Preview: Georgia Tech @ No. 14/13 Notre Dame

It’s nothing but ACC opponents the rest of the way for the No. 14/13 Irish (13-1, 1-0), who rank 1st in the country in field-goal percentage, 3rd in assist-to-turnover ratio, 4th in scoring and 7th in three-point shooting.

Game 15: Georgia Tech (9-3, 0-0) @ No. 14/13 Notre Dame (13-1, 1-0)
Date: Jan. 3, 2015
Place: Purcell Pavilion; Notre Dame, Ind.
Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
Location: Atlanta, Ga.
Conference: Atlantic Coast Conference
Nickname: Yellow Jackets
2013-14 record: 16-17 (6-12/t11th in ACC)

Georgia Tech Head Coach
Brian Gregory (4th year at Georgia Tech) – Career record: 224-129 in 12th year overall (172-94 in eight seasons at Dayton; 52-55 in fourth year at Georgia Tech).

Gregory, 48, began his collegiate coaching career as an assistant to Tom Izzo in 1990, which was one of two stints in East Lansing. Also served as an assistant coach at Toledo and Northwestern.

Led Dayton to one NCAA tournament appearance while winning at least 24 games in each of his final four seasons with the Flyers. On the hot seat at Georgia Tech after finishing 4-12 in the ACC in his first year and 6-12 in each of the past two seasons.

Georgia Tech Scouting Report
The Yellow Jackets have played a solid pre-season schedule with no heavyweights, but a challenging across-the-board offering, including his former school – Dayton (a 75-61 loss) – as well as Charlotte (W67-66), Vanderbilt (W65-60), Northwestern (W66-58), Rhode Island (W64-61), Marquette (L72-70) and Georgia (W80-73).

Georgia Tech was a victim on Upset Saturday, Dec. 6, when USC Upstate tripped up the Yellow Jackets, 59-54.

The Yellow Jackets have not shot the ball well this season from three-point range and they’ve been very generous on the flip side in their three losses (43.9 percent). But when it comes to pounding the backboards, few teams are as well-equipped.

They’re led by 6-foot-5, 214-pound junior guard Marcus Georges-Hunt, who paces the squad in scoring at 12.9 points per game while pulling down 5.2 rebounds. He is coming off a career-high 25-point performance against Charlotte while connecting on all 15 of his free-throw attempts in the last three games. He has, however, shot under 50 percent from the field in seven of the last eight games.

Georgia Tech has several bruisers to throw at the Irish, including 6-foot-8, 269-pound junior Charles Mitchell and 6-foot-8, 276-pound senior Demarco Cox.

Mitchell averages 10.3 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, including an impressive 46 offensive boards. He has three double-doubles for the season and scored 19 points against Vanderbilt. He has converted 52.6 percent of his field-goal attempts.

Cox averages 9.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game while shooting 56.1 percent from the field. He is second to Mitchell with 28 offensive rebounds, but is shooting a woeful 41.5 percent from the free-throw line (17-of-41). Cox has scored just 16 points in the last three games combined.

Long-and-lean sophomore Quinton Stephens (6-8, 187) scores at a 7.4 clip. He is Georgia Tech’s top three-point shooter with 16 converted, but has just a 32.7 shooting percentage.

Tadric Jackson, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound freshman, averages 6.3 points in 13.5 minutes per game. Chris Bolden, a 6-foot-3, 233-pound junior, is the only other Yellow Jacket besides Stephens with double-digit three-pointers made (10).

Robert Sampson, a 6-foot-8 senior, is productive (5.7 ppg., 6.4 rpg.) with 26 offensive rebounds. Josh Heath, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, is a pass-first, score-second point guard.

Georgia Tech-Notre Dame Preview
Brian Gregory’s fourth Georgia Tech team is a mixed bag of productivity, boasting outstanding bulk while possessing little-to-no shooting prowess from beyond the arc.

The Yellow Jackets are 38th in the country in rebounds per game at 39.5 with several bruisers taking care of business around the glass. But when it comes to shooting it from beyond the arc, they’re just as likely to clang it off the glass. Georgia Tech is shooting 23.3 percent from long distance (47-of-202), including 18-of-108 (16.6 percent) in its last six games.

Of course, Purcell Pavilion is notorious for curing what ails poor shooting teams, and if the Yellow Jackets have some success scoring it – they average 66.8 points per game, nearly 20 points less per game than Notre Dame – it will be a challenge.

The Irish split with Georgia Tech last year, losing in Atlanta, 74-69, before claiming a 65-62 victory at Purcell late in the ACC season. The loss in McCamish Pavilion was one of eight setbacks in nine tries on the road for the Irish in their first season in the ACC while the win at home over the Yellow Jackets was one of just five (out of nine).

Of course, the Irish are a much different team than the one that represented the first-year entry in the ACC in 2013-14. They have skyrocketed up the AP rankings to No. 14 while taking on a relatively soft non-conference slate, defeating Massachusetts, Michigan State and Florida State with the lone setback by a single point in Connecticut against Providence.

Notre Dame has thrashed virtually every opponent up to this point. The Irish lead the nation in shooting percentage (55.4) while ranking third in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.71; 222-to-130), fourth in scoring (86.1 ppg.), and seventh in three-point shooting (.416; 127-of-305).

All those numbers will come back to earth with the resumption of ACC play, but there’s no doubt about Notre Dame’s offensive firepower, led by Jerian Grant (17.4 ppg.), Zach Auguste (14.9), Demetrius Jackson (14.4) and Pat Connaughton (14.0).

The Irish also have played much-improved defense, which will come in handy when they hit the road Monday to take on North Carolina, and then return home to take on No. 3-rated Virginia next Saturday.

If the Irish continue to do what they do at home – they’re 11-0 at Purcell Pavilion this season – they will make it 10 victories in a row with a challenging trip to Chapel Hill a little more than 48 hours later.

It’s another challenge on the backboards for Notre Dame, which is an area that is worth monitoring every time out, particularly today against the bruising Yellow Jackets. But Georgia Tech is unlikely to have enough offensive prowess to pull off the road upset.

Pointspread: Notre Dame by 12
Prister’s Prediction: Notre Dame 82, Georgia Tech 67
Prister’s record: 11-3 straight up; 3-3 vs. points

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