Tuesday, January 31, 2006

(A)nother (C)rummy (C)all

Monday, January 30, 2006

Thaddeus Young Highlights

On the 28th, Thaddeus Young's Mitchell High team took on Bolivar High in a nationally televised matchup on ESPNU. Since many people don't have ESPNU, or didn't tune into the game - I put together a highlight package of some of Thad's best plays of the night so you could get a feel for him before he shows up on campus. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time a GT recruit has played on national tv while still in high school, outside of an all-star game like the Jordan Classic or the McDonald's All-American game. Thad's line for the night was a very workmanlike 19 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 7 steals and 5 blocks as his team won a close game (which he sealed down the stretch with terrific free throw shooting). He's good. Real good. I can't wait to see him in the white and gold next year.

Couple of Fixes

#1 - Blogger hates tables, I'm really sorry the last post is so screwed up. I'm going to fix that today (I haven't had a chance yet). I have no clue why Blogger is screwing up perfectly fine html, but it is.

#2 - Ramblin Red dropped a couple of comments where I had a detail wrong - Alade Aminu was upgraded to #79 in the final RSCI for last year and I have him as unranked. I also left off a Duke redshirt who should have been included.

#3 - I have a highlight video of Thad's appearance on ESPNU for those of you that missed it, it should be up tonight. It's my first real forray into serious video editing, so we'll see how it goes.

Friday, January 27, 2006

More Recruiting

I just wanted to take the recruiting breakdown from yesterday a bit further, and give a comparative example of just how well Hewitt has done recently. It is no secret that in the ACC everyone ends up comparing themselves to Duke and UNC, so I thought it would be interesting to see how the probable depth charts of those two schools match up to GT for next year just to prove a point. The first chart is listed by experience, and you can see that not only does GT have comparable talent, but we will have a decent experience advantage as well - GT will have 5 sophmores or juniors who were all top 100 recruits in their classes on the roster, and that can't be undervalued.

Reyshawn Terry (Sr.) #60 Mario West (Sr.) #UR
Wes Miller (Sr.) #UR
Quentin Thomas (Jr.) #55 DeMarcus Nelson (Jr.) #18 Ra'Sean Dickey (Jr.) #51
Jeremis Smith (Jr.) #74
Zam Fredrick II (Jr.) #85
Anthony Morrow (Jr.) #91
Tyler Hansbrough (So.) #4 Josh McRoberts (So.) #1 Lewis Clinch (So.) #25
Danny Green (So.) #15 Greg Paulus (So.) #13 D'Andre Bell (So.) #UR
Marcus Ginyard (So.) #29 Eric Boateng (So.) #39
Bobby Frasor (So.) #31 Martynas Pocius (So.) #53
Jamal Boykin (So.) #60
Brandan Wright (Fr.) #3 Gerald Henderson (Fr.) #18 Thaddeus Young (Fr.) #6
Wayne Ellington (Fr.) #4 Lance Thomas (Fr.) #20 Javaris Crittenton (Fr.) #14
Tywon Lawson (Fr.) #7 Jon Scheyer (Fr.) #30 Alade Aminu (Fr.) #UR
William Graves (Fr.) #87 Greg Zoubek (Fr.) #33

If you look at potential starting lineups - you get this, which is more interesting. GT might not be quite as talented as Duke and UNC, but it's darn close - and our team will again be much more experienced out of the gate. It's been a while since anyone in the ACC matched up this well down the roster with Duke and UNC (Maryland in '01-02, Wake in '04-'05, but neither kept the recruiting at those levels).

Point Guard
Tywon Lawson (Fr.) #7 Greg Paulus (So.) #18 Javaris Crittenton (Fr.) #14
Shooting Guard
Wayne Ellington (Fr.) #4 Gerald Henderson (Fr.) #18 Anthony Morrow (Jr.) #91
Small Forward
Reyshawn Terry (Sr.) #60 DeMarcus Nelson (Jr.) #18 Thaddeus Young (Fr.) #6
Power Forward
Brandan Wright (Fr.) #3 Josh McRoberts (So.) #1 Jeremis Smith (Jr.) #74
Tyler Hansbrough (So.) #4 Eric Boateng (So.) #39 Ra'Sean Dickey (Jr.) #51
6th Man
Danny Green (So.) #15 Martynas Pocious (So.) #53 Lewis Clinch (So.) #25

I don't think GT will be the favorite next year, but if UNC's class struggles a bit out of the gate (even the Fab 5 didn't blow people's doors off - they were a #6 seed), Duke and GT will be right there at their heels along with NCSU. These next couple of GT teams are going to be very deep and very good, Hewitt is doing a heck of a job building a program for the long term, not just for a run every couple of years. Obviously the '07-'08 season depends a lot on who goes pro and who doesn't, but GT is very possibly the ACC favorite entering that season - for the first time since ... heck, I don't really know.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

A Look Back (and how it applies to this team)

Last night's loss to Maryland continued Tech's struggles in the ACC schedule, dropping this team to 2-4 in the conference, and now only 2-2 at home in ACC play. Good news is on the way today though, with the expected commitment of 6'9" PF Gani Lawal, one of the top 15 players in the '07 class. If everything goes as expected Lawal joins Thaddeus Young and Javaris Crittenton as the third top 15 player to commit to GT in the next two classes.

What I think will help is to take a peek back at how recruiting has gone since Hewitt's arrival in Atlanta, and take a long term overview of the direction the program - because we get so lost in the nitty gritty of each individual game we forget sometimes that the games are just part of the overall story of each program, and this is more true in basketball than any other sport. Obviously, the goal is to win every game - but that's not going to happen, and during tough stretches like the recent one it becomes very difficult to see the forest for the trees (wow, that sounds like coachspeak. ouch)

For reference purposes - RSCI refers to the Recruiting Services Consensus Index, a composite of all the major hoops recruiting service rankes for each season. I find it to be the most accurate picture of how a player was regarded coming out of high school. #UR means that player wasn't in the top 100 of the RSCI for his class, though he might have been top 100 in any of the various services.

High School class of '01 - Hewitt's first class at Tech, this class is very similar to the '04 class in that it was deep with solid college talent, but devoid of any future NBA players (though the '04 class still has a chance on that part). This class built the foundation for the Final Four run in '03-'04 - notably this team struggled mightily in the '01-'02 season and would have been far worse if Tony Akins hadn't been around to add some experienced leadership and a steadying hand to the freshman. Sounds a lot like this season - more on that later.

  • Ed Nelson (RSCI #49) - Nelson was a banger, and was ACC rookie of the year in '01-'02. He started 28 games a freshman, but only 12 as a sophmore and ended up coming off the bench to end the season. In the offseason that year, Nelson transferred to UConn and is currently playing out his last year of eligibility as a minor role player for the Huskies.

  • Anthony Vasser (RSCI #72) - Changed his name to Anthony McHenry (yes, it's confusing) and never was the master of any one skillset at GT - but skilled at almost everything. He was the perfect "glue" guy for Hewitt's teams, and an integral part of the Final Four squad. His defense, rebounding and ball handling were extremely valuable during his tenure at Tech.

  • Isma'il Muhammad (RSCI #74) - Best dunker in college basketball over his career, including probably the best dunk in GT history (the facial where he leaped over Engin Atsur). Overall, probably a slight dissapointment, simply because he never developed the jumpshot that would have made him a devastating offensive player. Tremendous defender and rebounder who thrived in Hewitt's pressure man-to-man system, and another key cog in the Final Four run.

