ATLANTA -- The ACC season starts for Georgia Tech on Saturday, and there are still a lot of unknowns for the basketball team as it approaches its game at Notre Dame.
The Yellow Jackets are 9-3 after a more aggressive non-conference schedule that ranked 33rd in the CBS RPI rankings. That includes a disappointing loss to USC Upstate, but also victories over Georgia, Vanderbilt and Charlotte.
“At 9-3, we’ve put ourselves in a position where we need to continue to improve if we want to have the season we want to have,” head coach Brian Gregory said.
It’s difficult to read too much into that start. The Yellow Jackets started 10-2 in 2012-13 but finished 16-15. They were 8-3 out of the box last year and finished 16-17. And with the ACC even tougher with the addition of Louisville, this isn’t necessarily an indication of how the season will turn.
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More will be known after the trip to South Bend. The tipoff time is 2:30 p.m., with the game airing in Middle Georgia on WPGA.
Georgia Tech split with Notre Dame a year ago. The Yellow Jackets won 74-69 in Atlanta and dropped a 65-62 decision in South Bend. That win was important, as it helped stabilize a team that was struggling in the wake of an injury to Robert Carter Jr.
This year’s Notre Dame team appears to be even better. The Irish (12-1) are ranked No. 14 in the Associated Press poll. Their only setback was a one-point loss to Providence. The Yellow Jackets could be helped by the schedule, as Notre Dame’s next opponent is North Carolina.
Notre Dame has put up some impressive offensive numbers. It averages 86.1 points (20 points per game more than Georgia Tech) and has four players who average in double figures: Jerian Grant (17.4 points, 4.6 assists), Zach Auguste (14.9 points, 6.4 rebounds), Demetrius Jackson (14.4 points) and Pau Connaughton (14.0 points, 8.2 rebounds).
“They have great versatility in their lineup,” Gregory said. “There’s not a real weak spot in their game.”
This much is known about Georgia Tech: For all of its offensive limitations, Gregory’s team will get after opponents with their defense and will pound the boards.
Georgia Tech allows 62.5 points per game and has a plus-10.7 rebound margin, the seventh-best figure in the country. The Yellow Jackets are grabbing 14.7 offensive rebounds per game, which is 17th best in the nation. Georgia Tech has outrebounded 11 of its 12 opponents.
The Yellow Jackets switched the starting lineup for the first time all season against Charlotte. Robert Sampson, who has played well coming off the bench, got the start in place of Demarco Cox, who was nursing a groin injury but still played 17 minutes. Chris Bolden started for Quinton Stephens.
“I think we’re ready,” junior captain Marcus Georges-Hunt said. “We’ve had some good practices, and we have to go out and play hard.”
Offense continues to be an issue for Georgia Tech. With the lack of a consistent outside threat, the Yellow Jackets need Georges-Hunt to continue to attack the basket as he did against Charlotte, when he had a career-high 25 points. That was only the second 20-point game for Georgia Tech this year, with Charles Mitchell scoring 20 in the opener against Georgia.
“That’s what we need from him,” Gregory said.
Georges-Hunt leads the team with 12.9 points and has nine double-digit games. He has scored 10 or more in the past four games.