Sunday, November 16, 2008

season preview: Georgia Tech

Media prediction: 8th

ACC schedule:

Twice: Boston College, Clemson, Maryland, NC State, Wake Forest
Once: Duke (H), Florida State (A), Miami (H), North Carolina (A), Virginia (H), Virginia Tech (A)

2007 All-ACC:

First team: None
Second team: None
Third team: None
Freshman: None
Defensive: None
HM: G Anthony Morrow, F D'Andre Bell (def.)

(italics: returning)

Projected starters:

PG: Maurice Miller (So.)
SG: Lewis Clinch (Sr.)
SF: Zach Peacock (Jr.)
PF: Gani Lawal (So.)
C: Alade Aminu (Sr.)


G Iman Shumpert (Fr.)
G Lance Storrs (So.)
F Bassirou Dieng (Sr.)
C Brad Sheehan (So.)

(italics: returning starter)

Coach: Paul Hewitt (9th season)

All those returning starters are usually a good sign. With such a large stable of returning players, Tech signed only one player (but a really good one) in their recruiting class of 2008. But the story for now is who's not in the lineup. GT's best defensive player last year, D'Andre Bell, is out for the season following spinal surgery. Scary. And with Lewis Clinch out for seven games with an acute report card sprain, Tech is instead relying on freshman Iman Shumpert and sophomore Maurice Miller to carry what was supposed to be a senior-laden backcourt.

Not that they're entirely in trouble. Shumpert is the aforementioned top recruit, and he turned down the likes of UNC to go to Atlanta. Miller started almost 20 games last season as a freshman, so he has the necessary experience under his belt, and is a nearly .400 3-point shooter besides. And Clinch is not really a deadeye shot. Quantity rather than quality is what earns him his points, and it's possible he finds himself relegated to the bench if Shumpert proves too valuable to bench.

In the frontcourt, the Jackets will have a weapon if sophomore Gani Lawal can harness his shot. Lawal has a real chance to lead the team in scoring, but he needs to improve his pathetic free-throw shooting (not even a .500 shooter) and play with more consistency. He can't look for help from Alade Aminu, who starts alongside him - Aminu is a space-eater, in the game to defend and rebound. Zach Peacock may be the X-factor. Their top bench player a year ago, he moves into the starting lineup this year.

Georgia Tech will probably take a step back this season - and they didn't exactly light up the postseason (or even appear in it) last year. Only two players - Anthony Morrow and Jeremis Smith - were good enough to start every game for them last year, and they're gone, as is their defensive stopper. Lawal and Shumpert may be their most talented players, but Shumpert is a freshman and Lawal has inconsistency issues to overcome. Tech is not likely to make any postseason tournament higher than the CBI.

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