Friday, December 14, 2012

season preview: Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Media prediction: 9th of 12

Last season:

Record: 11-20 (4-12); ACC 11 seed
Postseason: none
KenPom: 178th of 345

Returning scoring: 80.2%
Returning rebounding: 76.7%
Returning assists: 81.18%

2011-2012 all-ACC:

1st team: none
2nd team: none
3rd team: none
HM: none
Defensive: none
Rookie: none

(Italics indicate departed player.)

Starting lineup:

PG: Mfon Udofia (Sr.)
SG: Brandon Reed (rJr.)
SF: Marcus Georges-Hunt (Fr.)
PF: Robert Carter (Fr.)
C: Daniel Miller (rJr.)


F Kammeon Holsey (rJr.)
G Chris Bolden (Fr.)
F Jason Morris (Jr.)
G Pierre Jordan (Sr.)
F Julian Royal (So.)

Coach: Brian Gregory (2nd season)

ACC schedule:

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

Another improving team on the rebound, Georgia Tech has been a pleasant ACC surprise so far this year.  They've lost just two games, both of them expected, and pulled off an upset of St. Mary's in their preseason tournament in Anaheim.  GT had an awful season last year, but they return practically every major contributor (only Glen Rice, Jr. departs, after exhausting Brian Gregory's patience), and have the luxury of being able to work in an outstanding freshman class in the areas where they're needed most.

A couple of those freshman have bumped former starters to the bench.  Robert Carter was a five-star recruit, and he's taken over the power forward starting role from veteran Kammeon Holsey, which in turn has helped Holsey blossom as well, since he's playing against backups now.  Holsey has been GT's most efficient offensive player this year, shooting .591 from the field and turning his free-throw deficiency into a strength.  Carter, for his part, has shown well on the glass and takes care of the ball much better than many power forwards, especially freshman ones.  When he improves his shooting and stops hoisting threes he could be a force.

The other freshman in the starting five is wing Marcus Georges-Hunt, who had offers from a long and dizzying list of suitors.  Georges-Hunt is the team's leading scorer; that's not a great accomplishment on a GT team that only has two in double digits (and scorer #2 has exactly 10.0 PPG at the moment) and has built their success on the defensive end, but he's put together a stat line so far that looks like the whole package.  He's a very good all-around player and a strong contender for ACC rookie of the year.

Holdovers include guards Mfon Udofia and Brandon Reed, and center Daniel Miller.  Miller is kind of a stiff with the ball in his hands, but he's a decent passer for a big man and a very difficult presence on the defensive end.  Miller is the team's only major shotblocker, except perhaps for Carter who gets his hands on one here and there.  Udofia was quite possibly the league's worst point guard last year, but with a second year in Gregory's system he's begun to find his way.  His shooting is much improved, and he's a better facilitator too, though he still can't shoot free throws.  There are still better point guards in the league, but GT is starting to be able to rely on Udofia more.

Other than Holsey, GT isn't getting a lot of contributions from the bench; if they were, they might be able to move Reed out of the starting lineup because he's not doing much either.  Chris Bolden has managed to lead the team in three-point attempts despite getting 18 minutes a game, and he's not hitting many.  (One thing Tech still does badly that they also did badly last year is shoot threes.  They stink.)  GT will get some midseason help in the form of the Poole brothers: Stacey Poole is a big guard who transferred from Kentucky after realizing he was never going to unglue his rear from the bench, and his younger brother Solomon Poole hustled up his high school requirements, signed in November, graduated this month, and will join the team and probably be eligible to play in January.  Solomon is a point guard who has a great shot at relegating noncontributing backup PG Pierre Jordan to the bench; Stacey could eat heavily into the minutes at shooting guard since neither Bolden nor Reed are lighting up the court.

Georgia Tech has announced the beginning of their resurgence by finally playing ACC-level defense.  It's been the source of their success so far this year.  The offense..... has a ways to go.  Georges-Hunt is good, Udofia is improved (although "the basketball Reggie Ball" is not necessarily an inapt metaphor), and Holsey and Carter have provided a decent option down low.  But the offense is the worst in the ACC so far.  It's produced a point per possession in only two of GT's eight games this year.  If it doesn't improve, GT will have a really hard time against conference teams that play defense as well or better than they do, which is about half.  I can't see this team in the tournament this year.  It's a process, and GT is on the way, but they'll have to scratch and claw for a .500 ACC record, and the NIT is probably the ceiling.

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