ATLANTA, GA - Sophomore wing Curtis Haywood told Georgia Tech sports reporters that, "Georgia Tech will run and could be one of the fastest teams in the country."
As many well know, this has been Coach Josh Pastner's intent since he took the reigns in Atlanta, recruiting guards that would thrive in the up tempo world such as Jose Alvarado and Mike Devoe as well as bigger wings that can shoot. This comes as no surprise since that's how Pastner primarily built his teams at Memphis.
Personally, I would not mind seeing an uptick in tempo when it comes to Georgia Tech basketball. For far too long the program has wallowed in the depths of what can only be described as a boring type of basketball. My main questions about this approach is: Are the Jackets ready? Why not last year? The obvious answer there is that center Ben Lammers would have suffered in that style, but does Pastner have the horses this year to run?
Last season the Yellow Jackets ranked 277th in adjusted tempo (possessions per 40 minutes) and 197th in adjusted offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions) according to Kenpom. In fact, the last time a Georgia Tech team finished better than 142nd in adjusted tempo was 2011 when the Jackets finished 55th. That year they were also 191st in adjusted offensive efficiency and finished the season at 13-18.
In a recent press conference Coach Pastner did acknowledge that he wants to pick up the pace but also said that, "we'll see if I stick with it."
While I am unsure if the Jackets currently have the horses, I am sure that the current roster is made to run. Outside of redshirt senior center AD Gueye, there aren't any bigs on the roster that are traditional post players. Sophomores Moses Wright and Evan Cole both project as big fours who would thrive in a running game as opposed to back-to-the-basket, on the block big men. I also believe that transfer Shembari Phillips and true freshman Khalid Moore will benefit from the court opening up in front of them.
One concern I admit to having is defense. Last season the Jackets ranked 61st in adjusted defensive efficiency (points surrendered per 100 possessions), a ranking we should expect to suffer when coupled with giving the opposition more possessions this season. Add in the departures of perimeter defender Josh Okogie and rim protector Ben Lammers, and it becomes more difficult to project a top 100 finish in that metric.
The catch-22 here is that if Pastner does not kick up the tempo soon, recruiting may continue to be a struggle. Of course, if he goes up tempo and doesn't win basketball games, his seat may heat up around year 4 and then...recruiting will be a struggle.
This storyline may be the most interesting going into the 2018-19 season. If Jose Alvarado and Curt Gone Bad (Haywood's nickname via Twitter) both return completely healthy this season that would be a tremendous start. Stylistically, a run and gun offense makes a player like Alvarado a terror for opposing teams. Let's see how it plays out.