Posted: 10:13 am Monday, March 10th, 2014

Tech may be turning a corner 

By Ken Sugiura

georgia tech yellow jackets, college basketball, acc, trae golden

In the past three games, Georgia Tech senior Trae Golden (23) he has 46 points, 12 assists and 2 turnovers in 97 minutes of play. (David Tulis / AP)

I think Tech, in its last four games, is playing the best it has all season, and perhaps the best it has played since coach Brian Gregory’s hire. It is unquestionably doing so offensively. Aside from observation, a few numbers bear this out to me. One is the assist/turnover ratio, which I wrote about in the game story on myajc. Its ratio over the four games is 1.97. Going into Friday’s games, the No. 25 team in the country had a 1.40 rate. The No. 1 team was 1.79.

The metric is a pretty valuable one, to me, in that it measures how well a team is creating (and converting) easy shots and handling the ball, which has not always been something the Jackets have done well. It’s one thing winning teams typically do. Going into Friday’s games, the top 15 teams in the country in assist/turnover ratio had a winning percentage of .755. For a 30-game schedule, that would be 22.6 wins.

In the Jackets’ first 14 ACC games, the rate was .91. In the past four, they’ve had three games in which they’ve recorded a 2.0 or better, the exception being the Florida State loss. That matched the three Tech had had in coach Brian Gregory’s first 89 games – his entire Tech career prior to the Notre Dame game – and two of them were against nonconference opponents.

Tech has turned the ball over fewer than 10 times in each of those four games. Going back at least as far as the first year of coach Paul Hewitt’s tenure, that had never happened – a stretch of 441 games. (Tech sports information associate director Mike Stamus dug that up.) The best Tech had done in those games, in fact, was just two back-to-back games with single-digit turnovers.

One thing Gregory says a lot is that his team has a small margin of error. As the Jackets have not been terribly efficient offensively, it’s meant that giving away chances with turnovers is deadly. At least for now, they’ve curtailed that significantly.

Why the change?

A few reasons. One, forward Robert Carter seems to improving on a game-to-game basis as he regains his agility and flow as he recovers from his torn meniscus.

Two, guard Trae Golden also is as close to 100 percent as he’s probably going to get after his groin injury. In the first five games he played after suffering the injury, he had 22 points, seven assists and seven turnovers in 107 minutes of play. In the past three games, he has 46 points, 12 assists and two turnovers in 97 minutes of play.

On a floater that he scored on, Gregory said, “He had explosiveness on that. That was good to see, plus he executed well in terms of getting us into our stuff. That was really good to see.”

Starting with the Notre Dame game, Gregory was able to pair up Corey Heyward and Golden in the starting lineup. As Golden recovered, Gregory started Chris Bolden for five games. Heyward gives little from a scoring standpoint – he has 28 points all season – but takes good care of the basketball and is a better defender than Bolden. Particularly as Golden and Carter’s conditions improved, it was a tradeoff Tech was more willing and able to make.

Tech finally has, more or less, a lineup that it wanted from the start of the season and all parts of it are playing healthy. Carter starting means Kammeon Holsey can come off the bench. In the past four games, it’s been obvious that the offense has functioned better, perhaps the Florida State game withstanding. Carter has been highly efficient and worked the high-low post game with Daniel Miller well. The offense has been more patient.

“We’re much better offensively, I would say, since Trae’s injury and him coming back and Robert getting back,” Gregory said. “Obviously, you have more offensive weapons. There was an eight-minute stretch today where Robert was as good as you’ve ever seen him, probably .”

Better defense – again, with Carter playing more effectively and giving Tech another defender in the middle – has created more opportunities in transition for easy baskets.

Against Syracuse and Virginia Tech in particular, Tech avoided the prolonged lapses in offense that were costly in losses to Virginia, N.C. State, Clemson and other games.

Consider this – Tech was averaging 1.00 points per possession in its first 14 games and giving up 1.13. Over the past four games, the Jackets have scored 1.07 points per possession and given up 1.05.

