Year after year, the ACC is one of the toughest conferences to play in. Each season, there are a couple of teams who find themselves on the bottom of the standings, having taken their bumps and bruises from the top teams in the conference.
Last season, one of those teams was the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, finishing with a 3 – 15 record in conference play.
The Yellow Jackets are hoping for a bounce-back year in 2015-16. The bulk of their offensive production is back from a season ago, and they have attracted a pair of key graduate transfers to come in and be impact players.
Behind the leadership of their senior guard who is climbing the school’s all-time scoring list, how far will the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets go? Will they be able to make a successful turnaround, or are fans in for another long year?
Below, you can read into what the Yellow Jackets have coming back this season in terms of talent, and some of the challenges they face in their non-conference schedule for the 2015-16 season.
Coming off a 12 – 19 season, some would think that changes were needed for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. The team will undergo some roster changes in 2015-16, but the roster will still be filled with experienced players who can help the team bounce back after a down year.
The biggest loss from last year’s team will be Demarco Cox. Last season, Cox appeared in all 31 games for the Yellow Jackets, starting 30. He finished third on the team in scoring, averaging 8.8 points to go along with 6.1 rebounds per contest in his final season as a Yellow Jacket. His departure will leave a hole in the front court, but will also provide others with the opportunity to step up and prove their worth.
Junior guard Chris Bolden is also gone from last year’s team, but he opted to take the transfer route. Bolden appeared in 25 games last season, and averaged 6.9 points per game, good for fourth-best on the team. It is unclear as to where Bolden is transferring at the moment.
Robert Sampson is the third and final loss that could have an effect on the Yellow Jackets next season. Sampson appeared in all 31 games for Georgia Tech, averaging 5.5 points per contest. While his point production shouldn’t be the issue, finding someone who is durable enough to appear in all 31 games would be the toughest task in replacing Sampson.
With only three key contributors gone from last year’s team, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets will have an experience-filled roster ready to roll in 2015-16.
After only losing three players who played significant minutes from last year’s roster, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets return the bulk of their offense and look ready to climb back into contention in the ACC this season. The program returns three of their top five scorers overall, including their top two point producers from 2014-15.
Leading the way once again in 2015-16 is none other than senior guard Marcus Georges-Hunt. Last season as a junior, Georges-Hunt led the Yellow Jackets in scoring, averaging 13.6 points per game to go along with 5.5 rebounds per contest. The 6’5” guard has recorded over 1,100 points during his three years at Georgia Tech, and has steadily been climbing up the list of all-time scoring leaders for the Yellow Jackets.
The offensively-gifted guard will be looked upon to lead a team that is rich in experience and talent this season. Georgia Tech will feature two players who are graduate transfers, plus some key contributors from last year’s squad.
Returning alongside Georges-Hunt is senior forward Charles Mitchell. The 6’8” forward averaged 9.8 points per game last season, good for second-best on the team, and a team-high 7.0 rebounds per contest. With Cox on his way out, more of the focus will shift to Mitchell in the front court to be a force in the paint.
In terms of incoming graduate transfers, Georgia Tech welcomes Arkansas-Little Rock-transfer James White and Virginia Tech-transfer Adam Smith to the squad. Smith is a 6’1” point guard who could step in and contribute right away as the team’s starting point guard.
As for White, the Yellow Jackets have a slew of talented forwards on their roster already, so sliding White into a sixth-man role with the team may be the best fit to start the season. With Quinton Stephens also returning, the duo of Stephens and Mitchell have the familiarity that coach Gregory and the staff may want to have in the early stages of the season. This will also give White time to get accustomed to Georgia Tech’s systems, and in turn it gives the team a strong option off the bench.
With the four key returnees of Georges-Hunt, Mitchell, Stephens, and Tadric Jackson, and the additions of White and Smith, the Yellow Jackets can create some unique lineups that will surely keep opposing defenses on their toes.
This wouldn’t be a full preview if incoming freshman Sylvester Ogbonda wasn’t mentioned. The 6’10” center from Fort Washington, Maryland brings some much-needed size to the front court. If he can impress in the early stages of the season, don’t be surprised to see him slide into the starting lineup from time to time.
Projected Starting Five
Guard: Adam Smith (SR)
Guard: Tadric Jackson (SO)
Guard: Marcus Georges-Hunt (SR)
Forward: Charles Mitchell (SR)
Forward: Quinton Stephens (JR)
Flashback to last season, when the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets laid a proverbial egg on their home floor against USC Upstate on December 6th, losing 59 – 54. Mind yo, Ty Greene and the Spartans were an underrated opponent, but you can bet that the loss is fresh in the minds of the coaching staff and the returning players, and they want to avoid another similar loss in 2015-16.
This season, the Yellow Jackets take on some strong mid-major opponents who will give them everything they have. Georgia Tech opens up with home games against Cornell and Tennessee. Rick Barnes and the Volunteers should give the Yellow Jackets an early test to open the season.
From there, the Yellow Jackets welcome Green Bay and East Tennessee State to town as a part of the NIT Season Tip-Off, both of whom are capable of pulling off an upset inside McCamish Pavilion. However, Georgia Tech should be up to the task this season. The team then travels to Brooklyn, NY to take part in the main portion of the tournament, opening up against Arkansas then taking on either Stanford or Villanova.
To close out non-conference play, Georgia Tech has home dates scheduled with the likes of Wofford, VCU, and Duquesne, all of whom should provide unique and tough challenges for the Yellow Jackets. The team will also go on the road to take on Tulane and Georgia before the Christmas break.
Georgia Tech will have a tough non-conference slate in advance of ACC play kicking off, but it’s nothing that they can’t manage. If they can put the loss to USC Upstate behind them, and get off to a hot start by putting up a strong performance in the NIT Season Tip-Off, then the Yellow Jackets should be able to put together some positive momentum moving forwards.
Marcus Georges-Hunt has quietly put together one of the better careers in a Georgia Tech uniform, and he still has one season left to go. He will be the focal point once again this season, but he will need others around him to step up if the Yellow Jackets want to escape the cellar of the ACC standings.
The pieces are there for Georgia Tech to make some noise this season. How the team gels together and who steps up to fill the void will be the determining factors for the team. Weathering the storm in non-conference play will be a big factor into how the season plays out.
With so much talent in the ACC, it’s tough to imagine Georgia Tech making it back to the NCAA Tournament this season. But, then again, stranger things have happened and anything is possible.