Georgia Tech faces its biggest test of the season so far with a late night (or early morning on the East Coast) game against consistent NCAA Tourney team Gonzaga. Once again Gonzaga is off to a strong start under Mark Few as they come in 7-1 with there lone loss in Chicago against Illinois.
In many ways this game is a study of contrasts and how two different programs can both be successful with different styles. Gonzaga is a very big team that plays well together and focuses on getting good interior shots. GT is a deep, very athletic team that relies on defense and quickness both inside and out to win. I expect Gonzaga to employ a lot of zone defense to try to keep GT's guards out of the lane and prevent easy baskets inside.
On the season Gonzaga is averaging 79 ppg shooting a fantastic 50.7% FG and ok 34.3% 3FG. They are also an excellent FT shooting team at 76.7%. Gonzaga takes just enough three-pointers to keep defenses honest (12.4 attempts per game, 4.25 makes per game) but really wants to get the ball to its frontline and get good shots inside. Gonzaga does an excellent job taking care of the ball with a 1.39:1 A:TO ratio and is a strong rebounding team, as would be expected with their size, with a +7.6 rebounds per game. They have one main three-point threat, Raivio, who has 21 of their 34 made threes and is shooting 55% from the distance, with Adam Morrison the next most likely to launch one.
Gonzaga is a solid defensive team that uses a lot of zone, which reduces the amount of TO they force but also keeps teams from getting a lot of good looks inside. On the season they are allowing 68.2 ppg, though their defense has been very good their last 3 games. On the season their opponents are shooting 44.2% FG (this number is impacted by the ILL game) and 39.2% 3FG. Their opponents have a 1.38:1 A:TO ratio. For all its size Gonzaga in not a very strong shot blocking club as they average just 3 per game and also average 6.4 steals per game.
6'3, 168 So. Derek Raivio – Tall, but thin Derek has taken over the PG duties for the team after Steppe's graduation. On the season he is averaging 11 ppg, 2.8 rpg, and 5.9 apg in 35 mpg. He is shooting 45.6% FG, a fantastic 55.3% 3FG (over 50% career), and 78.9% FT. He has 47 assists, 18 TO (2.25 A:TO), and 19 steals in 8 games. Not super athletic or overly strong, Derek is an excellent ballhandler and shooter who is growing nicely in his new role.
6'7, 211 R-Jr Erroll Knight – A transfer from Washington, Erroll is Gonzaga's best defender and a matchup issue with his size and athleticism. He is returning to action after missing some early season games. On the year he is averaging 5.3 ppg, 2 rpg, in 17 mpg. He is shooting 46.2% FG, 0-1 3FG and 80% FT (4-5). He has 5 assists, 4 TO, and 2 steals in 3 games. It will be very interesting to see who Coach Few has Knight guard.
6'8, 205 So. Adam Morrison – Adam starts at SF for Gonzaga where he uses his long wingspan on defense and his size on offense. On the season he is averaging 18.8 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 2.5 apg in 34.5 mpg. He is shooting 47.5% FG, 26.9% 3FG (7-26), 82.9% FT. He has 20 assists, 8 TO (2.5 A:TO), 2 blocks and 4 steals in 8 games. Adam is a dangerous scorer and is the only player other than Raivio who has attempted more than 6 three-pointers on the season.
6'9, 218 R-So. Sean Mallon – Sean is the starting PF and is another big, talented frontcourt body for Coach Few. On the year Sean is averaging 11.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg in 25.5 mpg. He is shooting 55.7% FG, 1-3 3FG, 65% FT. He has 12 assists, 20 TO, 2 blocks and 4 steals in 8 games. Sean, along with Turiaf and Batista form a nice 3 man nucleus in the post for Gonzaga.
6'10, 249 Sr. Ronny Turiaf – Ronnny chose to come back for his senior year and Gonzaga couldn't be happier. A big, strong, athletic post player – one of the best in the country – he has been a double-double machine other than the game against St. Louis where he was nursing an ankle sprain. On the season he is averaging 20.8 ppg, 9.5 rpg, in 31.8 mpg. He is shooting 59.1% FG, 0-3 3FG, and 81.6% FT. He has 15 assists, 21 TO, 11 blocks and 1 steal in 8 games. Ronny is a tough customer at both ends of the floor and he and Luke will be fun to watch with two slightly different styles of play.
6'9, 269 R-Jr J.P. Batista – J.P. sat out the first two games due to NCAA Clearinghouse issues but has played a solid backup role since. He is averaging 7.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg in 20.3 mpg. He is shooting 53.1% FG, 69.2% FT. He has 4 assists, 15 TO, and 6 steals in 6 games.
6', 180 Fr. Pierre-Marie Altidor-Cespedes – The backup at PG as a freshman out of Canada. Very good athlete and ballhandler. On the season he is averaging 3.3 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 2.5 apg in 20.4 mpg. He is shooting 52.9% FG, 0-6 3FG, and 8-10 FT. He has 20 assists, 7 TO (2.9 A:TO) with 4 blocks and 6 steals in 8 games.
6'6, 218 Fr. David Pendergraft – David is another freshman that is seeing time as a backcourt reserve. On the season he is averaging 1.9 ppg, 1.6 rpg, in 10.8 mpg. He is shooting 41.7% FG, 1-2 3FG and 4-6 FT. He has 4 assists, 5 TO, and 1 steal in 8 games.
Gonzaga is plenty athletic to run but will try to do so judiciously. It loves to score with its frontcourt and use its size and long arms to impact on the defensive end. Gonzaga is likely to use zone extensively to keep GT's guards out of the paint and prevent entry passes to the post. GT will need to really work hard on boxing out and denying entry passes.
This should be a fun game to watch with two excellent teams. GT played like it was in a fog against James Madison on Wednesday. Is GT ready to up the intensity level again against a high caliber opponent? If it is this should be a heck of a ballgame. If not it could be a long night for the Jackets.