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Mailbag 3/22

If/when we become part of the B10 Conference, who will be our best rivals?

NCAA Football: Orange Bowl-Iowa vs Georgia Tech Leon Halip-USA TODAY Sports

Pkaltman1: With both Football and Men’s Basketball starting next season with new full-time head coaches, which program do you think is better poised to make it to the next level (consistent bowl games and consistent NCAA tournament appearances, respectively)?

Ben: I’ll say football only because it’s easier to get to a bowl game than it is the NCAA tournament, or even potentially the NIT. Also, while the ACC sucks this year in basketball and football, I think they are more likely to rebound en masse in basketball.

Logan: To Ben’s point I think football is more likely to make bowl games since the bar for that is the .500 mark. Despite the number of tournaments and number of spots in the NCAA tournament, the record required to make those tournaments is more nebulous depending on the year and who is on the schedule.

Rob: I’ll go against Ben and Logan here and say basketball, strictly because it’s possible to turn around in basketball much quicker than it is in football. I believe there were 8 teams in the tournament this year with first year head coaches and I’m sure the number is much higher if looking at coaches in their first 3 years.

Yeller Bug: The ACC sucked in B-ball this year. Is this a beginning trend or an aberration? Does this give GT B-ball a better chance of becoming relevant sooner?

Ben: I won’t pretend like I know a whole lot about the intricacies of college basketball, but I would wager that it’s more an aberration. That doesn’t mean GT basketball won’t be relevant soon, though. With so few players on the court and the rate at which players come an go, I feel like college basketball is pretty volatile, so there’s always a chance a team like Georgia Tech could get one or two really good transfers and turn some heads in a given season.

Logan: I think there has been a lot of coach turnover at certain top programs recently in the ACC. I think that may have led to many programs trying to determine how to proceed with new coaches especially with the new NIL rules also coming into effect. I expect things to bounce back for ACC basketball, but there may be a valley the next year or so as coaches come into their own.

Jack: I would think it’s an aberration. As Ben mentioned, CBB is a volatile sport with crazy stuff happening all the time (see: FDU). We also got worse with the ACC, so take what you will from that. The conditions of the ACC I don’t think will be super impactful currently in how much more relevant we become. We control that right now with how well the team is run internally.

Asa: I’m going to be the detractor here and say that it actually might be a trend. The ACC is falling behind the other high-major conferences financially and the success of the ACC teams has followed suit. With nearly every legendary coach now gone from the league, the conference no longer has the assumed prestige that it did just 5 years ago. I really don’t see how you could make an argument for the ACC not being a substantial step below the SEC, Big 10, and Big 12. This could mean that GT slips further into irrelevance or they could seize the opportunity to become a top program in this new-look ACC.

Rob: I agree with Asa here. Do I think the ACC will consistently be as bad as it was this year? No. But are the days of the ACC being the premier conference in college basketball behind us? Probably. Just look at a conference like the SEC, which is taking all the football money and pouring it into their basketball programs. The ACC is a distant 4th/5th in power 5 conference revenue behind the Big Ten, SEC, and Big 12 and I think we are starting to see that impact on the basketball court. The ACC’s struggles are not a one year blip, but more of a 5+ year trend. Kenpom provides a “conference rating” score, which saw the ACC rank 7th amongst conferences this year with an 8.31. Last year, the ACC was at a 10.69. In 2018 and 2019, the ACC scored a 15.71 and 15.33 respectively. Over the last 6 years, the Big 12 has scored no lower than a 15.73.

gtbadcarma: I know there are always upsets in the NCAA tournament, but do you feel that the upsets show that too much emphasis/attention/slots is given to “big” conferences and more consideration/slots needs to be given to the mid majors?

Ben: I think it just shows that there isn’t as much distinction between the big and little conferences in basketball as there is in football. I can’t find the specific Tweet I’m looking for, but it said something in the vein of college football being this person’s favorite sport but March Madness being their favorite sporting event, and I think that encapsulates that feeling very well.

Asa: In general, I am all for more representation for the “lesser” conferences. However, I’m not sure that the results of March Madness are really a great argument for that. While there are always a handful of surprising upsets, the last three rounds of the tournament are almost always exclusively filled with programs from major conferences, or a major program from a smaller conference (i.e. Gonzaga). I think, if anything, the tournament proves that the big boys are, in fact, the big boys.

Logan: I think there needs to be consistent success for a “lesser” conference team to be put on the same level as a “big” conference team. As Asa pointed out, certain schools from smaller conferences such as Gonzaga I would consider being on the same level as major conferences, but as a general rule there is a reason you rarely see new teams making it to the Sweet 16 and beyond. On that same token, that is the reason why it is so exciting when those teams go so far.

