| ||Tuesday, March 14|
Special to ESPN.com
|This has the makings of a good game. Georgia Tech is looking to re-establish its program as a national presence after several years of average results. Michigan is looking to bounce back from some relatively dark days thanks to another stellar recruiting class. Both teams need a big non-conference win to display to fans and postseason decision-makers. Both teams need this game.
Nearly every preseason publication with a "coaches on the hot seat" section opined that Bobby Cremins needs a good season to retain his job. While I do not discount any truth that may lie in those statements, I find the speculation to be sad and absurd. Georgia Tech has a rich basketball tradition because of Cremins, and no one else. He is honest to a fault, and he has shown the ability to recruit and coach top-flight talent. In short, Cremins is a terrific basketball coach who deserves better treatment than he is getting.
When Georgia Tech has the ball
Akins is the primary handler for Georgia Tech, and he had a difficult freshman year in the ACC. Cremins wants Akins to be more aggressive and attack off the dribble, but Akins' fragile psyche in 1999 made that an iffy proposition from game to game. Akins can play, and is just looking for consistency. He has very good quickness and can create off the dribble. A key for Akins is his body language: as the leader out front for Tech, his teammates take cues from how confident Akins appears. New assistant coach Mark Price should be of good counsel for Akins in that department.
Akins needs help from senior swingman Jason Floyd. He is a good long-range shooter who can drill open looks. He shoots the ball better at home than away. Freshman Clarence Moore is the newcomer most likely to contribute early, and Jon Babul and Darryl LaBarrie can both play significant minutes. The key for Tech will be the enthusiasm with which it plays. If the Wreck come out with passion and fire, they can form a solid basketball team that can perform well in this game, and in the wide-open ACC.
When Michigan has the ball
The engine that will drive this team is the youngsters. LaVell Blanchard is a potential great, and he was a needed catch for Ellerbe. Blanchard's dorm room is further away from Crisler Arena than his home (he's from Ann Arbor), and he reminds Ellerbe of former Virginia star Bryant Stith. Blanchard is an incredible athlete that runs the court very well, has polished inside moves and can jump with anyone in the nation.
Kevin Gaines was the likely choice to run the point, but he has run into some minor disciplinary problems that will put him on the pine to start the games. Gaines is a hard-nosed performer with excellent defensive skills who is physically strong and quick, and he will give Akins a battle. Gavin Groninger is a big-time spot-up shooter, and Jamal Crawford is a very talented wing guard who once committed to Fresno State. Crawford can play any backcourt position, and could start at the point in favor of Gaines.
Michigan's roster is thin, so fouls must be avoided at all costs. The good news for the Wolverines is that Georgia Tech does not list depth as one of its strengths.
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