Georgia Tech fans have been eagerly anticipating the 2012-2013 season after having to experience an 11-20, (4-12 ACC) record last season, witness their leading scorer get kicked off the team, and not having a permanent home arena. Well, that wait ended when they defeated Tulane 79-61 to open the newly installed McCamish Pavilion on Friday night. The crowd of over 8,500 were able to witness this historic night, and be publicly thanked by Coach Brian Gregory and players immediately following the game. Now, it's time to dissect what's in store for the Yellow Jackets this season, the new impact players, what needs to improve, and everything(and more!) you need to know about this upcoming season.
Not One, Not Two, Not Three, ........
This Georgia Tech basketball team truly epitomizes the over-used phrase of being a team. This Yellow Jacket team does not boast a star, above-the-team player, there are no lottery or one-and-done type players on this team. What does this Georgia Tech team boast? Ten players that receive significant minutes and can step-up in crunch time to be key players at any moment on any given night.
The opening game against Tulane only proved how deep this Tech team is. Gregory rotated ten players in and out, eight of which received double-digit minutes. Forward Kammeon Holsey, Center Daniel Miller, and the freshmen trio of Marcus Georges-Hunt, Robert Carter, and Chris Bolden all had monster performances that led to the cruising victory. However, on any night, Guards Brandon Reed/Jason Morris and Forward Julian Royal could deliver quality efforts that will lead to Tech wins.
The depth of Georgia Tech this season will be crucial in taking the pressure off of leader Mfon Udofia. Last season, especially after the dismissal of leading scorer Glen Rice Jr, Udofia had to be a scoring guard and create his own shots. Whereas this season, with the addition of two scoring guards, the senior from Stone Mountain can relax, be a true point guard, and create shots for others.
THREE THINGS THAT NEED TO IMPROVE
1. Free Throw Shooting- To summarize Georgia Tech's shooting from the stripe last year in one word: ABYSMAL. The Yellow Jackets were dead last in the ACC from the line last season and their 65.4 FT% ranked 286th in the country, right below powerhouse SIU Edwardsville. Starting Center Daniel Miller led the Jackets from the stripe with a mark of 76.2% and that is not a good omen. After going 3-10 last season in games decided by single digits, Brian Gregory's squad needs to do a better job at closing out games and that starts with knocking down clutch free throws.
2. Ball Control- How many crucial turnovers did Georgia Tech have last season in the waning minutes of regulation? That is a question that fans on the Flats are terrified to answer. The Jackets' netted 14 turnovers per game while only accumulating 11 assists per game, putting them tied with Florida State in the cellar of the ACC for A/T ratio. Top Point Guard Mfon Udofia only garnered 2.8 assists per game something that the coaches know needs to improve. Incoming freshmen guards Marcus Georges-Hunt and Chris Bolden are expected to get significant playing time and Tech fans hope that will take some of the pressure off of Udofia. One thing is for sure, it's hard to be successful in the ACC when you average more turnovers than assists.
3. Perimeter Defense- Last season, in conference play, Georgia Tech allowed opponents to shoot 38.9% from behind the arc. To put that number in perspective, if that was their overall percentage allowed on the season they would have been in the bottom ten in the nation in opponents' 3PT%. Whether it was Clemson's Andre Young shooting a modest 7-9 from long-range or North Carolina shooting at a frantic pace of 10-16 3PT% as a team, those numbers can not be repeated if Georgia Tech is to have a substantial improvement this season. Overall, the defense was superb, as the Yellow Jackets ranked in the top 5 of the ACC in opponents FG% and PPG, and in blocks, but if they can improve on their perimeter D then that would make Tech even more of a force on defense.
FOCUS ON FRESHMAN
Brian Gregory's first full season of recruiting was a successful one to say the least. He brings in premier guards Marcus Georges-Hunt and Chris Bolden whom will be a nice addition to an already heavy backcourt. His big get though was landing a top-tier recruit in Power Forward Robert Carter who decided to stay in Georgia to play his college ball. Carter, 6-8 245, averaged 19 points and 12 boards his senior season at Shiloh high school, and will likely be the freshman with the most impact as the Jackets will need his size and strength down low. FYI, the three stellar freshmen contributed to 35 points and 15 rebounds vs. Tulane, look for that trend to continue.
Another factor to keep an eye on is the arrivals of brothers Stacey and Solomon Poole. Stacey, a transfer from Kentucky, will 100% be with the team in their December 17 game against Alabama State. Meanwhile, his younger brother and stud-prospect, Solomon, is currently in the process of possibly enrolling early at Tech and joining the team mid-season as well.
EASY BEGINNING SCHEDULE SHOULD BRING CONFIDENCE
Georgia Tech's out-of-conference schedule is definitely not one that will catch the eye or receive national attention. In fact, outside of Illinois and the DirecTV Classic games, the Yellow Jackets out of conference schedule consists of all home games against teams that all finished below .500 last season. However, with the Jackets trying to rebuild and the young crop of talent they have, they'll take all wins they can get no matter the opponents. Reality speaking, Brian Gregory and Co. could find themselves 10-2 when entering conference play and that would be a huge improvement over recent years.
If the Jackets can maintain that kind of success and avoid a letdown loss things will be heading into the right direction. Look for the DirecTV Classic to sort of show an early barometer for how to expect the Jackets to fair this season. They open the three day tournament from Anaheim with a game against Rice on Thanksgiving night, then will face either California or a Drake in the next game, with a final game on the next day that Jackets fans hope will be for the 'ship.
NEVER EASY IN THE ACC
The Atlantic Coast Conference is always one of the toughest conferences in basketball, and the Jackets will experience the difficulty right off the bat. Georgia Tech opens conference play with a home game against Miami before they are faced with a brutal stretch with three of the next four games being on the road. Oh, and those road games just happen to be against #6 North Carolina State, #8 Duke, and #11 North Carolina, quite the stretch of games. The unique tidbit about this year is that each team has an eighteen game conference schedule as the ACC is preparing for the new teams already. The seven teams the Jackets play twice within the conference are as balanced as it gets in North Carolina, North Carolina State, Clemson, Miami, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, and Virginia.
The ACC will be compelling to follow as always and this year is especially hard to predict. Obviously, you have North Carolina, North Carolina State, Florida State and Duke at the top, then a slew of teams in the middle, then Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, and Boston College at the bottom. How long will it be until Gregory gets the Jackets into the next tier of the ACC?
Brian Gregory is bringing in a top 25 recruiting class that will make the team much deeper, but the key factor will be the play of Mfon Udofia and if he can improve at the point position. The success of Udofia will have a direct correlation to how the new guards will fit in and develop. Also, look for Kammeon Holsey to step up and be the player to rely on in the closing minutes. Speaking of that, the play of the incoming freshmen will definitely also be an interesting outlier to pay attention to. My Prediction: 17-13(7-11) and making the Quarterfinals of the NIT.
Disagree? Tell us how you envision the Jackets' first season in their new home going by leaving a comment below.