Through six games this year, Georgia Tech's offense has looked terrific in three games, and downright terrible in three others. They put up triple-digits against Cornell and Green Bay while also putting in a strong performance against Arkansas. On the other hand, they failed to put up 70 points on either Tennessee or ETSU and barely scored fifty on Villanova. So what is the difference between these two offenses? And what can we expect the offense to look like going forward?
The first difference between the offenses this year has been the pace of play. Two of the three bad performances, ETSU and Villanova, were by far the slowest games the team has played this year. In those games, the Jackets had 61 and 62 possessions while the other four games GT got at least 72. Both of these teams prevented the Jackets from getting out on the break and forced Georgia Tech into many long possessions.
The second major difference has been three-point shooting. The three strong offensive games have seen three-point percentages of 34.8 percent, 45.8 percent and a 50 percent. The other games though have had performances reminiscent of last years putrid shooting. They put up a decent effort of 29.4 percent against ETSU but against Tennessee and Villanova they shot below 15 percent.
The final major difference has been the best part of Georgia Tech's offense this year: offensive rebounding. The Jackets dominated Cornell and Arkansas on the boards, getting rebounds on over HALF of their misses. In the other four games, they were merely very good at rebounding, getting around 40 percent of the rebounds offensively. When Georgia Tech struggles with shooting, as they did against Arkansas at times, the ability to get second chances is huge.
So how does Georgia Tech improve on these? To keep up the pace of play Georgia Tech has to keep working on the emphasis of this offseason. They have to keep pushing the ball after misses, but actually take advantage of numbers. Too many times the team has an advantage on the break, but pull it back and start the half-court offense. Getting quick and easy shots would improve and speed up the offense.
For three-point shooting, the whole team needs to step up, but it starts with Adam Smith. He's shot a very strong 40 percent from three, but his streakiness has really held the offense back as he continues shooting to get back into a rhythm. His 1-of-6 against Villanova and 1-of-8 against Tennessee have contributed to the weak performances. With nobody else to rely on outside, the pressure is on him to perform game in and out. Offensive rebounding is very unlikely to improve. Right now, Georgia Tech is 4th in the country in offensive rebounding percentage, but they've mostly been against undersized teams. They should still be good, but it would be difficult to continue this domination.
The biggest thing that has been a problem across most games is the lack of scoring on the bench. The Jackets have been running 10-deep with 38 percent of minutes coming from the bench, compared to 32 percent nationally. However, scoring and offensive creation have been hard to come by. Quinton Stephens is leading the bench in points at 6.7 points per game, but he acts almost exclusively as a spot-up shooter. The only real potential creators off the bench are Tadric Jackson and James White. However neither of them have put up many points.
James White averaged 12 points per game last year at UALR, so he clearly has scoring potential, but he only has 4.7 points per game this year. White has struggled to get the feel for the offense, but if he gets back on track it should give a big boost to the offense. Jackson shoots the ball 26.6 percent of possessions when he's in the game, second only to Adam Smith, but his 34.3 field goal percentage dampens his impact. He can take over games at times but his aggressive style also leads him to make a lot of mistakes in a small amount of time.
I'm optimistic that this team will be a strong offensive team as the season moves on. Marcus Georges-Hunt and the combination of Charles Mitchell and Nick Jacobs give a strong scoring base and give a lot of opportunity to other scorers. I have to believe that some other outside shooter is going to hit their stride and those that don't stop shooting. The lack of scoring from the point guard position and the second team is an issue, but I think that James White will get comfortable in the offense, or Tadric Jackson will learn to not force shots up that aren't there. This offense has been inconsistent, but has shown an ability to score and control games that was not there last year. This team should continue to improve and looks like it will have the Jacket's best offense in the Brian Gregory era.