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ACC Preview # 6 - Georgia Tech

One of the sad truths about the ACC in recent years is that the conference
basically ended at Charlotte as far as basketball went. With Clemson,
Tech, and Florida State all in various states of funk, they just had nothing to
offer. Fortunately, that's changing, and nowhere is it changing faster
than at Georgia Tech.

Let's face facts. It looks more and more like Paul Hewitt is building a
monster at Tech. We saw the first signs when he took Bobby Cremins'
leftovers and got them into the NCAA bid. Last year, despite not having a center
for much of the year and having a very young team, he did a brilliant coaching
job and very nearly got them back again, engineering the biggest in-season
turnaround in ACC history. Think about who never managed to do what Hewitt
did - Smith. Krzyzewski. Case. Valvano. Bubas. McGuire.
Sloan. Driesell.

At this point, obviously Mike Krzyzewski, by any standard, is the dominant
coach in the ACC, an assertion even Maryland fans would have trouble denying
(which is why they're so vehement about Duke, of course). Gary Williams is
second best. After that, though, who would you put money on? Pete
Gillen? He's fun, but his teams are erratic. Herb Sendek? He's only had
one significant year at State. Matt Doherty? Not so far. Skip
Prosser? Too early. Shyatt? C'mon. Leonard Hamilton will move up fast, but
he has yet to coach a game at FSU.

For our money, Hewitt - at a minimum - is already the third best coach in the
ACC, and he's clearly in a hurry to improve. This year he'll have the chance to
do so. And while like last year, his team is young, the talent in Atlanta is
trending sharply upward.

There are no seniors on this team, except for walk-on David Ewing, and he
only joined the team last year. There are three juniors, including Marvin
Lewis, who is becoming a solid ACC player, David Nelson, another second-year walk-on,
and Robert Brooks, who has some talent but has been a middling player thus far.

The heart of this team, like UNC, is in the sophomore and freshman
classes. B.J. Elder, Ismai'il Muhammad, Luke Schenscher, Ed Nelson,
and Anthony McHenry all became useful players as freshmen last year.
Nelson was ACC Rookie of the Year.

Last year, Tech had a real problem when Schenscher was out, because they were
extremely small. They did find that Nelson was a bruising power forward,
and now they can put out (if they choose) Nelson, Schenscher, and freshman hot
shot Chris Bosch, who could well be this year's ACC Rookie of the Year.

Whatever they decide to do up front - they could go smaller - Tech's real
question comes down to the point guard. Jarret Jack, 6-3, inherits
the position from diminutive speedster Tony Akins.

Jack, who is a cousin of Chris Duhon, is one of the few guys who will come
out of Mt. Zion (for however long he was there) and also be a member of the
National Honor Society. His role is absolutely key for Tech. If he
can be a competent point guard, they can then surround Bosch and Nelson with not
only Schenscher but a virtual battalion of really good mid-sized athletes who
will press, press, press. Jack, Elder, Muhammad, Lewis, McHenry and
freshman Mario West give Hewitt the ability to platoon really good athletes in
and out. We don't know much about 6-9 frosh Theodis Tarver, but he and
Brooks should at least give them two more reasonable frontcourt subs.

Outside of point guard, where a problem could become very serious, Tech
may have some questions about outside shooting. In Hewitt's system, that's
pretty key. Perhaps Jim Nyström will help in that area. Regarded as one
of the five best shooting guards in Sweden (which might be like one of the five
best bullfighters in Alaska or one of the better bagpipers in Japan for all we
know), Nyström has the right skill and could find key role quickly.

Other than that, though, their main issue is youth. And as we saw last
year, Hewitt managed to answer that pretty resoundingly by the end of the
season. He's shown he's an excellent teacher, and he has the kind of
players he wants. Our guess is that Jack will be competent, at a minimum,
that Bosch will be dangerous from day one, and that that will allow their
teammates to assume roles appropriate to their strengths and the needs of the
team. Sounds easy, but it doesn't always happen.

Tech fans, you should be excited. In our opinion, the greatest era of
basketball at Georgia Tech is about to unfold. For the ACC, it's a great
development too. With Duke and Maryland in the forefront currently, Tech's
resurgence will really help in the marketing of the conference. Duke is a
national face, of course, Maryland holds down the D.C. market, and Tech can
secure Atlanta. If FSU ever stirs, the dream of the ACC stretching from
Maryland to Florida will fully translate to TV ratings paradise.