Rebounding has been one of the major factors in the 8-4 start to the college basketball season for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech is among the top 30 teams in the country in rebounding, averaging just more than 40 boards per game.
On Sunday when the Yellow Jackets play a non-ACC game against the Charlotte 49ers, however, Georgia Tech will get a test in the area it has been so proficient in. From Conference USA, the 49ers (8-3) are only three spots behind the Yellow Jackets in the national rebounding rankings, also averaging a shade more than 40 per game.
On the surface, one might expect Georgia Tech to dominate this game anyway, even if challenged on the glass. The last time Charlotte faced an ACC opponent, the 49ers were blown out early in a 106-62 loss to the Florida State Seminoles. But Charlotte also has decent wins this season over the Michigan Wolverines and Kansas State Wildcats, so the 49ers shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Georgia Tech also enters Sunday’s road game off a loss. The Yellow Jackets were handled by the Vanderbilt Commodores, 76-63, in their last game, and other than an early-season win at Georgia, Georgia Tech is yet to win away from home this season (including games played on neutral courts).
Neither the Yellow Jackets nor the 49ers score a ton of points, and neither team is particularly accurate from the field. So, who wins the rebounding battle will likely go a long way toward determining which team is victorious.
Georgia Tech’s leading rebounder is 6-foot-8, 247-pound sophomore Robert Carter, Jr., who averages 9.4 per game. Senior center Daniel Miller (6-foot-11, 275) adds 8.1 rebounds per game, as the Yellow Jackets have decent size in the frontcourt.
Charlotte will try to counter that with sophomore Willie Clayton (6-foot-9, 237), who has been impressive for the 49ers so far this season with 9.6 rebounds (to go with 12 points) per game. Clayton has had seven double-doubles this season and grabbed a season-high 15 rebounds in Charlotte’s upset of Michigan. Clayton has also shown tremendous improvement in his sophomore year. He averaged just 6.2 rebounds per game as a freshman.
Another factor that could trouble the Yellow Jackets on Sunday is that this game vs. Charlotte is Georgia Tech’s final non-conference game before a tough stretch of ACC contests that feature games against Duke, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh among the Yellow Jackets’ first four league fixtures. A loss Sunday at Charlotte would likely mean Georgia Tech would have to beat Maryland in its ACC opener on Jan. 4 to avoid a potential six-game losing streak — the likes of which is quite frowned upon by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee in March.
To beat Charlotte and avoid that fate, Georgia Tech must play to its strength on Sunday and win the rebounding battle. Charlotte will provide a stiff test in this department, and if the Yellow Jackets can’t pass that test, the grind that will be the ACC schedule will be all that much harder for Georgia Tech.