24 hours from now, it will officially be gameday! With that said, we all give our final predictions on how we expect the season to play out.
Countdown to Tipoff: 1 Days
I think this season is not going to go as well as we all may have hoped after Georgia Tech made it to the championship game of the NIT last year. With the suspensions of Josh Okogie and Tadric Jackson to begin the season, Tech may take a hit in some non-conference games it needs to win to bolster an NCAA Tournament resume. I think Tech has an ok season, but once again fails to make the NCAA Tournament.
Projected Record: 18-13 (9-9)
Scoring Leader: Josh Okogie
Rebounding Leader: Ben Lammers
Assists Leader: Justin Moore
Surprise Player: Justin Moore
First of all, I honestly think this NCAA issue with Okogie and Jackson gets resolved sooner than later and they each serve suspensions as prescribed in the NCAA guidelines (20% of the season - 6 games - for Jackson, 30% of the season - 9 games - for Okogie). Without the two of them I think we struggle and drop the non-conference games to any opponent with a pulse (UCLA, Northwestern, Tennessee, at Wofford). However, a 9 game suspension would put Okogie back just in time for Clean, Old Fashioned Hate and we finally see the fully operational version of this basketball team and get the rivalry win. ACC play will again be an up and down affair as we'll probably still struggle with depth issues as well as inexperience, especially at the point guard position. When I say Justin Moore will be the surprise player, I'm not necessarily projecting him to start scoring a ton but I think he'll develop into a very serviceable point guard. His shot needs a lot work but I think he showed a lot of promise with his passing and court vision last season and he has the length to be a real asset on defense. I'm looking for him to build on that this year. As for postseason play, I think we'll be back on the NCAA bubble. If I had to guess, I'd say we probably fall on the wrong side of it again and make another run at the NIT Championship.
The Yellow Jackets will, contrary to Coach Josh Pastner's continued lowering of expectations, outdo their pleasantly satisfying performance from last year and contend for an at-large spot in the NCAA tournament come the end of the season.
Projected record: 19-12 (9-9)
Scoring leader: Josh Okogie
Assists leader: Jose Alvarado
Rebounding leader: Ben Lammers
Top freshman: Moses Wright
While it will be tough to build upon last years surprising season, I think the Jackets have the pieces to do it. First of all, most college players make the largest leap from their freshman to sophomore seasons. I expect Josh Okogie to build upon his freshman season and become one of the best players in the conference (once he returns from injury/suspension). Complementing Okogie will be the reigning ACC defensive player of the year Ben Lammers, who has supposedly been working on his three point shot this offseason. If true, it will be a huge help for a Jackets offense that ranked 259th last season. There will be plenty of new faces on the court this season, but the Jackets may have one of the most underrated freshman classes in the country. In the scrimmage against Faulkner, Josh Pastner started three of his four freshman. Jose Alvarado put up a 13 point, 8 rebound, and six assist game while Moses Wright scored 17 points to go with 13 rebounds. I’ve always been high on Alvarado and expect him to take over the starting point guard role at some point in the season. Moses Wright has had a big preseason and went from a redshirt candidate to a potential starter. I think he will surprise a lot of Tech fans with his production and will only get better as the season goes on. Additionally, all of Tech’s freshmen are great defenders and should help replace any lost production on that side of the ball. I expect the Tech defense, which ranked 6th in the country last year, to once again be one of the sport’s best. A regular season record of 19-12 should find Tech on the bubble at the end of the year and the Jackets will have a great shot for their first tournament appearance since 2010.
Georgia Tech will take a step back this season. They are banking on multiple players coming out of nowhere to round out the lineup, and that's even before taking into account the loss of Jackson and Okogie. I think Pastner does a good job of keeping this team competitive, but they aren't going to surprise anybody this year. Either Jose Alvarado or Moses Wright breaks out and makes it a "big 4" along with Jackson, Okogie, and Lammers. But, for the second year in a row there just isn't enough depth on the team to make it through the long season without some clunkers. I predict this team to miss the NIT, but make it close. MVP: Ben Lammers, MIP: Justin Moore, ROY: Moses Wright.
Predicting a full season of college basketball is already an impossible task, but the fact that Tadric Jackson and Josh Okogie are out for an indefinite period makes it essentially a crapshoot. Unfortunately, losing your entire starting backcourt for any amount of time is insurmountable for any team, much less one with little to no proven depth anywhere on the roster. I think that the team will probably go something like 9-4 out-of-conference, including losses to UCLA, Northwestern, one of Tenessee/UGA, and that totally random upset that we just can’t seem to avoid. ACC play will be much more of a challenge; I see the Jackets hanging at right around 9-9 at the end of the year for a total record of 18-13.