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LAST SEASON: Georgia Tech went 28-10 overall last season, and 9-7 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. They finished tied for 3rd in the conference, and lost in the national championship game to Connecticut.
HEAD COACH: Georgia Tech is fronted by 5th year head coach Paul Hewitt, who landed the job in April 2000. Hewitt came to Georgia Tech after posting a 66-27 record in 3 seasons as head coach at Siena.
Despite being unranked and projected by many to finish in the bottom half of the ACC last season, the Yellow Jackets ended up in the national title game, losing to the same Connecticut team that they shockingly beat in late November 2003. That game signaled to the college basketball world that Georgia Tech was vastly underestimated. This season, the Yellow Jackets won't be underestimated. They are currently ranked 3rd in the nation in the AP poll. Most of the cast of characters from last year's magical team return this year, making the Yellow Jackets one of the favorites to win the ACC and the national title.
G – #3 Jarrett Jack (6-3, Jr.) = After struggling much of his freshman season leading a young Georgia Tech squad at the point, Jack became one of the most improved players in the entire nation during his sophomore year. Jack's maturity and development were key to Tech's amazing run last year. Jack is a tall, physically imposing point guard who is as tough as nails in the clutch. His free throws against Northern Iowa and against Boston College sealed first and second round victories in last season's NCAA tournament, and his 29 point performance versus Kansas in the St. Louis regional title game was one of the highlights of the entire tournament. He averaged 12.5 PPG, 5.6 APG and nearly 5 rebounds per game last year. He is posting similar numbers thus far. The one knock against him has been his three point shooting – he only shot 31.6% from 3 ball land last year. Hard work during the offseason has paid off thus far, as Jack is hitting 3's at over a 40% clip.
G - #1 B.J. Elder (6-4, Sr.) = Elder is Tech's biggest offensive weapon, and one of the most versatile scoring guards in the entire nation. In addition to being a good 3 point shooter (37% last year), Elder is fantastic in transition and when driving towards the hoop. His physically strong body enables him to work well in the paint. Elder averaged 14.9 PPG last year, and was named 2nd team all-ACC. If that weren't enough, Elder has excellent handles and can even run the point if need be.
G - #11 Will Bynum (6-0, Sr.) = A transfer from Arizona, Bynum has started in 4 of Tech's 7 games this season. Bynum is tremendously explosive off the dribble, but can also pull up from three. He is fearless in clutch situations, as was indicated in last season's St. Louis Regional Final win versus Kansas. Bynum averaged 9.6 PPG off the bench last year.
F - #55 Anthony McHenry (6-7, Sr.) = McHenry entered the Tech program with lofty expectations, but struggled to find an identity during his first two seasons. He actually signed on as a big point guard, but has now found a home as a wing type, although he still possesses very good ball handling skills. McHenry can defend 4 positions on the court, and while he didn't put up big numbers last year, his versatility enables him to do a number of different things to help Tech win games.
C = #12 Luke Schenscher (7-1, Sr.) = Schenscher was without question one of the most improved players in the nation last year. Starting off at Tech, Schenscher was as thin as a rail. Since then, the big Aussie has gained a lot of muscle and has developed into a fine shot blocker and scorer. He is an intelligent player and a fine passer for a big. He shot 57% from the floor last year.
Isma'il Muhammad (#2, 6-6, Sr.) might be the most athletic player in the country. However, his amazing dunks often overshadow his skills as a basketball player. In addition to being a tremendous defensive player, Muhammad's intensity and energy on the court drives his teammates to higher levels. He is fantastic off the dribble, a good offensive rebounder, and needless to say, lethal on the break. He averaged 9.3 PPG and shot 57% from the field last year.
Theodis Tarver (#44, 6-9, Jr.) is another key big man off the bench. He is athletic, a fine shot blocker, and has good upside. Unfortunately, a kneecap injury early last season set Tarver back a bit after a fine close to his freshman year. Zam Frederick (#35, 6-0, Fr.) is another talented freshman who is one of Tech's better perimeter shooters. Anthony Morrow (#35, 6-5, Fr.) and Ra'Sean Dickey (#4, 6-9, Fr.) provide more depth as needed, especially Morrow who shoots the three extremely well.
SOME KEYS TO THE GAME:
On Tuesday's Gonzaga Coaches Show, Mark Few felt that the way Gonzaga was going to have to attack the Yellow Jackets was very much like how they attacked Washington. Tech has enormous athleticism on the perimeter, and they apply lots of ball pressure. GU is going to have to attack the pressure whenever the opportunity presents itself, but pull it back out if nothing is there and run the offense. Gonzaga cannot get involved in a one-on-one street ball game with Georgia Tech (too much talent, too many athletes), but at the same time, they cannot be passive. They must take advantage of Tech's overextended defense on the perimeter. Playing hard is a must, too.
GU also faces some defensive decisions in this game. Jack and Elder are tremendously physical guards who take advantage of guards who aren't as strong as they are. Derek Raivio has had a solid season thus far as GU's starting point guard, but he is a bit physicially overmatched defensively in this game. It will be interesting to see which guy Erroll Knight gets assigned to, as he is GU's best and most athletic defender. It could be Jack or Elder, and it's possible he will see time against both. It will also be interesting to see who Coach Hewitt starts in this game. Bynum and Muhammad have been alternating as starters depending on the opponent. Count on Few to mix up defenses, but to rely heavily on zone is this game.
Another key in this game will be the battle of the big men. It is highly likely that either Ronny Turiaf or Schenscher will get in foul trouble in this game.
From GU's perspective, the greatest thing they could do to increase their chances of victory, or at least being highly competitive, is to get Luke in foul trouble. Although possessing some nice offensive skills, Schenscher's greatest asset to Tech is his defense and shot blocking ability, as it allows Tech's great guards to pressure the perimeter and take chances. When Schenscher goes out of the game, Tech's defense is not quite as effective because they do not have the big guy in back in case anyone slips past the guards. The Yellow Jackets also become a lot smaller when Luke is not in the game, and while Tarver and McHenry are solid defenders, GU's bigs, which are the strength of its team, will find things easier knowing that the big guy isn't around to swat shots out of the blue.