  • B.J Elder (RSCI #97) - Streaky shooter who led the team in scoring during the Final Four season. Unfortunately was injured during most of the NCAA tournament and parts of his senior season, and was unable to truly shine as he probably would have (yes, I watched his hamstring give out live at Allen Field House - worst moment of the season last year). Elder was a scorer, with the ability to blow up at any moment, including one memorable shootout with Rashad McCants where the two of them traded 3's for basically the entire second half. Another integral component to the Final Four team.

  • Michael Southall (RSCI #UR) - Never made it to campus for off court issues.

  • Luke Schenscher (RSCI #UR) - Replaced Southall as the big man for the '01 class, and changed himself over his career from a skinny kid with no place in D-1 basketball to a starter on a team in the national championship game. Underated defender who was excellent in his positioning and footwork and bothered people with his length, as well as polishing his offensive game to the point where he was a decent option on that end as well. Overall, probably the player that improved the most over his career at Tech in my memory, and another key contributor to the Final Four season. Actually still has a shot at playing in the NBA, which is an enormous accomplishment considering where he was when he started at Tech. Still has, and always will have a posse.

High School Class of '02 - This was Hewitt's first class to include true "star" quality players, and has two current NBA players, one of which was the #4 overall pick in the NBA draft. This class put Hewitt on the map as a truly dangerous recruiter to be up against, and the one where he began to show that GT was going to be in the market for the top talent in the country. GT went to the N.I.T in '02-'03, but built the foundation for the Final Four the next season.

  • Chris Bosh (RSCI #5) - Bosh was a stud from the moment he first started practice, and his accomplishments as a freshman included ACC Rookie of the Year, leading the ACC in FG% and being named 2nd Team All-ACC while putting up the silly line of 18 points, 9+ rebounds and almost 3 blocks per game. Bosh declared for the NBA Draft after his freshman season and was the #4 overall pick, and then proceeded to pick up right where he left off at Tech and is currently considered the best young big man in the NBA and will be an All-Star this season. No impact on the Final Four team because he declared before that season, but I'm firmly convinced we win the national championship if he had stayed for one more year.

  • Jarrett Jack (RSCI #46) - Best player at GT since Lethal Weapon 3, and the heart and soul of two of the best GT teams in the past 15 years. Jack was the perfect PG for Hewitt, an extension of the coach on the court with guts, tremendous intensity and a killer instinct you can't teach. Jarrett Jack was the best player on the court for almost every game he played over the final two years of his career after struggling a bit his freshman season, and GT doesn't sniff the NCAA tournament, let alone a Final Four, without him.

  • Theodis Tarver (RSCI #UR) - Solid role player and post defender throughout his career, but has never been a major component to a season. Had little impact on the Final Four team, and is the lone senior voice of experience on the current Jacket squad. Started a couple of games in the N.I.T his freshman season, and started again this year - he has provided steady play and while will never be a star has been a valuable addition to the program.

  • Mario West (RSCI #UR) - Walked on at GT in '02, but redshirted the entire season. Later earned a scholarship with his intense defense and athleticism, should be a major contributor to the '05-'06 and '06-'07 teams if he can stay healthy. Hewitt stole one with West, walk-ons aren't supposed to be as good as he's become.

High School Class of '03 -
Here's where the 5/8 rule finally caught up with Hewitt, and only one player was added. This hole is further compounded because that player was a transfer with only two seasons of eligibility, and thus Tech has nobody left on the roster from this class - really shows with the youth and inexperience this year. Of course, the '03-'04 team went to the NCAA Championship game, so nobody can complain much. One of only two Tech teams to make a Final Four, and really put Tech basketball back on the map after a few years of wandering the wilderness a bit. If Jarrett Jack had stayed for four years, this team would be very comparable to the '01 team with Jack playing the role of Akins as the senior leader and point guard. If anything, that '02 class was too good and left a couple of holes with the early departures of Bosh and Jack.

  • Will Bynum (RSCI #51 - '01) - Hooboy, was he worth not having experience on this team. Bynum transfered from Arizona and made three seperate game winning shots in the NCAA tournament, including a ridiculous under the basket move against Oklahoma State in the Final Four. Explosive scorer and leaper, but a bit erratic. Accepting transfers is a bit of a risky proposal at times, but Bynum was certainly a huge success story in his time in the white and gold.

High School Class of '04 -
With a senior laden squad coming into the '04 season, Hewitt saw the writing on the wall as the program was going to have to pay the debt of the 5/8 rule and accepting a two year transfer by rebuilding a large portion of the team for the '05-'06 season. This class is very similar to the '01 class in that it is deep in quality college players but is probably lacking that true NBA talent star who can make a team special. 4 different players from the '04 class are already starting for Tech, and will be major contributors in whatever happens in the next two seasons.

  • Ra'Sean Dickey (RSCI #51) - Talented center who has struggled with his effort level and intensity on the defensive end at times, but is the offensive force in the post Tech hasn't had since Jason Collier, along with being a tremendous rebounder. Dickey has the potential to be one of the better post players in the NCAA's over his final two seasons, provided that Hewitt can coax and cajole the effort out of him.

  • Jeremis Smith (RSCI #74) - Relentless brute around the basket, the kind of power forward willing to do all the dirty work that is required to make teams truly great. Smith will never be a true "star" player in his own right, but he's an extremely valuable component who allows guys around him to play better. Unstoppable on the glass, and a hard nosed defender with a tremendous work ethic. Everyone loves Jeremis, there's a reason why.

  • Zam Fredrick II (RSCI #85) - High school record holder in South Carolina for scoring, but has struggled a bit at Tech as he's forced to play out of position at the PG spot for the time being. Fredrick will probably not be a starter next year, but is going to be one of the first guys off the bench to back up both guard spots and will be a key contributer to any sort of success GT has in '06-'07 or '07-'08.

  • Anthony Morrow (RSCI #91) - Mr. Basketball in North Carolina, but played in a small independant school in Charlotte and there were some questions around his ability to be an ACC caliber player. Uh, consider those questions answered. Morrow is a pure scorer with a tremendous stroke from deep who is already leading the ACC in 3pt % and scoring 17.5ppg as a sophmore. Morrow is almost the perfect college shooting guard, a big guy who can exploit the three point line, but isn't quite athletic enough to leap to the NBA right away. Don't look now, but with 475 career points already - Morrow has a slim, but outside shot at Rich Yunkus' career scoring record of 2,232.

High School Class of '05 - This class is really somewhat of the outlier so far, as Hewitt seemed to want to continue to bring in solid depth for the program as well as a "star" player - obviously the book is still out on what will become of everyone from this year, but the depth part is certainly looking to be here. One player from this class is already starting for Tech, and another is a key contributor off the bench. The huge loss here was that with Austin Jackson taking the Yankees money and not playing for Tech, GT was left without a true PG for the first time in Hewitt's tenure. Hewitt has actually only brought one PG to campus in his entire time at Tech, and that is a glaring weakness this season.

  • Lewis Clinch (RSCI #25) - Clinch is the "star" player for this class, and a very highly regarded scorer from south Georgia. One of the criticism's of past GT teams has been the dearth of capable perimeter scorers, and with Morrow, Clinch and Fredrick in the backcourt Hewitt has obviously tried to . Clinch has battled injuries his freshman season and is just now slowly rounding into form, but he's already shown the ability to score in bunches and why he was such a desired recruit.

