Tech welcomes Tennessee Tech to McCamish on Friday night only to watch the Golden Eagles run them off the floor. The early part of the season is Tech’s best chance at a win, but of the five early games, the Jackets only wrangle two wins. As the team hits the meat of the non-conference schedule, losses pile up culminating in a home embarrassment at the hands of Georgia. The Jackets end the non-conference schedule with just four wins.
What’s going wrong? Well...everything. The Jackets don’t have the ballhandling to effectively run Pastner’s uptempo scheme leading to tons of turnovers and easy baskets going the other direction. An injury to either Tadric Jackson or Ben Lammers leaves the Jackets with only one player who can create offense leading to one of the worst offenses in the country. A huge change from Brian Gregory’s effective defense leaves Tech players lost on defense and the lack of a shutdown defender means the defense has no answer. The total failure on both ends of the floor leads to struggles in the non-conference and conference play looms.
The Jackets start the conference season with UNC, Duke, and Louisville. None of these national contenders need to break a sweat and easily win by 30+. Then the schedule gets a little easier, but games only get marginally closer with Tech giving just a few scares. GT sees one chance for a win against BC, but is unable to top the also winless Eagles. The Jackets finish off their campaign with just four wins total, none in conference and none against major conference teams. The fanbase excitement wanes as Josh Pastner’s team experiences one of the worst seasons for a major team in memory.
When Tech welcomes in Tennessee Tech on Friday, they play confident and beat their first opponent of the year with little resistance. Then they beat another, and another, and another. The beat the weak part of the non-conference schedule, 5-0, and head into the tough part with confidence. They win one or two of Penn State, Tennessee, and VCU. An overconfident UGA team comes into McCamish only to watch the surprising Yellow Jackets upset them. Georgia Tech comes out of the non-conference with some major wins and only one upset to a lower level team.
What is going right? Josh Okogie gets quickly acquainted to the college game and provides a second wing scorer next to a newly confident Tadric Jackson who is excelling with the ball in his hands more often. This lifts some pressure off of Quinton Stephens who gets his three point shot humming which gives Tech an outside presence. Lammers maintains his solid play and boosts the defense with his ability to guard the rim. Josh Heath and Justin Moore lead fast breaks and keep the ball safely in Georgia Tech’s hands. The new uptempo style breathes life into Tech’s offense.
ACC play brings Tech back to Earth. Duke, UNC, and Louisville remind the Jackets that this isn’t their year. But those aren’t the only teams on the schedule. Even in this best case scenario I’m not expecting a winning season in the ACC, but there is no reason that Tech can’t get some wins. They beat Clemson and Wake Forest and BC and grab a big upset. A win against Florida State gives them five ACC wins and a shot in the ACC Tournament. This team finishes at .500 for the season and provides a major stepping stone for the future. A season far above expectations gives fans excitement for the first time in years and recruits see the excitement around the program and flock to Pastner’s program.