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ACC Women's Preview # 5 - Georgia Tech

2000 Roundup:
17-14, (7-9 ACC)

Head Coach:
Agnus Berenato

Who's Leaving:
Donehew, Danielle/ G (9.7 ppg, 34% 3FG)

Who's Coming Back:
*Butler, Niesha/ G, 5-8, So. (19.0 ppg, 5 rpg --1999 season)
*Kruppa, Jamie/ F, 6-1, Sr. (10.4 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.4 apg, 1.9 spg)
*Tate, Regina/ F, 5-11, Sr. (7.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.9 spg)
*Barlin, Nina/ G, 5-9, So. (7.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.8 apg, 1.6 spg)
*Martinez, Milli/ G, 5-8, Jr. (9.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.6 spg)
McCallum, Candice/ F, 6-1, Sr. (6.3 ppg, 2.6 rpg)
Lingenfelder, Amy/ G, 5-9, So. (7.9 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 1.3 apg)
Stewart, Alex/ G, 5-5, So. (4.9 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.4 apg)
Mallory, Sonja/ C, 6-4, So. (3.0 ppg, 17 blocks)
Boatner, Tamika/ F-C, So. (1.9 ppg, 1.4 rpg)
Aves, Lindsey/ F, 5-11, Jr. (5.6 mpg)
Ebert, Ashley/ G, 5-7, Jr. (4.1 mpg)

Who's New:
Pacariz, Jasmina/ G, 6-1
Stokes, Fallon/ F, 5-10

 Depth, quickness

Size, post play

Scouting Report: Georgia Tech is a team that easily could have folded after
superstar Niesha Butler was lost to a season-ending knee injury, but they
didn't. Instead, they relied on true team balance and a young bunch that
did nothing but hustle all year. With only one senior on the roster, they
scratched their way to a WNIT bid. The amazing thing is that the Jackets
managed this without the benefit of any kind of inside game. Berenato wisely
went to the team's strengths--depth and quickness--and forced other teams
to adjust. The quicker teams in the league (Virginia, UNC, Duke) were able
to shred this approach, but Tech won two of three games from NC State,
including their ACC tournament quarterfinal. That win got them into the NIT,
where they also reached the quarterfinal round.

Nine different players averaged 14 minutes a game or greater. Seven
different players averaged at least 6 points a game. Nine different players
led the team in scoring during the course of the year. All five frosh
got huge amounts of playing time, with only Tamika Boatner getting less
than ten minutes a game. The Tech players really did live the cliche of
putting team needs ahead of personal stats, and it paid off.

A glance at Tech's stats reveals them to be fairly average in most categories:
5th in scoring, 6th in FG%, 4th in 3pt FG%. They were below average in
scoring defense and opponents FG% (42.%), a factor of their non-existent
inside game. This also shakes out in that they were next-to-last in blocked
shots, but a look at rebound margin yields something unexpected: Tech was
third in the league, at a remarkable +3.1%. This is a function both of Tech's
quickness to the ball and desire, especially on offense--the Jackets
outrebounded opponents on the offensive end by nearly 100!

So what to expect this year? Expectations for the Jackets could be very
high, due to the team's unexpected success and the return of Butler. She
was 2nd-team All-ACC as a frosh in '99 and a nearly unstoppable scoring
force. She is a certain future pro and my leading candidate for ACC Player
of the Year, measuring on talent alone. There are plenty of questions
surrounding her return, however. Will she be able to regain her explosiveness
after the knee operation? Even if she does, how will she fit in with a
team that got quite used to playing without her? How will team chemistry
be affected? I think that after an initial struggle, she will take her
rightful place as leader of the team, but must learn to recognize double-
teams and set up her teammates. If she does, then other Jackets will get
plenty of wide-open shots.

A more important question to ask is: what will Tech do for a frontcourt?
While Kruppa, Tate and McCallum played their hearts out and more than
held their own on the boards, they were simply no match for the ACC's army
of tall, athletic centers and forwards. Kruppa in particular was a warrior,
getting nearly 3 offensive rebounds a game and leading the team in foul
shots made and attempted. She ended up as the team's leading scorer and
only player to crack double-digits, not counting Butler who went down after
only 4 games. Tech may need to turn to young Mallory and Boatner a bit more
this year, especially since Mallory had nearly a third of the team's block

Tech's biggest strength is in its unrelenting army of guards. It starts
with Butler, but the player who replaced her, Nina Barlin, did an amazing
job as a frosh. She was sixth in the ACC in assists and could even score
and rebound a bit. Martinez is a tough slasher who ended up as a sort of
small forward who also handled the ball a bit. Lingenfelder is a three
point specialist who led the team in 3 FG%, ahead of mad bomber Danielle
Donehew. Donehew really didn't do anything except shoot, but she was so
proficient that Tech will really need to search for another top notch
three point threat. Butler will do that to some extent, but look for
Lingenfelder to make her mark by upping her attempts and busting some zones.
Muppet-like Stewart is lightning-quick and extremely creative with the
ball. She'll back up Barlin once again, adding a completely different
look to the point guard position. (I do think Barlin and Butler will start
together, with Butler playing a lot of off guard). Even Ebert and Aves
have potential--both performed well on Tech's tour of Australia. And as
I've mentioned in earlier articles, those sorts of tours do wonders for
a team's chemistry, especially an already established team like Tech.

I don't know much about Tech's frosh, other than knowing that one is a 6-1
guard and the other a 5-10 forward. I suspect that both of them will spend
some time in the post or on the wing, considering that Tech's backcourt
is already jammed.

There's quite a bit that Tech will need to do to get a postseason bid.
First off, they must beat all the teams that they're better than. The Jackets
got swept by Florida State last year, and that simply won't do. This is
important, because it's likely that they're going to take their lumps once
again from Virginia and Duke, two teams with much more size and/or power than
Tech, and with equivalent amounts of athleticism. Clemson will be a crucial
matchup because of their quickness and relatively weak inside game.

Second, Butler must be dominant and still get her teammates involved. No
team can contend without a superstar, and as endearing as Tech's run was
last year, one knew it could only go so far without a player to carry them.

Third, they must cut down on turnovers and improve their foul shooting.
They got to the line quite a bit, but only converted on 64% of their shots.
Their turnover problems somewhat negated their great rebounding numbers.

Fourth, they must beat either Georgia or Mississippi State if they are
to be taken seriously as a league power and NCAA contender. If they can
pass this early season test, then the upper division will be looking down

Ultimately, the post problems will limit this team in ugly, physical
contests where their speed is taken away from them. A lack of overall
experience and players who have been in big games will hurt; the team must
learn how to win. I think Tech is still a year away from making a move
as a top-4 team, and the rest of the league is simply too strong to allow
them to sneak up this year. But they will be a lot of fun to watch and
will scare the hell out of the rest of the league with their depth and
all-out style. They're definitely a team I'll go out of my way to watch
on TV.

Schedule Analysis: The schedule is not a bad one. Arch-rival Georgia will
be a top-5 team, and Mississippi State is also likely to be a top 15 team.
Dartmouth won the Ivy League and will present a mild test. These games
follow one of two tournaments that Tech is hosting, facing teams like Cornell
and St. Francis (PA). Other Tech patsies include Hosftra, Wagner and
Charleston Southern. Interestingly, Tech's early December ACC game will be
against NC State, the team that Tech knocked out of the 2000 ACC tourney.

Predicted finish:
5th (tied)