  • Alade Aminu (RSCI #UR) - Aminu is a raw, athletic center who is going to be a Schenscher style project, but has already shown far more base ability than Schenscher had. If he works as hard, and plays with the intensity he's already shown in game situations, he has a chance to be a very solid player for Tech in the future. Aminu has been the pleasent surprise of the season so far, I expected very little out of him immediately with as little experience as he has had in his life, but you can't teach heigth and athleticism and he both in spades. I have a feeling that in the '08-'09 season we'll be talking about what a steal he was.

  • Austin Jackson (RSCI #UR) - The PG that never made it campus. Reason #7984613 to hate the Damn Yankees.

  • D'Andre Bell (RSCI - #UR) - Lightly rated wing, mostly because of injuries in high school. Athletic, tough-nosed defender with a solid midrange game already at this stage of his freshman season. Sort of a better shooting, less dunking version of Muhammad and starting as a true freshman - though he probably will be coming off the bench next season. Bell is a kid who probably flew farther under the radar than he should have, and is going to be a valuable component for Tech.

  • Paco Diaw (RSCI - #UR) - He hasn't been bad, at all - and what's amazing about this class is that with so many "diamond in the rough" players you expect one or two to fail to pan out, but all of them seem to be capable players. Diaw is still very raw, and offensively limited, but he plays with a lot of intensity on the defensive end, handles the ball fairly well and doesn't make too many killer mistakes - basically everything you can ask for out of a reserve guard, especially as a freshman.

High School Class of '06 - This is it, the year Hewitt has been building to. The foundation is in place from the '04 and '05 classes, similar to the way it was from the '00 and '01 classes - and the true "star" level players are going to be coming to Atlanta. Unlike the '02 class though, there isn't the 5/8 rule holding Tech down, and Hewitt has tried to sneak a couple more foundation pieces as well. Obviously these kids are still high school seniors and nobody knows how it's going to work out yet, but I expect this team to be a dangerous squad in the ACC and to make some noise in the NCAA tournament. Not even the '89 class with Kenny Anderson, Malcom Mackey and Darryl Barnes had multiple McDonald's All-Americans (Anderson and Mackey didn't play in the game though Anderson was the #1 ranked high school player, only Barnes did) - it's almost a lock that Thad Young will be in the game, and very likely Crittenton will be as well.

  • Thaddeus Young (RSCI #6) - This is the one. Roy Williams had him as UNC's #1 target, and he is regarded by many as having the potential to be the best college player of the entire class. Smart, hard working and coachable he's a SF with the complete NBA game and should have an immediate impact on Tech's team. Expecting anyone to match what Kenny Anderson, Stephon Marbury or Chris Bosh did as freshman is ridiculous, but if anyone can do it - Thad Young can, he's that good. Potential ACC Rookie of the Year and All-ACC caliber player for the '06-'07 season, and if he stays two years then certainly for '07-'08. It would take a gigantic bust for Thad to not be a superstar at Tech.

  • Javaris Crittenton (RSCI #14) - And here's the point guard Tech has needed as well. Crittenton is big, strong, long and quick off the dribble - everything Hewitt looks for in his PG's. He has the ability to create and score as well, a huge component that is lacking from the current team. Thaddeus Young is the best player in this class, but like Bosh and Jack - Critty might be the one with the most longterm impact at GT. While it's a possibility he's one and done, it's more likely he sticks around a couple of seasons on the flats.

  • Zach Peacock (RSCI #UR) - Peacock is going to be a power forward at the college level, though he still has to finish filling out his body. He has a nice midrange game, can put the ball on the floor a bit and should grow into a quality offensive option. GT has never had the depth on the interior that Hewitt is building right now with Dickey, Smith, Aminu, Peacock and Sheehan all here for at least two seasons together. That's a lot of heigth and length at a time when college basketball seems to be getting smaller each season.

  • Brad Sheehan (RSCI #UR) - Sheehan is the center compliment to Peacock, another kid who needs to fill out his frame fully, but is athletic and capable of stepping out to hit the 15-17' jumper on occasion as well. More length, more quality depth in the post. Getting minutes in GT's frontcourt might be one of the toughest tasks in America for the next couple of seasons.

High School Class of '07 - I know that many folks are looking to the '06-'07 season with the Final Four in Atlanta, but I'm kind of the feeling that it might be more like a slightly better '02-'03 team, with an NCAA bid instead of the NIT - maybe a Sweet 16 run. '07-'08 though and all bets are off. I'm just not confident enough to predict that Crittenton can take a team to a Final Four as a true freshman PG, no matter how good he is (and he's good). We'll probably lose Thad Young to the NBA after one season like Chris Bosh, but this time his replacement will already be on campus to accompany a scary deep and experienced squad. The '07-'08 team will be one of the few early favorites for the national championship, barring unexpected injuries, departures or complete flameouts.

  • Gani Lawal (Scout.com #14) - When he commits today (if he does), Lawal will be yet another super long and athletic frontcourt player to add to what is going to be a ridiculous post situation for Tech. Lawal is a phenomal rebounder and really similar game to Chris Bosh overall - a bit thin, but with tremendous athletecism and ability to handle the ball outside of the painted area. He was Kentucky's #1 target this year, the kid can really, really play.

  • Maurice Miller (#UR) - Miller is a Memphis PG who will become Hewitt's #1 target the moment Lawal commits, he is the protection plan for Crittenton leaving early. Nobody wants to get caught again like with the Jack situation, and Miller is a heck of a player in his own right. No idea if GT gets him (it'll probably come down to GT v. Memphis), but that's the current target at the moment.

Overall, looking at the past classes and what we having coming in - Hewitt has taken a broad view of building a program, and has resisted the urges for a "quick fix" by depending on JUCO or transfer players to immediately make the team better. Yes, we've taken our lumps for it - especially in '02-'03 and now in '05-06, but with one Final Four already and what is shaping up to be the deepest and most talented GT teams ever in the next two seasons, I think Tech basketball is in the right hands and headed in the right direction. I know it's frustrating to watch games like the U.I.C and Clemson debacles this year, but it's part of the process and while I couldn't take it if it appeared the program was just meandering through the wilderness with no clear path, looking at the recruiting I can see exactly what Hewitt is trying to do and it gives me confidence that the last two seasons are more like what I can expect than the current one. Keep your seat on the bandwagon, there might not be room to get back on in '06-'07 and '07-'08 if you get off now.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


J.J Redick has shot .859 on the season from the FT line, and he's the best FT shooter by percentage in NCAA history. If he had shot 45 FT's tonight against us, he would have made approximately 39 - a ridiculous amount.

Of course, Maryland AS A TEAM is evidently superior to Redick as they shot an insane .911 from the line and hit 41 of 45. Full props to Maryland for one of the best shooting exhibitions I have ever seen, from any team on any level. If you shoot that % on a large number of FT's, it's basically impossible for any team to come back on you, or go on long runs - and it's a great way to steal a win on the road. Insane.

(Nik Caner-Medley is heading to the line to drain 2 more)

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Mike Jones, WHO?! Mike Jones

Yeah, the whole Mike Jones joke is probably played out, but it's still funny (or I'm just really lame - which is entirely possible, we might need Ian to make a ruling on this). Anyways, in case you've been under a rock for the past day and missed the big ACC news, Maryland's Chris McCray was ruled ineligible for the rest of the season for academic reasons and in his place as the likely starter for the Terps is former McDonald's All-American Mike Jones, who has had an up and down couple of years in College Park. McCray is a big loss for the turtles, as he was their leading scorer, best perimeter defender and a terrific free throw shooter who iced a number of games down the stretch for them. Jones is an explosive athlete with a ton of range on his jumper and a world of talent, but so far he hasn't been able to put it together into actually being a good basketball player, we'll see what he can do now.

