Basketball Scouting Report: Georgia Tech

The Vanderbilt Commodores are trying to build up their RPI, which currently sits at 143. Beating a power-conference team will certainly help, and what’s more is that Georgia Tech offers a vulnerable target. It’s time for Vandy to get something done on the road.


There is a tension between opportunity and damage in a road game against a low-end power-conference opponent. The opportunity to get a road win against a team that will play a lot of high-profile opponents – thereby serving as a window to a higher RPI over the course of the season – is evident. Georgia Tech might not amount to much, but it will play the likes of Duke, Louisville, Virginia, Miami, and North Carolina over the course of the season. When those opponents’ records improve, the value of beating Georgia Tech will improve.

The downside of a road game against a low-end power-league foe is just as obvious. It’s important enough to win “battleground” games against bubble teams from other conferences, or better yet, games against elite teams. (Vanderbilt wanted to play Virginia in the Barclays Classic, but the loss to Rutgers in the semifinals scuttled that plan.) If a team can’t pluck the lower-hanging fruit in the realm of the power conferences, it has no shot to become an at-large NCAA tournament team. Vanderbilt knows what it has to do this Saturday afternoon… and what it must avoid.

GEORGIA TECH AT-A-GLANCE

The Yellow Jackets are coached by Brian Gregory, who has been on the job in Atlanta since 2011 with absolutely nothing to show for his tenure. The Jackets haven’t made the NCAA tournament under Gregory, and they haven’t even sniffed the Dance, going 50-54 under Gregory to this point in time. The Yellow Jackets do have a 7-2 record, which looks really nice on the surface, but the two losses were damaging. Marquette is not likely to be a tournament team, and the real killer figures to be South Carolina Upstate, a team near the No. 200 mark in the RPI, which stung the Jackets in Atlanta. Georgia Tech’s winning record doesn’t figure to last very long in the conspicuously deep ACC. In order to gain any sort of leverage in advance of the ACC schedule, the Ramblin’ Wreck sorely needs to pocket this win over VU.

There is no secret about this next point in the college basketball world: If Georgia Tech once again drifts into a very familiar pattern of mediocrity this season, Gregory will be gone. Few coaches in the Division I power conferences are sitting on a hotter seat right now. Vanderbilt is a more skilled team than Georgia Tech, but the Yellow Jackets should certainly play with a sense of urgency, and the Commodores need to be ready to expect as much.

Starting Lineup

Center – Demarco Cox –
Senior, 6-8, 276 2014-15: 10.3 points per game, 6.4 rebounds per game

Not particularly tall but certainly a widebody who is hard to overpower in the low post, Cox gives Georgia Tech a workmanlike presence. A noticeable feature of Georgia Tech’s entire frontcourt is that no one is taller than 6-9. It’s little wonder that Gregory hasn’t been able to win with such a lack of presence near the rim.

Forward – Charles Mitchell – Junior, 6-8, 269; 2014-15: 9.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg

Mitchell doesn’t do much in the scoring column, but he’s the team’s leading rebounder and one of three Yellow Jackets who grabs at least 6.4 boards per game. Georgia Tech doesn’t shoot well, so the Dores have to be sure to block out against Mitchell and others, making the Jackets a one-and-done team.

Forward – Marcus Georges-Hunt – Junior, 6-5, 214; 2014-15: 11.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg

Georges-Hunt illustrates why this team falls short. Georgia Tech has undersized post players, so one would figure that Georges-Hunt – as the wing forward – would really carry this team as a scorer. The fact that he’s averaging a modest 11.4 points per game tells you how impoverished this team is at the offensive end. Georges-Hunt hits only 19 percent of his threes. When a team can’t reliably score from three-point range, it better have Kentucky-level size and depth to compensate. Naturally, Georgia Tech (and just about every other team) lacks those characteristics.

Forward – Quinton Stephens – Sophomore, 6-9, 187; 2014-15: 8.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg

You will notice three forwards in the Jackets’ starting lineup – don’t be caught off guard by this fact. The three-forward composition of the team’s starting five doesn’t mean that much, at least if Georgia Tech’s distribution of minutes from its most recent game against Appalachian State (Monday, Dec. 15) is any indication. Gregory played five reserves at least 11 minutes in that game, three of them being guards. Three players played at least 16 minutes, two of them being guards. They’ll be named in the bench section below.

Stephens, unlike his frontcourt teammates, is long and not bulky. His length makes him a more natural shot blocker, and that’s where Vanderbilt needs to pay attention to him when the Dores have the ball... even though Stephens hasn’t yet learned to swat shots (0.6 blocked shots per game). When VU plays defense, Stephens deserves attention because he’s the only Yellow Jacket who shoots better than 31 percent from three-point range. He just doesn’t look for the long ball very often.

Guard – Travis Jorgenson – Freshman, 6-0, 177; 2014-15: 2.5 ppg, 2.2 assists per game

Jorgenson has plenty of backup at the guard spot, so his place as a freshman – while concerning to a degree – is not an out-and-out crisis for the Jackets. The larger issue is that his backups aren’t able to log more minutes and make more substantial contributions.

Bench

The three players who played at least 16 minutes on Monday against Appalachian State are guards Chris Bolden and Tadric Jackson plus forward Robert Sampson. Bolden averages 5.7 points per game. Jackson averages seven points per game. Sampson averages 5.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. Other bench players who gained at least 11 minutes versus Appalachian State: center Ben Lammers (12 minutes) and guard Josh Heath, who is the team’s assist leader with 4.3 dimes per game. Heath also averages six points per contest.

Keys to the Game

1) Defensive rebounding.
It’s not hard to appreciate: Georgia Tech isn’t likely to shoot well, so Vanderbilt has to limit putbacks in particular and second-chance points in general. Rebounding at the defensive end offers the surest path to victory for the Dores.

2) Get to the foul line. This being a road game, Vanderbilt cannot count on shooting jumpers as well as it’s done in recent games. The Dores need to be able to get to the foul line when they need to, and they need to prove it to themselves and each other that they can be resourceful in such a manner on the road.

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