While it’s tempting for one to roll their eyes at the prospect of a deep NIT run, the Rebels have looked impressive in hard fought wins over Monmouth and Syracuse. Their recent quality of play merits attention, especially considering their feat of winning at the Carrier Dome wasn’t achieved by a number of elite ACC clubs this season, including Duke, Louisville, Florida State, and Virginia (please ignore the fact that all of these teams have been eliminated from the tournament).
Ole Miss will have the privilege of facing a team that actually sits lower than them in the KenPom ratings. After seven mostly solid years at Memphis, Josh Pastner leads a Georgia Tech squad that despite going just 18-15 in the regular season, had a respectable enough schedule to earn an NIT bid. After finishing off Tom Crean’s career at Indiana, the Yellow Jackets had a convincing win over Belmont in the second round.
Most numbers surrounding this team may throw people off the scent, but Georgia Tech ranks sixth in Division I in adjusted defensive rating. They allow less than 51 percent of shots near the rim to go in, per HoopMath. The defense also appears to excel in forcing low quality deep shots, as they give up a relatively high three-point attempt rate while allowing just 33 percent to actually convert. Similar to Syracuse, the Yellow Jackets rank in the top 30 in terms of not giving up easy opportunities at the foul line, allowing less than 17 free throw attempts per game.
Meanwhile, the Rebels may have reached a sustainable formula for offensive success after running the floor against the Orange on Saturday. Terence Davis is coming off a monstrous 30-point game, and Deandre Burnett seems to have finally settled into his role of primary ball handler with a career-high nine assists.
While the Rebels’ 47 percent outing from three in the second round looks like an outlier juxtaposed with the team’s 35 percent average on the year, it shouldn’t be ignored. Ole Miss now has four different players who shoot 45 percent or better from deep when in transition. Regardless of the quality of defense they’re going up against Tuesday, they may have finally found some leverage in pushing the pace after struggling all season to firmly land on an identity.
It’s difficult to pinpoint something particularly threatening about the Yellow Jackets’ 271st ranking offense, but they at least deserve credit for assisting on over 62 percent of their buckets (12th nationally). They’re led by freshman guard Josh Okogie with 16 points per game, who gets most of his points near the rim and at the foul line. Outside of him and junior center Ben Lammers, there aren’t many other options when it comes to scoring efficiently.
This would all lead one to believe that Georgia Tech’s best shot at a victory is dragging this one out into a defensive slugfest, but the fact that this is an Ole Miss sporting event has probably already turned you away from approaching this with logic.
How to watch:
Where: Oxford, MS
When: 8:00 PM CT
TV: ESPN 2
Online streaming: WatchESPN