Although their Atlanta campuses are only a few miles apart, Georgia State and Georgia Tech have met just 19 times on the basketball court. They will revive the series on Wednesday in the season opener for both teams at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion.
Expectations are high for both programs. Georgia State is considered a contender in the Sun Belt Conference and Georgia Tech has perhaps its best team since the arrival of coach Josh Pastner five years ago and is looking to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009-10.
“We’re going to attack every single game like it’s our last,” said Yellow Jackets senior point guard Jose Alvarado. “Our guys have a big-time chip on our shoulders and we’re going to try to prove a lot of people wrong.”
Alvarado is entering his fourth season as a starter and was named to the preseason All-ACC second team. The Brooklyn, N.Y., native averaged 14.4 points, 4.0 assists and 2.2 steals in 24 games last season.
He is one of four returning starters. Also back are: 6-foot-5 junior Michael Devoe, who averaged 16.0 points and made 42.7 percent of his 3-pointers; 6-9 senior Moses Wright, one of the most improved players in the league, who averaged 13.0 points and 7.0 rebounds; and 6-7 wing Jordan Usher, who started 23 games after regaining his eligibility following a transfer from Southern California, and averaged 8.2 points and 4.4 rebounds.
Georgia Tech won six of its final seven games last year but opted to sit out the ACC Tournament as part of a punishment for an NCAA infraction. The Yellow Jackets finished 17-14 overall and were fifth in the ACC at 11-9, their most league wins since 1995-96.
Georgia State made a name for itself last year by playing aggressive man-to-man defense and operating at a fast pace under first-year coach Rob Lanier. The Panthers graduated only two players from that 19-13 team.
“I like the experience we were able to gain in Year One, but it doesn’t necessarily give you anything going into Year Two,” Lanier said.
The Panthers return a pair of all-conference players in 6-3 senior guard Kane Williams and 6-foot junior guard Justin Roberts. Williams averaged a team-leading 14.8 points, along with 4.6 rebounds and 4.4 assists. Roberts averaged 13.2 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists and made 40.4 percent of his 3-point attempts.
Other key pieces who return are 6-1 senior guard Corey Allen, who averaged 13.5 points, and 6-3 junior guard Nelson Phillips, a high-energy player who averaged 8.1 points and 3.8 rebounds.
Georgia Tech leads the series 17-2 and won the last meeting 84-64 in 2008. Georgia State’s last victory came in 1976.
–Field Level Media