On Saturday, Tech heads to Boston to take on Boston College in a must win game for the Jackets. Boston College comes into this game still winless in the ACC with an RPI ranking of 231st. With Tech riding a three game win streak and postseason play on the line, a loss in this game is inexcusable. That said, BC almost beat UNC just a few weeks ago and Tech has a history of struggling with BC (Jacket Killer Oliver Hanlan has thankfully graduated). If the Jackets think they will be able to walk all over BC, this game could be a lot closer than it should be, but I think the Jackets come out focused and win this one with ease. Be sure to check out the full game preview by ramblinwreckckle!
Next Tuesday, Tech heads on the road for their toughest remaining game of the season against Louisville, who is currently ranked #11 in the AP poll. When the Cardinals visited Atlanta earlier this season, the Jackets blew a seven point halftime lead before losing by four. Since then, Louisville self-imposed a postseason ban, but that didn't stop them from beating Duke just last week. Additionally, this will be senior night for the Cardinals who will no doubt be fired up for this one. The fact that the Jackets are playing so well right now definitely gives them a chance in this game, but I think it will ultimately come down to how much Louisville wants the win. Will they be playing uninspired due to the postseason ban or will they be playing fired up because of Senior night?
Tech returns back home next Saturday for their final game of the regular season against Pittsburgh, on what will be Senior Night for Marcus Georges-Hunt, Adam Smith, Charles Mitchell, Nick Jacobs, and James White. Pitt has been struggling lately, losing four of their last six, but all four of those losses were to ranked opponents. That said, their struggles recently have seen them slip onto the tournament bubble and Pitt is now fighting for their tournament lives. As of Thursday, ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi had Pitt as a 10 seed. The last time Tech played the Panthers was back in January and Pitt won 89-84, but both teams are a lot different than they were back then. The Jackets are playing significantly better while Pitt was ranked during the last matchup. With both teams fighting for postseason play, it should be a great game.
|First round – Tuesday, March 8|
|Opening Day||1||12:00 pm||#12 Seed vs #13 Seed||ESPN2|
|2||2:00 pm||#11 Seed vs #14 Seed|
|Second round – Wednesday, March 9|
|1||3||12:00 pm||#8 Seed vs #9 Seed||ESPN|
|4||2:00 pm||#5 Seed vs Winner Game 1|
|2||5||7:00 pm||#7 Seed vs #10 Seed||ESPN2|
|6||9:00 pm||#6 Seed vs Winner Game 2|
|Quarterfinals – Thursday, March 10|
|3||7||12:00 pm||#1 Seed vs Winner Game 3||ESPN
|8||2:00 pm||#4 Seed vs Winner Game 4|
|4||9||7:00 pm||#2 Seed vs Winner Game 5|
|10||9:00 pm||#3 Seed vs Winner Game 6|
|Semifinals – Friday, March 11|
|5||11||7:00 pm||Winner Game 7 vs Winner Game 8||ESPN|
|12||9:00 pm||Winner Game 9 vs Winner Game 10|
|Championship – Saturday, March 12|
|6||13||9:00 pm||Winner Game 11 vs Winner Game 12||ESPN|
|*Game times in ET. #-Rankings denote tournament seed|
Partially thanks to Louisville's postseason ban, the Jackets look to be in a good position to escape the first day of the ACC tournament for the first time since 2005. Before conference realignment, eight teams used to play in first round and four teams received byes. Post conference realignment, six teams play in the first round, but because of postseason bans this season and last season four teams will play in first round.
With just two games remaining for FSU, the Jackets hold a 0.5 game lead in the ACC standings as well as the head to head tiebreaker. As long as the Jackets match the Seminoles wins the rest of the season (Tech has three games compared to FSU's two), Tech will finish ahead of them in the standings. The Jackets also hold the head to head tiebreaker over NCSU and have a two game lead in the ACC standings. Unless the Jackets lose out and the Wolfpack win out, Tech will finish ahead of them as well, guaranteeing they get no lower than the 10th seed in the tournament. Tech is currently sitting a game behind VT and two games behind Syracuse and Pittsburgh, all three of which hold the head to head tiebreaker over the Jackets. Tech still has another game against Pittsburgh remaining.
The point of all this is that the most likely scenario for the Jackets is that they end up with the 10 seed with the possibility of the 9 seed, setting them up to play the 7 or 8 seed in their first game of the tournament. If current standings held, that would mean the Jackets would play either Pittsburgh or Syracuse, but a matchup against Clemson or VT is also possible. Unfortunately, the next game would be against either the 1 or 2 seed, which would currently be UNC or Miami. That said, the ACC is wide open right now and three other teams (Duke, ND, UVA) could still win the ACC.
The current three game winning streak has set the Jackets up great to make an NIT push and has even slightly opened the door for an NCAA tournament berth. The Jackets currently sit at 49th in ESPN's BPI ranking, largely thanks to their #4 strength of schedule and they already have strong wins over UVA, ND, and VCU. Generally, teams ranked in the top 45-50 receive an at large bid to the NCAA tournament, but most rankings have the Jackets ranked lower (72nd in RPI).
To make the NIT, Tech would likely need two more wins which would put them at 18-14. Four wins would potentially put Tech on the NCAA bubble, and five would put them in prime position. That said, 4 or 5 wins will definitely not be easy and Tech fans should at this point be just hoping for an NIT berth. If the Jackets continue this win streak through next Saturday and end the regular season at 19-12, the tournament becomes a much more attainable goal. For now, the Jackets need to take each game one at a time and let things play out. We are finally seeing the ceiling this team has and postseason play is suddenly very attainable!