ACC Team Preview: Georgia Tech Yellow JacketsPosted by Chris Kehoe on October 31st, 2013
Head coach Brian Gregory has a young team on the upswing in this year’s ACC. However, this Georgia Tech team is still too inexperienced and without enough depth to move far from the lower third of the league. The program has had its fair share of star power over the last few years, with Derrick Favors, Iman Shumpert and Gani Lawal making the jump to the NBA. Unfortunately Tech has not quite been up to its usual standards as of late, a far cry from the 2003-04 powerhouse squad that romped its way to the national title game. Last season the Yellow Jackets were one game above .500 overall and went a relatively dismal 6-12 in conference play. They lost two starters at the guard position to graduation, but will likely be poised to be better this season thanks to the development of their duo of star freshmen and inclusion of seasoned transfer Trae Golden. Losing senior stalwart Mfon Udofia will not be easy, but he never quite played up to his high school scouting reports as a top-35 recruit and a top-10 point guard. Golden, a transfer from Tennessee, should be more than capable filling in for Udofia at the position.
Georgia Tech began last season in ACC play with an 0-5 start, struggling in shooting the basketball both from two-point range and the line, finishing last in the ACC in both. This year’s team will revolve around how effectively their four best players perform. Sophomores Robert Carter, Jr. and Marcus Georges-Hunt will likely be the focal points, with Golden feeding them the ball early and often. Georges-Hunt is a slashing wing who is adept at finishing at the rim and not turning the ball over. The team’s leading scorer as a freshman, expect big strides from him this season. Carter Jr., on the other hand, is an interior bruiser with a soft touch who averaged close to a double-double and will only continue to grow in his second season. Matched inside with senior center Daniel Miller, Gregory will have one of the ACC’s more versatile and tough interior combinations. In terms of newcomers, none of the freshmen are expected to start this season, but highlighted arrivals include 6’8” forward Quinton Stephens and New Hampton prep school product Travis Jorgenson. Off the bench expect athletic scorer Jason Morris to provide a needed punch in the second unit with his slashing and high-flying escapades. Backup point guard Solomon Poole should continue his career reserve duties, this time backing up Golden instead of Udofia.
Georgia Tech’s non-conference schedule is nothing spectacular but has a few challenges in the opening weeks of the 2013-14 season. Playing on the road at SEC rival Georgia in early November and then at Vanderbilt in December should provide good tune-ups for the type of size and athleticism they should expect to see in ACC play. They will also play Marshall Henderson and the Ole Miss Rebels at a neutral location so the Yellow Jackets should get their fair share of middling SEC teams. They have the usual smattering of cakewalk games, playing Presbyterian, Delaware State, North Carolina A&T, Mississippi Valley State, East Tennessee State and Kennesaw State to bolster their confidence. Three solid challenges will be against Dayton, Illinois and at Charlotte before they hit ACC games. Tech has home-and-home series versus Duke, upstart Boston College, and Notre Dame to worry about this year. They luck out with only singular match-ups versus Virginia, Syracuse, and North Carolina.
This season’s team should make some improvements over last year’s 16-15 team, but with the additions of Notre Dame, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh, the ACC gets tougher as a whole. A team like this that could have finished toward the middle of the pack in a best-case scenario is now pushed out of that middle by the new additions. I would go as far as to venture that this team will finish with 15 to 20 total wins and between ninth and 12th place in the ACC. It will largely be better and more experienced with a formidable triumvirate in Golden, Carter Jr., and Georges-Hunt, but the deeper ACC will provide much of the same pitfalls for Brian Gregory’s bunch that led them to a ninth place finish last year. Yellow Jacket fans need to hope that Trae Golden is ready and willing to adapt to a new offense; his ability to create open opportunities on the interior for post players like Carter and Miller can really bring a new dimension to what was a weak spot. If Miller and/or Carter Jr. get in early foul trouble, look for the team to falter because their interior depth is lacking. Their three-point shooting and offensive performance writ large should play a large role in determining how well they finish out this season, seeing as their 0.93 points per possession were good for next-to-last in the ACC last season.