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A Tale of Two Teams: Georgia Tech Men’s Basketball Advanced Stats

How have the Yellow Jackets improved so much?

via Danny Karnik


The 2022-23 season is finally coming to a close, and what a roller coaster it has been. An uninspiring, but inconspicuous, performance in the non-conference schedule gave way to an atrocious start to conference play which saw the Jackets drop nine consecutive games. However, as the calendar turned over to February, a few glimmers of hope eventually materialized into tangible results. The team has now won four of their last five and are heading into the season finale playing like one of the best teams in the conference. What I am hoping to answer here are two questions – why did this team struggle so much to begin conference play, and how have they improved so much? Let’s take a look at some stats!

Let’s get one thing out of the way first, this team was not expected to be good. In fact, it was expected to be pretty terrible. As a result, the Yellow Jackets were picked to finish last in the ACC preseason poll. I seriously doubt that many people outside of the program were shocked by their lackluster performance in December and January. This does not mean the cupboard is bare, not by any stretch of the imagination. There is talent on this roster. Miles Kelly looked very promising at the end of last season, and Deebo Coleman is, allegedly, really talented. However, there were simply too many holes to fill on this roster and too many question marks to inspire any sense of confidence from outside parties. In order to fill those holes and answer those questions, Josh Pastner and his staff turned to the new god of college sports – The Transfer Portal. Enter Lance Terry and Ja’Von Franklin, two grizzled vets from mid-major programs Gardner Webb and South Alabama, respectively. Although these new additions were not nearly as flashy as some fans were hoping for, these were clearly two talented players who could immediately contribute. Just how much they might contribute was another question, but it was obvious that they were brought in to fill some of those aforementioned holes.

Stat Review

Alright, now we can get into the stats. Everyone seemed to love the graph last time, so I’ve come prepared with several visual aides for this article (my HTML skills are rusty so I apologize if these don’t translate well to mobile). Let’s start with this one:

Georgia Tech Team Stats:

11/01/23 - 01/31/23

Rk Team Conf G Rec AdjOE AdjDE Barthag EFG% EFGD% TOR TORD ORB DRB FTR FTRD 2P% 2P%D 3P% 3P%D Adj T. WAB
198 Georgia Tech ACC 20 7–13

via BartTorvik

So, what’s going on here? Well, to put it bluntly, Georgia Tech was not a good team for the first 70% of the season. The one thing that jumps out from these stats is just how bad the Yellow Jackets were on offense. More specifically, how bad they were at putting the ball through the hoop (which is kind of the point of this game). They could not score from inside or outside and generated a concerningly low amount of free throws, which they also struggled to make. Defensively, things were certainly better, with the strength of the team being its impressive perimeter defense. However, their inability to secure defensive rebounds and protect the paint essentially negated that advantage. This was a team with many apparent flaws and few tangible strengths. Then February hit, and everything flipped on its head.

Georgia Tech Team Stats:

02/01/23 - 03/01/23

Rk Team Conf G Rec AdjOE AdjDE Barthag EFG% EFGD% TOR TORD ORB DRB FTR FTRD 2P% 2P%D 3P% 3P%D Adj T. WAB
90 Georgia Tech ACC 8 4–4

Georgia Tech Statistical Splits:

After 02/01/23 vs. Before

Rk Team Conf G Rec AdjOE AdjDE Barthag EFG% EFGD% TOR TORD ORB DRB FTR FTRD 2P% 2P%D 3P% 3P%D Adj T. WAB
9 Georgia Tech ACC 8 4–4

via BartTorvik

As the stats above would indicate, this Georgia Tech team underwent a full metamorphosis between the final days of January and the first week of February. A lone blemish, the embarrassing loss to Louisville on the first day of the month, stains what was otherwise a wildly impressive month of basketball. Even with that horrible performance, the Yellow Jackets’ statistics for the month of February are pretty eye-opening. In the 20 games prior to February, the bane of this team was its woeful offensive efficiency. In the month of February, however, the Yellow Jackets connected on almost 39% of their three-point attempts and posted a cumulative effective field goal percentage of just over 52%! No ACC team saw their offensive efficiency increase as much as the Yellow Jackets did in February, and only Boston College saw a greater increase in three-point percentage.

Sure, all these stats are great, but what do they really tell us about the team? Obviously, they are shooting the ball at a much higher clip, but how, exactly, are they doing that? Common basketball knowledge would assume that, perhaps, the Yellow Jackets started taking fewer three-pointers and opted only for the highest-quality looks. We see this happen quite often at every level of basketball – a team starts the season hoisting away from behind the arc, only to realize that they can’t hit the broadside of a barn and they learn to find higher-quality shots as the season progresses. Let’s investigate the play-by-play data to see if this hypothesis holds up:

Georgia Tech Shooting Splits

via CBB Analytics

Would you look at that, my hypothesis was completely wrong. Who would have thought? Obviously, I knew the answer already, but it still is just so baffling to me. If you are statistically one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the country, it would seem like common sense to take fewer shots from three-point range. However, in the last eight games, this team is taking more three-pointers than ever before, many of which are unassisted and from several feet behind the arc, and they are somehow shooting nearly six percentage points better from that range. In their last five games, the Yellow Jackets are shooting 42% from three. That number puts them in the 100th percentile of all Division I teams. Literally, no one is shooting better from three than the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets right now, and they are just letting them fly with reckless abandon.

