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Georgia Tech heads to NC State in search of more reliable offense

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Welcome back to basketball season, everybody!

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-Georgia Tech vs Notre Dame Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

It’s gettin’ on down to put-up-or-get-a-new-job for Josh Pastner, who hasn’t improved the Georgia Tech program he inherited, and hasn’t gotten the Jackets into the postseason. They’ll be sitting out the NCAAs no matter what they do this season, thanks to NCAA sanctions. Not ideal!

The Jackets could potentially make a decent move in the positive direction this season, and maybe that would be enough to ease pressure on Pastner despite the NCAA troubles. Tech returns four of their top five scorers from last season and begins the season at No. 66 in the Pomeroy Ratings, which suggests a team capable of being good enough to challenge for an at-large bid. Y’know, if that weren’t off the table already.

Georgia Tech in 2019

Jackets OE/DE (rk) eFG% TO% OR% FTR
Jackets OE/DE (rk) eFG% TO% OR% FTR
Offense 101.7 (228) 49.2 (242) 21.0 (316) 25.3 (270) 34.3 (142)
Defense 96.5 (43) 45.6 (15) 18.7 (155) 31.7 (302) 34.8 (228)

Pastner’s Memphis teams typically played good defense and he’s brought that same quality to Atlanta, it’s just that his Georgia Tech teams have been a mess at the offensive end. If that doesn’t change with all of the returning experience on hand this year, then I don’t know that it ever will.

Two areas badly in need of improvement: turnover rate and three-point shooting. The Jackets turned the ball over way too often in general, but it was a particularly painful shortcoming for a group that didn’t shoot well or grab many offensive boards. They sure found themselves a lot of paths to scoreless possessions.

Starters

Jose Alvarado (6’0, 179) — Alvarado will have a big say in how Georgia Tech’s season goes. He was a high-workload player and he was also on the floor a whole bunch last season, and I wouldn’t expect either of those things to change. I have to think he’ll be much improved from the perimeter—his 28.6% shooting from beyond the arc in 2019 looks a bit fluky after he made 37% of those shots in ‘18.

Michael Devoe (6’5, 193) — The Jackets couldn’t count on many guys to hit threes last season, but they did have Devoe, who hit better than 39% from outside, and made nearly 44% in league play. But he also struggled to score inside the arc and was a significant part of the offense’s turnover problems.

Khalid Moore (6’7, 203) — He posted a decent line in modest minutes as a freshman, and if he can be a more consistent outside shooter, he may earn a larger chunk of the offense as well.

Moses Wright (6’9, 230) — The Raleigh native had himself a heck of a game at NC State last year, putting up 18 points and grabbing eight boards. He could be a pretty good interior scorer at times but should probably dispense with the threes, seeing as he is 7-55 for his career from beyond the arc.

James Banks (6’10, 250) — Banks led the ACC in blocks a year ago and earned all-defensive team honors as a result. He’s an excellent rebounder at both ends and shot 56.4% inside the arc last season. He could really take off if he can cut down on the turnovers.

Bench

Evan Cole (6’10, 226), Shembari Phillips (6’4, 210), Kristian Sjolund (6’8, 213), Bubba Parham (5’10, 160), Asanti Price (6’5, 177).

Parham is a transfer from VMI, where he put up loads of points as a high-usage guy in that up-and-down system. The career 37.5% three-point shooter should definitely give the Jackets a boost in that department but is likely to struggle from two-point range considering his slight frame. He should be a useful player as long as he pumps the brakes on that workload; the ACC is a bit different than the SoCon, last I checked.

There aren’t proven commodities elsewhere on this bench: Price is a freshman, while the other three didn’t see a lot of court time in 2019. Georgia Tech can be pretty good one through five, but I don’t know how much additional help the Jackets are going to be able to rely on.

If the Jackets can get some unexpected contributions from the bench, then I wouldn’t be surprised if they exceed preseason expectations and finish higher than 12th. They have some good pieces to work with, but the now-annual question is about making those pieces work cohesively on a regular basis at the offensive end.

Until proven otherwise, it’s fair to assume business as usual for Georgia Tech under Josh Pastner.