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Georgia Tech could be a force ... maybe

SoVaNow.com / March 15, 2009
ATLANTA - Georgia Tech upset Clemson and then absorbed a bitter, 64-62 quarterfinals loss to Florida State Friday, but the Yellow Jackets could be a major force in the ACC next season.

Maybe.

Tech finished 12-19 and out of the postseason, but Jackets’ coach Paul Hewitt could have one of the best teams in the league next year, after a tough season in which the Jackets were consistently competitive, especially for a last place team.

Heading into the ACC tournament, only seven of Tech’s 18 losses had come by ten or more points, and the Jackets had plenty of late game heartbreak.

It could be considerably different next year.

ACC insider Barry Jacobs explained, “they lost a lot of close games. They started off the year shooting free throws really terribly, and that’s part of why they lost those close games. As their free throw shooting improved and as (freshman point guard Iman Shumpert) improved, they became more competitive.”

Tech also has Glen Rice Jr.,, the son of former Michigan and NBA standout Glen Rice, and Brian Oliver coming in after they committed in the early signing period. If everyone stays, and Hewitt gets his best defender, D’Andre Bell, back from neck surgery, the Jackets could be a force.

Assuming Shumpert stays and Gani Lawal, described by Jacobs “as a big, long, athletic forward”, Tech will have two McDonald’s All-Americans.

Tech is also getting Derrick Favors, a power forward who’s one of the best newcomers in the country, coming in next year.

If all that works out, Hewitt could be loaded for the upcoming season, when he really needs a solid campaign for political reasons.

As matters stood, Georgia Tech brought out the overall strength of the ACC and gave FSU a real battle in ACC tournament action. The ‘Noles moved on to the title game.

Duke survived Boston College, barely, on Friday night, capping a remarkable day of ACC hoops.

The Blue Devils survived early foul trouble to Gerald Henderson, and finally found their stride in the second half, getting enough production across the board to hold off BC.

Kyle Singler sparked Duke with 26 points, while Henderson bounced back with 16 and Jon Scheyer scored 14 en route to a hard-fought 66-65 win.

The Eagles have had a fine campaign, all things considered, and are a solid NCAA lock at 22-11.

BC guard Tyrese Rice, the glue that holds the team together, addressed the issue of how the ACC tournament prepared the Eagles for the NCAA tournament.

“This is the best conference tournament you can play in because of the competition and the people you are playing against,” said Rice. “You get to play against the uptempo style and then you get to play against real physical teams also, so you get the best of both worlds to get ready for the next tournament.”

According to the Fans Guide ACC tournament notes put out by Jacobs, the four quarterfinals on Friday were decided by a combined 17 points, an average of 4.25 points per game. This is the second-smallest average margin in the history of the quarterfinals, and the smallest in as four-game set. The three quarterfinals in 1975, when the top seed received a bye, were decided by a cumulative nine points, a 3.0 average.

More fun stuff from Jacobs: Wake Forest’s .120 shooting from 3-point range (3-25) in its loss to Maryland was the worst ever by a Demon Deacon squad in an ACC tournament contest. Wake’s previous standard for inaccuracy was 15.4 percent, a 2-for-15 effort against UNC in the 2000 quarterfinals.

The Fans Guide coaches all-defensive team for the ACC is out, and FSU’s Toney Douglas led the way, with a unanimous 12 votes. Soloman Alabi of FSU was the second highest vote getter, with 10, followed by Trevor Booker of Clemson, Gerald Henderson of Duke and L.D. Williams of Wake Forest. This remains the only all-conference squad chosen entirely by the ACC’s head coaches.



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