Georgia Tech and Boston College open the ACC Tournament Tuesday at noon in Brooklyn, N.Y., at the Barclays Center, broadcast on the ACC Network in the conference footprint (the CW-69 in Atlanta) and ESPN 2 nationwide.
Some notes about the impending matchup...
1. Cole on the glass
With due acknowledgement of small sample size, freshman forward Evan Cole has nine offensive rebounds in the past three games. For a fairly unheralded freshman who needs to put on some muscle, that’s not bad.
In ACC play, forward Abdoulaye Gueye’s best three-game total this season has been 10, same as center Ben Lammers. (Lammers started the season with 16 offensive rebounds in his first three games.) Josh Okogie takes the cake with 14, thanks to his monster rebounding game against Florida State, when he picked off nine offensive rebounds. Last season, the best three-game total in ACC play for forward Quinton Stephens, whose “stretch-4” position Cole is playing, was six.
The point being, he has been hitting the offensive glass effectively.
“I’ve always been a decent rebounder, but Coach (Josh Pastner) just told me, ‘You’ve got to crash the glass and get offensive rebounds, extra possessions,’” Cole said.
Cole has been a nice surprise for Tech in the final stretch of the season. Moved into the rotation and starting lineup after point guard Jose Alvarado suffered a season-ending elbow injury, Cole has started the past six games, averaging 6.3 points and 5.3 rebounds in those games in 28.8 minutes per game. He went a career-high 36 minutes against Wake Forest on Saturday, an indication of how much he has satisfied Pastner, who’s given to yanking players at the first sight of a missed box-out or turnover.
This is invaluable experience for Cole, who had played 20 minutes in ACC games prior to the Duke game when Alvarado got hurt, going into next season. He said he is “way more comfortable” going into Tuesday’s ACC Tournament matchup with Boston College than he was in the teams’ first meeting on February 4, when he played three minutes.
“I think the biggest thing, no matter how much reps you’re getting (in practice), you need experience,” he said. “Experience goes a long way in the ACC because every game (is instructive). I feel like last game helped me just with experience and figuring things out.”
The ACC Tournament will be a new level of competition and a new experience. Cole said he had been to the state of New York just once previously, for a youth baseball tournament in Cooperstown.
“I’m excited to head to Brooklyn,” Cole said Sunday prior to the team’s departure. “I think we’re playing really well right now and I think we can make some noise in the tournament.”
2. Past Tech-B.C. matchups
This is the fourth ACC Tournament meeting between Tech and Boston College in the past six years. Two of the first three did not go Tech’s way, as the Eagles won 84-64 in 2013 and 66-65 in 2015. Tech won the middle game in 2014, 73-70 in overtime.
The first game was particularly memorable – B.C. guard Olivier Saint-Jean lit up the Jacket for 41 points, setting an ACC Tournament scoring record for a freshman. Tech raced to leads of 15-0 and 28-14 before the Eagles rallied. They finished the first half on a 24-5 run, fed by four 3-pointers by Hanlan.
He finished 14-for-18 from the field, including 8-for-10 from 3-point range.
The most recent tournament game, in 2015, included a big basket by then-freshman Tadric Jackson in defeat. Jackson hit a long jumper to give Tech a 65-64 lead with 28 seconds left, only to see Hanlan answer with 12 seconds left for the final 66-65 lead. Tech played that game without Marcus Georges-Hunt, who had broken his foot in the final regular-season game of the season.
3. Going down
The most memorable impression that the Barclays Center made on Lammers was the team’s method of arrival and departure.
“I’m pretty sure this is the one that has an elevator for your bus, so it’s like the whole bus drives into this garage and then it just spins around and goes down a couple floors and you’re down into the bottom of the stadium and then you walk a couple feet and you’re on the court,” he said.
4. Quizzing Lammers
Lammers was asked to name the best player he’d faced this season.
“That’s a tough one,” he said. “I mean, obviously there’s a lot of players. Obviously, I like Josh Okogie. I’m a little biased.”
Pressed a little more, Lammers didn’t name anyone (player of the year Marvin Bagley of Duke was injured when the Blue Devils faced Tech) but did share his appreciation for N.C. State center Omer Yurtseven.
“He has a mature demeanor and playing style that I was impressed with,” Lammers said.
Yurtseven, a sophomore from Turkey, has averaged 13.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. He scored 17 points (7-for-16 from the field) with nine rebounds and no turnovers against the Jackets.
5. Comparing Alvarado’s season
This isn’t related to the tournament, specifically, but an interesting point of reference. Consider the freshman scoring numbers for Alvarado and Georges-Hunt.
The last statistic is points per field-goal attempt, a picture of a player’s scoring efficiency.
It is not a perfect comparison; they are different players with different roles and different teammates.
Georges-Hunt was actually the team’s leading scorer that season and hence had a greater burden to score. Perhaps Georges-Hunt’s scoring efficiency might have been better had he had a scorer like Okogie beside him.
Most games, Alvarado was noticeable for his toughness and effort and for showing a nice 3-point stroke. He didn’t necessarily scream star on the rise. But his ability as a scorer as a freshman compares favorably with Georges-Hunt, who didn’t have future star stamped on his forehead, either (he wasn’t named ACC all-freshman), but developed into the best player of the Brian Gregory era, an All-ACC selection as a senior and now an NBA player.
“He’s going to be really good,” Pastner said.
6. Lammers on his ankle
“I definitely in the past few games, I’ve felt a lot more like my old self last year, where I don’t have anything that’s particularly nagging. There’s always some stuff here and there, but nothing like it has been this past season. I feel a lot more like I usually do.”
7. About the opposition
Besides scoring 20.7 points per game, Boston College guard Ky Bowman averages 6.7 rebounds per game, which is the most of any player in Division I who is 6-foot-1 or shorter. (Bowman is 6-1)