Tadric Jackson is the Yellow Jacket's most talented young player. He came in as a four star recruit and has flashed plenty of his talent over the last two years. He has struggled with his outside shooting and decision making, but clearly has talent. Over the past week and a half, Tadric has had two of the best games of his career. Despite going 0-6 from three against Duke, Jackson still scored 15 points on just 13 shots. He was aggressive and assertive. Buoyed with confidence, Tadric had an even better game against top-15 ranked Miami scoring 13 points on 5-9 shooting along with 2 assists and some solid defense. Tadric was rewarded with the start against Wake Forest on Wednesday. He didn't have a great start, but nobody on the Jackets did. Despite his strong recent play, he then sat on the bench the rest of the game. He recorded only 8 minutes and spent critical parts of the game stapled to the bench in favor of Quinton Stephens and Travis Jorgenson. He is going to be a major part of the team over the next two years and he was benched despite fantastic recent play. He earned more playing time with his fantastic play in recent games and he needs the playing time to keep his confidence up and his momentum going.
One of Gregory's odd choices has been going on all season. For some reason, Gregory insists on playing Quinton Stephens significant minutes every game. Stephens can be a difference maker in a game, as we saw against Virginia when he had 16 points on 6-8 shooting. However, that is a very rare occasion. In the 8 games since his offensive explosion against Virginia, Stephens has scored just 17 points in total, despite getting at least thirteen minutes every game. He is supposed to be a good three point shooter, but has gone just 1-11 in that stretch. He has lost his confidence and hesitates whenever he gets an open look at the perimeter. He is not a great man defender either and is often guilty of over helping, letting his man get to the basket. In his defense, he has been hustling a ton and has gotten better at rebounding and has been getting to 50/50 balls. But a guy who is a liability on both ends of the floor should not be getting this much play time.
Early in the conference season, Georgia Tech experimented with the no point guard concept, having Marcus Georges-Hunt take the ball up the floor. They benched Travis Jorgenson and had Josh Heath play only 20 minutes a game. And it worked! Georgia Tech upset the then #4 Virginia Cavaliers with Georges-Hunt and Adam Smith as the main point guards. They continued this strategy in a close loss at a solid Notre Dame team. Later, the Jackets used this in a victory at NC State and an excruciatingly close loss at a surging Syracuse team. Using Marcus Georges-Hunt as a point guard allowed the Yellow Jackets to put more scoring talent on the floor and not suffer defensively. An yet, Gregory has gone away from this strategy. The last three games, the Jackets have been on the floor without a point guard for only about 7 minutes a game. The Yellow Jackets need their best talent on the floor, and that means playing with no true point guards. It worked earlier in the conference season, but Gregory has gone away from what worked.
The beginning of the conference season is when a coach should begin paring down his team's rotation and letting the best players play. Gregory has played 9 or 10 men every game this conference season despite having a clear four best players. He has done a good job of making sure the very best get their minutes but he still plays the bottom of the rotation too much, at least for the perimeter players. But he still does not play his best at some critical times. Against Wake Forest, with ten minutes left the Jackets were holding on to a fragile 3 point lead. With such a precarious lead, at least some of the Jackets best players should have been in the game. Instead, Gregory played a lineup featuring only one of the Yellow Jackets best 5 offensive players. Marcus Georges-Hunt was paired with Jorgenson, Stephens, James White, and Ben Lammers. This led to Georgia Tech falling into a bit of an offensive slump, needing to force several shots at the end of the clock. Luckily the Demon Deacons were unable to take advantage, in part because of great defense by Lammers and White, and partly because the Deacons went cold and could not hit an open shot.
These are only a couple of the issues I have with Gregory's in game strategy. He plays players who are liabilities on both ends of the floor over players who have been red hot. He lets the bottom end of the roster play far too many minutes. And he goes away from what has worked, seemingly changing his tactics with no rhyme or reason. This team has not developed any identity this season. Gregory needs to step up his game if the Yellow Jackets are going to make a late season run and give this team a chance at the postseason.