STS: With the Jackets win over Wake Forest, they've already matched last's season's ACC win total (3), despite a tough schedule that has already seen them play Notre Dame, Louisville, UNC, Duke, Syracuse, and Miami. They've also moved up from 83 last year to their current ranking of 61 in KenPom. While hopes were surely higher than 3-8, how do you assess this season thus far?
FTRS: There's no question from anyone who has watched Georgia Tech this season that this is the best team Brian Gregory has assembled. What has been so frustrating for Tech fans in the past few years and especially this season, is that they have been able to compete with anyone, but the wins haven't been there. In fact, this is part of the reason Brian Gregory was given another year after last season.
In the ACC thus far, Georgia Tech has yet to lose a game by double-digits and has had halftime leads against UNC (3), VT (10), Louisville (7), and Duke (4). The Jackets are clearly competing in every game, but the players and fans are tired of just competing and want to see wins. The talent is there, but failure to close out numerous games this season has left everyone involved with the program disappointed with the season thus far. While the the front half of the schedule was much harder than the back half, every ACC game is a challenge, and it's going to take quite a run to end the year for this team to accomplish the goals they wanted to accomplish.
STS: In your view, what does the future hold for Brian Gregory?
FTRS: If performance was the only factor in Gregory's future, I think he would have been gone a year or two ago. However, Tech is still paying off Paul Hewitt ($900,000/year) through 2019 and funds have been tight. That said, I think it's difficult for the administration to ignore the displeasure from fans much longer. The last two games, including a ranked opponent in Miami, have both seen attendance of barely over 5,000 people. Coach Gregory has represented Georgia Tech great off the court and done a wonderful job raising our APR scores back up, but fans want to see results and many fans will not support the program again until a change is made. I think when the season ends, Georgia Tech AD Mike Bobinski might have his hands tied on this one and be forced to make a change.
STS: The Hank McCamish Pavilion is outstanding. They did a fantastic job on the re-build and I hope Clemson's Littlejohn Coliseum is comparable when the Tigers move back on campus following this year's re-construction. How have Georgia Tech's new facilities impacted the program to date?
FTRS: First off, Georgia Tech administration and Hank McCamish (who very sadly passed away two years ago) deserve a ton of credit for the renovation. It's a state of the art facility that should be one of the highlights of Atlanta. Sadly, the play on the court the past four seasons has kept many fans away. Where the arena has probably had it's biggest impact so far is on recruiting, with many recruits mentioning how they loved the arena and practice facility on their visits. McCamish Pavilion is already one of the nicest venues in the ACC and once the wins start coming, I'm excited to see if it can become one of the toughest to play in, just like the old Thrillerdome.
STS: We know Marcus Georges-Hunt is an excellent scorer inside the arc (2P%: .508) and Adam Smith is a sharpshooter from three (3P%: .415). How else can Georgia Tech's offense beat you?
FTRS: The Jacket's biggest threats outside of Georges-Hunt and Smith come from their two big men, Nick Jacobs and Charles Mitchell. Jacobs has an excellent post game with a deadly left hook and he has the ability to go on major runs at times. Mitchell dominated non-conference play, starting the season with nine straight double-doubles, an ACC record. After his 20 and 17 performance against Pittsburgh, Mitchell had gone cold, scoring double digits just once before erupting for 14 and 15 against Wake Forest on Wednesday. Jacket fans are hopeful that he is back in a groove again because when he's playing well, he's one of the toughest rebounders in the country and loves to get easy baskets on putbacks.
Sophomore Tadric Jackson, who came in as a 4-star recruit last year has been streaky throughout his career, but put up 15 against Duke and 14 against Miami. He's at his best when he's attacking the basket and can be a major boost for the Tech offense. He's at his worst when he gets trigger happy from behind the arc, attempting the third most threes on the team despite shooting 25%.
STS: What are one or two things Clemson fans should be concerned about that may bring about a Yellow Jacket victory and conversely what are one or two things you're worried about that could bring about a Tiger victory. Lastly, which of those would you bet on?
FTRS: Clemson fans should be concerned if one of the Jackets non-primary scorers gets going. Someone like Quinton Stephens has been known to be streaky, but can light up the scoreboard when he's playing well. In Tech's upset win over UVA earlier this season, he was 4-4 on threes and 6-8 from the field. Additionally, Clemson fans should be concerned about the offensive glass. The Jackets rank 4th in the ACC and 23rd nationally in offensive rebounds per game and Charles Mitchell gets his game going on the offensive boards. If Clemson lets Mitchell get going, he could be in for a big game, along with the other Tech bigs.
As a Georgia Tech fan, I'm worried about how we are going to be able to defend Blossomgame. Three of the Jackets four primary bigs (Lammers, Jacobs, Mitchell) struggle to defend athletic big men who like to play on the perimeter. I imagine much of the defensive assignment will fall on James White, who is only averaging four points per game and five rebounds per game, but is by far Tech's most athletic player.
Another thing that could present a challenge is turnovers. While the Jackets are excellent at keeping the ball on offense, they are one of the worst teams in the country at forcing turnovers on defense. The Jackets are at their best when they're in transition and if they aren't able to force many turnovers, it could present a challenge for the Tech offense. You guys seem to have our number every season, but given how many close games Georgia Tech has played in this year, it would be silly to assume this one would be any different.
If Tech gets going early and can jump out to a lead, I think we pull this one out. If it's close at the end of the game, I have to give the edge to Clemson.
STS: A big thank you to GTRob for helping us get ready for an absolute must-win game for the Tigers. Be sure to take a look over at Jay Ingles responses to their questions on From the Rumble Seat too!