Teams: Syracuse Orange (11-4, 2-0) vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (9-6, 1-1)
Day & Time: Saturday, January 12, at 6 p.m. EST.
Location: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.
Line: TBD. ESPN’s BPI gives Syracuse an 85.3-percent chance of beating Georgia Tech.
Radio: Syracuse IMG Network, WAER 88.3, Sirius 93/XM 193
Georgia Tech blog: From the Rumble Seat
Rivalry: 5-5 (Tied?!)
Current Streak: Georgia Tech, 1
First Meeting: The two programs did not meet on the hardwood until the 1985 NCAA Tournament. Bobby Cremins coached the Wreck to a 70-53 blowout victory over Syracuse in the second round of the tourney. Georgia Tech would advance all the way to the Elite Eight before losing to the (checks notes) Georgetown Hoyas?! C’mon, man!
Last Meeting: Losers of four straight, Georgia Tech overcame a horrible shooting night to end the streak by beating SU, 55-51, in Atlanta. The Yellow Jackets’ Josh Okogie scored 20 points, 15 of those coming in the second half. Tadric Jackson, the only bench player to get any run for Pastner’s team, added 15 in the win.
Meanwhile, Syracuse, which never once held a lead in the contest, earned its own fourth-straight loss. Sophomore Tyus Battle battled (ay!) his way to 19 points while grabbing 11 boards, and junior Frank Howard contributed 11 points of his own. But those two made just four of their 17 attempts from the field. Overall as a team, the Orange went made only 15 baskets on 50 attempts for the game.
Despite that, Syracuse had its chances to steal a victory, cutting Tech’s lead to 51-48 with over a minute to play. However, a Ben Lammers put-back of an offensive rebound sealed the deal for Georgia Tech. Lammers was an issue for SU’s zone, with the center scoring 11 and securing 12 big rebounds.
Head Coaches: SU: Jim Boeheim (43rd year, 1,035-374); Georgia Tech: Josh Pastner (3rd year, 43-40—210-113 overall)
Coach Bio: After a four-year career at Arizona, including a title in 1997, he returned shortly thereafter to start his coaching stint as an assistant. He’d move on to Memphis in 2008, then took over that job in 2009 after John Calipari left. Though he experienced some significant success with the Tigers, the program started seeing diminishing returns once they joined the AAC. He led Memphis to four straight NCAA Tournaments from 2011-14, then dipped below the 20-win mark each of his last two years there. That was reason enough for Georgia Tech to hire him, apparently.
Last Year: The Yellow Jackets did not have a banner season to say the least. Pastner and company ended up with a 13-19 record overall, going just 6-12 in ACC play (one of those wins somehow coming against Syracuse).
Interestingly enough, Georgia Tech went 21–16, 8–10 in Pastner’s first season in Atlanta. Meaning, the pressure is probably on what with his two sub-par years and with missing out on the NCAA Tournament in both seasons at the helm.
Adding to the situation, and possibly placing a cloud over last year, was the fact that Pastner found himself embroiled in a sexual assault case. The matter stemmed from an Arizona woman who claimed the Georgia Tech head coach had assaulted her in 2016 when Pastner was leading Memphis. She and a former friend of Pastner’s went public with the claim and with accusations of the coach committing numerous NCAA violations while at Tech.
It was actually even more complicated than that, as Pastner first filed a defamation suit of his own against the two. The alleged victim of the assault then filed her own lawsuit a month after Pastner’s. A wild drama playing out in full public view.
It was an obviously messy situation, one that found Pastner accused of sexual assault and—to a far lesser degree of importance—breaking NCAA rules during his short time at Georgia Tech. But after an investigation, Pastner was ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing.
Last Game: Georgia Tech held Virginia Tech, statistically the best three-point-shooting team in the country, to 5 of 27 shooting from distance. Still, even with the horrible night behind the arc, the Hokies held off the Yellow Jackets, 52-49, in Atlanta.
In the loss, Jose Alvarado scored 20 and Abdoulaye Gueye 11 for Georgia Tech, which lost for the first time in four games.
Tech saw its chances at victory dwindle late as the Jackets missed the first of a key one-and-one, a layup and also turned the ball over with less than two ticks left on the game clock.
“Fear Me, I’ve Killed Hundreds of Timelords”: Sophomore guard Jose Alvarado is averaging 13 points and 3 assists per game so far this season. The Brooklyn, NY native is struggling with his shot, hitting 42 percent from the field and just 25 percent from three. But Alvarado has reached double figures in scoring in all but four of Georgia Tech’s games this season, and defensively he is collecting nearly two steals per game.
As far as any “zone buster,” Brandon Alston could be the one to watch for Syracuse. The six-foot-five senior guard is hitting about 45 percent from deep, and has made three or more in three games this season.
If Syracuse Wins: It opens conference play at 3-0 and ups the overall record to 12-4. And, if you’re into getting too far ahead of yourself, after a trip to Duke Monday night, the Orange welcomes in Pitt and Miami to the Dome in back-to-back games the following week. That means, despite a rather ugly November and December, SU could very well find itself at 15-5 and 6-1 in the ACC (factoring in a loss in Durham, NC). That’s all on the table, assuming Syracuse doesn’t drop a winnable home game tomorrow.
If Syracuse Loses: It will sting (amirite!?), no doubt about it. Tech is effectively a lower tier version of Notre Dame and Clemson. Which means that Syracuse shouldn’t trip up, especially so at home. A defeat here would not end the season, but it would erase some of the positive momentum that has been building over the last couple of weeks.
Fun Fact No. 1: Why is Georgia Tech sometimes referred to as the “Ramblin’ Wreck?” I’m glad you asked! The actual term goes back over a hundred years. But the name now essentially has connection to a 1930 Ford Model A sports coupe. That particular vehicle, painted in gold and white to resemble the school’s primary colors, leads the football team out on to the field before every game. It’s a tradition that also goes back many, many years, with the current model having held the honors since 1961.
Fun Fact No. 2: You might be a redneck if you attended Georgia Tech and left before earning a degree. Jeff Foxworthy, who was born in Atlanta, attended Georgia Tech briefly before heading off to the world for
hokey corny rednecky comedy.