Looking at Wednesday's matchups, it's easy to forget that Maryland has really struggled on the road in the past couple of seasons, winning only 5 league road games in the past 3 years and 2 of those were against horrible UVa teams. Maryland has won only 1 of the last 5 in Atlanta, and that was in their 2002 national championship season. With that in mind, Maryland is a more talented and "better" team than GT this year - but there are some interesting individual matchups.

Point Guard - Zam Fredrick II vs. D.J Strawberry

Straw isn't a true PG, and he isn't a "great" player by any stretch of the imagination, but he's better right now than Zam is. Zam is really struggling with his ballhandling, and his offensive game in general is in the dumps, with his shooting percentage down to 38% overall and only 28% from 3. Strawberry is a tenacious defender and has a long reach combined with solid athleticism, a sure combination for creating turnovers in this GT backcourt. Don't expect either of these players to be the "star" of the game, but if Zam can play Strawberry to a draw that will have a huge positive impact for the Jackets.

Shooting Guard - Anthony Morrow vs. Mike Jones

Jones is some kind of streaky, and hopefully it's the bad streaky on Wednesday night (which seems to be the more common version). Morrow has been a model of consistency for Tech this year, averaging 17.5 ppg in conference contests and keeping up his torrid 3 point shooting. Right now, he's a better player than Mike Jones has ever been - but there's no telling which night the 8-11 (4-5 from 3) version of Jones shows up like he did against Wake. Morrow is long and a decent defender, he'll have to make sure he stays out on Jones and doesn't let him get hot from 5' behind the arc like he's been known to do in his career. On the other side, without McCray to bother Morrow, I fully expect him to chip in his 17-20 points as normal, he's just too good for Maryland to shut down.

Small Forward - D'Andre Bell vs. Nik Caner-Medley

This is probably the most intruiging matchup on the floor, partly because the players are similar in style but world's apart in experience. Bell has a nice little midrange offensive game, handles the ball a fair amount in the halfcourt and is more of a defensive specialist, while Caner-Medley has the same midrange game with a bit better stroke from deep and more of a scorer's mentality. It will be interesting to see how well Bell does defensively on him, and how much Caner-Medley tries to force things with McCray out. Caner-Medley has been plagued by consistency problems throughout his career, and has really struggled a bit so far in his senior campaign - but if anyone from UM has to really step up now, he's the one.

Power Forward - Jeremis Smith vs. Ekene Ibekwe

Smith continued his assault on the ACC rebounding lead with 12 more rebounds against Clemson, raising his average to 9.0 per game and keeping him at #2 in the conference on the glass. Combined with 14.5 points per game in conference play and a motor that never stops, he's been Tech's best player so far this year and one of the best power forwards in the entire conference. Ibekwe is a long, limber forward with great shotblocking skills and will be interesting to watch him and Jeremis go at it all night long. Smith has the size and strength advantage, Ibekwe is longer and probably a bit more athletic - Smith should be able to seal Ibekwe on the blocks and score, but Ibekwe's weak side help and shotblocking will be something everyone on the Tech offense will have to deal with.

Center - Ra'Sean Dickey vs. James Gist

If you look at Dickey's stat line for the season (10.5ppg, 6.5rpg, 57.5% FG%) you'd think he was having a pretty nice season for a sophmore center just getting his legs under him - and that's probably the truth. The problem has been that he could be so much more, the talent is obviously there, but the effort is questionable at times and the defensive intensity is almost non-existent. Gist is in a similar position, a sophmore just growing into his starting role. Dickey has a large size advantage, is a much better rebounder and really is a "better" player when he puts full effort into it, but Gist is certainly the better defender and is an excellent shot blocker to compliment Ibekwe. When both are on the court, Tech is going to have to be aware of their presence at all times on the offensive end.

Bench - Lewis Clinch, Alade Aminu, Mario West and Theodis Tarver vs. Travis Garrison, Sterling Ledbetter and Will Bowers

Clinch looked like he was really rounding into form before the Clemson game, where he was basically non-existent. Ugh, freshman. Maryland's bench is pretty thin, but Garrison is a very good player and started 30 games last year for the Terps. He's one of the best offensive post options that Gary Williams has, and expect him to see a large number of minutes Wednesday. Ledbetter and Powers are both role players, Ledbetter being a solid ball handler at the guard spots and Bowers a banger under the basket, but neither should have a huge impact on the game. The "X-Factor", if you will, in the bench matchup is Mario West's health and how much time he'll see. If West plays 20 minutes or more and is mostly recovered, then that's a huge boost for Tech as he's by far the best on-the-ball defender on the roster and a solid ball handler as well.

Maryland comes into this game ranked in the top 25, but with turmoil on the roster with McCray's suspension and a history of recent struggles in Alexander Memorial. Tech is riding a 3 game losing streak, including some truly horrific play in the first half against Wake and then the second half against Clemson, you know Hewitt will have the young guys as fired up as he can for a chance to break the streak at home and get back to .500 in conference play. Maryland has the edge in experience, especially in the backcourt, but that is severely dulled with McCray's absense. GT probably has the edge in the starting frontcourt as long as Dickey applies himself, and in overall depth now that West has returned to action. I'm a bit torn on this game, simply because Maryland is a poor defensive team, hasn't played well on the road in a couple of seasons and Tech is bound to put two good halves sooner or later after yo-yo'ing around the past 3 games. I think GT pulls the mild upset at home, but this could easily be a game that Maryland pulls out if they rally around the "fallen comrade" situation and execute well.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Oh well

I just wanted to take the recruiting breakdown from yesterday a bit further, and give a comparative example of just how well Hewitt has done recently. It is no secret that in the ACC everyone ends up comparing themselves to Duke and UNC, so I thought it would be interesting to see how the probable depth charts of those two schools match up to GT for next year just to prove a point. The first chart is listed by experience, and you can see that not only does GT have comparable talent, but we will have a decent experience advantage as well - GT will have 5 sophmores or juniors who were all top 100 recruits in their classes on the roster, and that can't be undervalued.

Reyshawn Terry (Sr.) #60 Mario West (Sr.) #UR
Wes Miller (Sr.) #UR
Quentin Thomas (Jr.) #55 DeMarcus Nelson (Jr.) #18 Ra'Sean Dickey (Jr.) #51
Jeremis Smith (Jr.) #74
Zam Fredrick II (Jr.) #85
Anthony Morrow (Jr.) #91
Tyler Hansbrough (So.) #4 Josh McRoberts (So.) #1 Lewis Clinch (So.) #25
Danny Green (So.) #15 Greg Paulus (So.) #13 D'Andre Bell (So.) #UR
Marcus Ginyard (So.) #29 Eric Boateng (So.) #39
Bobby Frasor (So.) #31 Martynas Pocius (So.) #53
Jamal Boykin (So.) #60
Brandan Wright (Fr.) #3 Gerald Henderson (Fr.) #18 Thaddeus Young (Fr.) #6
Wayne Ellington (Fr.) #4 Lance Thomas (Fr.) #20 Javaris Crittenton (Fr.) #14
Tywon Lawson (Fr.) #7 Jon Scheyer (Fr.) #30 Alade Aminu (Fr.) #UR
William Graves (Fr.) #87 Greg Zoubek (Fr.) #33

If you look at potential starting lineups - you get this, which is more interesting. GT might not be quite as talented as Duke and UNC, but it's darn close - and our team will again be much more experienced out of the gate. It's been a while since anyone in the ACC matched up this well down the roster with Duke and UNC (Maryland in '01-02, Wake in '04-'05, but neither kept the recruiting at those levels).

