Yes, it’s early, but I just noticed something when studying the ACC standings this morning….The top four teams in the league? They have great guard play, and experienced great guard play. For all the talk of how dominant frontcourts were going to be across the ACC this year, maybe it’s coming down to the littler guys with the ball in their hands after all.
Here’s how it breaks down:
Maryland (3-1): Their backcourt of Eric Hayes and Greivis Vasquez? Two seniors.
Virginia (3-1): this season’s surprise so far… plays a four-guard offense at times. Calvin Baker is a senior, Jeff Jones and Mustapha Farrakham, two guards off the bench, are juniors.
Duke (4-2): You all know about Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith and the new “addition” to the perimeter in Kyle Singler. Scheyer is a senior, the other two are juniors.
Wake Forest (4-2): A big reason why the Deacons are off to a good start is senior point guard Ish Smith, who is averaging 13.5 points and 5.9 assists.
The converse is true too. North Carolina is 1-3 in ACC play and struggling on the perimeter. Point guard Larry Drew is leading the league with 6.4 assists per game, in a somewhat baffling figure. He’s also averaging 3.3 turnovers.
Miami, I don’t know much about yet, but I know they lost their top guard from last season in Jack McClinton and they’re 1-4 in the ACC.
So where does Georgia Tech fit into that? They have a young backcourt with freshman Mfon Udofia and sophomore Iman Shumpert and that’s got to be contributing to their inconsistent play, no?
Let’s take Mfon. Right now, his minutes are in a steady decline. Let’s take him from the start of ACC play to now: he played 41 minutes in the first meeting with FSU, 34 minutes against Duke, 30 minutes against Virginia, 20 minutes against UNC, 19 minutes against Clemson and 13 minutes against Florida State on Sunday.
From 41 minutes to 13 in a span of six ACC games. Some of that is a natural decline with the return of Iman Shumpert from knee surgery. But there’s no denying Mfon’s play in ACC competition has dropped off lately.
Tech coach Paul Hewitt addressed that on the ACC coaches teleconference this morning, and whether he thought Udofia was comfortable playing more wing now that Shumpert is back healthy:
“I think earlier in the year he was pretty comfortable with it,” Hewitt said. “Obviously he’s not playing as well as he did earlier in the year, I think some of that has to do with people scout you and they try to take certain things away. It’s part of being a young player in this league. But he’ll be fine. He’s a smart player, a very tough competitor so he’ll turn it around. He’ll start playing better.”
I think one of the things teams are taking away from Udofia is his driving ability. We don’t see as much of the slashing.
I picture him lately grabbing offensive rebounds and trying to put them back up against tall guys and getting shots blocked. I think that works if you’re 6-foot-5, a bigger guard, like Shumpert or Scheyer. In his case, Mfon (who is closer to 6-foot-2) might be better served to back the ball back out, or pass it out and restart the offense.
Tech is 3-3 in the ACC. Yes all that separates the Yellow Jackets from Duke or Wake Forest at 4-2 is for one of those shots to fall late Sunday against Florida State.
And contrary to some suggestions on the blog after Sunday’s loss, I happen to think Tech had plenty of good chances to win, was in a position to win late and just couldn’t make the big shot. They had Zachery Peacock on the free throw line, their best free throw shooter, and he misses the front end. They have their best player, Gani Lawal, get a shot inside of 12 feet in the final seconds and he missed, and they had Shumpert there getting a hand on an offensive rebound and potential putback off Gani’s miss, and he couldn’t make it either. You want your best guys to make plays for you in the end, and they couldn’t convert.
But I’m drifting off point….I suppose the good news for teams with young guards is they have more room to grow during the course of a season. There’s a chance for more improvement. Or maybe that’s reaching. Regardless, Tech looks to rebound Thursday against Wake Forest. It’s one of five remaining home games for Tech (2-1 at home, 1-2 road). They need to hold serve. But hey, that’s another blog for another day perhaps.
For now, I’m hitting the post button.