Chapel Hill, N.C. - Dean E. Smith Center
9 p.m., TV - ESPN (Mike Patrick, Dick Vitale)
"I told the team yesterday, we turned it over [a lot] against Virginia Tech and Clemson, and they're ranked second and third in the league in steals. Now we're getting ready to play the team that's ranked first." -- Roy Williams
Road Woes: Perhaps the most surprising statistic for the Yellow Jackets is their road record. They have yet to win a road game this season (0-3) and were 1-11 on the road last season, with the only win coming against Centenary. This is at least partially attributable to the team's youth the last two seasons, especially with no true point guard last year. Their last ACC road win was Feb. 26, 2005 at Miami. Losses to UCLA and at Clemson this season are understandable, but defeats at the hands of Miami and Vanderbilt are the reason the Jackets are now unranked. With that said, Tech has beaten some quality teams this year, including two Top 25 opponents in Memphis and Duke.
MIA: Sophomore shooting guard Lewis Clinch was averaging 13.2 points through the first 14 games, and shooting a blistering 47.6 percent on three-point attempts, but the Jackets will be without him the rest of the season. An honor code violation led to a suspension that is expected to be lifted in time for next season, though he is practicing with the team now.
Frosh Duo: The only two scorers in double digits are point guard Javaris Crittenton and wing Thaddeus Young -- both freshmen. The high school All-Americans arrived with much fanfare and after an early adjustment period, are beginning to live up to their potential. Crittenton, standing 6-5, is tied for the ACC lead in assists per game (5.9), is an effective penetrator off the dribble or shooting from the perimeter and is dangerous on defense. Young is a big, versatile wing with the athleticism to play three different positions. His shooting has improved to where you can't leave him alone out beyond the arc, while he can also do damage in the paint.
Size Advantage: There is not a taller lineup in the ACC (and perhaps the rest of Div. I) than Georgia Tech. No one in the Jackets' starting lineup is shorter than 6-5 -- in fact, no one in their eight-man rotation is shorter than 6-5. Tech starts a 6-5 point guard, 6-8 and 6-10 wings, a bruising 6-8 power forward and a 6-10, 250-pound center. And their three top reserves are a 6-5 shooting guard, a 6-8 power forward and a physical 6-5 wing. With that type of size, it's no surprise they're getting good shots and dominating the boards. They lead the league in field goal percentage and are second in rebounding margin to UNC.
Long Range Marksmen: Even with Clinch out of the lineup, the Yellow Jackets still have a dangerous trio of three-point shooters. Crittenton shoots from beyond the arc at a 44.7-percent clip, while Young (41.2%) and Morrow (41.3%) are also above 40 percent. As a team, Tech has shot 51.5 percent on three pointers in its last two games (Duke, FSU) and is currently ranked No. 1 in the ACC in three-point shooting percentage (39.9%).
Series History: The Tar Heels lead the all-time series against Georgia Tech, 57-19. While UNC hasn't won at Tech since the 2000-2001 season and has lost to the Jackets in their last two ACC Tournament meetings, the Heels have had great success against them at the Smith Center -- beating Tech 10 straight times at home. The last Jackets win in the Smith Center was during the 1995-96 season. In last year's matchup, Tech took a 20-point lead early, before the Tar Heels rallied back for an 82-75 final, led by an ACC freshman scoring record of 40 points from Tyler Hansbrough.
Projected Starters: 1 Javaris Crittenton (6-5, 198, Fr.) – 14.2 ppg, 5.9 apg 33 Thaddeus Young (6-8, 217, Fr.) - 14.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg 11 Mouhammad Faye (6-10, 208, Fr.) – 4.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg 32 Jeremis Smith (6-8, 236, Jr.) – 8.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg 4 Ra'Sean Dickey (6-10, 250, Jr.) – 9.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg Key Reserves: 23 Anthony Morrow (6-5, 210, Jr.) – 9.1 ppg 35 Zach Peacock (6-8, 235, Fr.) – 6.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg 5 Mario West (6-5, 210, Sr.) – 5.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg
Crittenton ....... Young
Smith ....... Morrow
West ....... Dickey
(Photos courtesy AP)