The press section is jammed today, and not with press. Twenty-five NBA scouts have been credentialed for today’s game — Georgia Tech is playing Florida State — and there are only 30 NBA teams. I conclude from this that the absent five are simply slackers.
The scouts are coming to see three big men who could wind up in 2010 first round — Solomon Alabi of FSU and Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal of Tech. Indeed, DraftExpress has two in the lottery. Favors is No. 2 behind John Wall of Kentucky, and Alabi is No. 14. And Lawal sneaks into Round 1 at No. 29.
Nine games into his one and surely only collegiate season, Favors hasn’t disappointed. He’s not going to be voted the freshman of the year nationally — Wall, who’s not just the best freshman but the best player in the land, will be — but that’s because Tech hasn’t needed him to score big every night. Lawal actually leads Tech in scoring and rebounding, but there’s no question who’s the bigger talent.
And to have two such big men at a time when big men are so scarce — ask Illinois coach Bruce Weber how much he’d trade for either of Tech’s guys — is the key reason Tech should have a splendid chance of reaching the Final Four.
That’s correct. I didn’t say the NCAA tournament. I said the Final Four. Tech has more talent than it has ever had under Hewitt, and early returns indicate there’s mesh being strung together. Iman Shumpert is out until January after knee surgery, but point guard Mfon Udofia has been better than advertised — among Jacket insiders, he was considered the key to the famous signing class — and rookie Brian Oliver has proved he can hit enough jump shots to keep defenses from zoning everything up.
(Tech fans know this already, but here, for newcomers, it is: This Brian Oliver is not the son of the Brian Oliver who helped drive the 1990 Jackets to the Final Four. They’re not related. Although Glen Rice Jr., yet another freshman, is indeed the son of Glen Rice, who helped drive Michigan to the 1989 national title.)
Tech fans will also recall that last season ended in despair after a last-gasp loss to FSU in the ACC tournament at the Georgia Dome. Shumpert took the last shot that day and missed. I’m pretty sure he won’t take a shot of any kind today. And I have great faith that the Jackets will win today. For one thing, Toney Douglas no longer plays for the ‘Noles. For another, Tech is good.
But I am, as we know, wrong on occasion. Indeed, I was wrong just last night at the Arena in Gwinnett. I figured the Illini would win that one going away. Georgia won and deserved to win. So just because Joe B. Hall and I got together and invented college basketball doesn’t mean I’m always right.
Join me for today’s proceedings and we’ll see how wrong — or, as happens once every 20 years , right — I am. I’ll be here until someone other than Shumpert takes the final shot, and I’d be obliged if you’d ride along. Thanks in advance.