I guess the next question we need to answer is, who are the players responsible for this drastic increase in offensive efficiency? However, to answer that question, we first need to identify the perpetrators of the extremely inefficient and ineffective offense we saw during the first portion of the season. I’m sure you all have your own theories and answers to this question, but I think it can still be helpful to shed those for a second and investigate the data. Don’t worry, I will talk about the Princeton offense in a little bit. Have some patience. We will get there.

Georgia Tech Player Stats:

11/12/22 - 01/31/23

Rk Player Team Conf Min% PRPG! BPM ORtg Usg eFG TS OR DR Ast TO Blk Stl FTR 2P 3P/100 3P
6-6 Miles Kelly Georgia Tech ACC 77.4 1.3 -0.8 96.2 22.6 47.5 50.8 1.4 10.1 8.5 16.0 0.2 1.7 14.9 47-113 .416 12.2 45-128 .352
6-6 Dallan Coleman Georgia Tech ACC 74.4 0.7 -2.0 97.4 17.2 47.9 50.7 1.6 8.6 6.8 14.9 0.7 1.1 28.5 31-61 .508 10.3 32-104 .308
6-1 Deivon Smith Georgia Tech ACC 62.6 1.0 3.3 96.2 22.6 42.4 42.7 5.7 19.7 30.9 14.6 2.7 2.1 15.7 58-131 .443 4.8 10-41 .244
6-7 Jalon Moore Georgia Tech ACC 56.8 1.1 -0.5 96.9 22.3 45.0 50.2 9.1 15.7 6.7 17.4 4.5 2.2 44.6 58-118 .492 2.7 3-21 .143
6-2 Lance Terry Georgia Tech ACC 54.9 0.9 -1.4 104.8 15.2 47.1 50.4 1.5 10.6 7.5 8.8 0.7 1.5 19.2 31-67 .463 7.1 17-53 .321
6-7 Ja'von Franklin Georgia Tech ACC 51.9 2.3 6.5 121.4 17.2 57.7 60.7 11.8 15.3 12.7 14.0 6.2 2.8 38.1 56-95 .589 0.3 0-2 .000
6-9 Rodney Howard Georgia Tech ACC 47.0 0.6 -0.9 102.1 15.5 57.1 58.3 10.1 15.4 12.3 27.3 2.7 0.8 21.4 40-70 .571 0.0 0-0 .000
6-3 Kyle Sturdivant Georgia Tech ACC 45.7 0.2 -3.6 85.9 24.2 42.7 43.4 0.6 10.8 28.7 21.3 0.6 1.6 15.3 32-76 .421 8.9 16-55 .291
6-3 Tristan Maxwell Georgia Tech ACC 20.0 0.0 -3.7 85.8 21.6 37.1 38.0 1.4 8.5 14.8 8.5 0.6 1.8 7.6 8-35 .229 11.4 11-31 .355

via BartTorvik

I have sorted this set according to the percentage of minutes played, this way we can see who was on the court most vs. who was contributing most. I apologize if you are unfamiliar with many of these statistics, or their associated abbreviations, but a great shorthand to remember is that red squares are bad and green squares are good. With that in mind, understanding that these stats are pretty bad does not take an engineering degree. There is a lot of red here, especially near the top. However, even at first glance, one thing is readily apparent, Ja’Von Franklin makes things happen. With a BPM nearly double that of the next-highest player, and an offensive rating almost 20 points higher than anyone else on this roster, Franklin is a clear outlier in the sea of red. What is also incredible is that he was only receiving about half of the available minutes, splitting time with the markedly less impactful Rodney Howard. Another outlier is Deivon Smith, who, despite being the worst shooter on the team, is the only other player with a positive BPM. Aside from those two, there is not much positivity to be found in these stats.

One truly egregious issue here is Rodney Howard’s turnover rate. It is actually indicative of a much larger issue. This is where the Princeton offense factors into this discussion (I told you I would talk about it). Disclaimer: I love the Princeton offensive ideology. I think that it’s a great system for generating easy offense via off-ball movement, with an inside-out approach that forces defenders toward the paint and frees up shooters. However, you need to have a legitimate playmaker or scoring threat at the high for the system to work properly. Rodney Howard is neither of those things. It is no fault of his own, he has simply been incorrectly utilized for the past two seasons. It is also no fault of the Princeton offense, it remains one of the most dynamic and variable offense systems, despite our best efforts to destroy it. Given that it did not work last season and clearly was not working to begin this season, I think the hesitancy to remove Howard from that role is a major failure of this coaching staff. Thankfully, a change was made. It may have been two years too late, and the result of a few injuries, but a change was made.

