Short-handed Syracuse plays on the road against Georgia Tech

Syracuse 15-6 (4-4) plays at Georgia Tech 10-11 (3-5) as the Orange looks for its fourth straight win. Freshman Howard Washington is out for tonight’s game after suffering a right leg injury in practice on Monday. Syracuse is left with 6 scholarship players for the game. In addition, expect a rowdy atmosphere as the Yellow Jackets announced a sell out for their annual “Whiteout” game.

Opponent: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Location: McCamish Pavilion, Atlanta, GA

Date: Wednesday, January 31

Time: 8:00pm ET

Watch: ACC Network or WatchESPN app

Line: Syracuse -1

Georgia Tech is underperforming compared to preseason expectations

Georgia Tech’s season started off on a bad note when it was announced on November 2 that sophomore guard Josh Okogie (pictured below) and senior guard Tadric Jackson were being held out of competition due to rules violations. A few days later it was disclosed that Ron Bell, a friend of head coach Josh Pastner, had provided improper benefits to Okogie and Jackson. Jackson received a three game suspension and Okogie received a six game suspension.

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For more information on the improper benefits story read Gary Parrish’s article over at CBS:

https://www.cbssports.com/college-basketball/news/josh-pastner-georgia-tech-accused-of-underplaying-violations-by-jilted-friend/

Only eight short months earlier in March, Pastner was named the ACC Coach of the Year after leading the Yellow Jackets to a 17-14 (8-10) regular season.

Expectations were high for Georgia Tech going into this season as they were selected to finish 9th in the conference, one spot ahead of Syracuse.

The improper benefits story put a cloud over the program during the early parts of the season and the team has underperformed thus far.

The Yellow Jackets picked up some bad losses in non-conference play. They lost at home against Grambling and Wright State and on the road at Wofford. The Grambling loss especially hurt Georgia Tech’s resume as Grambling is ranked 256 in the RPI. Georgia Tech is currently ranked 140 in the RPI.

ACC play started on a good note for the Yellow Jackets and they have since cooled off. Georgia Tech started 3-1 in conference play with wins over Miami, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh but they have lost their last four games. That being said, three of the four losses were against top 25 competition (#2 Virginia, #4 Duke and #18 Clemson).

The Yellow Jackets are a beatable opponent for the Orange but they are better than their current 10-11 record indicates.

Top Players

Georgia Tech is led by senior center Ben Lammers (pictured below) and Okogie. Lammers was named preseason All-ACC First Team before the season but hasn’t played as well as many thought he would. He’s averaging 11.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.8 blocks this season but his numbers are down compared to his 14.2 points, 9.2 rebounds and 3.4 blocks last season. Lammers is capable of taking over games proven by his 24 points vs. UCLA and 16 rebounds vs. Pittsburgh but he’s not as dominant as he was last year.

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Okogie was named a preseason All-ACC Second Team selection and hasn’t disappointed since returning from his six game suspension early in the season. He’s averaging 17.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists. Okogie is also a good three point shooter at 40.5%. Of note, he dropped 30 points at home against Miami on January 3.

Strengths

Similar to Syracuse, Georgia Tech is a great shot blocking team. They are fifth in the ACC in blocked shots per game at 5.3. Lammers leads the charge with blocks 2.8 shots per game and Okogie surprisingly averages 1.2 blocks per game.

The Yellow Jackets can really buckle down on defense. They are third in the ACC in points allowed per game at 64.9. In a few of their most impressive wins, Georgia Tech held Miami to 54 points and Notre Dame to 53 points.

Weakness

As good of a shot blocking team as Georgia Tech is, they have not been very good on the glass. The Yellow Jackets only haul in 34 rebounds per game which places them 13th in the conference. North Carolina outrebounded the Yellow Jackets 45 to 26 on January 20. Syracuse should win the battle on the glass which would give the Orange a nice advantage.

Georgia Tech also does not shoot many three pointers. They are 349th in the nation with only 4.7 three point makes per game. The Yellow Jackets will be forced to shoot more three pointers than usual due to the Orange zone. Georgia Tech is shooting only 32.6% from beyond the arc this season.

Head Coach

Josh Pastner (pictured below) is in his second season as the Georgia Tech head coach. He’s enjoyed early success as he was named the ACC Coach of the Year last season when he led the Yellow Jackets to a 21-16 record and an NIT Tournament berth. His all-time record at Georgia Tech is 31-27.

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Pastner was the focus of an NCAA investigation in November when the NCAA ruled the Yellow Jackets provided Okogie and Jackson improper benefits. Okogie was suspended for six games and Jackson was suspended for three games. The improper benefits were provided by Pastner’s now former friend, Ron Bell. Pastner filed a civil suit against Bell and his girlfriend on January 12 citing a “malicious campaign to defame Pastner, and to extort and blackmail Pastner, by threatening to release and releasing the public, the media, Georgia Tech and the NCAA, false and patently untrue information…”

Before Georgia Tech, Pastner coached Memphis for seven seasons and led the team to four NCAA Tournament berths.

Syracuse vs. Georgia Tech All-Time Series

Syracuse is 5-4 all-time against the Yellow Jackets. The teams first played each other in 1985 in the NCAA Tournament. Georgia Tech won 70-53 to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.

Syracuse beat Georgia Tech 90-61 in the most recent match-up last season on March 4. Andrew White scored 40 points on Senior Day to lead the Orange. Watch the highlights from that game here:

Boeheim is 5-3 all-time against the Yellow Jackets and Syracuse is 2-1 against Georgia Tech since Pastner took over the program in 2016-17.

Prediction

Syracuse wins 70-68

**cover photo courtesy of The News & Observer”

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