Point Guard
Tywon Lawson (Fr.) #7 Greg Paulus (So.) #18 Javaris Crittenton (Fr.) #14
Shooting Guard
Wayne Ellington (Fr.) #4 Gerald Henderson (Fr.) #18 Anthony Morrow (Jr.) #91
Small Forward
Reyshawn Terry (Sr.)#60
DeMarcus Nelson (Jr.)#18
Thaddeus Young (Fr.)#6
Power Forward
Brandan Wright (Fr.)#3
Josh McRoberts (So.)#1
Jeremis Smith (Jr.)#74
Tyler Hansbrough (So.)#4
Eric Boateng (So.)#39
Ra'Sean Dickey (Jr.)#51
6th Man
Danny Green (So.)#15
Martynas Pocious (So.)#53
Lewis Clinch (So.)#25

I don't think GT will be the favorite next year, but if UNC's class struggles a bit out of the gate (even the Fab 5 didn't blow people's doors off - they were a #6 seed), Duke and GT will be right there at their heels along with NCSU. These next couple of GT teams are going to be very deep and very good, Hewitt is doing a heck of a job building a program for the long term, not just for a run every couple of years. Obviously the '07-'08 season depends a lot on who goes pro and who doesn't, but GT is very possibly the ACC favorite entering that season - for the first time since ... heck, I don't really know.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Thad Young

According to The Hive, Thaddeus Young will be in attendance for the game tommorow. Unfortunately, he can't suit up until next year - but it's glad to see he's already forming a bond with the team and with Coach Hewitt. Hopefully Thad can see a GT win and he continues to enjoy his time in Atlanta - we're all looking forward to having him in white and gold.

Sometimes you go a bit too far ...

Earlier this week, during the Wake Forest game, I really piled onto Ra'Sean Dickey and Zam Fredrick for listless performances and a lack of effort - especially on the defensive end of the court. While I still feel a lot of that criticism was correct (especially in that game), I'm also aware of the fact that Dickey in particular has taken a lot of flack for his performance this year, and his apparent lack of effort in general, and not all of it is warranted.

If you asked basketball coaches which single quantifiable basketball skill was more about hustle and effort than any other, they wouldn't all respond "rebounding". You gotta want every ball, and chase them relentlessly to be an excellent rebounder. Heck, look at Jeremis Smith - he's the epitome of a "great" rebounder with his unquestionable desire.

Something surprising pops up when you look at the comparative numbers between Dickey and Smith though ... they are almost identical. But wait, this can't be true, Dickey doesn't exert himself!

ORb %DRb %
Ra'Sean Dickey 11.0 20.1
Jeremis Smith 12.1 20.1

Dickey grabs almost exactly the same percentage of rebounds per opportunity while he is in the game as Smith does! Now, this isn't to say he is truly exerting himself to his full potential, he's bigger and longer than Smith and should be outrebounding him - but it also shows that he isn't quite the lazy oaf that I and others have been portraying him as. Does he have lapses on the defensive end? Yes, he most assuredly does. Does he have games where he seems to be going through the motions? Yes, again. But it's also possible that he's just not a hugely emotive person and has that easy athleticism that never shows up quite the same way as someone like Jeremis does.

Dickey has the potential to be a heck of a player, and there's times when he already is one. He's played well this year if you take it as a whole, and his rebounding certainly has been a bright spot. Maybe we should all lay off him just a bit, and myself as the first one on that list.

Les Tigres

Clemson rolls into the AMC tommorow at noon, with a lot on the line for both teams. Clemson is coming off a loss in which they only scored 38 points at Miami, and GT is still licking the wounds from a beatdown in Winston-Salem. Clemson is 2-3 in the ACC, GT is 2-2 and both need this win to keep in the hunt for a middle of the pack ACC finish and a shot at the Big Dance. GT won both matchups last year, and has won the past 3 in Alexander Memorial, and the past 5 games overall in the series.

Interesting notes about Clemson (as normal, all stats from the excellent database at kenpom.com):
  • Clemson is a horrid, horrid offensive team (#150 in the country) but has actually played very well on the defensive end (#28 in the country). This has the potential to be a really ugly game, with the #150 and #120 (GT) offensive teams in the country trading turnovers and bricks. I have no illusions about our struggling offense being able to put up huge numbers against Clemson, so it's going to be up to a combination of our defensive intensity and their struggling offense if GT is going to pull out a win.

  • Clemson is a strong team on the glass, especially on the offensive glass - both Akinbala and K.C Rivers are having strong rebounding seasons. To counter this, GT is an even stronger rebounding team and has a whopping 40% offensive rebounding percentage (#15 nationally) on the season. It could be a war under the hoop with a bunch of guys looking for boards, two physical teams and some ugly offense. Hide the women and children.

  • Frighteningly for Tiger fans, they are probably the worst shooting team in any major conference in the country. #326 in 3 point shooting and #331 in free throw shooting - out of 334 total teams. Ouch. GT is marginally better in both categories, coming in at #83 from 3 and an atrocious #277 from the free throw line. With as physical as this game should be, the two teams might combine to miss 30 free throws.

This game is at home, Clemson is really struggling right now and doesn't have anyone that can score on the level of Anthony Morrow or Lewis Clinch. As long as the Yellow Jackets don't turn the ball over at levels equivalent to the first half of the Wake game, this is a matchup that GT should win - but with this team, in this season, taking anything for granted is foolish.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Looking and searching for something good to say ...

Along with Morrow's 29 and Clinch's continued production now that he's healthy - two of the freshmen actually played quite well in the second half, Alade Aminu and D'Andre Bell. Bell actually may have earned himself more playing time as the teams PG, he did a nice job handling the ball (the only member of the backcourt that did). Aminu showed good hustle, solid defensive instincts and terrific athletecism. He still is extremely raw and has a long way to go, but he's got the makings of a very solid bigman.

Aminu's line for the night was 4 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and most importantly - 0 turnovers. He played 16 solid minutes. Of course, all anyone that reads this blog really cares about is, "Do you have the video of his dunk?!?!?!??!1111!!" - and we try to oblige. Click HERE and remember you need the DiVX codec to watch it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

To Brighten Your Mood

There's ugly, and then there's quitting

(The game wasn't over when I posted this - only the middle of the second half, and despite Morrow's ridiculously hot end to the game not much changed. This team's effort level is the biggest problem, and it's key players who are feeding it.)

Tonight is probably the worst basketball game I've ever seen a Paul Hewitt team play. We've taken some beatings, but not one where the team completely quit. Jeremis Smith and Lewis Clinch have played very hard, but everyone else might as well have not even made the trip.

Special shout-outs to these two though, for terrible performances - and not just terrible play, but terrible effort. Failing to play well is one thing, failing to even try hard is shameful.

Ra'Sean Dickey -

You are Jeff Graves or Makthar N'Diaye - a big, talented, lazy oaf who only exerts himself every other game and even then only on the offensive end. If you don't get a basket within the first two minutes of stepping onto the court, you begin to pout and then just quit even pretending to play. Most people would be emberassed to have the opposing center beat them down the court for a dunk, but not you - you're more than willing to allow it to happen several more times in the same game. You have ridiculously good hands, and yet often just fumble the ball around like you don't value it at all. Luke Schenscher didn't have 1/4 of the talent you do, but he was 4 times the player - because he gave his very best effort every time he put a sneaker on the floor.

