5 things to know before Georgia Tech-Clemson

Georgia Tech’s Adam Smith, center, drives past Syracuse’s Tyler Lydon, left, and Trevor Cooney, right, during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Syracuse, N.Y., Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016. Syracuse won 60-57. (AP Photo/Nick Lisi)

Georgia Tech guard Adam Smith made a critical 3-pointer late in the Yellow Jackets’ win over Wake Forest Wednesday, his only basket in the game after missing his first seven shots. (AP Photo/Nick Lisi)

Previewing Georgia Tech’s Saturday afternoon matchup with Clemson in Greenville, S.C. (Game advance here). The game will be broadcast on regional sports networks, including Fox Sports South in Atlanta. The great Wes Durham and analyst Dan Bonner, about as knowledgeable a TV pair as you’ll find, will be on the call.)

Deeper bench for Jackets

Clemson goes seven deep, which should give Tech a depth advantage, as the Yellow Jackets typically play nine or 10 deep. The Tigers have three players who average more minutes per ACC game than the Jackets’ leader in minutes played, Marcus Georges-Hunt at 33.9 minutes per league game.

Clemson’s leading scorer, forward Jaron Blossongame from Chattahoochee High, has averaged 37.4 minutes per game.

Forward Donte Grantham has had back-to-back 15-point games for Clemson and looks like something of a matchup problem for Tech, as he is something of a “stretch 4” – a power forward with perimeter-shooting capacity. That said, at 6-foot-8 and 210 pounds, he would be giving up about 40 pounds to Nick Jacobs and Charles Mitchell and 15 pounds to James White. Further, Grantham is averaging 34.2 minutes per game in ACC games while Jacobs averages the most minutes of any of the aforementioned three at 24.3 minutes.

Another strong game needed

Mitchell turned in one of his best games of the season against Wake Forest in Tech’s win over Wake Forest Wednesday. He had 14 points on 13 shots and 15 rebounds (seven on the offensive glass) for just his third double-double in 11 ACC games after recording 10 in the Jackets’ 13 non-conference games.

Mitchell said he was “trying to play with a lot of energy, aggression, so that was good. I’ve just got to keep it up going into the Clemson game and just keep getting second-chance points for my team.”

Mitchell figures to start again; he had started the first 19 games, then came off the bench for the next three, and then has started the past two as coach Brian Gregory has juggled the starting lineup in search of a better combination. Gregory said Friday that the starting five would be a game-time decision.

The series

Clemson has won 10 home games in a row over the Jackets, the longest ACC home winning streak that the Tigers have had over any team. The last time Tech won at Clemson was a 70-62 win in February 2005. Jarrett Jack led Tech with 16. At that point, the Jackets had won four out of five at Littlejohn Coliseum.

The Tigers have also won 11 of their last 12 against Tech overall. In Gregory’s tenure, Tech is 1-8, and seven of the eight losses have been by eight points or fewer and two in overtime.

New venue

The game will be played at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C., not at Littlejohn Coliseum on Clemson’s campus. Littlejohn is undergoing a redo quite similar to Alexander Memorial Coliseum’s gutting, led by athletic director Dan Radakovich.

The Jackets were unable to get into the arena Friday night for a shootaround or walkthrough to familiarize themselves with the surroundings due to a concert. Gregory planned to take the team there Saturday morning for a brief shootaround.

The arena seats 15,000 and was previously known as the Bi-Lo Center. Judging from the website, I think Bon Secours Wellness looks like maybe a weight loss system. If you’re wondering, South Carolina has the 10th highest obesity rate of any state in the country at 32.1 percent, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (Georgia is 19th at 30.5 percent.)

More importantly, you’ll be interested to know that my friend Wes Littlejohn is a descendant of the namesake of Littlejohn Coliseum, James Littlejohn, who was a school business manager. It’s my understanding that the name is going to stay, an outcome that Wes would undoubtedly prefer.

Lastly

Hopefully, you’ve read (or will read) the story posted on myajc.com Friday night and published in Saturday’s paper about an interview with athletic director Mike Bobinski regarding the state of the basketball team. He said he was going to let the whole season play out before making a decision, but did not think the team has achieved to its potential through 11 ACC games.

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