The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (28-9) will look to write a happy ending to their storybook run through the NCAA tournament tonight.
The Yellow Jackets look to slay the favored Connecticut Huskies (32-6) and earn their first-ever national championship. Georgia Tech will enter the contest as five-point underdogs.
As the No. 3 seed in the St. Louis region, Georgia Tech has survived scare after March scare. In round one, they fought off a feisty Northern Iowa team 65-60. Two days later, 18 points from guard B.J. Elder allowed the Yellow Jackets to sneak by Boston College and into the Sweet 16.
Tech made the cut to the Elite Eight by doing what Michigan State and Gonzaga could not, knocking off the upstart Nevada Wolf Pack. Head coach Paul Hewitt’s squad then punched their ticket to San Antonio and the Final Four with a 79-71 overtime victory over the Kansas Jayhawks.
Thanks to backup point guard Will Bynum, the Yellow Jackets will play one more game in the Alamodome. After Oklahoma State’s John Lucas tied the game with a deep 3-pointer from the right wing, Bynum converted a tough driving lay-up with 1.5 seconds remaining to lift the Yellow Jackets over the second-seeded Cowboys 67-65.
In each round of the tournament, Tech has seemingly featured a different hero. Deep and athletic, the Yellow Jackets will go nine deep on the average. Hewitt deploys his reserves early and often, and with guard B.J. Elder ailing, that depth has kept Tech dancing.
The team’s leading scorer at 15 points per game, Elder had tallied 30 points in the first two rounds of the tournament before suffering a right-ankle-sprain injury against Nevada. He played just three minutes and finished the game scoreless.
Though he returned to action against Kansas, he was nowhere near 100 percent and again was held scoreless in just 12 minutes. In the national semifinal matchup with Oklahoma State, Elder was still not himself, scoring two points and going 1-4 from the field.
With Elder hobbled by the ankle injury, it has been go-to guy by committee for the Yellow Jackets. Against the Wolf Pack, it was guard Marvin Lewis who stepped into the spotlight. Lewis poured in 23 points on 7-13 shooting to lead Tech into the Elite Eight.
Against Kansas, it was another story for Lewis, who did not score and missed all six shots he attempted. Though Lewis was not on his game, the Yellow Jackets kept rolling behind a career-high 29 points from point guard Jarrett Jack and 15 from center Luke Schenscher.
The entire supporting cast picked up Elder against the Cowboys, as four Yellow Jackets finished in double figures. Schenscher lead the way with 19, with Lewis adding 14, Jack pitching in 10, and Bynum recording 11, including the two biggest points of the game.
Georgia Tech’s strength lies in its backcourt combination of Jack, Lewis and Elder — when healthy. If any of the three should struggle early, Hewitt will not hesitate to insert the latest Tech hero, Bynum, into the contest.
Down low, the burden of containing Emeka Okafor will fall on the shoulders of the 7-foot-1 Australian Schenscher. The junior’s defensive presence was crucial to the Tech cause Saturday, and he will have to battle against the likes of Okaf0r, Adam Boone and Charlie Villanueva. Joining Big Luke in the frontcourt is forward Anthony McHenry.
Off the bench, Hewitt looks to forwards Clarence Moore and Isma’il Mohammad to provide a spark. Known more for his highlight reel dunking ability, Mohammad is also a hardworking player who does the little things. Theodis Tarver provides an extra body in the big-man rotation.