This team will not go anywhere unless you play better, your failure to exert yourself is tearing down the hardwork of every other guy who puts on that uniform. Here's to hoping that Jeremis Smith and Anthony Morrow lay into your ass every day to hustle like you should, and you learn to play to your ridiculous talent level, because right now you are killing this team every time you come onto the floor.

Zam Fredrick II -

You know what, I understand being forced to transition into a new role is very difficult to do at the college level - but you can't lean on the PG excuse for your pathetic effort on the defensive end and your total lack of concentration performing the very simple task of dribbling the basketball. The continual number of careless palming and traveling calls is inexcusable, and is a sympton of poor effort and concentration, not from any difficulty in figuring out your role.

About the only thing you did right tonight was to only launch one closely guarded 3 early in the shot clock, as opposed to the two or three you are normally good for each game. Oh, and if isn't too much to ask - play just a tad of defense - I'll even ask pretty please with cherries on top.

There, I got that out of my system. No matter what happens after this point (down 18 with 7:14 left), I'm still cheering for the Jackets every time they take the court - I don't care if each game was a 40 point blowout, as long as people play hard. There's a ton of us without nearly enough athletic ability to compete at the Division 1 level, but we're proud of the Institute and would kill ourselves to have the chance to play wearing the school colors. That's why it's so hard to watch people take for granted being on the court, and go through the motions with this complete lack of effort.

ACC "experience" on the court

RamblinRed, the resident hoops guru over at The Hive put together an interesting comparison of the percentage of total minutes played by each class for each team in the ACC through today - and there's some very interesting information if you see it broken down like this. First, the graph:

Quick obversations that really stand out to me - beyond the "holy crap GT is young" one that jumps off the page at you.
  1. Duke has gotten absolutely nothing out of their current junior class, and Wake out of their current sophmore class. Even with Jarrett Jack and Chris Bosh both early entry to the NBA draft, GT still at least gets SOMETHING out of that class. It's amazing that two schools with their basketball traditions would take a donut on an entire recruiting class.

  2. Gary Williams has sleep walked (or partied) through recruiting season for the past couple of years. No production at all from the '04 and '05 recruiting classes.

  3. Coach K sleep walked (or flirted with NBA teams) through both the '03 and '04 recruiting seasons - 3.4% of total MPG combined between those two classes. Ouch. (Shaun Livingston and Luol Deng to the NBA hurt - but that's basically it for those two years)

  4. Almost half of the ACC (5 out of 12) get less than 10 MPG from their '04 classes (current sophmores). Last year was a terrible year for ACC recruiting overall. The league as a whole averages under 10% of total MPG from sophmores.

  5. UNC is very young, but still gets almost 3 times the minutes from upperclass players than GT gets. It's impossible to understate how young and inexperienced this Yellow Jacket team is.

  6. VT is going to have by far the most experienced team in the league next year.

  7. UNC's freshman are really good, and they play a ton - far more than any team in the league. Expect that to continue next year, with an even better class incoming.

  8. Florida State and NCSU have solid teams returning next year as well, despite good senior contributions - there's a lot of depth already on their teams.
Again, thanks to RamblinRed for putting this together - it might be something to look at again at the mid point of the ACC season and see how it plays out over conference play. More discussion of this can be found on this The Hive topic.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Took it to another level - Now I'm getting crazy papes

Mark Teixeira signed a two-year, $15.4 million deal with the Rangers today - avoiding arbitration and keeping him with the Rangers at least until he becomes eligible for free agency in the 2008-2009 offseason.

Big Tex has hit .282 with 107 homers and 340 RBI in only 3 major league seasons, including a mammoth .301 with 43 homers and 144 RBI last year, picking up both a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award for his efforts. Given the success that Kevin Brown, Nomar and Jason Varitek have had in the big leagues, it was hard to imagine that Tex would be looking at a career as possibly the best GT alumn in MLB history, but he's on track to give them a run for their money. I watched him play in college, and he hit some balls to places where the sun don't shine, I'm glad to see him succeed the way he has.

Looking a bit deeper, after their age 24 seasons here's a comparison of Varitek, Nomar and Tex (stats from the excellent Baseball Prospectus):

Teixeira - 453 games played, 20.8 wins above replacement player
Nomar - 320 games played, 18.9 wins above replacement player
Varitek - 0 games played (Varitek didn't play a full season until his age 27 season)

Tex has benefited from a rapid rise to the majors, playing less than 100 total minor league games - and the fact that he was a force with the bat from the moment he showed up in Arlington. As long as he can stay healthy, which he has done so far at the big league level, he's going to be a superstar for years to come, and a great ambassador for GT baseball.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Woah woah woah woah woah woah woah

That's right, get ready for Zombie Nation, giant bricks and swirly tops in the crowd, NazT dancing and the tie dye t-shirts to be out in force - it's Wake Forest on the road on Wednesday. Really, I find it hard to dislike Wake, mostly because growing up in NC I didn't really know anyone who went to Wake or was even a Wake fan, thus I never developed any strong feelings one way or the other. I liked Tim Duncan, Rodney Rogers and Josh Howard and thought Chris Paul was a whiny punk - a 3 to 1 ratio is pretty good (for example, I can't think of a single Duke player I've ever liked). Anyways, this current Wake team is a senior laden group with two guys anyone would love to have on their teams in Justin Gray, who played with a freshly broken jaw at one point in his career, and Eric Williams.

On the downside for the Jackets, Wake lost again last night to Maryland and is now 0-3 in the ACC heading into Wednesday's game at Lawrence-Joel. Quite frankly, I was really cheering for them to knock off Maryland, because playing a desperate and experienced team at home is never a good proposition. That being said, there's a reason they are 0-3 right now, and that's because they are scuffling a bit - including a loss to Clemson less than a week ago. It's the same old story in Winston-Salem, poor defensive play. Last year Wake was #76 in defensive efficiency, this year they are all the way up to #75. Unfortunately for Skip Prosser, he doesn't have Chris Paul running the show to make up for that weakness on the defensive end of the court, as Wake has fallen all the way off from #2 to #63 in offensive efficiency (stats from Ken Pomeroy).

If we take a quick look at the starters for each team (based off the most recent lineups), it's actually not as intimidating as you might think - without Taron Downey, Chris Paul, Vytas and Jamal Levy - Wake isn't quite the same team they were last year.

PG: Shamain Dukes v. Zam Fredrick II

This is probably the only time all season GT will have the advantage at the PG spot, because Dukes just isn't an ACC caliber player yet. He's young, and he's fairly athletic - but there's a reason he was an Atlanta area kid GT never pursued. Zam has played better of late, but both of these guys have been turning the ball over far more than either coach would like.

Edge: GT (slightly)

SG: Justin Gray v. Anthony Morrow

Justin Gray is one of the most experienced scorers in the ACC, and one of the best shooters in the country overall. He's probably still a bit better scorer than Morrow (which is saying something, because Morrow is a heck of a scorer himself), but Morrow is better at basically everything else on the basketball court, especially defensively and on the glass. I'll give the edge here to Gray on his experience and the fact that after watching the Maryland and Clemson games, he seems to taking his game up another notch recently as he tries to almost single handedly keep Wake in the ACC race. Don't think that's a knock on Morrow, who's having an All-ACC caliber season himself.