Rob: I think if you look at Kenpom or any of these other metrics which rank college basketball teams, you will find that the attention is distributed pretty fairly. Does there seem to be more “upsets” in recent history? Potentially. Do I have a great explanation for that? Not really. However, when we look at a team like Fairleigh Dickinson, who beat Purdue, we also have to remember that Fairleigh Dickinson lost to Sacred Heart, Stonehill, Hartford, Queens, Central Connecticut, etc, etc. In my opinion, the narrative from that game should be more about what can happen in a one game sample size versus these smaller schools and mid majors deserve more attention.

tyler_pifer92: This is speculation, but do you think Stoudamire was Plan A? If not, I understand wanting to get a replacement quickly, but why not wait a couple weeks for the tournament to play out? Man, Bob Richey would have been a home run hire.

Ben: Josh Pastner was dismissed on March 10. Damon Stoudamire was officially hired March 14. In college sports, you don’t hire a guy that quickly if he isn’t your first choice. It is clear that getting a new coach in pronto was a priority, so J Batt moved quickly and got his guy.

Jack: Batt mentioned this, but the candidate list was made well before the Pastner deicsion was made. That’s the kind of thing you always have in your back pocket just in case you ever need it so that you can act quickly. Waiting reduces recruiting time and enhances uncertainty within the program, both of which can kill any chances you have at winning.

Asa: I think he was absolutely plan A. Everything indicates that this was Batt’s guy from the start and I think that should say something. Having a coach in place for the start of the offseason is crucial and I think it will likely pay dividends in the recruiting trail. Lastly, I truly do not understand the obsession with Bob Richey. I’m not saying he isn't a great coach, because he clearly is. However, so many Tech fans seemed infuriated by Pastner’s offensive scheme, and yet they are frothing at the mouth to hire Richey. Furman’s offense is conceptually very close to what we’ve been running for the last 7 years. They definitely execute at a higher level and have better personnel for it, but it just seemed confusing to me that the anti-Princeton crowd was also pro-Richey.

Logan: I’m not as up to date on basketball, but it seems like Stoudamire checked all the boxes Georgia Tech would want in a basketball coach. Stoudamire is a coach well liked by players, who has a record of recruiting at struggling programs, and has found a way to elevate the talent he gets to a level where they can enter the NCAA tournament. He may not be a big name, but he hits all the intangibles so I feel like he was near the top of the list if not at the tippy top.

BuzzForPresident: Dusty May was my first choice for GT Basketball. I’m intrigued by Stoudamire. The comparisons between the two to me (with many nuances) are more traditional Xs and Os of architecting wins with what you can have versus developing talent and letting talent win games (see May vs. Hardaway). The latter is more of where I see college basketball going with NIL and appears more Stoudamire’s style (again with nuances). With all that said, what is the likelihood that May gets the Notre Dame job and I get to compare the styles head to head over the next five years? Personally, I like May’s style as I’m used to more traditional college basketball, but the league may moving more towards Stoudamire’s style.

Asa: I’m not sure if I really agree with you here. I think Stoudamire and May are both firmly in the development-minded camp. Stoudamire was severely hamstrung by sanctions placed on the Pacific program, so he had to develop the talent that was there. He didn't just bring in more talented players and reap the benefits, he developed the existing roster into a winner. That’s exactly what May is doing at FAU. Of the ten players that have seen significant playing time for the owls this season, only two of them did not begin their careers at FAU. May is retaining and developing a talented and competitive roster, that’s where his success has come from, just as it did for Stoudamire at Pacific. In terms of X’s and O’s, I am actually very excited to see how Stoudamire’s experience at the next level factors into his coaching philosophy. I think this is a home run hire. The future is looking bright for the Yellow Jackets.

Rob: I see where you’re coming from, but I think that comparison may oversimplify things. If you’re saying that Stoudamire may be able to recruit better than May, I think that is a fair assessment and hope that you are right. A former NBA player should be able to recruit Atlanta quite well, especially if he assembles the right staff. However, let’s also not minimize Stoudamire’s Xs and Os. When head coach Joe Mazzulla missed two games for the Celtics, Stoudamire was the choice to fill in for him. As head coach at Pacific, where Stoudamire was definitely working with less talent, that team saw significant improvement year over year and was a top 100 defensive team. Now to answer your question about May taking the Notre Dame job, I think that depends heavily on what happens with current Penn State head coach Micah Shrewsberry. Based on reports coming out over the last 24-48 hours, it seems that Notre Dame has made him their top priority and the job seems to be his if he wants it. If Shrewsberry stays at Penn State, I think there is a good chance May gets serious consideration from the Notre Dame administration.

Frodo Swagginz: The Ireland game is good for publicity and great for the sport (internationally). Does this game have any effect on recruiting for 2024?

Ben: It’s tough to say. I guess you could market it to recruits for the class that will be coming in Fall 2024. Beyond that, though, I am not sure how it would have an effect on recruiting.

Jack: Maybe! I’d be surprised if someone will flip to Tech purely because they want their first game to be in Ireland, but I don’t think it hurts. Unique experiences will always be a selling point (Bama always travels, ND is in Dublin this year, stuff like that).

