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Countdown to Tipoff: Non-Conference Schedule

A Truncated Non-Conference Schedule With Little Room For Error

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

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Opponent Venue Date KenPom Preseason Ranking
Opponent Venue Date KenPom Preseason Ranking
Georgia State Home 25-Nov 108
Mercer Home 27-Nov 189
Kentucky Neutral 6-Dec 12
Nebraska Away 9-Dec 117
Florida A&M Home 18-Dec 321
Delaware State Home 20-Dec 350
UAB Away 23-Dec 115

This year Georgia Tech is only playing 7 non-conference games. Given the make-up of the schedule Tech really needs to do well here to boost their chances of making the tournament.

There is only one loss that will be considered acceptable by the committee. That is the game against Kentucky at State Farm Arena downtown. Kentucky comes into the season ranked #10 with the usual high expectations. As usual Kentucky is a bit tough to read due to the fact they have such high turnover. They lost their top 6 scorers and will have an almost entirely new rotation this year. Potential impact transfers Olivier Sarr (from Wake Forest), Jacob Toppin (Obi Toppin’s brother from Rhode Island), and Davion Mintz (from Creighton) should lead the way with talented freshmen filling in most of the rest of the rotation. This will be a very tough game. If GT wins then you will start to see some national attention on the Yellow Jackets. A loss isn’t the worst thing in the world as Tech will plenty of opportunities for big wins in ACC play.

The next two toughest games are trickier. Playing at Nebraska in the Big 10-ACC Challenge could be very difficult. Nebraska wasn’t any good last year (They finished 7-25 and 162nd per KenPom), but their team has been totally rebuilt. They brought in 6 transfers. None of them are guarantees to be good, but all of them have the potential to be solid players this year. They also are coached by Fred Hoiberg who I think is a great coach. The final non-conference game at UAB will also be no cakewalk. They bring back the core of their team from last year (when they were 189th in the country) who they will pair with some incoming transfers for new coach Andy Kennedy (formerly of Ole Miss). Their guard play should be excellent so this will be a fun strength vs. strength matchup. Both of these games will hurt to lose, but probably won’t help that much if Tech wins.

The third tricky game is the home opener against Georgia State. The Panthers have been a solid team for years and last year continued the trend under new coach Rob Lanier. They return much of their core from last year and look to be a tough out again, but the game is at home for the Yellow Jackets which will help. I’m also not sure that Lanier is as good a coach as Ron Hunter who left him in a good situation. This will be another game with great guard play.

The three matchups that I haven’t talked about are absolute must wins. Mercer should be a little better than last year, but they still shouldn’t a problem for Georgia Tech. Then there’s Florida A&M and Delaware State. Both are near the bottom of D1 especially Delaware State who ranks 350th out of 357 preseason. They both SHOULD be no problem for Tech, but under Josh Pastner this team has had issues with low-ranked HBCUs (Remember losing to Grambling State? Or eking out a win against Bethune-Cookman...twice?)

As a whole this schedule is doable, but there’s downside. They really should be aiming for 6-1, but even 7-0 is achievable. A 5-2 record would hurt Tech’s chances at the tournament, but probably wouldn’t be killer. Anything below that is serious trouble. A 6-1 record heading into ACC play would lead to some high expectations. One thing to note is that Tech plays Florida State in the middle of non-conference play so there’s another tough game before regular conference play starts in January.