For the sake of comparison, the No. 1 offensive efficiency team, according to kenpom.com, is Creighton at 1.25. The No. 50 team is Saint Mary’s at 1.11. Defensively, Arizona is No. 1 at .873. The No. 50 team is .974.

Tech is ranked No. 176 in offense (1.04) and No. 78 in defense (99.8)

Why should you be hesitant to think a corner has been turned?

Such a dramatic uptick would seem difficult to sustain. It would be hard to believe that the Jackets could have turned things around so abruptly. It is a sample of questionable size. Virginia Tech was completely outmanned, Syracuse was playing in a funk and without forward Jerami Grant, Notre Dame is a pretty miserable defensive team and Tech’s 71 points against Florida State was not very reflective of what actually happened – the Jackets scored 10 points in the final 61 seconds.

Further, if this is, in fact, the best that the Jackets have played under Gregory, they’re still only 2-2 in those games (though one of the wins was highly signficant, the win at Syracuse, and one of the losses, at Notre Dame, could have been a win with one more stop and one more basket).

What does it mean for the ACC tournament?

I tend to believe the team is playing much better, but that is what makes the ACC tournament such an interesting set-up for Tech. With the No. 11 seed – which is where the media predicted the Jackets would finish, coincidentally – Tech will play No. 14 seed Boston College.

The Eagles are a funny bunch. They are 4-8 in games decided by five points or fewer, can’t play defense very well but give teams fits with the way they play offense. Tech swept Boston College, but could have easily lost both. Golden saved Tech from what would have been a colossal collapse at Chestnut Hill and then Marcus Georges-Hunt hit a game-winning 3-pointer with less than a second remaining at McCamish Pavilion. Further, there was the Olivier Hanlan-fueled 84-64 blowout in Greensboro last year.

However, Tech played the first game this season without Carter and the second without Golden. As such, the Jackets ought to be stronger on Wednesday, and Boston College should provide a litmus test for that. And if Tech gets past the Eagles, the next opponent will be No. 6 seed Clemson.

The Tigers are the opposite of Boston College – Tech could well have beaten Clemson in both games this season, but lost both. The Jackets did not play well in either game. Golden and Carter both missed the first game. Both played the second, but Carter scored one point. He has averaged 16.8 points since.

If Tech’s improvement is real, it’s entirely plausible that the Jackets could win their first two games and get to a quarterfinal game with No. 3 seed Duke. It’d be hard to expect much at that point – Tech would be playing their third game in 74 hours and the Blue Devils will not have played since Saturday.

But, the Jackets would finish with four wins in their final five games, which would be a strong finish while perhaps a bittersweet acknowledgement of what might have been.

Or, they could flame out in the first round by turning it over 14 times and going seven minutes with one basket in the middle of the second half. It’ll probably be one of the two.

“The Syracuse game, everybody looked pretty good, and then just today, we came out and kept it up,” Miller said. “Trae says he’s full go now. I thought he looked pretty good today. Robert’s playing well. Kam’s got the knee, but he always stays strong for us. Everybody’s just kind of playing together and everybody’s healthy. It hurt us throughout the tournament, but it’s a good way to go into the tournament.”

38 comments
jgcair
jgcair

Gregory has received the blame most of the season, despite the many key injures. Watching the Srq. game I was really impressed with his coaching. I even saw a full court press that resulted in a turnover. I would love to see a zone press with Pool (mr. excitement) and Heyward working the backcourt. Used in spots this could slowdown the other team and create steals. Heyward must work on his shot and drive. Opponents will stay two feet away because he poses no threat. 

juvenal
juvenal

wow, Ken, am i getting ghost-posts now?

ThomasBrownUGA
ThomasBrownUGA

Tech may be turning a corner ?  No, it's still on NCAA Probation in both men's basketball and in football,  and will remain so in both sports all of 2014.

JonesboroJacket
JonesboroJacket

Sure we are playing the best we have all season.  Kam and Miller have proven solid inside players- now they will be gone.  Its very evident that when we go inside it puts so much more pressure on the other team.  Next year, we need solid pay from Carter, Stephens and the freshman inside.  Hopefully Jorgensen will be healthy and we can generate more offense.  It makes all the difference in the world to have speed and ball handling.  This can generate the easy buckets that drive other coaches insane.

