Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Basketball, 1st Quarter Grade: C-

Year four in Atlanta for Yellow Jacket coach Brian Gregory took a turn for the worse this past Saturday. Dropping a home game to USC-Upstate is nothing new for an ACC school (see Virginia Tech, 2013); but the sleepy mistaken-laden matinee was telling. The story it told wasn’t pretty. The Yellow Jackets have it in them to lose to just about anybody, anywhere.

The Yellow Jackets have been a mess since the mid-00s, throwing a wild haymaker of a 20 win season every few years to keep the wolves at bay. But ever since football became the cash cow of the ACC, Georgia Tech is truly the most noticeable of schools in that it has adopted a football-first mentality, from leadership down to the fans. Basketball has become secondary. Such a celebrated program in the 80s and 90s under Bobby Cremins, this latest edition is such a steep drop off, you begin to wonder if that oasis ever existed at all.

Remember this? A beautiful thing. Their game vs UNLV in the 1990 Final Four was that year’s de-facto title game. Duke wasn’t ready for the Penthouse penthouse.


Georgia Tech was dreadful before Cremins. And then the white-mopped hoops savant from New York created a desirable destination for northern talent in Atlanta. It’s no secret that it’s a mecca of sorts for the African-American community, and every NBA player’s favorite town. So why aren’t top shelf players opting for the ATL any longer? It has a great AAU scene also.

These are questions Coach Gregory must answer, and soon. In both Cremins and Paul Hewitt’s fourth years at the helm, they achieved next level goals. Cremins got to a regional final during his very first tournament run; and Hewitt made the title game in 2004 before succumbing to UConn in Jim Calhoun’s second title effort.  I am fairly confident that the pattern will be broken this year, as GT doesn’t have the horses to make the NCAA tournament. Let’s proceed to the grade:

Note: First quarter only deals with the regular season schedule. We’ll call the postseason overtime when we arrive there this Spring.

Why a C-?

RealtimeRPI has UGA (RPI 81) Northwestern (86) and surprisingly, Rhode Island (22) as money wins. Whether the Rams remain in the top 50 at the end of the year remains to be seen. These aren’t wins of any magnitude, though beating the Dawgs is always a nice thing.

It’s the losses that sting. Losing to Marquette (113) and their empty cupboard, and then USC-Upstate (249) at home this late in the year are just losses teams don’t bounce back from when they don’t have a great resume to start with.

The team isn’t aesthetically pleasing to watch. Everyone loves their jumper, the ball doesn’t move.

How Can They Improve Their RPI Before Conference Play?

Georgia Tech has a pretty generous RPI of 42 right now, and still has games with Vandy (218), at Dayton (49), which is a difficult road trip. They also play Charlotte (24). These A-10 matchups are helping the Jackets RPI tremendously, and that’s a nod to former Dayton coach Gregory for understanding which way the RPI wind was blowing.

IFFFF the Jackets managed to get to .500 in the league, their overall strength of schedule would be more attractive to some than if they had played just one good team and eleven patsies.

What Does Georgia Tech Do Well?

  • Well. Not much. I had my cutoff at the top 25 for the first several I did, as many ACC teams rank in the top 25 across the board, even the lesser teams have some top 25 strengths.
    Georgia Tech has but one, rebounding margin, where they rank 11th. This is a product of their grind-it-out style that sees them produce at below the nation’s midpoint offensively in a multitude of category.
  • I guess if it comes down to it, during a tough possession you can rely on Georgia Tech to come up with a stop 2/3 of the time. That’s a nice thing to have in your pocket if you’re in  a tight game with time winding down.
  • Spread out the minutes among nine contributors. Now if those contributors would take care of the ball and make a few more shots, this team might have a postseason.

Where Can the Yellow Jackets Improve?

  • Taking care of the ball. The Jackets rank 212th in turnovers per game, and 253rd in turnover margin. This is odd because starting PG Josh Heath is averaging 4.5 assists to just 1.3 TO, good for a national ranking in assist/turnover ratio. There are three big men (Charles Mitchell, DeMarco Cox, and Robert Sampson) who combine for 6.1 turnovers a game. I need to watch more of them to determine what the root cause of this is, whether it’s big men trying to do too much on the ball, or a simple inability to catch.
  • Shooting. The Jackets are 321st in three pointers made per game. In this era, you are dead on arrival if you can’t demonstrate even a little bit of accuracy to keep teams honest. The Jackets are allowing teams to pack it in and give them long jumpers. The sad thing is, Gregory isn’t benching anyone for shooting long twos. I’m sure this inability to shoot has contributed to the big mens’ turnovers in that they are immediately facing double teams on every touch.
  • Finding an alpha. The leading scorer Marcus Georges Hunt is averaging just 11.8 ppg. Only three players are averaging in double figures, though the bench has a blend of guys who contribute between 5 and 7 ppg.


It’s not rosy. I expect at least one more non-conference loss, which would then require seven wins in ACC play to qualify for the NIT with a .500 record. They play Wake, Notre Dame, UNC, and Clemson twice. Their ISO home games are Syracuse, BC, NC St, Florida State and Louisville. The ISO road games are Pitt, UVA, Miami, Duke, VT.

They must sweep Wake, win at home against BC, FSU, and Clemson. Then steal a road win at VT. That would get them back to six wins, but they’d need to win an ACC play-in game to make a postseason someplace. Will that be enough to get Gregory to year five? A finish similar to the past two seasons? As I said, there just isn’t much here, and hasn’t been for a long while.

The Week Ahead

The Yellow Jackets resume play next Monday, 12/15 against Appalachian State. Their only game until the 20th. So I imagine this week involves a good bit of practice following last Saturday’s stunning defeat.

Please stay tuned as I run down each of the ACC teams first quarter marks as we rev up our coverage on Inside The ACC. Please air any grievances below in the comments! You might be just in time for feats of strength!

Have a great Tuesday everyone, and check back in as I am going to be posting these until I am exhausted (at least a few a day until complete). Follow me on Twitter (@insidetheacc)



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