Logan: I doubt it has an impact in 2024, I don’t think most athletes will flip schools just so they get a free trip to Ireland. It could interest talent down the line (as Jack alluded to). One thing it does help is fan morale, and if the fans enjoy themselves that could make the campus more enticing to recruits.

tyler_pifer92: I may be answering my own question, but why has there been such little national attention to the Stoudamire hire? Is Georgia Tech basketball just that irrelevant or is it because of the tournament?

Ben: The answer to your second question is yes. Georgia Tech has been off the radar for several years except for the one blip where they won the ACC a couple years ago. Couple that with the fact that we are in the throws of March Madness, and yeah, the hire isn’t going to get national attention. Do you think you could tell me who Kent State or Purdue hired in football this last offseason off the top of your head? I didn’t even know they hired coaches (Kenni Burns and Ryan Walters, respectively, if you were curious) before doing a Google search.

Jack: Tech is not a media sexy school, so we’ll always be a little off the radar. Winning gets you attention. This isn’t a comment on how good Stouadamire is, but his Pacific record wasn’t media grabbing, so put the two together, and it’s normal news.

Asa: We got a Woj bomb for the hire, that’s a pretty big deal for national sports media. But, if you are a casual fan (or even a die-hard college basketball fan), why would this warrant more attention than the upcoming tournament, or even the other coaching changes, like Syracuse. Coaching changes are not a huge deal to most fans unless the previous coach or the program at large is nationally relevant.

Logan: We are an ACC basketball team that isn’t from North Carolina, so no we aren’t going to get much media coverage. Frankly I was surprised by the attention Stoudamire got, which is promising if people are like “Good job getting a coach like Stoudamire GT”.

DressHerInWhiteAndGold: If/when we become part of the B10 Conference, who will be our best rivals?

Ben: If Georgia Tech still ran the option, I would absolutely say Iowa, but outside of that, I think Michigan State could be a fun rival. Northwestern is another one I think would be a lot of fun that is probably a more comparable school to Tech. You could also say Maryland with both schools coming from the ACC, but I never thought of them much as a rival.

Jack: We won’t know until the games happen and a natural rival shows itself. That’s how you want it to pan out anyways. Artificial rivalries like with what Atlanta United has with Orlando SC just don’t work.

Logan: Northwestern is the obvious answer (nerd fights and all that). Maryland could be interesting since they used to be in the ACC and are probably the closes geographically to us (I mean, probably. I’m too lazy to look it up). Nebraska is gonna get hate from GT fans for a while because of the coaches they have chosen... Lets roll with Nebraska.

Anuj Bhyravabhotla (submitted via email): On offense, is there any chance we get some old option concepts back? Judging by what those inbreds in athens ran, they didn’t just run out of a phone booth but made an effort to incorporate zone read and run the quarterback a good bit with Stetson Bennett. But outside of the standard inside zone read, do you think we can expect to see any other concepts like inverted veer and speed option? Maybe the odd QB follow with a guy under center that has a running style more Josh Allen than Lamar Jackson?

Ben: The option concepts never really left. Option concepts have been built into the very fabric of virtually every college football offense that exists today. Hell, Georgia Tech had a couple flexbone sets last season. As far as this season, I don’t know that you will see a lot outside zone reads. At least at first. Buster Faulkner is traditionally an air raid guy, so I think to start, you’re going to see him try to spread things out.

Jack: To add on what Ben said: you also have to work with what you have. The 2023 offense might be more dynamic in option style sets vs. 5-wide or trips or any other “hey we’re throwing” package. There’s a lot to still find out about this team. Generally, I’d like to see us pass more than we throw, but more importantly, I’d like to see us win more than lose.

Logan: I’m not sure what the current coaching scheme is. Based on last year Key seemed to draw up schemes based around who was playing QB at the time (although that may have been because he stepped in during the middle of the season). If Key wants to follow that trend I would say it depends on the ability of the QBs we have. I certainly expect a few option plays a game, but I think Key will trend away from that direction given the number of injuries he had to deal with last year at the QB position.

Anuj Bhyravabhotla (submitted via email): On defense, can we expect to see more odd fronts or even fronts this year? With the loss of Charlie Thomas and Ace Eley but a talented Trenilyas Tatum and transfer portal reinforcements in the wings, how do you expect Andrew Thacker to scheme around this? And on the backend, can we expect to see more man coverage or will we see more zone coverage? Especially with Lamiles Brooks and Clayton Powell-Lee back there that can provide a 1-2 punch like 2019 Tariq Carpenter and Juanyeh Thomas?

Ben: I don’t foresee any grand schematic differences this season. At linebacker, I fully expect Tatum to get one of the starting spots and the Texas A&M transfer to get the other one. As far as the back-end, I don’t think there will be a lot of changes from last season. What will be interesting to see is how they balance using Clayton Powell-Lee and Jaylon King, who initially started in that spot before getting injured.