The Syracuse Orange men's basketball team concludes its small, two-game Atlantic Coast Conference road trip Wednesday, as they visit the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and its home court of McCamish Pavilion for the first time in program history. The Orange (10-4, 1-0) are looking for their fifth straight victory, second in the league, while the Yellow Jackets will be trying to rebound from a road loss at the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Saturday.
Both teams could use a victory to help its postseason aspirations. Currently, the Orange have seemingly done enough during early season to earn their way into the NCAA Tournament, while, at the moment, the Yellow Jackets are on the outside looking in according to ESPN's Joe Lunardi.
|Syracuse (projected starting lineup)||Class||Ht.||Wt.||PPG||RPG|
SU has been paced on offense by senior Rakeem Christmas, who is easily the team's most reliable offensive threat scoring 15 or more points in 12 of the Orange's 14 games. Christmas scored 17 points in SU's last victory over the Virginia Tech Hokies, 68-66, on Saturday. Christmas also leads the team in rebounding (8.9 per game), blocks (32) and field goal percentage (62.2%). His free-throw shooting percentage is second-best on the team at 75.0%.
Meanwhile, junior sharp shooter Trevor Cooney has found his groove. After struggling to find a consistent shooting stroke early in the season–he made just 28.3% of his 3-point attempts through the Orange's first eight game–Cooney has been sharp. In the last six games he has made 44.4% of his 3-point shots, which has helped him score in double figures in all of those games. In Saturday's win, he led the team in scoring with 18 points.
Since being inserted in the starting lineup, junior guard Michael Gbinije has averaged 12.1 ppg. His resurgence from a slow start to the season, which featured averaging just 6.7 ppg through the team's first six games, has sparked the Orange's positive play over the last few weeks.
Also helping out has been sophomore forward Tyler Roberson, who has averaged 6.8 rebounds per contest since being benched for Gbinije. Roberson has really embraced the sixth-man role for the Orange.
|Georgia Tech (projected starting lineup)||Class||Ht.||Wt.||PPG||RPG|
On Saturday, Georgia Tech, which is led by fourth-year head coach Brian Gregory, had a win at Notre Dame's Edmund P. Joyce Center in its crosshairs, however, a late second-half run by the Irish helped forced overtime. It took two extra sessions until Notre Dame escaped with a 83-76 victory. The loss was a disappointing one for the Yellow Jackets, who never trailed until 9:13 remaining in regulation.
Marcus Georges-Hunt scored a team-best 20 points in the loss. It was his second consecutive 20-point performance. He leads GT in scoring with 13.5 ppg. The shooting guard, who can also play the small forward spot, is the team leader with 76 starts. He is currently having his best season at GT averaging collegiate bests in scoring average, rebound average (5.4), free throw percentage (79.0%) and steals (1.46 pg).
Inside, power forward Charles Mitchell has scored enough to be the team's second-best offensive threat averaging 10.6 ppg. He recorded his fourth double-double of the season at Notre Dame with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Former starter, Quinton Stephens is GT's top 3-point shooting threat, as he has attempted a team-high 51 3-pointers, connecting on 17 of them (33.3%). Starting point guard Chris Bolden will also shoot from long distance, as he is a 30.0% shooter from outside.
|Team Comparison||Syracuse||Georgia Tech|
|Record||(10-4, 1-0)||(9-4, 0-1)|
|Points Per Game||70.2||67.5|
|Turnovers Per Game||13.1||13.2|
In comparison, Georgia Tech is a better rebounding team than Syracuse as they have one of the top rebounding margins in the nation at plus-11. Believe it or not, the Yellow Jackets are a worse 3-point shooting team than the Orange, who have slowly improved throughout the season. The Jackets also turn the ball over a bit more than SU, but not by much.
SU's advantages will come from its inside play by Christmas and, possibly, freshman Chris McCullough–if he can finally put together a solid game. If both players are off, it could spell trouble for the Orange, who are looking to avenge a loss to GT last season. All-time, Syracuse is 2-3 against its new ACC foe.
Game Time: 7 p.m.
TV: ESPNU–Tom Hart (play-by-play) and Len Elmore (color).
Radio: Syracuse IMG Radio Network
RPI Ranking: Georgia Tech–30; Syracuse–69.
What A Win Could Mean For SU: The Orange need a quality road win on their resume, and with the way the Yellow Jackets are playing this could be a NCAA Tournament bubble "tiebreaker" come March. Currently, GT has an RPI in the 30s, while SU's has dropped in the last few games. Let's just say, this would be a great win to have when it comes to postseason hopes.
Prediction: Syracuse 63, George Tech 61
If the Orange pull off the victory in Atlanta expect it to be another heart attack-like experience. GT should out-rebound Syracuse, so to pull out the road win a solid shooting night will need to be had by the Orange. I do see SU's offense continuing its progression as long as they protect the ball. I think they will do a better job of that and that will lead to a tight road win.
|Syracuse Orange (next 5 games)||Date||Time||TV|
|Florida State||1/7/2015||7:00 PM||ESPNU|
|Wake Forest||1/11/2015||8:00 PM||ESPNU|
|at Clemson||1/13/2015||8:00 PM||ACCN|
|Boston College||1/17/2015||7:00 PM||ACCN|