offense by KenPom adjusted offense, yet the Roadrunners held them to only 49 points and 29.6% shooting from the field. CSUB had offensive issues of their own and fell 49-43 but their defensive effort was praiseworthy.

While Tech and CSUB both have impressive defenses, Bakersfield is much more aggressive. As a result, they force a lot of turnovers but also foul at a very high rate. Generally speaking, those tendancies could be a bit problematic for the Yellow Jackets. Over the course of the season, Tech has been somewhat turnover prone and a below average free throw shooting team. There have been signs of hope this postseason. Against Indiana and Belmont the Jackets took very good care of the ball, turning the ball over just 9 and 8 times, respectively. Against Ole Miss, Tech struggled with the higher tempo and played sloppy (15 turnovers) but had one of their best nights at the free throw line (17-20, 85%). If Tech can play with the control they showed in the first two games and the poise at the line they showed in the quarterfinals they will have a good chance to extend the season one more time.

Where to Watch

If you’re like me and couldn’t justify taking off work to head to Madison Square Garden, tune into ESPN at 7:00 PM ET.

The winner will face the winner of UCF/TCU on Thursday.