Georgia Tech (1-0, 0-0 ACC) vs. Howard (1-0, 0-0 MEAC)
Last Season’s Records: Georgia Tech - (15-18); Howard - (22-13)
KenPom Rankings: Georgia Tech - 102; Georgia Southern - 227
Efficiency Rankings: Georgia Tech - Offense 85th, Defense 145th; Howard - Offense 215th, Defense 244th.
KenPom Prediction: Georgia Tech 81 - 71 Howard. Georgia Tech is given an 82% chance to win.
Last season, Howard finished 22-13, going 11-3 in conference play, and earned the #1 seed in the MEAC tournament. They defeated South Carolina State, UMES, and Norfolk State on their way to winning their conference tournament, making their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1992 (the third in school history). While Howard retains some of their production from last season, they also lost valuable contributors. Leading scorer and minute-getter Elijah Hawkins transferred to Minnesota, and their second-leading scorer and minute-getter, Steve Settle, transferred to Temple. Returning contributors include Jelani Williams, Marcus Dockery, and Shy Odom, all of whom averaged over 20 minutes per game last season and collectively averaged 30 points per game. Dockery, Odom, and Williams were all named to the preseason first team all-MEAC, and Howard was selected to finish first in the conference again.
On Monday, Howard secured a season-opening win at home against Hampton with a score of 92-80. Junior guard Bryce Harris, a preseason second team all-MEAC selection who averaged 7 points per game last season, was the MVP of the season opener, scoring 23 points on 8-12 shooting. Sharpshooter Marcus Dockery was not far behind, scoring 21 points, thanks to a 5-8 performance from behind the arc. Last season, Dockery shot 44% from behind the three-point arc, including 51% in conference play, making him a shooter to watch and prevent from getting open looks. Howard has a sizable point guard in 6-6 Shy Odom, who led the team in both rebounding and assists on Monday but also committed 7 turnovers.
The Jackets took a little time to get things together on Monday but eventually clicked in the second half, pulling away from Georgia Southern. While the MEAC is one of the weaker conferences in college basketball, Howard should still provide a decent test given that they have three players selected for the preseason first team all-conference and NCAA experience from a season ago. The Jackets are 10.5 point favorites, which seems about right to me. I’m picking Tech to win this one by double digits.