The Syracuse Orange (17-13, 9-8) get set to take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (17-13, 8-9) from the Carrier Dome on Saturday. With that in mind, we caught up with our friend Robert Pensa over at From the Rumble Seat. Let’s hope those dome seats (benches) are rumbling on Saturday!
Bad joke, I know. Shut up.
TNIAAM: What's the NCAA Tournament sentiment from your side right now?
Robert Pensa: The fact that we're even discussing the NCAA tournament right now has every Tech fan on cloud nine. Many people believe that a win on Saturday leads to the Jackets name being called on Selection Sunday, making this one of the biggest games in years for Tech. If they are not able to win, they'll likely need a couple wins in the ACC tournament to have a chance.
TNIAAM: So what happened in that first meeting between Syracuse and Georgia Tech?
RP: The Jackets used an amazing home crowd to do what they've done best this year, which is hold another team below their season FG percentage average. The Orange shot just 36% from the field, well below their season average of 45%. Of course, Ben Lammers also happened. The breakout big man had 23 points and an incredible seven blocks.
TNIAAM: What are your thoughts on that Roberson illegal screen call?
RP: Call it a safe answer if you want, but I truly think it was a borderline call that could have gone either way. If the whistle had stayed away, there certainly wouldn't have been any Tech fans up in arms, but I do not think it was an unfair call to make. What I will say is that whether it was a bad call or not, I do believe there were countless missed calls down the stretch that benefited Syracuse. Let's just hope for better refereeing Saturday because the calls last game were awful both ways.
TNIAAM: What's changed since the first meeting between these teams?
RP: The Jackets followed up the Syracuse game with a disappointing home loss to NC State. The team looked gassed in that game on just two days rest after leaving everything on the court against the Orange. After a loss in South Bend, the Jackets picked up a much needed win against Pittsburgh on senior night, keeping their NCAA hopes alive.
TNIAAM: Is the approach to this game the same as before for Georgia Tech?
RP: I would think so. In the first matchup, Tech wasn't quite as effective as I had hoped at penetrating the zone through the high post. Ben Lammers made up for it that night with a lights out mid-range jumper. While he definitely could replicate that performance, if he is unable to, the Jackets will have to find another way to attack the Syracuse defense.
TNIAAM: What are the keys for both teams?
RP: Going off my previous answer, the key for the Jackets is Ben Lammers. Over the Jackets last four games, they are just 14-52 (27%) from behind the arc and need to find easy points around the basket. This all starts with Lammers, both scoring and distributing the basketball. For Syracuse to win, I think they need to shoot better from behind the arc than they did in the first matchup. If they can score the ball, I think the Tech offense, which has really struggled recently, could struggle to keep up.
TNIAAM: Who wins and why?
RP: It pains me to say it, but I have to say Syracuse, given how dominant they've been at the Carrier Dome this season. Similarly, the Jackets have been significantly worse on the road, winning just one ACC game away from McCamish Pavilion. That said, this team has more fight than any Tech team in recent memory and they will not go down easy. However, at the end of the day, I think the home crowd may be too much to overcome.
Be sure to head on over the From the Rumble Seat to check our preview as well. What say you, Orange Nation? Drop your thoughts in the comment section.