Monday, December 18, 2006

ACC Preview #1: Georgia Tech

Team: Georgia Tech
Record: 7-3 (0-1 ACC)

Javaris Crittenton (74% minutes, 1.20 PPWS, 12.9 DRB%, 23.7 A/B%, 4.3 Stl%)
Lewis Clinch (61.5% minutes, 1.41 PPWS, 2.7 Stl %)
Thaddeus Young (59.3% minutes, 1.15 PPWS, 12.8 DRB%, 11.3 A/B%, 2.1 Blk%)
Jeremis Smith (61.8% minutes, 1.30 PPWS, 12.3ORB%, 17.3 DRB%, 2.0 Stl%)
Zach Peacock (53.8% minutes, 1.21 PPWS, 7.6 ORB%, 9.9 DRB%)

Key Reserves:
Mario West (43.8% minutes, 1.20 PPWS, 13.3 A/B%, 4.8 Stl%)
Ra’Sean Dickey (48.5% minutes, 1.18 PPWS, 11.3 ORB%, 21.8 DRB%, 4.9 Blk%)
Anthony Morrow (41.3% minutes, 0.94 PPWS, 2.3 Stl%)
Mouhammad Faye (32.3% minutes, 0.95 PPWS, 11.9 A/B%, 9.8 ORB%, 13.6 DRB%)

Biggest Win:
92-85 over Memphis in Maui, a game in which the Jackets were down big early and stormed back with a monster second half

Worst Loss(es):
64-73 at Vanderbilt and 82-90 in the ACC opener at Miami.

Conference Schedule:
Play Twice: Duke, Clemson, North Carolina, Florida State, Wake Forest
Play at Home: Virginia Tech, NC State, Boston College
Play on the Road: Maryland, Virginia, Miami

Tech is a young team, starting three freshman, a sophomore, and a junior, and only former walk-on Mario West is a senior. Their performance so far has been what you’d expect from a young team – up and down. They’ve played several clearly inferior opponents and killed them, racking up big margins of victory in games against Elon, Jackson St, Georgia St, and Centenary. However, their performance in tougher games and away from home has been less than stellar, losing to ostensibly worse opponents in Miami and Vanderbilt. Predictably with a young team, their turnover percentage is relatively high, at 23%.

Of course, when they play well, it’s clear that they have as much talent as almost any team in the country. Clinch, Crittenton, and Young are extremely good, and Smith does all the things you want from a tough undersized power forward – rebound, play defense, and make the limited shots you get. Lewis Clinch has been very good so far this year. The 6’3” sophomore guard is a quintessential scoring 2, in that he doesn’t do much besides shoot and score, but he does that extremely well. He’s only had two sub-50% shooting games, both 4-for-10 efforts against Purdue and Memphis in Maui. His EFG% is 2nd in the ACC and 11th in the country, and his 1.41 PPWS is just out of sight. Clinch has sensibly been the focus of the offense, taking 29% of the shots and scoring 33% of the points.

More often than not, its Javaris Crittenton who’s getting him the ball. Crittenton is one of two blue-chippers (along with Thaddeus Young) in a very good Georgia Tech recruiting class, and has had the starting point guard job from day 1. He’s assisted about a quarter of Tech’s baskets on the year, but has been turning the ball over a lot (8.1% of all possessions, with no fewer than 3 in any game) so his A/TO ratio is only 1.23. Still, he shoots well enough to keep defenses honest (.467 3pt%) and is a terrifically exciting playmaker. Thaddeus Young has struggled to fit in at times, and is probably taking a few too many shots, but there’s no denying his talent. He’s effective on the boards for a 3, particularly on the offensive end, and he hits his shots to the tune of a .563 EFG%. However, for someone as talented as he is on offense, he doesn’t get to the line at all – his 15.5 FT Rate is one of the lowest in the conference.

Jeremis Smith I’ve mentioned does exactly what they need from a glue guy – he rebounds on offense and defense, he forces some steals, he plays good defense, and he hits open shots – he’s scored 19.5% of the Jackets’ points on only 15.3% of the shots, and has a .667 EFG%. The position that has hurt the Jackets so far this year is center. Zach Peacock has done absolutely nothing but occasionally score, and even that has been less against the tougher opponents – against UCLA, Memphis, Penn St, Vanderbilt, and Miami he’s averaging just 6 points and 3 boards a game. Ra’Sean Dickey was very highly regarded coming in his freshman year, but has yet to develop any polish to his game. It’s never good after two years of regular minutes to say that he’s still raw, but he’s still raw. Unlike Peacock, he at least rebounds and blocks shots, but he’s maddeningly inconsistent – here are his point totals in ten games, in order: 4, 15, 6, 4, 14, 2, 0, 19, 2, 4.

Tech is a pretty deep team, with 9 players getting regular minutes. The only surprise of that group has been Mouhammad Faye, who’s earned a spot in the rotation by doing a lot of little things – he has decent numbers in assists, steals, rebounds, and blocks. The other three – Dickey, West, and Morrow – were expected to play a big role from the outset. All are the more experienced players – a senior and two juniors – and West and Morrow are supposed to provide defense and outside shooting, respectively. Mario West has been reliably doing his thing – 4.8 Stl% and still playing lockdown defense – plus he’s hit the few shots he’s taken – 61.7 EFG%, though he only takes 2.5 shots a game. Anthony Morrow, however, has struggled. He had a big breakout last year as a deep threat, but he’s only 12 of 38 from outside this year, leading to a 0.94 PPWS and a .424 EFG%. He doesn’t do much besides shoot, so he needs to be hitting to justify the 23.3% of shots that he takes.

All in all, Tech has the talent to go 12-4, and the youth to go 5-11. They also have a very difficult conference schedule, playing Duke, UNC, Clemson, and FSU twice and having to travel to Maryland. The win against Memphis helps, as would a win against Georgia this weekend, but the rest of the OOC schedule is complete fluff. With a win over the Bulldogs and an 8-8 conference record, Georgia Tech would have 20 wins and probably a 7-11 seed in the tournament. That's not where some people thought they would be in the pre-season, but realistically, it would be a great building block for next year, when they should be a top-10 or top-15 team all year long.

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