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Duke plays Georgia Tech in Atlanta tonight, and the game should be really
intense. For one, Tech will have B.J. Elder this time. And for another,
they're fighting for their NCAA life. Toss in the intensity Duke found for Wake
Forest, and all the elements for a great ACC game are in place.
Certainly Georgia Tech never thought they'd be struggling just to get back to
the tournament after going all the way to the title game last year, but that's
where they are. Part of it is injuries, of course, but part of it is also
Tech's own fault. This is a team with a lot of players back from last year
and some significant new talent, but they haven't been able to find their way
A large part of it has been the absence of B.J. Elder, who missed a big chunk
of the season with a hamstring injury. Tech was more dependent on him than
anyone thought, and the returnees like Will Bynum, Ismai'l Muhammad, and Luke
Schenscher, haven't gotten it done. Arguably the only player for Tech who
has had a really solid year has been Jarrett Jack, and while he's proven to be a
solid ACC point guard, and will do well in the NBA at some point, he's not
Elder, as it turns out, allowed Tech to mask a lot of weaknesses. Bynum
can score, but not as well as it once seemed he might. Muhammad has unreal
talent, but he has never managed to become a complete basketball player.
And while Schenscher has made himself into an excellent college player, largely
by simply never letting the ball go down low once he decides to shoot, he's also
not really capable of creating a lot of his own offense. He's really hard
to stop when he gets the ball in position, but he's not a ball of lightning
And freshmen Zam Frederick and Ra'Sean Dickey have taken longer to develop
than expected. Frederick has shot very poorly and Dickey has had a tough
time matching up against ACC big men. Anthony Morrow has had his moments,
but hasn't been consistently excellent yet.
And let's face it - with Elder, Schenscher, Muhammad, Bynum, and Anthony
McHenry's careers all winding down rapidly, and with junior Jack possibly
considering the NBA draft, the chance for Tech to capitalize on this core groups
talent is slipping away.
You could argue, in fact, that this game is, if not their last stand, then
close to it: Tech is 15-8 and and 6-6 in the ACC. After the Duke game,
they travel to Miami and Wake Forest and host Clemson in the season
finale. If they beat Duke, then they can probably get in with a win over
Clemson, even if they lose to Wake and Miami.
Lose to Duke, and the pressure mounts, and the Wake trip is a real pressure
cooker. Beat Duke, at worst currently a 2 seed, and their odds go up
sharply and immediately.
After the Wake game, and with Duke's recent luck against Tech, it's an
imposing path for Tech. Yet Tech can play with anyone if they play great
defense. This is a very dangerous team when they get turnovers and get
running, because Jack can control the break, and if Muhammad doesn't get the
power dunk, then he has McHenry as a trailer, and both Elder and Bynum can shoot
or take it in. And when Schenscher lumbers downcourt, he can score too.
For Duke, the hope is to build on the Wake game, and to bring a similar
level of intensity. With Miami left in Cameron, and the season-ending trip to
Chapel Hill, a win over Tech would be huge. Duke could finish no worse than
third in the conference, and would be close to nailing down no worse than a
second seed in the tournament.
With both teams very likely to play defense at a ridiculously high level, and
with everything that is on the line for Tech first but also for Duke, this is
going to be a very intense game, and one which will probably go to the team
which is most willing to dive on the floor and scrap for any possible
advantage. Should be a great one, in our opinion.