Georgia Tech basketball opened its season Friday night, hosting Clark Atlanta in an exhibition. The two teams battled hard all night, with 8 ties and 8 lead changes. If you want an actual game recap, go here, because this is just going to be a few opinions that I came away with.
1. This season's success rides on Glen Rice's shoulders. The sophomore is a freak athlete. He can drive, pass, has court vision, great leaping ability, and a huge wingspan that can go over taller players. A few times tonight, he got into the lane and it looked like he was trying to pass to Gani Lawal or Derrick Favors, now playing in the NBA. Both times he regained his composure, realized that he was a scorer himself, and made a nice finish at the rim. He needs to realize and live up to his talent, because he might be one of the more talented players in a few years.
2. The team is buying into Paul Hewitt's small lineup philosophy. The Jackets have had good big men the last few years, but don't this year, so Hewitt has been forced to incorporate an offense that plays to the strengths of the smaller but quicker lineup.
One of the things I wanted to see tonight was evidence that the team had bought into it. Three things in particular really stood out. First, it was a track meet up and down the court for long stretches of the game. Tech was able to wear down Clark Atlanta quickly at times, and it was evident to everyone in the buildings. Secondly, I wanted to see help defense. There aren't two future NBA players guarding the paint anymore. If the ball gets dumped into the post, there needs to be weakside help or someone stepping in front and picking off the pass. Finally, I wanted to see rebounding help. Again, everyone is smaller and so rebounding is a team effort.
So how did the team do in all three areas? They looked liked they could run the court well, but weren't quite yet in ACC play shape. I saw a surprising amount of help defense. It didn't always work, and wasn't always pretty, but they players were doing it. Lastly, the team rebounding mentality was there. One play in particular stood out. A three-point shot went up, and the ball landed in the paint. Why? Because all five guys were blocking out effectively in a circle and were able to keep the bigger Clark Atlanta players out.
3. Finally, I truly believe that this is going to be a fun team to watch. The only way they are going to be successful is by being fast, athletic, and quick. And win or lose, it will be entertaining. But I do believe that there is enough talent in place. The team will struggle at times this season, and will have to scratch and claw for a NCAA tournament berth, but it will be fun to watch the process.