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Georgia Tech vs. Northwestern preview

Word! Tonight is my second game as a fan since freshman year, so, I'm notably pumped. Remember, I attended pretty much every game on press row last year, and while chatting up Lindsay Willhite for a few hours is cool, so is the student section. No offense to Mr. Willhite, but I've been looking forward to the student section for a while. And it's the Big Ten ACC Challenge! And it's on TV! Oooh child.

I have a project due tomorrow. I'd rather do this. If you want more analysis, check out the lil' chat we had with From the Rumble Seat down below.

Are they good?: Debatable. Last year, Georgia Tech had a disturbingly talented team - Derrick Favors, who went third overall to the Nets, and Gani Lawal, who got picked in the second round by the Suns, were both can't-miss NBA players - but still only made it through one round of the NCAA tournament. That's a lot of talent to replace, and they're trying to do it by starting four sophomores and a freshman. People probably jumped to the conclusion that this team was going to be pretty damn awful when they dropped their second game of the year to lowly Kennesaw State, and not just losing it, but losing it by 17 points. (It's still Kennesaw State's only win over D-I competition, having lost to such notable squads as Northern Arizona and Alcorn State, as well as losing by 40 to Iowa State and 18 to Creighton - transitive property, yo!) However, they bounced back, winning three straight double-digit games - including one over a decent UTEP squad - and coming close against a dominant Syracuse squad, losing by four.

What are they good at?: Thus far, Georgia Tech is a phenomenal defensive team, allowing only 90.5 points per 100 possessions - 29th best in the country, because they steal the ball on 16 percent of opposing possessions, the fourth best in the nation - mainly thanks to the ballhawking of Iman Shumpert, who averages 3.0 steals per game. (The team has six players who average more than a steal per game). They're also good on both the offensive and defensive boards, earning top-100 numbers in the country in both of those aspects of the game. However, they can't really shoot much - 28 percent from downtown on the season.

Who they got?: The team's clear star is Iman Shumpert, a point-ish guard who Northwestern was very, very, very briefly in the running for - he's from Oak Park, natch. He averages 14 points a game, his scoring isn't what drives the team - in fact, his highest scoring game was a 20-point outburst against Kennesaw State - when he can drive and find people, such as his eight assist outing against Syracuse, he gives his team a much better chance of winning. His 19 percent 3-point touch leaves a bit to be desired. 6-foot-6 forward Brian Oliver leads the team in scoring and rebounding with 15 and 6.7, he's a bit of a chucker, averaging a little bit over eight 3-point attempts per game - but when he's feeling it, as he was when he had 32 points on 6-for-11 shooting from downtown against Syracuse, he can really play. The team's other noteworthy player is Glen Rice, Jr., who, along with Michigan freshman Tim Hardaway, Jr., proves that 1992 was a good year for doing it amongst eventual Miami Heat players - he showed shades of his dad by hitting 47 percent of this 3-pointers last year, a number which is down to an abhorrent 13 percent this year, but he still averages 10 points per game.

Us and them: This is the first meeting between Northwestern and Georgia Tech, so that one memory you have of Kenny Anderson playing in Welsh-Ryan is actually something you've imagined to cover up a repressed memory you have of being molested by Kenny Anderson. Go New York City point guards!

Difference between the amount of times they have been to the tournament and the amount of times NU has been to the tournament: 16. Georgia Tech has had buttloads of basketball success, including seven Sweet 16 runs, two Final Four trips - 1990 and 2004 - and the 2004 team featuring Jarrett Jack and one of my all-time faves, Luke Schnscher, that lost to Emeka Okafor and UConn in the championship game.

Quick, three favorite former Georgia Tech players: Well, Stephon Marbury, because he's my favorite basketball player of all time ever, and one of my life goals is to write his biography, 2) Luke Schenscher, because he propagated my belief instigated by Luc Longley that all Australian people were either Steve Irwin or seven-foot tall ginger basketball players named "Luke", and 3) Javaris Crittenton, for his role in the Gilbert Arenas gun thing and because I think he could have used more time in the league, to be honest.

Quick, least favorite: Chris Bosh, because he's a tool and I hate him, Jon Barry, because he's a bigger tool, but I hate him less, and Matt Harpring, because I always imagined him to be a tool and because he played for the Jazz.

If a Yellow Jacket is a bee... Then why the hell is their mascot a car? No idea. (In their defense, they also have a stupid-looking bee.) Georgia Tech used to be the Engineers back in the day, back when people were more likely to call them the full-on "Georgia Institute of Technology" and when they were busy beating schools in football 222-0 under John Heisman, but now they're the Yellow Jackets. (I kid, but the Ramblin' Wreck thing is one of the cooler things in college sports. Just peep the fight song:

I'm a Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech, and a hell of an engineer--
A helluva, helluva, helluva, helluva, hell of an engineer.
Like all the jolly good fellows, I drink my whiskey clear.
I'm a Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech and a hell of an engineer.

Also peep the giant 1930's era car. It's awesome. Normally I hate on the other school enough to make them mad at me in these posts, but I can't front on Georgia Tech. Especially because Stephon Marbury is still my favorite basketball player of all time.)

Good names?: Nothing fantastic. Iman Shumpert is a good one - I'm more a fan of the "Shumpert" part, to be honest - as well as point guard Mfon Udofia. Mfon. You've also got McPherson Moore, whose first name is McPherson, which is disturbingly pretentions.

Anything to look for: This is a matchup I really, really, really like for a typical Bill Carmody team, in terms of strategy. Their strength is the Iman Shumpert drive, and the 1-3-1 plays to prevent penetration and force shooting from the outside off ball movement - which for a team that shoots 28 percent from three, isn't a strong suit. And their defense is based on forcing turnovers - NU's Princeton Offense should limit them in principle. If NU runs their offense and plays smart - Drew Crawford, I'm looking at you throwing the ball indiscriminately all over the court last game - NU should be able to dissect Georgia Tech's defense if they make smart passes. If not, Georgia Tech could have a field day in transition.

Should NU win? There's no doubt that this is the toughest test NU will have in the non-conference schedule. It's a legit ACC team with legit talent, even if they did lose to Kennesaw State. However, that doesn't change the fact that, yes, they did lose to Kennesaw State. Northwestern should come away with the W - but like I said, they'll need to play patiently and play within themselves in order to prevent falling into the trap of turning the ball over a bunch.

I'm excited. Welsh-Ryan should be bumpin - the rest of you, stay here for the game thread.