Monday, January 09, 2006

Yeah, Welcome to Atlanta, jack and hammer and vogues'

I gotta come clean, I thought BC would win fairly handily last night. I'll be the first to admit that I don't have very high expectations for the basketball team this year, and until the past couple of games there was nothing to change that for me (UIC, UGa, AFA) - but it looks like I've been selling Hewitt short. Back to back tremendous defensive performances in the last week and GT has now played the two best games of the year going into the bulk of the ACC season. Hewitt has really gotten through to the young guys about playing defense, rebounding and executing and the intensity is through the roof compared to early in the season.

Hey it's early, but ...

First place is always good, no matter what. Yes, GT hasn't won on the road yet, and yes it's really early in the ACC season ... but 2-0 is 2-0, and only 6 more conference wins needed for a .500 season in the ACC, something I thought was way out of reach as recently as last week.

On the bright side ...

  • We have more offensive balance with D'Andre Bell and Lewis Clinch seeing the court and playing well. One of the achilles heel's of the past couple of years is that we've never had more than one real perimeter scoring threat at any time (Elder last year, Morrow this year). That's slowly changing this season as Clinch hit a big shot yesterday and should be slowly rounding into form and Bell has flashed a nice stroke that has forced people to play him honestly. Notice that both of these guys (and Fredrick as well) aren't purely spot up shooters, they can create their own shot, Bell especially has a nice 15'-17' jumper that he's making at a pretty high rate. This allows for much better spacing and forces defenders away from the basket and has given Smith, Dickey and Tarver more room to work - especially on the offensive boards.

  • Speaking of offensive boards, this is a tremendous rebounding team. Jeremis is a manchild, but Morrow is no slouch from the wing and Dickey and Tarver have hit the glass hard as well. All in all, this might be the best rebounding Tech team I can remember seeing - one thing that killed me watching last year was playing strong defense for 25+ seconds, forcing a bad shot and watching us lose the board to a smaller player and giving up a layup. The last couple of games haven't seen any of that nonsense, and as a nice bonus it's the exact opposite. GT has owned the boards on both ends, and I don't see that changing much as the season goes along.

  • GT is also defending much better than before, really extending the pressure on the perimeter and swarming the ball once it goes into the post. Morrow and Fredrick didn't start the season playing very good defense, and we allowed far too many easy looks and dribble penetration. After spending much of the season below 100, GT has shot up to 46th in defensive efficiency according to Ken Pomeroy's rankings, and I expect that to climb up near the top 25 as the season goes along - just where you would expect a Paul Hewitt team to be. GT will never be a team that wins by burying people with a deluge of points, in Hewitt's system playing defense and rebounding are the magic keys. It's no surprise that as soon as the defensive play got better, the wins started to come as well.

  • Finally, it all comes back to intensity. Quite frankly, there were a few early games where guys went through the motions and didn't play as hard as they could have (UIC especially). That's the biggest difference between early December and now, Hewitt has lit a fire under this team and the young guys are really busting their tails. This shows up on the defensive end, on the boards and in the offensive execution and off the ball movement. There's an extra step that wasn't there earlier this year and right now if you're playing GT you know you are in for 40 minutes of a dogfight. I was a bit surprised and dissapointed by the effort earlier this year, something you don't expect from Hewitt's teams, but what we're seeing now is in-line with what GT fans are used to seeing. Anthony Morrow's postgame comments were telling, as he said "He [Paul Hewitt] breaks things down so much to let us know that no matter who we play, if we play them the right way, it shouldn't be a surprise that we beat them. Play with a high level of energy, play hard, box out and rebound." Not one mention of offense from the leading scorer on the team - just the way Hewitt wants it.

Things that still make me want to throw stuff ...

  • Our PG play continues to be heartburn inducing, and that's not going to get fixed this year. Fredrick is a nice player, but he's a scorer and just doesn't have the skillset or mindset to play PG effectively at the level required in the ACC. He still struggles with his shot selection, especially bad shots early in the shotclock without running offense, and he still struggles at the end of a possession finding a man as the clock runs down. He still turns the ball over way, way, way too much. He doesn't feed the post very effectively (Morrow is better, for example), and this leaves Smith and Dickey to get a large portion of their scoring on putbacks, often on Fredrick misses. On the bright side, Diaw is playing more and playing fairly well, so we should see Fredrick get a chance to play more as a scoring guard which is his natural position and one where he's a pretty good player. Next year, when he's not forced to run the point and can concentrate on scoring the ball, Zam is going to be a very valuable part for this team - but for right now I think last night's game is about as good as we are going to get out of the PG position, and that's not very good.

  • Ra'Sean Dickey just isn't "getting it" and he's a huge part of this team's future. Dickey has far too much talent for it to be wasted like it is right now, but he's obviously struggling with his intensity when he's on the court and Tarver is outplaying him on both ends of the court. I trust that Hewitt will get him back focused and playing as hard as he was earlier this year, and the end of last year, but until that happens we're missing a big chunk of our post offense. It's nice we won a big game with zero points from out best offensive frontcourt option, but that's not going to happen very often. Dickey's line last night (warning, not for the faint of heart):

    0-4(FG) 0-1(FT) 2(RB) 2(PF) 3(TO) 1(PTs) 14(Min)

  • The Swarm rushing the court. Come on, we were in the NC game just two years ago - we're supposed to be a program that wins games like this on a regular basis. Yes, I know Duke rushed the court when they beat VPISU, but ... they're Dukies and a few fries short of a Happy Meal - we don't have to act retarded because they did. I love our student fans, and The Swarm adds a ton to the AMC experience, but that wasn't one of their bright moments.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for making our win over y'all look so much better now. Beating BC and Vandy is a definite accomplishment.

9:03 PM  

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