ATLANTA — This past weekend was extremely critical for the Georgia Tech men’s basketball program. Tech desperately needed a victory in order to avoid being on the outside looking in at the NCAA Tournament bubble.
The Yellow Jackets welcomed last year’s Final Four participant and current bubble-slate Syracuse, who was also pleading for a win. On a night where the school honored Lethal Weapon 3 (Brian Oliver, Kenny Anderson and Dennis Scott), Georgia Tech out-shot the Orange from all three categories on the floor. The Jackets were better from the field (47%-35%), from the perimeter (33%-26%) and from the charity stripe (68%-58%) than Syracuse all across the board.
Much like its game versus North Carolina earlier this season, Georgia Tech not only led in all three of the exact same categories but also scored more points in the paint than its opponent. Not bad for an undersized club that one would figure would be over-matched by sacrificing the height advantage.
The same can be said for their significant win over Florida State and a more evenly matched Notre Dame. What do all these wins have in common? Perhaps the answer is something that won’t show up in the stat sheet… toughness and effort. Georgia Tech has succeeded at second-chance points, rebounding and making hustle plays.
It may surprise you that the Yellow Jackets lead the ACC in field goal percentage defense, assists and assists on field goals made; categories that head coach Josh Pastner will likely plan to use as a staple to further recruiting in the near future. But also junior Ben Lammers is the conference’s leading shot blocker and likely not only the ACC’s most improved player, but arguably the nation’s most improved.
Pastner doesn’t dial back from frequent reminders that his team is still currently in Year 1 of a rebuilding process and is the youngest team in the league. Currently tied for sixth in conference play after last week’s disappointing loss at Miami, their postseason tourney hopes took a dip south.
Road meetings versus Notre Dame and Syracuse (both starving for revenge) lie ahead and it isn’t the smartest idea to overlook Pittsburgh. Then there’s the conference tournament where regardless of the quality of wins, Tech must have a decent showing, or unfortunately an early loss may likely be what the selection committee remembers most.
It may be wishful thinking, but as of right now considering their poor non-conference schedule but if the tournament started today, Georgia Tech would be a lock and likely a 9 or 10 seed. That may be where we will hear their name called in less than three weeks on Selection Sunday when the bracket is released. But for now, there’s still plenty of work left to do.