All-time series: Series tied 3-3
Date: Saturday January 30, 2016
Time: 12:00 p.m. EST
Location: Carrier Dome (Syracuse, NY)
After starting 0-4 in ACC play, a lot of people were ready to write Syracuse off for the season and say better luck next year. But Jim Boeheim's team wouldn't have any of that. Winners of four of five, the Orange currently sit squarely in the middle of the pack in a tightly grouped conference. Seven teams around the Orange in the standings are seperated by just two games, giving Syracuse a perfect opportunity to shoot up the standings and into contention for a bye in the ACC tournament come March.
Saturday could very easily help the Orange cause in the search for a possible NCAA tournament birth as they take on Georgia Tech. Its easy to see the Yellow Jackets have not had the season they had hoped for. Long gone are the days that Georgia Tech would contend for an NCAA tournament birth, working on their sixth year they likely will miss out on the big dance. Kenny Anderson won't be knocking down long shots, Stephon Marbury isn't going to be breaking ankles to drive to the hoop and Chris Bosh isn't a force in the middle anymore in Atlanta. The Orange have already seen legendary Georgia Tech head coach a couple of times this year, but that was only as a color commentator for the ACC Network.
But that's not to say this is not a dangerous team. They took North Carolina to the limit to start the conference season. They hung tough with Pittsburgh and Louisville before ultimately falling in both games, but lost by only a combined nine points. In what might be the upset of the ACC season to this point, the Yellow Jackets took out at the time fourth ranked Virginia. So this team has fight, but they do tend to have trouble closing games. That sounds like a certain Orange team we know.
Marcus Georges-Hunt leads the Jackets with 16.4 points per game and currently sits in 17th all-time in scoring for Georgia Tech. He's not the only one that kind find the basket as the Jackets boast four players that average double figures. I would not be surprised to see Malachi Richardson and Michael Gbinije split time guarding Georges-Hunt tomorrow in an attempt to put a bigger body on him and slow him down.
Charles Mitchell is a beast inside, averaging a double-double, one of just four ACC players doing so, with 11.7 points and 10.9 rebounds per game. He could give Syracuse headaches all day, especially if Brian Gregory's club can figure out the zone. After the loss at Virginia, Boeheim said the interior defense on this team is terrible and they can make a guy averaging five points a game look like a star. Just think about what an actual star can do inside.
The last thing Syracuse will have to combat is the shear depth of the Yellow Jackets. Eleven players average more than 13 minutes a game. Compare that to the typical six or seven man rotation the Orange use, and fresh legs could help the Jackets out a lot.
One thing Syracuse will have on their side is momentum and confidence. Big wins against Duke and Notre Dame can do wonders for this team. And Syracuse has mostly taken care of business against teams they were expected to beat this year. Georgia Tech would fall in that category, and when the dust settles Saturday, the Orange could move to .500 in the ACC for the first time this season. Then, they will sit squarely in the drivers seat for the rest of their season.