After their first trip of the year to Tobacco Road, Georgia Tech returns to the friendly confines of Alexander Coliseum to host North Carolina on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. The Jackets will be seeking their 10th win of the year, and more importantly, their 3rd in the ACC. In fact, a win would keep Tech at level par in what is turning into a wild ACC race.
WINNING THE ACC WITH FOUR LOSSES
It has been seven years since the regular season conference champion finished with four losses, when Duke posted a 12-4 mark. For the first time since that 1996 season, it is looking like a real possibility. The easy answer is that only three teams have been able to win a cumulative five games on the road through the first quarter of conference play.
Duke opened their conference season with a win at Clemson, Carolina tagged FSU with an opening loss at Tallahassee. The Seminoles then lost a week ago to NC State, while Clemson battled Maryland to the end before falling on Saturday at Littlejohn.
Add it up through this weekend, there have been 25 ACC games played an only five road teams have won (20%). It is tougher than in recent history to post those “valuable” victories.
A SQUAD OF YOUNG SQUADMEN
Two of the youngest teams in the ACC will meet at AMC on Wednesday night. Carolina has two seniors, Will Johnson and Jonathan Holmes, and that’s two more than Tech has on its roster. Take that into account and it’s easy to see how the two schools lead the ACC in freshman starters.
The Heels have started three rookies in every game (Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants and either Sean May or Byron Sanders), for a total of 54. Tech has listed Chris Bosh and Jarrett Jack in all 16 games this season, for a total of 32.
ROOKIE RACE GOES CENTER STAGE
Despite the efforts of ESPN’s Andy Katz to put freshman J.J. Redick of Duke in the hunt for National Player of the Year, the best battle of the ACC season might be for “Rookie of the Year”. Two of the principals in the race will square off in Atlanta on Wednesday with the Jackets Chris Bosh and the Heels Rashad McCants.
Despite posting a season-low in both scoring and rebounding at Duke on Saturday, Bosh has delivered 8 double-doubles this year, including streaks of five and three straight.
McCants has been a consistent scorer for Carolina, posting league best 18 straight double-figure games after netting 20 points, at NC State on Sunday afternoon.
The two schools have won two of the last three “Rookie of the Year” honors, with Joseph Forte being the last Carolina player to grab the honor in 2000, and Tech’s Ed Nelson winning the honor last season.
CAROLINA’S KEY PLAYERS
#2 Raymond Felton (6’1, Frosh.): Clearly the straw that stirs the Heels. Felton is 3rd in the ACC in assists, but is from the same mold as the former Tar Heel, Ed Cota.
#32 Rashad McCants (6’4, Frosh.): The first Tar Heel from Asheville since current Tennessee head coach Buzz Peterson, McCants caught Paul Hewitt’s eye two summers ago as perhaps the best of these incoming Heels. His tenacity at the basket might be his biggest strength among many.
#41 Byron Sanders (6’9, Frosh.): I could have put sophomore Jawad Williams here, but Sanders is the first guy in a group that has been asked to help off-set the loss of rookie center Sean May.
In a perfect world, Matt Doherty would have been able to grow both Sanders and Damion Grant (6’11, 270), at a slower pace. After May broke his foot on December 27, against Iona, that no longer was an option for the young Heels. Like Doherty, Sanders deserves a lot of credit for keeping the Tar Heels moving in a forward direction.
THE IN-HOUSE SIGNAL
We have set up an in-house radio signal for fans to enjoy the broadcast while attending games at Alexander Coliseum. 100.1 FM is the spot where you can hear the games. Please bring your radio headsets and tune in at tip-off for the action.