As is often tradition before Big Games, we (that is, I) have once again exchanged a Q&A session with the enemy. Today we have a longtime partner in Q&A crime, GT blog From The Rumble Seat. For those unfamiliar with the format, my questions and their answers are below, so you can learn yourself up on the Jackets; my answers to their questions will appear not long from now on their site - I'll link when that happens. That would be now - go check it out for more of my always-brilliant insights.
1. Last year GT was 2-14 and then lost two of its top three scorers. So what happened this year? Are Favors and Udofia just really that good, or is there more to it?
Well, both freshmen are really good freshmen. But like freshmen, they make a lot of mistakes. I wouldn't put them at Javaris Crittenton or Thaddeus Young level but they both have made our team significantly better as defenses can't key on one scorer (Lewis Clinch) or low post threat (Gani Lawal) anymore. Defenses this season have to deal with multiple threats to score.
The hype behinds Favors hasn't necessarily been unfounded but he just hasn't shown the true star power that ESPN has hyped him up to be. The star of this team is Gani. Udofia makes some circus shots and is a great scorer but Iman Shumpert and D'Andre Bell are the crazy glue for this team. Udofia and Favors have bright futures but they're not the guys UVA should focus on if they're scheming to stop Hewitt's squad.
2. Is it tournament or bust for Paul Hewitt this year, or can he stick around with an NIT run?
NCAA's or bust. Hewitt needs a helluva good finish to this season to stick around for the long term. Tech fans kinda feel like he's gonna lose Favors and Lawal no matter what and next year may be another rebuilding year for Tech hoops. If he can't do anything with the loaded front court and the current depth in the back court, we think Tech fans have written off the following season as well.
The depth is allowing Hewitt to run his full court press and transition-heavy offense. The big guys are allowing us to run some semblance of a half court offense (aka spread the floor with shooters and dish to the big man). Tech fans have kinda grown tired of the "wait 'til next year" mantra of the Hewitt regime. This is the year or else...just kidding.
Hewitt has a 7 million dollar buyout. He's with us for a while. Tech fans kinda went over the top in locking up Paul Johnson for the long term and totally forgot about Hewitt's MEGA CONTRACT. It would be illogical for us to run Hewitt out of town. He puts players in the pros and will eventually line the stars up again for another run, I think...I hope....maybe.
3. Next year could look even better for GT, with only two seniors graduating. But do you expect any early losses to the NBA?
Favors will leave even though he really needs to work on his footwork. Gani is one of the most refined players we've ever watched at Tech in the low post. Both will probably be our early departures. We don't predict any other early departures but we also thought Javaris leaving came out of left field. Sadly at Tech, you never know until that early declaration deadline ends.
4. What are your realistic best and worst case scenarios for this season?
Best case scenario is #3 seed in ACCT with just above 0.500 ACC record. We get a 5 to 7 seed in the NCAA's and win a couple games. And no one declares for the NBA Draft because they want to make a run through the NCAA's! WOOHOO!
Worst case scenario is a repeat of the past couple seasons (only 4-5 ACC wins). No NCAA berth and little to no ripple made in the ACCT. And for the final punch in the nuts, our top three scorers (Gani + Derrick + a guard) declare early entry into the NBA Draft only to settle for mediocre careers (Ra'Sean Dickey) and/or weapons charges (Javaris).
5. Your turn for a game prediction here.
Al Groh becomes Tech's DC and UVA football goes on a 20 year losing streak in ATL until Groh's retirement at 85.
Oh, you meant basketball...I'm not sure if this team with the inexperience at guard can handle a hostile environment (Hell, Hewitt's teams hardly ever handle hostile environments). I want to believe that UVA is better than Georgie. We couldn't handle the Lady Dogs at their house in early January so I'm gonna say Tech loses a close one in Charlottesville. (Ed. note: Whoa. Didn't expect that.) If we win, I'll be pleasantly surprised but if we lose, I can blame it on our youth at guard. Look for a lot of Tech turnovers but the defense has been solid all season, which'll keep the game close.
As for this being a Big Game - yes. Yes it is. This is a real benchmark game for our Hoos. I think Tech is overrated by being in the rankings, and yes I know, they just went out and beat Duke, which is just the kind of thing the committee needs to see if GT wants to be in the tournament. I haven't pegged them as a tournament team all year, but I do think they have more talent than we do and we don't match up very well in the frontcourt at all. The Jackets will absolutely crush us on the boards in this game. A rebounding margin of minus-10 or 12 wouldn't surprise at all.
However. We may be facing a severe mismatch down low, but a properly executed pack-line defense can help cover up that kind of deficiency. It won't help the rebounding numbers, but it may be just the thing to deny the entry pass into the post and provide help when the ball does arrive down low. If GT had a three-point threat, we'd be caught between a rock and a hard place and our chances at this game would be terribly slim. But they don't, meaning they can't take advantage of the pack-line's biggest weakness. Not only that, but GT is a very turnover-prone team, even for a team whose offense goes through the big men.
But the big thing is this: More than any other conference, the ACC will swallow your tournament hopes up with let-down games. You see it every single year: A team wins a big game, usually against Duke or UNC, and then goes on the road against a team equal or lesser to themselves and falls flat on their face. GT is primed for this. Ripe. A young team, high off a win over Duke, going on the road to one of the more underrated home-court advantages in the conference. If they're still dwelling on the Duke game from last weekend and their UNC game this weekend, it plays right into our hands. Bottom line: I think we will win. We can scrape out an improved season over last year by victimizing the NC States and BCs and Miamis of the world, but this is the kind of game we have to take if we want to overachieve and make a little noise.