3 Things GT Basketball Needs To Improve For Conference Play
With a Third Place Finish in the 2019 Diamond Head Classic, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets now sit at an even .500 on the season with 6 wins and losses. During the first month and a half of the season, the Jackets experienced their fair share of highs and lows particularly the latter. A tough opening schedule does play a factor as their strength of schedule ranks 53rd in the nation (5th in ACC), but Tech has certainly shot themselves in the foot at times.
And it's not going to get any easier, as conference play is set to begin next starting with a New Year's Eve contest at Florida State. In fact as of right now according to KenPom.com, the Jackets are favored in just these remaining regular season games:
- Notre Dame (1/15)
- Morehouse (1/28)
- Virginia Tech (2/4)
- Clemson (2/25)
- Miami (2/29)
- Pitt (3/4)
Out of the 19 remaining games on the regular season, they're only favored in 6 of them, and they're all home games. 3 of them (ND, VT, Pitt) have them as just a one point favorite. Heading into the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, they're projected to have a record of 13-18 and a conference record of 7-13.
So what must The Institute correct in order to change this projection and improve on their tournament resume come March?
Improve Offensive Ball Movement
Head coach Josh Pastner has stated that Georgia Tech is a team whose energy on the defensive end feeds into their efficiency on the offensive end. While that might be his coaching philosophy, it hasn't exactly been well executed so far this season.
Defensively they are a top 30 unit (29th in KenPom), but they are offensively challenged at times (245th in KenPom). One reason is because as of late, there have been too many instances where there is too much isolation play and not enough ball movement. This was particularly true against Ball State where there was seemingly none of it from start to finish.
The Jackets have improved on this since Jose Alvarado made his return to the court, but when he is not out there, they occasionally have tendencies to fall back on one-on-one ball. As a result of this they are assisting on just 12.0 baskets per game, which is good for 269th in the nation and next to dead last in the ACC (Virginia's 9.9 is last).
This goes hand in hand with the first point made. But even when Tech has not selfishly held the ball on offensive possessions, they have still been prone to turnovers. As it stands right now, Georgia Tech leads the ACC in turnovers with 17.2 per game, with that mark ranking 342nd in the nation. For context, there are only 350 teams in Division I.
Tech has turned it over in many different ways. Whether it has been forced fastbreak drives, having trouble keeping the ball away from the defender, or simply making bone-headed passes. As of late, offensive fouls have been an issue and another detriment to the team. In fact overall, they average 19.0 fouls a game (worst in the ACC) and have fallen victim to flagrant fouls as well. While it is imperative to play with energy and emotion, you also have to keep both in check.
Turnovers kill momentum and can snowball out of control in hurry. If they can slowly improve this mark as they conference schedule progresses, their chances in any given contest will improve drastically.
Hit Free Throws
This one kind of explains itself. Even with the national Division I average being just 69.9%, the Yellow Jackets are stilling hitting way less than that mark. Their free throw percentage of 62.8% is dead last in the conference. If the Jackets had shot at even an average clip from the charity stripe, they more than likely would have come away with victories vs. Georgia and Arkansas.
To their credit, there is some recent improvement. In their 3 Diamond Head Classic games, they shot 49-65 (75.4%). Before this, they were a paltry 57,8%. They need to continue to improve on this mark, otherwise free throws will continue to lose games for them.
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