Hey everyone! My name is Robert Pensa and I am an aspiring Mechanical Engineer in my 4th and final year at Georgia Tech. Outside of college sports, having grown up in Michigan, I am a fan of the Lions, Tigers, Pistons, and Red Wings, but my love of Georgia Tech trumps them all. You may have seen me on Twitter or elsewhere as "McCamish Maniacs", a group my friends and I formed during our freshman year. I am thankful and excited to be a part of the staff here at From The Rumble Seat, and I am excited to relay my passion for Georgia Tech to all the readers. Go Jackets! THWg!
It is that time of the year once again. While everyone else will be partaking in Thanksgiving festivities, schools across the country will be participating in an early season tournament with great opportunities to boost their resume. This year, Georgia Tech is taking part in the NIT Season Tip-Off. The Jackets look to recover from a disappointing loss to East Tennessee State as they head to Brooklyn this week with a chance to take on a couple quality opponents. If you are unfamiliar with this tournament or these early season tournaments in general, Chris Dobbertean, college basketball contributor over at Blogging the Bracket, has already put together a great breakdown of the NIT Tip-Off, but I will be providing an in-depth analysis of how the Yellow Jackets stack up against the field.
Game 1: Arkansas
The Jackets will get things started on Thanksgiving as they take on the Arkansas Razorbacks. The Razorbacks are coming off a very successful season that led to a 27-9 record and a #5 seed in the NCAA tournament. That said, Jacket fans should not be expecting that same team this season as the Razorbacks lost their three leading scorers, Bobby Portis (SEC player of the year), Michael Qualls, and Rashad Madden, who accounted for over half their scoring.
Arkansas brought little in to replace these pivotal players, which resulted in the media predicting the Razorbacks to finish 11th in the SEC. On top of this, the Razorbacks best returning player, Anton Beard was suspended for the semester after pleading guilty to forgery charges.
So far in their first three games, Arkansas has taken care of business against Southern and Charleston Southern, but lost one at home to Akron, a game they certainly should have won. Arkansas has had some success on the offensive end, but has struggled to stop their opponents from scoring the basketball. Georgia Tech's new uptempo pace should look to take advantage of that early.
On the other end, Georgia Tech's defense will have to look out for junior guard Dusty Hannahs, senior guard Anthlon Bell, and junior forward Moses Kingley.
Hannahs, who transferred from Texas Tech, is averaging 19 ppg so far and has been lights out from beyond the arc, shooting 69% from three point land and already putting in five threes in two of their games this season.
Bell, another great shooter with the potential to get hot and light up the scoreboard, is leading the team in shot attempts and averaging 16 ppg.
Kingsley is averaging a double-double so far (18 ppg and 10 rpg). If the Jackets want to boost their out of conference resume, they will need to, and should be able to, beat an Arkansas opponent projected to finish near the bottom of the SEC. A win would likely set up a matchup against a top 10 team in Villanova.
Game Time: 2:00 EST
TV Channel: ESPNU
Game 2: Stanford/Villanova
Friday, the Jackets will play either the Stanford Cardinals or Villanova Wildcats in either the championship or the third-place game. Barring an upset, the Jackets would be set up to play Villanova with a win over Arkansas, or Stanford with a loss. However, if Stanford were to pull off the upset over Villanova, those matchups would be flipped.
If the Jackets take on Stanford, they will be taking on a team that won the NIT last season and is looking to jump to the big dance this year. Just like Arkansas, Stanford lost a lot, including three starters and their leading returning scorer, senior Rosco Allen, averaged just 7.3 ppg last season. Unsurprisingly, this has led the media to predict a 9th place PAC-12 finish for the Cardinals.
So far this season, Stanford has not done much to prove the prediction wrong, with double-digit losses to SMU and Saint Mary's and a near loss to Green Bay in three of their first four games. Granted, SMU was picked to win the AAC and Saint Mary's has been a perennial tournament team the last decade, but it is not the start Cardinal fans wanted. If the Jackets take on Stanford, expect them to look to dominate the glass and push the pace, looking to take advantage of a Stanford team ranked 274th in the country in rebounding and 234th in defense.
If the Jackets take on Villanova, they will be facing a team that had an early NCAA Tournament exit last season, despite being a #1 seed. Expect Villanova to play with the intent of making a deep run in the NCAA tournament as they are currently ranked in the top 10 and many experts have them in the Final Four.
Villanova lost a few pieces including Darrun Hilliard to the NBA and Dylan Ennis to transfer, but they return a great core of Ryan Arcidiacano, Daniel Ochefu, and Josh Hart. This group is joined by five star recruit Jalen Brunson, arguably the best freshman PG in the country.
Villanova was once again picked to win the Big East this season and have done nothing so far to make anyone think otherwise by winning their first four games by 37, 24, 35, and 19 points respectively. They are ranked near the top of the NCAA in points per game, rebounds per game, assists per game, and points allowed per game.
If the Jackets want any chance of winning this game, they will have to push the tempo to get easy baskets and play lockdown defense as Nova has scoring threats all over the court.
Game Time: 3:00 (championship), 12:30 (3rd place)
TV Channel: ESPN2 (championship), ESPNU (3rd place)
After the loss to East Tennessee State, Georgia Tech needs to get back on track this week, but it will not be easy. Realistically, it is going to be tough for the Jackets to leave with two wins given that would most likely mean a win over Villanova. If the Jackets were able to pull off the unthinkable, they would certainly earn some national attention and the loss to East Tennessee State would be a distant memory.
If Georgia Tech leaves Brooklyn with a 1-1 record, including a quality loss to Villanova, it would still be a result Jacket fans should happy with. A loss to either Arkansas or Stanford would not be ideal and a loss to both teams would set the Jackets back significantly and would potentially require them going undefeated for the rest of the out of conference schedule.
I think we see the Jackets bounce back and get a win over Arkansas before a quality loss to a highly ranked Villanova team the next day. Something to look for will be whether we see the high paced, high energy, high scoring team we saw in the first 3 games or the lack-luster team we saw against East Tennessee State. This tournament features three solid opponents so it is clear the Jackets will have to come out with a clear sense of urgency both days if they want to have a successful trip to Brooklyn.