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50 Days to Tipoff: The Best Case Scenario for Tech Basketball

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College basketball is a wild and crazy world. Let’s see what Tech’s best case scenario for the upcoming season might be if the Jackets manage to shock the world.

NCAA Basketball: NIT Championship-Georgia Tech vs Texas Christian Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

A quick preface: The real best-case scenario for any team is winning every game, but I’ve decided to focus on a more realistic best-case scenario that takes into account everything from quality of opponents to player development. Be sure to share your best-case scenario in the comments or in a Fan Post!

Player development

Georgia Tech is going to be a very young team this season, with only two upperclassmen -- Ben Lammers and Tadric Jackson — expected to start. That leaves quite a few minutes to be played by guys with either no experience or flaws in their games that we saw last season and will need to be corrected, particularly since we’re talking about best-case scenarios here.

  • A.D. Gueye and Sylvester Ogbonda will need to become well-rounded players. To reach its ceiling, this team needs quality front-court depth that will allow Josh Pastner to rest Ben Lammers for non-foul reasons — Lammers was borderline abused last season from a minutes perspective, resulting in his play declining towards the bitter end of the camapign. The solution to that issue is significant improvement from Ogbonda and Gueye, both of whom logged limited minutes last year while struggling to replicate Lammers’ offensive production.
  • True freshmen will need to play significant and meaningful minutes. Curtis Haywood very well could be the biggest question mark of all for Tech. A former three-star prospect, he’s received solid reviews for his offseason work and will be relied upon as a wing option for Josh Pastner. Similarly, freshman Jose Alvarado — a former four-star recruit and triple-double machine — absolutely must be an offensive contributor. Point guard has been a black hole of scoring for Tech for nearly a decade now, and the current situation at the position dictates that either Alvarado or Josh Moore, whose shooting percentages from a season ago were 43% from the floor and 53% from the line, absolutely must become a scoring threat. Preferably both, since we’re talking best-case here.

Help from the NCAA

Georgia Tech without Josh Okogie and Tadric Jackson is not a good Tech team, point blank. The outside scoring threat effectively evaporates in its entirety without that duo, leaving Ben Lammers to shoulder the brunt of the offensive production from mid-range or in the paint. In case you missed the Brian Gregory era, that’s a formula for 3-15 in ACC play.

To avoid something like that, Okogie and Jackson will need some help from a swift NCAA investigation and a lenient punishment to be back before Tech’s ACC/B1G Challenge matchup versus Northwestern on November 28th. The UCLA game will already be a tremendous challenge without the two of them, but losing that type of production versus any other high-major school would be disastrous.

Best out-of-conference scenario

Georgia Tech is lucky to play a very weak out-of-conference schedule, with the biggest challenges coming versus UCLA (a game which will be played in China, adding another layer of mystery), Northwestern, Tennessee, and Georgia. That’s as soft as they come for the most part, and a best-case scenario here means that Tech capitalizes with a 12-1 record. Simply put, there really isn't a team that the Jackets flat-out cannot beat on this schedule. Rather, there are a couple — such as UCLA and Tennessee — that will be incredibly challenging but still winnable if everything above comes to fruition. That means getting Jackson and Okogie back, featuring actual frontcourt depth, and having guards that develop into legitimate scoring threats.

The reason I’m not going 13-0 here is that just about every team in America, with the exception of the absolute best of the best, has a slip-up against an out-of-conference opponent. Tech does it annually, usually to the tune of three or more losses, so 12 wins would be very nice work indeed.

Best in-conference scenario

This is where we take a look at the ACC gauntlet and realize that the likes of Duke and defending champion North Carolina simply won’t go undefeated in conference play and that Tech won’t either, even in the best-case scenario. To hit the ceiling, you’ve got to take care of business against the bottom feeders — that means 3-0 against Boston College, Pittsburgh, and NC State.

The middle of the pack, meanwhile, will probably hand you a couple of losses on the road. Louisville, for example, is a huge question mark following the dismissal of Rick Pitino, but winning in that atmosphere is difficult for every single team. We saw that last season in Atlanta with the resurgence of the Thrillerdome, as Tech managed to pull a number of top-10 upsets despite being a worse team on paper. I’m eyeing four games as potential losses for this reason: at Wake Forest, Louisville, Virginia, Notre Dame, and Clemson. Win three of those and all but one of your home games versus middling teams and you’re well on your way, giving us a mark of 9-3 against the non-elites (UVA/Notre Dame/Wake/Louisville/Clemson/Virginia Tech/Syracuse).

Now we move to the elite three teams: Duke, UNC, and Florida State. Tech plays at UNC and Florida State as well as at home against Duke, three games that no team in the entire country should expect to win. The best case here is realistically grabbing one win, particularly when you consider that Duke is your only home game of the three yet is also the best team in the nation. That's 1-2 to round out the schedule.

Overall

After adding up everything, my official realistic best-case prediction for Tech is 25-6 (13-5 ACC). Don’t hate! That’s an incredibly high seed in the NCAA Tournament and almost certainly a top-15 overall ranking plus a likely bye in the ACC Tournament. If Tech wants to go nuts and win all 31, I’m all for it. In the meantime, I’m going to sit back and watch this scenario explode in the first two weeks of the season because that’s just the nature of college basketball.

Poll

How do you feel about 25-6 being Tech’s absolute ceiling?

This poll is closed

  • 70%
    You suck, homer! (Tech finishes the regular season with far fewer than 25 wins as a best-case.)
    (100 votes)
  • 26%
    Just about right! (Tech finishes with exactly 25 wins, give or take one, as a best-case.)
    (37 votes)
  • 2%
    You suck, pessimist! (Tech finishes with significantly more than 25 wins as a best-case.)
    (4 votes)
141 votes total Vote Now