12/18: Florida A&M @ Georgia Tech 7pm (Line: Tech -19.5)
Georgia Tech looks to bounce back from a tough defeat on Tuesday night to #15 FSU. The Jackets were able to charge back in the second half pulling within 1 point with under 9 minutes to go before Florida St pulled away. This was not a shameful loss as Florida St is arguably the best team in the ACC, but it does make it imperative that the Jackets go 3-0 in the remaining non-conference schedule to keep their tournament hopes alive.
Fortunately, a different Florida school will be taking the floor opposite the Jackets Tuesday night. The Florida A&M Rattlers have started the season 1-4 with a Kenpom ranking of 304. On paper (to nobody’s surprise), the Rattlers don’t pose the same challenges that FSU did:
- Length. FSU’s length across the board gave Tech major problems and made playing small a challenge. FAMU does not have a 6’9 Scottie Barnes at guard to cause mismatches or any 7-footers. The Rattlers will likely play a 2 guard and 3 forward lineup, with the tallest player being 6’9. This should allow Tech to play small and return to a 3 guard lineup at times.
- 3-Point Shooting. The Seminoles shot 47% from 3, which continues to be a problem for Tech’s zone defense. The Jackets are allowing opponents to shoot 40% from beyond the arc this season, which ranks 307th in the country. The Rattlers rank 221st in the country in 3-point percentage (31%) and 310th in 3-pointers attempted (15.4). It also helps that their leading scorer, MJ Randolph, doesn’t attempt 3s.
- Rebounding. Naturally, a zone defense is going to be vulnerable to the boards, but Florida St’s length exacerbated it. Tech may not have been dominated on the offensive glass, but the rebounds seemed to come after strong defensive possessions and led to open 3s. The Rattlers are 195th on the offensive glass and 294th in total rebounds per Kenpom.
MJ Randolph - Guard, 6’4, Junior
The junior guard leads the Rattlers in minutes (36.4), points (16.0), assists (4.2), and steals (2.4) this season. Randolph seems to be far and away their best player and rarely comes out of the game. As mentioned previously, MJ does not take many 3s (0.4 per game) as he does his damage inside the arc where he shoots 52.5%. The Jackets also make sure to not make lazy passes around Randolph as his quick hands can lead to easy transition buckets for FAMU.
Johnny Brown - Forward, 6’9, Sophomore
If there is one player to watch out for behind the arc, its Johnny Brown. The Florida native takes 4.2 threes per game and makes them at a 42.9% clip. Usher or Khalid need to not give him space from deep because he can burn the Jackets.
This is an absolute must win game, so expect the Jackets to move back to .500 by defeating FAMU relatively easily. The Jackets will cause problems defensively for Randolph, who won’t have the driving lanes against the zone that he’s used to. Offensively, the Jackets will look to feed Moses Wright. Wright struggled last game and was unable to get good looks against a strong FSU defense. Expect for him to return to his normal self and put up 20+ Tuesday night. Additionally, I expect Michael Devoe to have a strong game. Devoe has struggled to make shots and has turned the ball over at a high rate to start the season. However, he was one of the bright spots against FSU, scoring 21 points on 47% shooting. Regained confidence from Mike will be crucial for the success of this year’s team and back to back strong games will go a long way in Devoe returning to his normal self.
Prediction: Georgia Tech wins 76-60