GEORGIA TECH MEN’S PREVIEW

GEORGIA TECH

Season opener: vs. Georgia, 7 p.m. Nov. 14

ACC opener: at Notre Dame, 2:30 p.m. Jan. 3

2013-14 record: 16-17, 6-12 ACC

Previous game: lost to Clemson 69-65 (OT), March 13 in ACC tournament

2013-14 recap: Tech had the ingredients to achieve higher than its record, but was handicapped by a series of injuries, most notably to forward Robert Carter and guards Trae Golden and Travis Jorgenson. The Yellow Jackets also developed the confounding habit of going cold for long stretches, which cost them a number of games and possibly a postseason berth. The season was memorable for the All-ACC performance by center Daniel Miller. The Jackets defeated Georgia for the third consecutive season and stunned then-No. 7 Syracuse on its home court, arguably the biggest win of coach Brian Gregory's three-year tenure. The team was jolted in May when Carter, who finished the season strong after missing 10 games with a torn meniscus and was poised to take leadership of the team, decided to transfer, eventually selecting Maryland.

Reasons for optimism: Perhaps no roster in the country received as much of a makeover as Tech's. After losing four seniors and Carter, Gregory brought in four transfers and three freshmen. Further, Jorgenson is back after tearing his ACL in the fourth game of the season. Forward Robert Sampson, son of basketball legend Ralph Sampson, will begin play after sitting out last season as a transfer. Among the transfers, center DeMarco Cox (Ole Miss), forward Charles Mitchell (Maryland) and guard Josh Heath (South Florida) will be eligible, although forward Nick Jacobs (Alabama) will not. They will bring experience and toughness to infuse a team that needs both. Perhaps the most obvious reason for optimism, however, is forward Marcus Georges-Hunt, whom Gregory is touting as an All-ACC candidate. Georges-Hunt has continued to polish his all-around game, has improved his conditioning and has an ideal personality to try to bring together the disparate pieces of the roster.

Reasons for pessimism: It's the flipside of the same coin. Gregory deserves ample credit for his offseason shopping spree after Carter's transfer, not to mention the hiring of two new assistant coaches. Now he's charged with blending together eight players who last season either were in high school or at another college, sat out as a transfer or played four games before a season-ending injury. It's doable, but it certainly won't be easy. Further, Gregory's point guards — Jorgenson, Heath and Corey Heyward — are light on experience. Heyward started 15 games last season as a freshman, but point-guard duties largely were Golden's responsibility. Heath played 17 games and started four at USF. The talent and pass-first mentality are there, but all three have plenty of maturation ahead of them. Tech is also hoping in freshman Tadric Jackson, a gifted scorer. And the schedule, particularly the ACC segment, will be a bear. The Jackets go home-and-home with North Carolina and Notre Dame and travel to Duke and Pittsburgh, among other challenges. Making headway against that schedule won't be easy.