Edge: Wake (slightly)

SF: Michael Drum v. D'Andre Bell

It's a pretty safe bet that neither teams fanbases know anything about the opposing player here, as Drum is a transfer from Presbyterian College and Bell is a freshman who flew under the recruiting radar. Drum just replaced the enigmatic Trent Strickland in the starting lineup, though expect to see Strickland a ton in the game. Drum is basically just a hustle guy who can shoot the ball fairly solidly, while Bell has really come on of late as a defensive stopper and someone who can take the ball to the basket on the offensive end, to go along with a nice little 15' left handed jumper. I'd easily give Bell the edge over Drum, but since Strickland will really play "starter" minutes, Wake gets the slight edge here (depending on how solid mentally Strickland is that night).

Edge: Wake

PF: Jeremis Smith v. Kyle Visser

This is probably the biggest mismatch on the court, because Smith is one of the best power forwards in the conference, and Visser has been terrible this year - plus it's just a bad matchup for Wake as Visser isn't the most physical player in the world, and Smith will be looking to punish him. I would expect GT's gameplan to be to feed the ball into the post and make Eric Williams help on Smith, trying to get him into foul trouble. If Wake doesn't help Visser on Smith, it could be a long night for Kyle. Smith has been flatout dominant since the opening tip of the season, I don't see a reason for that to stop Wednesday.

Edge: GT

C: Eric Williams v. Theodis Tarver

Hooboy. The only thing that keeps this from being a bigger mismatch than Smith on Visser is that Ra'Sean Dickey will be playing a bunch as well (basically starter minutes) and he can give Eric Williams some problems on the offensive end, and maybe get him in foul trouble - which has been William's achilles heel most of his career. Williams is a heck of a player (22 and 20 against Clemson!), and our post defense hasn't been anything special. Wake really needs him to get going to have offensive continuity, and a huge part of keeping him out of the game is just going to be our guards denying him the ball and then collapsing on Williams once he gets it. Williams will turn the ball over a bit, mostly because he puts it on the floor too much, and he's a poor free throw shooter. All in all though, if Tarver/Dickey can play him to a draw - GT will have done very well.

Edge: Wake

Bench: Harvey Hale, Kevin Swinton and Chris Ellis v. Paco Diaw, Lewis Clinch and Alade Aminu

I'm not counting Trent Strickland and Ra'Sean Dickey as "bench" players because they are both going to get starter minutes. For Wake, all 3 guys off the bench are going to get serious time as Swinton is their best post defensive option, Ellis provides solid all around play (though he misses more dunks than probably anyone in the country) and Harvey Hale hustles his butt off and can shoot the 3 ball. For GT, Diaw will play some PG to help out Fredrick and Aminu might come in a bit if Tarver or Dickey has foul trouble - but I don't expect to see a ton of either. Clinch on the other hand is the best player off either teams bench, and now that he's finally healthy is a big time scoring threat. He showed over the weekend that he isn't intimidated playing on the road in the ACC, we'll find out how well he can keep his intensity up. Slight edge to Wake on the bench because of the experience of Ellis and a bit more "quality" depth with Mario West out for GT - but Clinch could erase that advantage with another 6-10 shooting night.

Edge: Wake (Slight)

If you've followed my blog for a while, you know that I like to bring in guest bloggers to give us a preview from the other team's perspective - but in this case there really isn't a Wake Forest blogger I know of (if there is one, I'd appreciate a link). Instead, I've asked a folks from DeaconSports.com, my second favorite message board because of it's quirky and humorous outlook to post in the comments section their thoughts about the game and how wrong my breakdown of Wake's players really is. I'm looking forward to this game, it should be a good matchup, and if we can steal a win in Winston it would be a huge boost for the confidence of this very young group of Jackets.

My expectations were so low ...

Going into the season I figured just getting to .500 would be an accomplishment, and figured we'd lose every single road ACC game, so efforts like the one on Saturday have me excited, as I was prepared to watch a string of 20 point losses on the road to good teams this year. GT played great and lost to a good team, because make no mistake, NCSU is a very good team and the RBC Center is a tough place to play - not to mention they are coached by the Yellow Jacket hating devil himself.

(Sendek urges on his minions)

Things that make me want to dance:
  • Turnovers. More accurately, the lack of said events that lead to heartburn and gray hair. GT only had 11 on Saturday, against one of the better defensive teams we will see all year. Of those, Fredrick only had two - which is quite livable, and a long way from where we were earlier in the year. I was very, very impressed with the way our young backcourt handled themselves on the road faced with veteran players on the other side of the ball.

  • After spending all of last season watching gut wrenchingly bad offensive performances one after another, it's fun to watch a GT team who can put the ball in the hole on a regular basis. Dickey and Smith are a nice 1-2 punch inside, Morrow is a heck of a shooter from deep and Bell, Clinch and Fredrick can dribble penetrate and create their own shots. The offensive efficiency ratings don't represent it yet (mostly because of very high turnover numbers early in the year), but this team is going to score a ton of points on some folks in the next couple of years.

  • Dickey went for 12 and 12, and showed flashes of his true ability again. I'm cheering harder for him than probably anyone, we need him to round into a dominant big man for this team to truly gel. If you look at the history of GT centers it's basically Rich Yunkus and .... no one. Dickey has a chance to go down as one of the best ever in white and gold if he can keep his focus on the game.

  • Lewis Clinch is healthy, and he's a baller. There was a lot of handwringing in Jacketville after the UGa freshman played so well against us and he struggled a bit, but there's a reason why we went after Clinch and not them. The guy can score, and score in bunches. He's a terrific athlete, can get to the hole almost at will and looks to really be improving on the defensive end. I'd expect a couple of 20 point games from him in the ACC season, and for him to be a huge part of what happens with next year's team. Only part of his game I'm still waiting to see at GT now is one of the slashes to the basket finished with a nasty one hand slam that he showed off a ton in AAU ball - I figure as he gains some confidence in his legs, we'll see it soon enough.

  • This team is also the best rebounding team I can remember in Atlanta in quite some time, as the Jackets outrebounded yet another opponent, and more importantly continued the excellent defensive rebounding, leaving NCSU with only 6 offensive boards - something that has killed us in the past against them was long boards off missed 3 pointers, but that was a non-issue on Saturday. Dickey had 12 of those boards, Smith only chipped in 5(!) ... but Zam Fredrick had 7, he did yeoman's work on those long misses.

Reasons I still throw stuff around the house:
  • Defensively, this team still isn't where I'm sure Hewitt wants them to be. NCSU is a very efficient offense (11th in the country, according to Ken Pomeroy), but we still let them shoot 54% for the game. It's very difficult to win when your opponents make more than half their shots, and even worse when they hit half of those from 3 point range. Our young guards still struggle a bit when forced to defend the perimeter for extended stretches of time, and part of that is just something that is going to come with experience.

  • Zam Fredrick's shot selection is still an issue. He shot 4-13, and took the second most shots in the game - being the PG with the ball in your hands should mean you help your teammates find open looks, it's not a license to shoot at will because you got the rock. He's getting better, but he still shoots way too much, and sometimes far too early in the shot clock. If this team is going to win 7+ ACC games, it's going to be with Clinch, Morrow and Dickey doing most of the scoring and with Fredrick setting them up.

  • Speaking of shooting, 9-16 from the free throw line isn't going to get it done. Ouch. Heck, 16 FT attempts isn't enough either. With GT's frontline, people should be getting to the line more and certainly shooting a better percentage, part of this is a symptom of the guards trying to do too much individually or taking poor shots. A few more chances inside for Dickey or Smith wouldn't hurt, we really got away from them in the second half - and allowed Cedric Simmons to stay in the game after getting his 3rd foul because we weren't pounding it on him.

