St. Joseph's-Georgia Tech Preview
March 14, 2001
GAME: No. 9 St. Joseph's (25-6) vs. No. 8 Georgia Tech (17-12)
Georgia Tech never had much NCAA tournament success under Bobby Cremins. Paul Hewitt is hoping to start changing the program's reputation.
In a matchup of coaches who were named the best in their respective conferences, Hewitt leads the Yellow Jackets against Phil Martelli and St. Joseph's in the opening round of the West Regional.
Little was expected of the Yellow Jackets this season after Hewitt took over for the revered Cremins, who resigned last year after the team finished with a losing record for the second straight season.
Georgia Tech made the NCAA tournament every year from 1985-93, never lower than a No. 8 seed and twice a No. 2. But Cremins got the Yellow Jackets past the regional semifinals just twice and reached the Final Four once in his 19 years there, making the field of 64 only once in his final seven seasons.
Despite losing leading scorer and rebounder Jason Collier after last season, the 37-year-old Hewitt has managed to get Georgia Tech back into the postseason while getting named ACC coach of the Year by The Associated Press.
The focus has been solid play in the paint, led by center Alvin Jones. The 6-foot-11 senior had 100 blocks this season and is fourth all-time in the ACC. Jones led the conference with 10.3 rebounds per contest and tied for second on the team with 13.6 points a game.
"I knew I had a coach who would work me real hard," said Jones, who considered entering the NBA draft after his junior year. "I felt like that was all I needed, a coach who would work me hard and point out things to me. I knew by staying I would only get better."
Jones is an intimidator who can affect all shots inside the paint, but the problem for the Yellow Jackets is that they're facing a team whose offensive strength comes from the outside.
Martelli, the Atlantic 10 coach of the year, entrusted his offense to Jameer Nelson, and the freshman point guard impressed. Besides averaging 12.4 points, Nelson led the A-10 in assists with 6.3 per game.
Many of those assists went to starting backcourt mate Marvin O'Connor, who finished second to Xavier's Paul West in voting for conference player of the year. The 6-4 junior averaged 26.8 points over the final six games of the season and finished second in the A-10 in scoring.
O'Connor spearheads a 3-point attack that accounts for much of the Hawks' offense, with Nelson, forward Bill Phillips and A-10 sixth man of the year Na'im Crenshaw also posing serious threats from beyond the arc.
Georgia Tech has a top long-range threat of its own in point guard Tony Akins, who leads the team in scoring and hits better than 42 percent (77-for-182) of his 3-pointers.
PROBABLE STARTERS: St. Joseph's - F Phillips (11.9 ppg, 9.3 rpg), F Frank Wilkins (6.0 ppg, 3.4 rpg), C Damian Reed (9.2, 6.5 rpg), G Nelson (12.4 ppg, 6.3 apg), G O'Connor (21.6 ppg, 2.7 apg). Georgia Tech - F Jon Babul (5.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg), F Marvin Lewis (8.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg), C Jones (13.6 ppg, 10.3 rpg), G Akins (14.5 ppg, 4.2 apg), G Shaun Fein (13.6 ppg, 2.2 apg).
HOW THEY GOT HERE: St. Joseph's - At-large bid, Atlantic 10 Conference. Georgia Tech - At-large bid, ACC.
ALL-TIME TOURNAMENT RECORD: St. Joseph's - 14-19, 15 years. Georgia Tech - 16-11, 11 years.