Georgia Tech Player Stats:

02/01/23 - 03/01/23

Rk Player Player Team Conf Min% PRPG! BPM ORtg Usg eFG TS OR DR Ast TO Blk Stl FTR 2P 3P/100 3P
6-7 Ja'von Franklin Georgia Tech ACC 90.6 4.9 9.3 126.3 21.5 61.0 62.5 13.9 22.1 20.7 15.2 6.8 3.5 39.0 47-77 .610 0.0 0-0 .000
6-6 Miles Kelly Georgia Tech ACC 87.2 3.4 1.3 118.0 19.7 58.5 60.2 0.8 15.3 6.6 7.6 0.4 0.6 10.4 20-38 .526 14.5 28-68 .412
6-3 Kyle Sturdivant Georgia Tech ACC 81.6 2.7 1.4 111.7 20.8 53.0 55.6 0.4 10.4 21.3 13.1 0.4 2.1 23.8 22-46 .478 8.6 15-38 .395
6-6 Dallan 'Deebo' Coleman Georgia Tech ACC 80.3 0.2 -3.5 95.6 16.4 47.0 49.9 0.4 10.6 8.1 15.5 1.7 1.4 25.8 7-20 .350 10.6 16-46 .348
6-2 Lance Terry Georgia Tech ACC 74.4 2.0 -1.3 107.6 18.7 60.0 60.8 1.9 8.0 10.4 18.6 0.5 1.0 17.1 15-31 .484 9.7 18-39 .462
6-7 Jalon Moore Georgia Tech ACC 40.6 0.2 -3.5 90.1 22.1 31.9 39.6 9.5 16.4 12.0 14.5 5.1 1.4 55.6 10-28 .357 3.7 1-8 .125

via BartTorvik

The most apparent difference here is that Pastner and his staff cut the rotation by three players, opting to run a six-man lineup for most of the month. This was partly influenced by injuries, with Deivon Smith’s ankle injury and Rodney Howard battling issues with his achilles and knee. Injuries aside, this new, wafer-thin, ultra-athletic, small-ball rotation has worked wonders for the Yellow Jackets. Ja’Von Franklin assuming the full-time center role has been revelatory, and Jalon Moore’s versatility makes him the perfect sixth man for this group. However, I think the real key to this recent success has been the improvement of Kyle Sturdivant. No other Yellow Jacket saw such a dramatic increase in their statistical output. Sturdivant was, arguably, the worst player in the rotation for much of the season. Seemingly none of his shots were falling and he was turning the ball over at an alarming rate. When Deivon Smith injured his ankle, Sturdivant needed to step up if this team was to continue improving, and he absolutely did. Over the last month, Kyle Sturdivant has been one of the best players on this Georgia Tech team and is a major factor in their recent offensive explosion.

Nearly every player in this rotation is playing their best basketball at the moment, and I believe it is because Pastner has finally found a lineup that actually works well together and has an identity. This team is taking, and making, so many three-point shots right now because they are running a lineup that consists of four very good shooters on the perimeter and a dynamic playmaker in the post. The gravitational pull of Ja’Von Franklin in the high post leads to open threes on the perimeter for guys like Miles Kelly and Lance Terry, and Franklin is a good enough passer to make defenses pay for leaving those shooters open. This is a modern style of basketball and an incredibly fun one to watch, as well.

A Bit of Film Review

As we talk about the improvements in the Yellow Jackets’ offensive performance, one thing needs to be made abundantly clear, this team still frequently utilizes a Princeton-style 4-out-1-in offensive scheme. Admittedly, there is a good bit more high-ball-screen action than we saw earlier in the season, but the playbook has not changed all that much. What has changed are the offensive priorities. This new, late-season Princeton offense looks to generate open shots on the perimeter, first and foremost. If those options are not there, Franklin is more than capable of putting the ball on the floor and creating offense for himself. Compare these clips. The first comes from the Yellow Jackets’ first matchup with Clemson:

Throughout the entirety of this possession, there are always at least three Yellow Jackets inside of the three-point line. That is atrocious spacing. While there is plenty of off-ball movement, it is entirely fruitless because Howard is not a threat with the ball in his hands. Clemson can essentially faceguard everyone because they know Howard won’t try to score 1-on-1. These next two clips are from the past month, and feature Franklin at the center position:

In both clips, Franklin finds himself in a similar situation as Howard in the first clip. However, instead of passively probing outside the paint, looking for someone to pass to, Franklin decides to punish the defense for leaving him 1-on-1. But it isn’t just his ability to create with the ball in his hands that makes Franklin so valuable, it’s also the respect he commands off the ball:

In both of these plays against Louisville, Franklin creates an open three-point opportunity by drawing in several help defenders as he rolls to the rim. This kind of gravitational force on the interior is what has allowed the Yellow Jackets to get so many great looks from three-point range this month, and it's also a big reason why this team is utilizing more and more ball screens.


The Yellow Jackets have hit their stride and it could not have come at a better time as they look to make some noise in the upcoming ACC tournament. In all likelihood, the level of efficiency at which the Jackets are currently scoring the basketball is not sustainable, but that does not mean the offense can’t continue to be a strength for this team. It just means that they probably won’t continue to put up 90+ points and shoot 50% from three. Or maybe they will. That would be pretty sweet. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.