Georgia Tech (2-1, 0-0 ACC) vs. Cincinnati (4-0, 0-0 Big 12)
Last Season’s Records: Georgia Tech - (15-18); Cincinnati - (23-13)
KenPom Rankings: Georgia Tech - 137; Cincinnati - 50
Efficiency Rankings: Georgia Tech - Offense 106th, Defense 176th; Cincinnati - Offense 69th, Defense 41st.
KenPom Prediction: Georgia Tech 68 - 80 Cincinnati. Georgia Tech is given a 14% chance to win.
Cincinnati entered the 2023-2024 season with high hopes after reaching the NIT quarterfinals last season, ending a four-year postseason drought unfamiliar to Bearcat fans, given the team’s nine consecutive NCAA tournament appearances between 2011 and 2019. Head coach Wes Miller has successfully stabilized the program following the dismissal of former head coach John Brannen amid an investigation into his conduct.
Cincinnati is embarking on its first season in the Big 12 conference after spending the previous 10 seasons in the American Athletic Conference. They were picked to finish 11th out of 14 teams in the preseason media poll. It’s worth noting the toughness and depth of the Big 12 conference, ranked as the toughest conference for two consecutive seasons according to KenPom.
Despite lofty expectations, head coach Wes Miller faces challenges this season, having lost his four largest minute-getters from last year. David Dejulius (14.8 ppg) and Landers Nolley (16.8 ppg) graduated, while Mika Adams-Woods (9.1 ppg) and Jeremiah Davenport (9.1 ppg) transferred out. Returning for the Bearcats are Viktor Lakhin and Ody Oguama. Through the opening four games, Lakhin is nearly averaging a double-double (13.8 ppg and 9.5 rpg). The key improvement for him this season has been limiting fouls, as he committed fouls at nearly half the rate of last season.
Cincinnati also received significant news this week as transfer big man Aziz Bandaogo has been deemed immediately eligible to play following a waiver claim with the NCAA. The 7-footer Bandaogo will provide much-needed frontcourt depth for Cincinnati, addressing concerns about foul trouble for Lakhin and Oguama.
Sophomore guard Dan Skillings has been a bright spot for Cincinnati off the bench this season. Despite not starting in any of the four games, he is second on the team in minutes and leads the team in scoring. In their most recent game against Northern Kentucky, he scored 25 points on 8-12 shooting.
A notable name is senior guard John Newman III, who Tech fans may recognize from his three seasons at Clemson. Newman is leading the Bearcats in minutes this season after missing almost all of last year due to injury, averaging 9.5 points.
An interesting tidbit is that the Associate Head Coach for the Bearcats is former Georgia Tech assistant and associate head coach Chad Dollar.
The Jackets are coming off a couple of tough games as they needed a significant comeback to beat Howard and then lost to UMass Lowell last Tuesday. However, considering mid-majors, UMass Lowell is not a bad team to lose to, currently sitting on the cusp of a top 100 ranking on KenPom. Cincinnati will pose a tougher test than the River Hawks, and the Jackets will need an improved performance for a victory. This marks Tech’s first road trip of the season, playing in one of the more challenging venues for road teams in college basketball. Vegas has the Bearcats as double-digit favorites, making it a tough game. A boost for the Jackets will be the expected return of freshman Baye Ndongo, highly touted throughout the preseason and set to play for the first time this season after dealing with a hand injury. Will that be enough to put the Jackets on top? We’ll have to see.