Georgia Tech (3-0, 0-0 ACC) vs. Utah (3-1, 0-0 Pac-12)
KenPom Rankings: Georgia Tech - 111; Utah - 74
Efficiency Rankings: Georgia Tech - Offense 189th, Defense 59th; Utah - Offense 77th, Defense 73rd.
KenPom Prediction: Georgia Tech 66 - 69 Utah. Georgia Tech is given an 38% chance to win.
Utah is entering season number two under head coach Craig Smith. Smith had a lot of success at Utah State prior to taking over the head job with the Utes, but went just 11-20 and 4-16 in conference in his first season at Utah.
The Utes started this season with three straight wins over LIU, Cal St. Bakersfield, and Idaho St. However, they dropped their most recent contest to Sam Houston State by a score of 65-55. Sam Houston State also beat Oklahoma earlier in the month and sit at 4-0 on the season.
Utah’s leading scorer from last season, Brandon Carlson, returned this year for his senior season and has already picked up where he left off, averaging 17 points per game in the first four games of the season. The key to beating the Utes may be keeping Carlson in check as that is what Sam Houston State was able to do, holding him to single digit scoring for the first time this season. Easier said than done though as Carlson is a 7 footer who was named to the Preseason All-Pac-12 First Team this year.
Another player to keep an eye on is Gabe Madsen. Madsen was the Utes 7th leading scorer last season after transferring from Cincinnati at the conclusion of his freshman season. In the first four games of this season, Madsen has already seen his minutes double from last year and he scored 25 points against Cal St. Bakersfield.
The last player to note is Rollie Worster, Utah’s floor general. Worster started his career at Utah State but followed coach Craig Smith to Utah. Last season, he started in 30 of 31 games, averaging over 3 assists per game.
The Utes get it done on the defensive end not by forcing turnovers, but by playing solid defense and forcing their opponents into low percentage shot opportunities. They rank inside the top 10 in the country in opponents effective FG%, which could spell trouble for the Jackets, who rank 323rd in the country. Tech will have to move the ball quickly and efficiently or score in transition, but cannot afford to let the ball stick in the half-court offense.
The matchup between Tech and Utah is part of the Fort Myers Tip-Off tournament, which also includes Marquette and Mississippi State. The winners of the two games will face off for the championship on Wednesday.
A Tech win would provide them with their first 4-0 start since the 2008-09 season.
This is the first true test of the season for the Jackets and it is anyone’s guess as to what the outcome will be with two teams who have yet to prove themselves. Vegas has Utah as 4.5 point favorites, which definitely seems reasonable. At times this year, Tech has looked great, but they have definitely had stretches where they have really struggled. Up until this point, it has yet to matter due to the level of competition, but they will not be able to get away with that against a power conference opponent like Utah. The Utes will be looking to bounce back from their loss against Sam Houston State and should come out with a lot of focus. In a game which probably leans slightly towards Utah, but is more or less a toss up, I will back the Jackets and predict a narrow victory.