All in all, I thought it was a really strong performance on the road from a very young team that's finding their sea legs. Hewitt is really maximizing what he has this year, and I'm excited about the rest of the ACC schedule. 7-9 seems much more realistic now than it did a month ago. Also, as a side note - GT is #95 in the RPI right now, with 2 wins against the top 50, and 3 wins against the top 100. Actually, GT hasn't lost to a team ranked below 100 (even UIC is in the top 100). This is a much better team than I hoped for, and while there's still a long way to go - it's a bright future for this group.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Video killed the radio star

So, I've been playing around with my TiVO and have been saving GT games to my PC using Tivo To Go and then cutting the commercials out and saving them as MPEG-2 files with VideoReDo (which works with native .tivo files seamlessly - it's pretty nice). Between my GT games and my wife's KU games, we're going to have a decent DVD archive in no time.

Anyways, I can't just put up entire games on this site for download, as cool as that would be, because I'm sure I'd be getting a note from someone's lawyers within about 30 seconds. What I have thought about doing though is putting up highlight videos the day or two after each game - not in the format of the Goldline videos (music track, quick cuts between scenes), but with longer scenes and some of the commentary - i.e the entire possession leading up to Zam's shot against BC so you can see the play develop, etc. If you would be interested in something like this, and would actually watch / download videos, put a note in the comments and if there's enough interest I'll start posting them after each basketball game.

Also, look for some information about podcasts here soon - we'll be initially doing around one a week during the basketball season, maybe more as the ACC tournament and NCAA tournament approach - and commentary on baseball as the season kicks off.

"I never think of the future - it comes soon enough."

And so it begins, the offseason overhaul of the GT athletic department that everyone knew was coming. The unfortunate situation with Theodis Tarver and the seemingly frayed relationship between “The Hill” and the athletic department may have helped accelerate the process, but this has been on the docket for a year or more. Dave Braine has not been a healthy man for quite some time, and I think he has finally decided that battling with both Crohn’s Disease and the GT administration was more than he really wanted to take on.

This story begins a couple of years ago with Flunkgate on the football team and the academic arm screwing up the quarter-to-semester transcript process which finally led to the NCAA investigation and penalties this year. There was something broken inside the athletic department, and in the AD’s relationship with the Institute’s administration, that much was clear to all. In typical GT fashion, nobody was held truly responsible (registrar reassigned, whoopee!) and the poor working relationship seems to have continued to deteriorate. While the Institute does make some concessions for athletics that the other two comparable schools in the country do not (MIT and CalTech don’t have D-1 athletic programs), they have steadfastly refused to create an environment that is conducive to athletes succeeding while on campus. Tech has never been a school that desires to see every student succeed, there’s almost a sick sense of pride in the fact that so many people fail. “Look at how good we are, all these people wash out “– that’s our version of academic prestige, as if an 80% graduation rate would lower the standing of Tech in the eyes of the ivory tower world. Combine that attitude with the pressures of playing D-1 athletics and you have a recipe tailor made for the problems we’ve had in the past 5 years.

What exactly kind of changes would help? Well, we’re not talking about adding majors similar to Duke’s sociology program or UNC’s African American Studies, that’s out of the question. We’re not talking about further lowering admission standards for athletes, another taboo topic that is a non-starter. It’s the little stuff, like working with professors to allow basketball players at the Final Four some leeway with their exams scheduled during the trip, that wouldn’t harm our academic reputation too seriously – would it? Maybe working with the AD and the coaching staffs for athletes with true hardship cases before putting students on Tech’s harsh version of probation and ending their careers, again something that isn’t a permanent black mark in the book of “elite engineering schools”. Hey, I got an idea! Maybe we can properly process the player’s paperwork so they don’t end up thrown under the bus at a much later date due to no fault of their own. At some point, “The Hill” has to recognize the fact that the athletic department is the most visible component of the entire Institute and the success or failure of the student athletes reflects on the school as a whole.

So what happens now? Braine is retiring as Athletic Director and the first step will be finding his replacement. Bill Curry has been mentioned a lot, as he is a “Tech Man” and has strong ties to the school still – but he’s also not what Tech needs right now. The Institute needs a strong administrator, someone who is adept at maintaining relationships and cutting some of the red tape and bandaging the wounds between the athletic department and the academic administration. Curry isn’t that man, he’s outgoing and magnetic and would be a fantastic fundraiser, but he’s never proven himself as a nuts and bolts manager and Tech can’t afford to continue to drop the ball on that. The other hot name in the rumor mill is Todd Stansbury who is currently the Associate Athletic Director at Oregon State. He has a strong reputation as an administrator and is well liked in the Tech community, potentially the kind of person that is needed in the position.

No matter who is hired, the first two tasks for a new A.D are clear – figure out what on earth is going on with our football program, and making sure a good working relationship is in place with Coach Hewitt, who has an 18 month window with no buyout from the date Braine steps down. The football program is a mess, there’s no two ways around it. Is Gailey the right coach? I have no clue, and Braine left that mess for his successor. Should Gailey be forced to hire an offensive coordinator? Again, this was left for the new A.D. Chairbacks are always empty at Bobby Dodd, what should be done about them? Hoho, welcome to GT Mr. New AD. Coach Hewitt is probably the lesser of the two major issues, simply because he won’t be leaving Tech for another college job – and his buyout would never have been a stumbling point for an NBA team anyways, so the 0$ buyout for the next 18 months is probably a non-factor. If Larry Brown steps down as the Knick’s head coach though this year or next, and Hewitt doesn’t feel like the school is supporting him fully, that’s when it could get ugly. I don’t foresee that sort of situation happening, but it would be a huge blow.

Braine had his failings, a number of them. The football program has been pretty much a failure during his tenure, and the general marketing of the athletic department as a whole has been rather poor. On the other hand, he did hire Paul Hewitt, the baseball program has been terrific during his tenure and he’s done wonders for the women’s and non-revenue programs at GT, things we shouldn’t shove under the rug and pretend never happened because of failings in other areas. Women’s sports at Tech, especially, owe Braine a huge debt of gratitude for his involvement and support, something they never truly had before. In 5 or 10 years when people look back on Braine’s time at Tech, the black stain of the NCAA probation and the relative failure of the football program won’t have disappeared, but he will be remembered more kindly than he is now. In the grand scheme of things many parts of the athletic department are better off than when he took over, but now is certainly the right time for him to step down and let someone younger and in better health tackle the huge task ahead.

Monday, January 09, 2006

You’re Fighting For Your Life Inside A Killer, Thriller Tonight

Atlanta based Boston College blogger ATL_eagle was at the game last night, and he has some nice pictures of Alexander Memorial and the new floor. Seeing his pictures reminds me of something that doesn't seem to come across on TV, and that's just how close the seats are too the floor. I've never been to a sporting venue where the fans are right on top of the players like you are in the AMC - heck, the front row of chairbacks is closer than most people sit to their kids in their rec league soccer games.

(Click for larger version - photo from Eagle in Atlanta)

He has several other photos from the game as well as a write up from the Boston College perspective (obviously, not as excited about the outcome as we have been over here). I still have somewhat mixed feelings about BC being in the ACC, mostly due to geographic concerns - but they bring a solid athletics and academics profile to the conference and open it up to new markets in the northeast that the ACC has never really tapped outside of the New Jersey contingent of Duke fans.

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.