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Georgia Tech Basketball: The Road to the NCAA Tournament

Let's fix what ails Georgia Tech basketball.

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

We've talked a lot over the past couple of months about the issues with Georgia Tech's basketball program, both on this site and in general as a fan base. At FTRS, to steal a line from Jon Taffer, we don't embrace excuses, we embrace solutions. (That's actually entirely untrue. We love making excuses about all sorts of things.) Let's talk about how we would solve the problems with Georgia Tech basketball.

The Object

For any other staff members who will post on this, or any of you guys who may write a FanPost, let's specify exactly what I'm talking about. The prompt is as follows: How would you fix Georgia Tech basketball in the fewest moves possible? The constraints:

1) All moves have to be reasonable, though not necessarily specific. Adding LeBron James to this team is neither reasonable nor creative, nor is adding a bunch of McDonald's All-Americans. Adding a point guard that can slash into the lane and create points is more of what I'd consider a reasonable change.

2) The moves are to be made with the end goal of making Georgia Tech a team included in the field of 68 in next year's NCAA Tournament. They don't have to make it to the Round of 32 -- they simply need to be 'in'.

3) Moves are not restricted to players -- they could include the coaching staff, be it the head coach or otherwise.

4) "Moves" can include addition or subtraction of players or coaches, and can also involve position changes or scheme changes.

Long story short, can anyone make this into a credible tournament team without tearing it down and starting from scratch? If so, what's the shortest viable path to doing so?

The Setup

The starting roster for next year (as of today) is as follows, organized by class standing:

Number Name Position Ht Wt Class Notes
54 Nick Jacobs F 6-8 260 R-SR Transfer from Alabama
0 Charles Mitchell F 6-8 269 SR Transfer from Maryland
3 Marcus Georges-Hunt F 6-5 214 SR
32 Brooks Doyle G 6-4 205 SR Walk-On
2 Chris Bolden G 6-3 223 SR
5 Corey Heyward G 6-1 214 R-JR
42 Rand Rowland F 6-7 206 JR Walk-On
12 Quinton Stephens F 6-9 187 JR
11 Josh Heath G 6-2 172 JR Transfer from South Florida
10 Travis Jorgenson G 6-0 177 R-SO
30 Bernard Woodside G 5-10 179 SO Walk-On
34 Abdoulaye Gueye F 6-9 208 SO
35 Patrick Lamar G 6-0 198 SO Walk-On
44 Ben Lammers C 6-10 241 SO
1 Tadric Jackson G 6-2 215 SO
Sylvester Ogbonda C 6-9 210 FR Signed

I'm going to set up my solution by taking a look at what's working and what isn't, at least from my perspective. From there, we'll know who's irreplaceable from this group, and what spots need filling.

What's Working

First, the things the team currently does well:

  • Rebounding: The team led the ACC and was 22nd nationally in offensive rebounding. It was third in the ACC and a top-100 team nationally when it came to total rebounds. This was a clear, acknowledged strength of this team.
  • Steals: Georgia Tech was 6th in the ACC in steals with 109.
  • Playing Clean: The Yellow Jackets were 5th in the ACC and 39th nationally in fewest personal fouls.
  • Marcus Georges-Hunt: The team's leading scorer with 13.6 points per game was also second on the team in free throw percentage (76.3%) and third in field goal percentage (43.1%) and assists (54).
  • Charles Mitchell: Far from perfect, but the team's second-leading scorer, leader in field goal percentage and rebounds, and 5th in the ACC in offensive rebounds. Lead the ACC in offensive rebound percentage and was second in total rebound percentage.

What's Not Working

Now, for the pain points:

  • Scoring: This team was second-to-last (14th) in ACC play and 282nd nationally on the season in points per game. It also ranked 280th nationally in points per 100 possessions with 97.4 -- less than 1 point per possession.
  • Shooting Percentage: This team was second-to-last (14th) in ACC play and 294th nationally on the season in field goal percentage, dead last (15th) and 270th nationally in two-point percentage, dead last (15th) and third-to-last (349th) in three-point percentage, and second-to-last (14th) and 318th in free throw percentage. The team has not finished in the top 200 nationally in any of these categories under Brian Gregory.
  • Inside Presence: The Yellow Jackets lose their top two players in blocks (Demarco Cox with 28, Robert Sampson with 25), with the next highest coming from Mitchell's 14. The team total of 58 blocks would have finished fourth in the ACC among individuals and was 11th in the conference. The threshold to make the top 10 in the ACC was 42 blocks, as many as Cox and Mitchell had combined.

My Solution

I want you to look at the "What's Working" section (without the two players) and the "What's Not Working" section, and look at the clear trend. The team rebounds well, plays decent defense, and doesn't commit a ton of fouls. That's good! That implies that there are fundamentals in place and that the team is being coached up to at least some degree. That's a positive change over the end of the Hewitt era.

As for what's not working, there's an obvious trend pointing to the offense. The team is struggling with making shots from all over the floor -- both from the field and the free throw line. I struggle to accept that there's a talent issue, mainly looking at players like Marcus Georges-Hunt and Tadric Jackson who have shown impressive scoring ability, as well as Quinton Stephens' abilities from medium and long range. So, how would I fix this? Bring in a new shooting coach. That these players have such an inability to make baskets is mind-boggling, and bringing in a shooting coach would hopefully get the team to a more reasonable level of efficiency on offense.

The other change I would make would be to add (or develop) a dominant big man to supplement Charles Mitchell's inside presence. With Demarco Cox and Robert Sampson departed, the team loses 53 of its 104 blocks last season (that's 51%). Developing the 6'10" sopohmore Ben Lammers to create points in the low post and contribute shot-blocking abilities on defense would go a long way in opening up shooters on the outside. Lammers (or anyone else) doesn't need to be Dwight Howard or Anthony Davis -- they just need to be a defensive threat that can make offensive contributions. They could also get this from Alabama transfer Nick Jacobs, but at 6'8" I'd prefer to leave Jacobs in a role similar to that of Charles Mitchell. (Mitchell only played 22.1 minutes per game in 2014-2015, so there's plenty of court time available to Jacobs, even in a backup role.)

That being said, here's a theoretical depth chart of what the team would look like:

Position First String Second String
G Josh Heath Travis Jorgenson
G Tadric Jackson Corey Heyward
F Marcus Georges-Hunt Quinton Stephens
F Charles Mitchell Nick Jacobs
F/C Ben Lammers Sylvester Ogbonda

It's not particularly different from last year's lineup, but improved results from that lineup hinges on two things -- development of Ben Lammers at the center spot, and improved shooting from the guards. Tadric Jackson and Marcus Georges-Hunt have the talent to be a dangerous scoring duo, but it may take some different coaching to see them realize that potential.

Would this fix what ails Georgia Tech? Am I misdiagnosing the problem? Poorly prescribing a solution? Is two moves enough?