Yellerbug
Yellerbug

Excellent work on keeping TO's low.I remember a Tech-NCSU game where Tech had over 40 TO's in the game. CBG needs to play 12 players---even if 9 thru 12 is only 3 or 4 minutes each.  One game at a time recognizing it is win or die.  Odds of winning the ACC are about 10000:1, but that's significantly better odds than winning Powerball.

Birmingham__Jacket
Birmingham__Jacket

2014 Georgia Tech Men's Basketball Program "turns the corner"... Hilarious.  And J. Thomas will set ACC passing records this football season, too...

Born2Buzz
Born2Buzz

The team is definitely playing as well as they have all season.  I know VT is bad, but we ran plays on Saturday that I haven't seen executed all year.  It was real basketball!!  

It isn't so far fetched to think we can at least get to the quarterfinal game against Duke.  And who knows what can happen then.  Hey, in the first game against the Dookies we were tied with 10 minutes to go.


Let the boys and us fans dream a little.

Cupofjoe
Cupofjoe

.Heyward plays good D,

He is not a FT ACC point-  he is a 5-10 minute max defensive stopper

 

juvenal
juvenal

Paul in NH, you out there?  rubber match Sunday......Ken, why is Poole getting NO PT when Bolden is a 4 point swing waiting to happen? last time he made the screen, George, polite indifference was deafening-does not get that if Radar comes back....Heyward plays good D, had a good steal, nobody takes a ball he is gripping, probably a good to/st/as ratio, & somebody has to play some minutes, folks get tired out there, would indeed be grand larceny to steal quality minutes from Bolden....

TechTroll13
TechTroll13

Heyward wouldn't be playing had Jorgenson not been hurt, but that being said I much rather Heyward play tnan the Poole Brothers.  On a team that is not gifted offensively, you need to cut down on turnovers and bad shots, and this team has done that lately by being patient and moving the ball.  Bolden had 3 of the 8 TOs against VT and he only played 19 minutes.  I believe CBG has made it clear, take care of the ball or you don't play.

Jim70
Jim70

Bolden's three point shots against VT were with 27, 28, and 30 seconds remaining on the shot clock.  WHY is coach keeping him in or not pulling him when he hoisted up the first, a miss which lead to a VT fast break?

Cupofjoe
Cupofjoe

sorry to be cynical but isn't turning the corner on the last few games of the season like saying that Uncle Fester was about to turn the corner at his graveside service?

DBT Jacket
DBT Jacket

Ken- Vehemently disagree as to Heyward being a reason for the corner being turned. Believe it's been done in spite of him stealing quality minutes from both Bolden and Stephens.Offensive liability is to put it mildly. No shot, no apparent ability to drive and dish,.....we're really playing 4 on 5 at the end of the court. No doubt a good kid who has battled back from injury, but completely a head-stratcher as to why CBG continues to give him minutes. That said, his playing time, especially in key stretches of the most recent games, has been in decline.


Robert Carter's return to the line-up is why were winning games at this point.

POAD2013
POAD2013

It would have been great to have this team healthy all season. I hate Daniel Miller has to go out this way.

JM64
JM64

Inuries really hurt the team this year.  At least 2 wins and maybe 2 others.  Plus Jorgenson was lost so early in the year,we don't really know the impact from his injury.

Hope the Jackets hav agood ACC tournament.  They could win at least 2.

buzzman47
buzzman47

Good win at home! Keep it up in Greensboro! Hope Jorgenson is Point guard next year because we don't have one! Are we still recruiting a kid named Cimino  6-10" for next year?? 

GTBee
GTBee

From what? Awful to mediocre? The season is over. Finally. Put it to bed and move on. Brian Gregory totally underwhelms.

GTQBdefender
GTQBdefender

@JacketMan .

It is better to be showing some skills instead of giving up on the season.

For numerous reasons (some financial), I did not renew for either sport.

Robert Carter Jr may become a special player and there are others that may develop as well.

