Just eleven days ago Notre Dame welcomed Georgia Tech to South Bend and pulled away in the second half for a comfortable win. Things have changed considerably since then for both teams. First, the Yellow Jackets have gotten healthy. Depth players Curtis Haywood and Sylvester Ogbonda are back which means the Jackets aren’t missing anybody due to injury (Justin Moore has been a healthy scratch in the last two games). Ben Lammers has looked like his ankle injury is bothering him less the last two games. In addition, they look like they’re playing their best basketball all year. The last two games have been an upset over #18 Miami and a comfortable OOC win over Yale (one of the few they had this season).
Notre Dame on the other hand is now in a more perilous position. They have lost not only their star player Bonzie Colson to injury, but they also lost their senior leader and second best player Matt Farrell. In their first game without either of these players though, they pulled out a gritty win on the road against Syracuse. Perhaps Mike Brey will be able to pull together a solid squad without his two best players. Although in their last three games against GT, Bonzie and Farrell have combined for 51% of the points that Notre Dame has scored.
Minus Colson and Farrell, this team is led by guard TJ Gibbs and forward Rex Pflueger. TJ Gibbs is a strong offensive player and is especially proficient from deep shooting 44% from deep. That could spell trouble for Georgia Tech. Pflueger is a gamer who won’t set the world on fire with his scoring, but makes his impact on defense, the boards, and his leadership. Martinas Gebens is the big man taking the place of Colson. He plays a good amount normally, but struggles with stamina some and hasn’t played 30 minutes once this season. Freshman DJ Harvey is a great defender, but has had his struggles on offense (against Syracuse he shot just 1-14). Without a lot of their offensive firepower, one might expect a Mike Brey led team to struggle. Instead, their defense has stepped up. The key to this game will be to see if Georgia Tech can score like they normally would on the Irish.
Vegas has GT a slim favorite as a 1 point favorite. This is not just due to the injuries, but also as a recognition of how good Pastner’s teams have been at home in the ACC, even against top ranked teams. Or possibly, they just remember the last two time that Notre Dame came to town.
This game takes place at 7 pm at McCamish Pavilion. My final prediction is a major defensive struggle, but Mike Brey is able to coax just enough offense out of his team. Notre Dame wins 52-47.