16.6 -- The average number of minutes for Tech's big 3.
Daniel Miller, Kammeon Holsey and Nate Hicks are averaging under 20 minutes of game time on the floor combined. There are several factors that have contributed to such a numbers disparity between how long they're on the floor and the main three guards (Iman Shumpert, Glen Rice, Jr. and Brian Oliver are all averaging 29.8 minutes). Of course, this is a guard-oriented team, for one, so floor lineups often favor the guards. As a result of that, some teams like to match up smaller -- like Clemson did last Saturday. When that happens, it isn't too advantageous to have too many big bodies on the floor when it's easier to run a fullcourt, transition game with steal-happy guards. That said, with a tall Florida State team coming to Alexander Memorial Coliseum on Thursday, expect the forwards' minutes to go up.
Another factor has to do with the fact that Holsey has missed time due to illness, and Hicks has been out rehabbing from surgery for appendicitis. Then, there's the glaring fact that all three forwards are freshmen and are being groomed into playing time and minutes. Still, despite all those factors, the Jackets will need them to contribute more and stay as foul free as possible down the stretch.
Tech freshman forward Daniel Miller (5) blocks a shot attempted by North Carolina's John Henson in a game earlier this season. Miller's blocks and time on the floor could be factors as the Jackets try to make a late-season push. Photo Credit: newsobserver.com
.368 -- Brian Oliver's field goal percentage.
Oliver's shooting struggles have been noted throughout the year, and the sophomore guard has tried about every remedy he can think of to correct them. Like head coach Paul Hewitt has said, in Oliver's situation, it's all about time. There will come a moment -- like two weeks ago against Maryland -- when it will all return and Oliver will be back to being a consistent scorer. Typically, when that happens to a proven shooter like Oliver, he can't miss. The guard just hopes he can begin building such consistency Thursday as the Jackets enter this final stretch before the ACC tournament.
As far as his shooting goes, last season, Oliver was the player who often delivered the timely, clutch 3. Against Florida State, in Tallahassee, Fla., he showcased that ability when he went 6-for-13 on 3-pointers and even hit a couple that kept the Jackets close to sneaking out a big road win. In the end, however, they were unable to do so and lost by four. This season, Oliver has been a dismal .295 from beyond the 3-point arc, adding to his shooting woes. While Shumpert and Rice have emerged as proven team-carrying guards, having a third scoring option can only help the Jackets as they begin preparing for the conference tournament.
EDIT: Georgia Tech announced this afternoon (just as this blog post went live) that Oliver will be out at least three weeks to heal from a thumb injury suffered in last Saturday's game against Clemson. So... ignore this post -- for now. Once he returns, he'll be needed for the 3 ball, that's for sure. To replace this number, check this one out:
.703/.652 -- Tech's free throw percentage/opponents' free throw percentage
The Jackets are shooting better from the line than their opponents. Down the stretch, that statistic should pay off if the trend continues. Although, maybe not. Several of Tech's games this season have been decided in blowout fashion either in its favor or the opponents'. Of course, it's in tight, late-game situations is when made foul shots can make the most difference. Shumpert has been a hero for the Jackets from the line, hitting at a blistering 82.5 percent clip. That's good enough to rank among the ACC's best. Additionally, senior guard Moe Miller is shooting 90 percent from the line. If both guards remain aggressive in driving into lanes, late in games, they may soon have their long-desired impact.
44 -- Daniel Miller's blocks.
When Miller has been on the floor, he has tried to make his presence known throughout the season. While he hasn't been as physical with some of the bigger, broader forwards and centers who post him up in the frontcourt, Miller has been athletic enough to redirect many shots. His ability to come away with blocks has been a positive that Hewitt has wanted to see more of. The blocks are just a sign that the young player is remaining aggressive. After appearing to play rather timidly against Clemson last week, Miller will want to take a look back at the way he was playing defensively early in the ACC schedule. If he can recapture some of that aggression, and continue to focus on not letting baskets get made defensively, he could have a major impact on the Jackets going forward. In turn, his 24.6 minutes per game probably will increase, too.
24/24 -- Mfon Udofia's offensive/defensive rebounds.
Udofia is another player who doesn't average much playing time, but will be a key component to any late-season Jackets run. The sparkplug of the team offensively and defensively, he has made a name for himself by scraping for looseballs against players nearly a foot his size, and floating layups above them, as well. If there is any player on the team whose aggression can be replicated, it's Udofia. As a result of his headstrong, gutsy play, the 6-foot-2 guard has hauled in 48 rebounds off the bench this season. But what's really striking is the even 24/24 split. Half of his rebounds have come on the defensive end, the other half on the offensive end.
What it indicates is that Udofia has a knack for finding the long -- or, in some cases, short, tip-in -- rebound regardless what end of the floor he is. He sees a loose ball and gets it. Keep him balanced on both ends and get a similar balance throughout the lineup, and the Jackets can control the glass, and control games. The team that controls the backboard often dictates a game's tempo. If the Jackets control the tempo for a few game, few teams really can stay with them. It's when they don't control the glass or get too frantic or too slow with the tempo that they get in trouble.