So for that, I think I am coming back for basketball season tickets.

Since our football coaching staff had a winnable game vs Uga (like 2009) and still failed, I will probably not come back for football.

Also Vad Lee was not developed into the player he could have been.

Does he leave if we beat Uga?

Don't think so.

U have to be able to beat the arch-rival now and then to have any excitement in your program.

At Clemson if Dabo continues to lose to Spurrier, that 24 million 8 year contract DRAD gave him could be regretted at some point.

They will not have the big bowl win to comfort them if another arch-rival loss occurs next year.

JacketMan
JacketMan

Coulda, woulda, shoulda. That, and a buck, gets you a cup of coffee on the value menu now-a-days.

GTQBdefender
GTQBdefender

Few turnovers and good defense are all we need from Corey Heyward at this point.

Maybe next year, he can show us whether he can shoot or not.

juvenal
juvenal

at least you have cpj back, George........funny, they don't seem to put him up on the screen anymore,,,,,,,,Daniel at least a 2nd rounder........we definitely turned a Carter.....

GeorgeStein
GeorgeStein

It was fun at the coliseum Saturday afternoon.  Sure would be nice to have Daniel Miller back next year. 

TechTroll13
TechTroll13

Tech also has Ralph Sampson's son, Robert redshirting this year after transfering from ECU with one year of eligibility left.  He is 6'8" and averaged 0 points and 9 rebounds a game last year at ECU.

AI saw where Jonesboro HS won the state in boys bb.  That is my alma mater.

YesIamapirate
YesIamapirate

Troll hard there Birmingham. Go dwags maybe?

TechTroll13
TechTroll13

Yoy've said you don't care about BB, so why do you keep posting?

PaulinNH
PaulinNH

@juvenal

Hi juvenal.  Congratulations on the win in the FA Cup QF - the score flattered Arsenal, but they deserved the win.  If only Barkley had taken hs chance when it was 1-1. A soft penaty by Barry - but a fair one.  Take it to Spurs on Sunday - we need you to win.

BTW -  c an think up a way for the West to put pressure on Putin and his cronies because of the problems in the Ukraine - seize Abramovich's assets in tbe UK.

ChopChamps95
ChopChamps95

@juvenal  I don't get that either.  Bolden can shot the ball (albeit a very streaky shooter) but his defense is AWFUL.  Atleast Poole brings energy to every play, something I haven't seen Bolden do.

KenAJC
KenAJC moderator

@DBT Jacket Stephens is more a backup for Georges-Hunt and the post players, so they're not really in competition for minutes. Bolden can be a huge boost offensively, but is streaky and is not as safe with the ball as Heyward. But, yes, Carter is the big reason.

ChopChamps95
ChopChamps95

@buzzman47  Jorgenson isn't all that much better than Heyward is.  Both their talent sets are pretty equal as 3 star recruits.  Heyward is a good ball handler/doesn't turn it over, plays good defense, but is a threat to score.  Jorgenson is also a good ball handler, can score a little better, but doesn't play good defense.  They'll split time when Jorgenson returns from his knee injury.


And yes Gregory is still recruiting Matt Cimino, although he did just take an official visit to George Washington.  If he wants to come here great, I'd be on board for it.  However, Cimino is a power forward and with Carter, Stephens (provided he adds weight) and Sampson who will be eligible in the fall, it's going to get crowded in the post.  Add 6'10 C Ben Lammers who is set to come in in the fall and there just doesn't seem like much playing time for Cimino unless he wants to redshirt and take Sampson's place when he leaves.

YesIamapirate
YesIamapirate

Again, we don't want you at the games. Please keep your money in your pocket and stay home. You'd be doing Tech a favor, and we won't have to read your whining posts. You can stay on the couch and watch NBA basketball for free. That'd be a better choice for you.

juvenal
juvenal

Thanks for reminding folks chan & cph could not even meet the old aprs & how great it was to be shed of drad as well as braine........

TechTroll13
TechTroll13

That should be 9 points and 9 rebounds a game.

juvenal
juvenal

pull the World Cup in 2018! guess #3 is April 5 for us.....