When Brian Gregory took over the Yellow Jackets he inherited a bad team, he stepped into a program saddled with debt, and during his first season his team wouldn’t have an arena. That team went 11-20, and when it was over he cut ties with his most talented player – Glen Rice Jr.
Fast forward a few months and things are looking good at Georgia Tech. The McCammish Pavilion renovation is complete, and apparently the renovation of the program is well on its way.
This isn’t a team which is going to challenge to win the ACC, at least not this year. But considering that they haven’t had a winning record in-conference since the 2003-04 season, fans should be fine with any signs of life.
Tech currently sits at 5-2 and their losses are to Cal and Illinois, two teams which combine for a 15-1 record. They also have solid wins over St. Mary’s and a much improved Tulane team, and they easily handled their in-state rival Georgia. The rest of their out of conference schedule isn’t built to get them into the tournament, but they’ll be favorites in every game and a young team can probably use the confidence boost. Next year Gregory will be able to elevate the schedule’s degree of difficulty.
Georgia Tech – despite Gregory’s pronouncement at his hiring that his teams would love to get out and run – is one of the slowest teams in the nation. Gregory’s teams have always been that way, and this year is no different (289th in tempo). They limit their turnovers on offense, which is key since putting the ball in the basket can often be a challenge. But how he’s really turned this thing around is through defense. Which was his model at Dayton.
In 2010 he coached the 9th best defense in the nation. This year Tech is 32nd. The only opponents who scored more than a point per possession vs Tech this year were the two which beat them. Those were also the two most uptempo games they played (69 and 66 possessions).
This team just has to keep doing what it's doing – slow teams down, play defense, and hope they score enough.
Is it premature to say they're on their way back? I don't think so – just look at the roster. Only two ACC teams have more consensus top-100 players on the roster. Tech is playing six right now, and a 7th (Stacey Poole) joins the team after the fall semester. And talent matters. Talent wins. This is a young team with a lot of talent which is just becoming comfortable with the system. The top of the ACC might want to start checking their mirrors.