After watching Georgia Tech play Miami for their first ACC game of the year yesterday, there are a couple of recurring themes that still need to be addressed by Coach Brian Gregory if they truly want to be competitive this year. Keep in mind that I am by no means a basketball expert, so these are just my thoughts based on a lifetime of watching ACC basketball, but no real direct experience in the game.
Over Switching on Defense: While I completely understand the need to switch when a pick is set, we see to only have one gear. Our big men will aggressively switch to the player with the ball and attempt to push him off his line back towards the half court line. While this worked great against the smaller, less talented teams, Miami was able to exploit this in three ways. The first was by simply feigning the pick and as soon as the Tech post player was out of position, they would roll to the basket, uncontested, for an easy basket. The second was when the 2nd post player would rotate over to guard against the pick and roll, the man they were supposed to be guarding was left wide open. The final way was that by making our post players continue to guard on the perimeter, we let 3 or 4 baskets get scored by a back door cut when we had nobody in the post to defend it. I would like to see a few wrinkles thrown in that made it so the opposition wouldn’t always know exactly what we were going to do on a pick.
Lack of offensive identity: Our general half court set involves a lot of passing around the perimeter, eventually followed by a weak entry pass to the post and then a forced shot by one of our big men. This might be a good strategy if we dominant big men who always played hard to the rim, but we have weak big men who prefer a fade away jumper or hook shot to any sort of contact. There is nobody on the team that seems capable of creating their own shoot, nor are there any times where there are plays drawn up to get a player the ball being 2 or 3 screens. This leads to what you saw yesterday when those fade away jumpers aren’t falling. Which brings me into my next point…
Mismatched defensive and offensive strategies: Don’t get me wrong, we are a very good team defensively, but it doesn’t seem our defensive style matches what we do well on offense. Our philosophy on defense is to stay in front of your man and force bad shots, which on the whole, we do very well. The problem that I have with this is that it nearly forces us to play a half court game offensively. Since we have so many struggles in the half court game, why don’t we take more risks which would lead to easier baskets? It wasn’t until four minutes were left in the game that I saw us even attempt to make a steal or force a turnover that might lead to a fast break, and low and behold we went on our best run of the night. Obviously you can’t take risks all game long and not get burned, but mixing in this kind of defense when the offense is obviously struggling mightily would be a good club to have in the bag in my opinion.
No true scorers on the team: This is really the only one of my points that I don’t feel like is fixable with some scheme changes. Do we have some very talented players on the team? Yes, that much is obvious. Unfortunately nobody on the team right now can create their own shot or create shots for others. There is a good number of forced shot attempts in the paint (as discussed earlier) or people standing around waiting for someone else to make something happen. This will change in time, as the four freshmen all have the ability to become this type of player, but they aren’t there yet. I have faith that in time this will change, I just don’t know if it will be this year or not.
Energy: Why does this seem to be a constant issue for all Georgia Tech teams? We just didn’t look we cared yesterday, or maybe that because we had steam rolled so many teams in a row, we would do the same to a quality ACC opponent. Either way, we played flat, and the scoreboard show that for about 36 minutes, as the final score was nowhere near as bad as the game really was.
So there you have it. Fixing these five items, in my opinion, is what we need to do in order to get to 7 or 8 wins in the ACC this year. Three of them seem to be doable in a short period of time, and a fourth (energy) will hopefully fix itself, so I am still optimistic about the rest of the year. I still don’t expect to make the NCAA tournament, but I feel like we will get close, and that is another giant step in the right direction.