When Georgia Tech was informed it wouldn’t be receiving an invite to the NCAA tournament, the notion was accepted although the Yellow Jackets refused to believe they weren’t among the best 68 teams in the country. Following a home loss to North Carolina State, prior to falling to Syracuse on the road and then Pittsburgh in the first round of the ACC conference tournament, it is fair to say that the Jackets had more than their fair share of chances to be admitted in. That is where Georgia Tech could have just simply mailed in its efforts figuring to have nothing to play for.
Head coach Josh Pastner has been quoted seeing the opportunity to play in the NIT as a chance for more exposure of the Georgia Tech brand that could ultimately benefit in its recruiting.
After finishing the regular season in 11th place with an overall 8-10 record including a Coach of the Year award for Josh Pastner, the Ramblin’ Wreck have found themselves in quite an interesting conversation. Georgia Tech and North Carolina (whom Tech defeated earlier this season) are the only two of 15 ACC teams remaining in postseason play. Since, Tech has defeated the prestigious Indiana Hoosiers, giant-killing Belmont and barely mediocre Ole Miss. There have, however, been questions as to how successful Georgia Tech can be on the road. Prior to NIT regionals on Tuesday evening, Tech had only a single quality win on the road… at VCU in early December.
In his pregame speech, Pastner insisted that his team play aggressive in hopes of silencing their crowd. The Yellow Jackets got off to a hot start on both sides of the ball. By halftime, Ole Miss trailed by nine points while Freshman Josh Okogie, and one of the most improved players nationally, Ben Lammers combined for 24 points, seven rebounds and five blocks. Mind you, Okogie who has been heavily relied upon and as consistent as any the entire year, exited his senior year of high school unranked in the state of Georgia’s top 50 ranked players.
Lammers, too, has stepped up in Pastner’s debut season after jumping from 3.6 points and 4 rebounds per game to 14.4 points per game and 9.3 rebounds improving his mid-range jump-shot, craftiness around the rim and shot-blocking abilities. Lammers scored double digits in the first half marking the 30th time this season he’s eclipsed 10 points. The big question for Tech as momentum is the quest: Who will join Lammers and Okogie to provide a much needed third scoring punch to ensure victories?
It began with Tadric Jackson off the bench midway through the season, followed by Quentin Stephens recently. Stephens, this year’s returning leading scorer and most notable senior, has been utilizing his length on defense much better to alter shots on the perimeter. He’s also made a significant amount of improvement in scoring and distributing the ball.
Up next is UC Bakersfield of the Western Athletic Conference, led by Jaylin Airington and a host of double-digit scorers who recently defeated No. 1-seed California.
Needless to say, I have Georgia Tech winning the NIT championship.