If new Georgia Tech athletic director Mike Bobinski, the chair of the NCAA men’s basketball committee, wants input on the top teams in the ACC, he need do no more than ask coach Brian Gregory. Only four games into the league schedule, the Yellow Jackets are far more familiar than they might prefer.
In the Jackets’ first four ACC games – all losses — three have been against the conference’s three highest-ranked teams. The Jackets have lost to No. 1 Duke, No. 18 N.C. State and No. 25 Miami. They’re the only team in the league to have taken on all three so far. The other loss was to Virginia Tech.
Tech will play North Carolina, arguably the fourth-best team in the ACC, Wednesday night in Chapel Hill, N.C.
“I think, I mean, obviously, there’s a frustration, and as well there should be,” Gregory said. “But I think our guys understand where we’re at and what we need to do.”
The 0-4 ACC record is Tech’s longest losing streak to start ACC play since the 2008-09 team started 0-6 and finished 12-19 overall and 2-14 in the ACC. The Jackets, though, continue to offer glimpses. As was the case against N.C. State, Tech (10-6 overall) led at halftime at Duke. In his first career start, freshman guard Chris Bolden dropped 20 points on the Blue Devils, the first time a Tech player has scored 20 this season. He’ll start again at the shooting guard spot Wednesday ahead of Brandon Reed, who started 28 games last season and the first 15 games of this season.
Gregory said that in games over the holiday break, he challenged Bolden to play with more aggressiveness and improve his practice habits. Assistants showed him video of opportunities he was passing up. He is probably the team’s best perimeter shooter.
“If you can handle pressure and make some perimeter shots, that makes it a lot easier for the post players,” Gregory said.
Tech held Duke to a season-low 40.0 percent from the field. According to basketball analytics website kenpom.com, Tech is giving up 86.9 points per 100 possessions, the 17th lowest rate in the country. (The Jackets are scoring 95.3 points per 100 possessions, 237th in the country.)
If the Tar Heels take Tech for granted, “it will be more than dangerous,” UNC coach Roy Williams said. “It will be a loss.”
As has been the case through the first four games, Tech needs to gather rebounds by the bushel to have a chance. Going into Tuesday’s games, North Carolina (12-5 overall, 2-2 ACC) was second in the conference in rebounding margin at plus-6.1 with an offensive rebounding rate of 38.6 percent. Forward James Michael McAdoo leads the team with 8.2 rebounds per game, as well as scoring at 14.7 points per game.
“You’ve got to guard their motion offense, keep the dribble in front of you and you’ve got to control the glass,” Gregory said. “They’re the best offensive rebounding team, or one of the best offensives rebounding teams, not just in our conference, but in the country, so you can’t give them second and third shots.”