This week's Q&A is with the terrific SBN blog From The Rumble Seat. They're one of the great ACC blogs out there and we had the chance to ask Bird some questions. Head on over there to check out our answers to his Q&A and you can find his answers after the jump.
BSD: It's well documented that this year is a big one for Paul Hewitt with the recruiting class that he brought in. How has he performed so far? What is it about his coaching style that frustrates Tech fans so much?
: This year our great recruiting class has shown that it's actually quite a bit better than past veteran Hewitt teams. A lot better. Maurice Miller
, a two year ACC veteran, was dethroned by true freshman Mfon Udofia
. Freshmen are logging 40% of the minutes this season and the average returning player has lost 4.5 minutes of playing time this season. To say our freshmen aren't all key contributors would be a gross understatement.
Concerning Hewitt, the frustration hasn't been so bad this season. Generally, it revolves around poor guard play and development, but with the emergence of Iman Shumpert
and Mfon Udofia, a lot of these complaints have been quelled.
But if you'd like a list of complaints, here's the short list: lack of effective inbounds play, poor free throw shooting, inability to close out opponents, inability to beat inferior opponents handily, inability to win at Stegeman Coliseum, poor ball movement in half court offense, and a massive 7 million dollar buyout put in place by now retired AD Dave Braine.
BSD: On the subject of the freshmen, what have you seen out of them so far? Have they lived up to their billing? In the games I've seen, Udofia has had great plays and has forced the issue at other times. Rice has done some nice things here and there, but hasn't been a consistent threat. Favors hasn't exactly been in control all the time. Is it a matter of them fitting into their roles, or has coaching played a factor?
Favors kinda lost a little bit of the hype the minute he was compared to Gani Lawal
, a polished veteran. Favors doesn't have the refined game of Gani but he's got a lot of raw talent that's truly shined through in his past two games (back-to-back double-doubles).
Rice, Jr. and Oliver are works in progress but are more than competent 3 point shooters and already showing great defense. Hewitt has been using these two more and more the past few weeks as their defense has improved, and his older players have slacked on transition D.
Mfon is probably the most important freshman on our team. He's added an explosive weapon on offense that we just haven't had at point guard since Will Bynum
. Without a penetrating guard, Hewitt's halfcourt offense is like hitting your head against a brick wall repeatedly and expecting it to eventually fall over.
With a penetrating PG, Hewitt's offense is like hitting a brick wall with a sledge hammer (that may be too much of a compliment for Hewitt's half court offense this season). Mfon makes freshman mistakes but he has truly been a breath of fresh air for frustrated Tech fans as of late.
BSD: There's no secret that I am a Gani Lawal fan. What makes him so effective? Where do you see him at the next level?
FTRS: Hustle. He works hard on every play to get boards or make a block. He should get drafted late in the first round and should be a 4 because he's got enough athleticism to shoot the midrange jumpers and defend NBA 4's and smaller 5's.
BSD: Why will GT win this game?
FTRS: GT wins the game if our 3-ball is on target and Gani doesn't get into foul trouble. He was benched early the past couple games because of quick fouls. We need Gani to be on the floor to give us a confident offensive rebounder and low post defender. Favors doesn't quite have the floor smarts of the upperclassman Lawal. We need Lawal on the floor in a big way.
BSD: Why will GT lose this game?
FTRS: Turnovers. GT turns the ball over about 18 times per game in losses and only 15 times per game in victories. If GT can't protect the basketball, then they're in for a long night. We can't afford to take Wake Forest lightly like we did with FSU and get handed a disappointing loss at home.
BSD: Who is the X-Factor that Wake needs to keep an eye on?
: A lot of Tech fans have been excited about the maturation of Brian Oliver
and Glen Rice, Jr. Both have shown some flashes of greatness lately on the defensive and offensive sides of the ball. Look for the freshmen pair to have a great game despite their relative youthfulness in ACC play.
BSD: Prediction time. How does the game play out? What's your final?
FTRS: GT wins 76-74, which is identical to our home win over Wake last season. GT will come out strong at home and probably take a 10 point lead into the half. Wake will whittle it down and take the lead at some point only to see an inordinate number of fouls called against Wake big men on Gani and Derrick, allowing GT to take the lead with free throws. The final 2 minutes of the game will last 30 minutes.