Florida A&M (0-0) at (22) Georgia Tech (0-0)
Saturday, November 14th, 7:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Scott Haynes, Senior College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Alexander Memorial Coliseum (9,191) -- Atlanta, Georgia. Television: None. Home Record: Florida A&M 0-0, Georgia Tech 0-0. Away Record: Florida A&M 0-0, Georgia Tech 0-0. Neutral Record: Florida A&M 0-0, Georgia Tech 0-0. Conference Record: Florida A&M 0-0, Georgia Tech 0-0. Series Record: Georgia Tech leads, 4-0.
GAME NOTES: The 22nd-ranked Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets begin their much- anticipated 2009-10 season this evening in Atlanta, as they play host to the Florida A&M Rattlers.
Paul Hewitt's Yellow Jackets were young and inexperienced a year ago and the result was a last place finish in the ACC, with a mere two league victories. Despite going a miserable 12-19 overall a season ago, there is a great deal of optimism with this team, as evidenced by Tech's national ranking to begin the season.
The first test for the Yellow Jackets comes in the form of Florida A&M. The Rattlers went just 10-21 last season, but six of those victories came in MEAC play for coach Eugene Harris, who enters his third season at the helm. With a solid core returning, there is every reason to believe that the Rattlers will take a step in the right direction this season.
The Yellow Jackets have won all four previous meetings with the Rattlers, with the last one coming back in 2001.
The Rattlers suffered through a terrible 21-loss season, and the hope is that there will be more tallies in the win column this year with six returning letterwinners. Brandon Bryant is the lone returning double-figure performer, as the guard posted 10.1 ppg a year ago. Dale Hughes only started two games last season as a freshman, but came in just under the mark at a solid 9.6 ppg. David Buchanon, a 6-1 sophomore point guard should be continue to improve after playing in 31 games as a freshman. Joe Ballard gives the Rattlers even more experience and depth in the backcourt, but the problem will be in the paint. Junior forward Larry Jackson is the most experienced frontcourt player on the roster, but he tallied just 6.4 ppg and 4.4 rpg in limited action. Jackson did start 14 games for the Rattlers, but he will have to become the team's go-to player underneath the basket.
The Yellow Jackets could be a conference contender with the enormous amount of talent on the roster this season. The reason for the excitement is the return of a solid nucleus with star potential both down low and along the perimeter. Add a top-notch recruiting class, headlined by possibly the ACC Rookie of the Year in 6-10 youngster Derrick Favors, regarded as the nation's top recruit, and it easy to like what Paul Hewitt has put together. Bolstering the play in the frontcourt is 6-9 junior Gani Lawal, who netted 15.1 ppg a year ago, along with 6-8 senior Zachary Peacock (9.2 ppg). Freshman Brian Oliver (6-6) could add another dimension with his defensive abilities and long range. The backcourt is just as loaded this year with sophomore Iman Shumpert (10.6 ppg, 5.0 apg last season). Point guard Maurice Miller returns healthy after an injury-plagued 2008-09 and should help stabilize things, as will D'Andre Bell, who missed all of last season with a spinal condition. His leadership skills and defensive tenacity are key to a turnaround this season. Incoming freshmen that will get a chance to help out right away in the backcourt are Mfon Udofia (6-2) and Glen Rice Jr. (6-4), son of former NBA star Glen Rice.
No team in the ACC enters the season with as much hype so it will be interesting to see if Hewitt can bring it all together and make a run at the conference crown. Of course, the Rattlers are not an ACC-level type of team, so expect the Yellow Jackets to get up early and never look back in what should be a lopsided affair.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Georgia Tech 83, Florida A&M 51
11/14 10:32:41 ET