Countdown to Tipoff: 7 Days
Georgia Tech has been on a roller coaster ride since April 2016 when Josh Pastner took lead of the program. Pastner’s inaugural season was an overwhelming success, as he led a team picked to go winless in the ACC to the championship game of the NIT. Unfortunately for Jacket fans, Georgia Tech’s success since then has been limited due in part to a personal vendetta leading to player suspensions, injuries to key players, and to some extent recruiting. Fast-forward to 2019, the Jacket’s enter the most pivotal season of the Pastner era with coach’s seat being red hot. For Pastner, the rebuild is over; it is time to get results with his most talented team yet.
Georgia Tech returns 75% of its scoring for last season, including its top 4 scorers and ACC All-Defensive Team honoree James Banks. Pastner’s get old stay old model is coming to fruition as this team has backcourt experience, depth at the wing, and one of the top big men in the ACC. From last season, Tech adds two marquee transfers - an athletic forward in Jordan Usher and 3-point marksman, Bubba Parham. Georgia Tech has a strong roster for the 2019- 2020 season, and must have a postseason worthy resume in order for Pastner to get off the hot seat. Unfortunately, Georgia Tech was imposed a postseason ban by the NCAA late last month, but is currently appealing the decision. For the sake of the article, an assumption of standard appeals process of roughly 8 months has been made. Due to the ban being lifted during the appeal, an appeals decision likely would not come until after the NCAA tournament, making Georgia Tech eligible to play in the postseason (fingers crossed). Making the NCAA tournament would not only get Pastner off the hot seat, but also potentially allow highly rated recruits to buy in for sustained success. The NCAA Tournament is a goal that Pastner himself has proclaimed for this year’s team, and it can be attained by starting strong in non-conference, improving shooting, avoiding injury to James Banks, and the development of Moses Wright.
Tech starts the season with the most difficult out of conference schedule in the Pastner era with games @Georgia, Arkansas, Nebraska, @Kentucky, Boise St, and potentially Houston. In addition, the Jackets play two ACC games prior to the end of the fall semester against NC State and Syracuse. Unfortunately, GT will be missing Jordan Usher, a key cog in the 2019-2020 squad, for all of these games due to transfer rules. It is imperative that Pastner and company are able to use the tough schedule to their advantage by picking up Quadrant I/II wins and boosting their RPI.
Tech struggled mightily during the 2018-2019 campaign from beyond the arc, finishing dead last in the Power 5 in three-point percentage (30.7%) and second to last in three-pointers made per game (5.5). In the offseason, Pastner added Bubba Parham who was 6th in the country in three-pointers per game (3.63), while shooting at a 39.7% clip. Sophomore Michael Devoe can also help the Jackets in this department. Last season he shot 39.3% from beyond the arc, but only attempted 3.3 per game. Pastner’s use of the Noah shooting system will provide thousands of data points for the staff to improve Devoe’s shot in the offseason. Added shot consistency with this technology will allow Devoe to be more comfortable taking the outside shot, which will be greatly beneficial to the Jackets.
This almost goes without saying, but the health of James Banks is of the utmost importance to Tech’s season. The Jackets have a formidable roster this season, but the glaring hole is its lack of depth at center. Pastner and company realized this as they tried unsuccessfully to recruit a transfer big throughout the summer and into August. If Banks stays healthy, he has the chance to flourish on offense due to more spacing and the inevitable development under Coach Rev.
The x-factor for Pastner has to be Moses Wright. Wright played lights-out down the stretch, putting up an average of 16 points and 6 rebounds on 62% shooting during his final 5 games of the season. Pastner will rely heavily on the junior forward without Jordan Usher and continued performances like these would be pivotal in picking up key early season wins. In the most recent #MetricMonday post, Moses has gained 30 pounds this offseason, while improving his lateral speed, vertical leap, and second jump each by over 3.5%. This added athleticism coupled with performances like the final games of last season would significantly help the Pastner’s tournament chances.
While Pastner’s seat is hot, the Jackets have more than enough talent to make the postseason to increase his job security. Tech’s strong out of conference schedule coupled with the ACC gauntlet will result in a strong RPI and a plethora of opportunities to pick up Quadrant I wins. As seen on Selection Sunday last year, NC State (22-11) missed the tournament due to its weak out of conference schedule and lack of Quadrant I wins. That won’t be the case for Tech as Pastner has put his team in a position to have a strong resume come Selection Sunday. The path for Pastner getting off the hot seat is clear and achievable- clinch Tech’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2010. He will also have the opportunity to parlay postseason success into landing top talent like Deivon Smith in 2020 and Matthew Cleveland in 2021.