#8 Villanova Wildcats (5-0) vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (4-1)
When: Friday, November 27th, 2015, at 3:00 p.m.
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
Georgia Tech’s Previous Season Record: 12-19
Key Players for Georgia Tech: #3 Marcus Georges-Hunt (6-5, 214) Sr., G/F; #0 Charles Mitchell (6-8, 269) Sr., F/C; #32 Nick Jacobs (6-8, 260) Sr. F
Scouting Report: Georgia Tech beat Arkansas for the right to play Villanova in the NIT Season Tip-Off final. Georgia Tech is a big, experienced, and deep team that will look to beat the Wildcats on the boards and in the turnover battle. It should be noted that Georgia Tech suffered a one point loss to East Tennessee State last Sunday, an opponent Villanova beat by 35 just two days prior.
The Yellow Jackets are led by a group of senior forwards who have helped Georgia Tech average 46.2 rebounds per game, a top-20 mark in the country. Charles Mitchell and Nick Jacobs combined for 29.5 points, 18 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, 62.5% shooting, and 529 pounds of human being coming into the tournament. Mitchell is a machine on the offensive glass, he recorded seven offensive boards on his way to an 18 point, 18 rebound performance against Arkansas. Jacobs, a transfer from Alabama, is shining in his starting role and averaging career highs across the board. The real leader of this Georgia Tech team is Marcus Georges-Hunt. Georges-Hunt is a member of the Yellow Jacket’s 1,000 point club and has led Georgia Tech in scoring every year except his sophomore season (when he was second on the team). Georges-Hunt contributes in many ways besides his scoring. With his strong, study frame, Georges-Hunt is a good athlete who can defend and rebound very well. He is also a very reliable (but not excellent) jump shooter. In his final season as a Yellow Jacket, he’s looking to raise the stakes even higher. University of Arkansas-Little Rock transfer James White also gets in on the action, chipping in 6.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game.
The senior leadership extends past the big men for the Yellow Jackets. This is a group that takes care of the ball very well, with a 1.67 assist-to-turnover ratio coming into this match-up. Virginia Tech transfer Adam Smith has been a great floor general this season with 14 assists on only three turnovers. He is well on his way to shattering his own personal record of 30 assists in a season. The team is thin at the guard position after Smith, but should still be a formidable opponent for Villanova.
Outlook: A team that can hit the offensive glass like Georgia Tech can spell trouble for any opponent. The Yellow Jackets had 18 offensive rebounds against Arkansas, leading to 26 second chance points for Georgia Tech. On the other side of the bracket, Stanford (A weak rebounding team coming in) bullied the Wildcats for 20 offensive rebounds. Thankfully, The Cardinal were not able to convert these into points nearly as efficiently as Georgia Tech. However, if Villanova doesn’t come out with a better effort on the glass, the Yellow Jackets will not be as forgiving as Stanford.
We’ve seen Daniel Ochefu struggle with heavier players this year, and he’ll have his hands full with Mitchell and Jacobs on Friday afternoon. The Chef did record five blocks against Stanford, but was quiet on the glass largely due to his foul trouble. He and Darryl Reynolds will need to step up in order to contain this strong Georgia Tech team. Ryan Arcidiacono will also need a rebound performance, after shooting just 2-for-11.
Call me a broken record, but Villanova needs to be less dependent on the deep ball. The ‘Cats fired up 34 threes on Thursday, hitting just seven. This kind of inefficiency will not work against Georgia Tech, a team whose players don’t beat themselves. At the end of the day, I think both Ochefu and Arch will come back with big bounce-back performances. Take that and combine it with the steadily improving play of Jalen Brunson, who stepped up in the Stanford win, they should lead Villanova to victory. I think it will be their slimmest margin to date, and should be an entertaining game. The ‘Cats will start Big Five play 6-0 with a tournament championship under their belt.