ATLANTA, GEORGIA — Though this may be a day late, as always, your (roughly) weekly update into the world of Georgia Tech non-revenue sports comes to you expecting a few things from this new year. While some things look different heading into 2021 than they did this time last year, we’re still staring out at roughly two straight months of rain, indoor track, swimming, and basketball until the first rays of spring sun, as well as baseball and softball, come back into view. And without further adieu, we’ll get into the busiest Yellow Jacket Roundup we’ve had in quite some time.
Oh, and if you’re wondering why this is out a day late, I’d suggest checking back into the site at about 10:00 AM. I’ve been busy.
Last Week on the Flats
Women’s Basketball (6-3 Overall, 2-0 Last Week)
Polls - AP: NR / Coaches: NR
Nerd Stuff - NET: #31 / RPI: #18
The Jackets had a rough week the last time we checked in on them, but we have much more positive news to share in the second week of January. Perhaps the most interesting consequence of their two wins, though, is that they actually slipped a few spots in the NET rankings, after handling Clemson, a quality opponent who has been receiving votes in both polls, and barely escaping a loss to VPISU, who are, well, less good. It is a testament to the ACC this year that a game against the Hokies, a roughly top 50 team, influences the NET as much as it does. If you take a gander into the polls, one certainly notices that after Louisville and NC State at #2 and #3, there isn’t even another ACC team ranked this year. Sure, Clemson and North Carolina are picking up votes (and for those keeping tabs at home, we probably should be, too), but there’s a giant gulf between the haves and the have-nots this year, a gap Tech could and should be able to exploit. I would not call it unfeasible to say we could finish fourth or third in the conference, looking at how the season has played out across the conference so far. They picked up needed momentum this week by getting two conference wins in two very different games.
The first game came against Clemson, a solid team, on the road. In it, the team shared the ball and the offensive rewards fairly evenly. The Jackets’ leading scorer was Lotta-Maj Lahtinen, with 15 points, and Eylia Love, Kierra Fletcher, and Lorela Cubaj were all in double figures, as well. It seems that a solid Tech win often follows naturally from a good performance on the glass, and Cubaj provided well up on the Lake, as she alone managed to reel in 20 rebounds. The game recap from RamblinWreck.com noted that Tech had not had a 20+ rebound game in a quarter century, so that is a nifty accolade for Lorela. Tech plays a great, smothering brand of basketball, and this is a performance emblematic of their goals. Though it was a bit concerning to see Clemson creep back into the game, it was never alarming, and the Jackets were able to close out a road win against a team that the media and coaches regard well, even though Tech outranks them in both analytical models that this column keeps an eye on.
A more traditional “Georgia Tech-ish” Georgia Tech team probably loses the VPISU game, all things considered. While it was for quite some time a hallmark to see Tech women’s basketball throttle a bunch of out of conference teams, with the Athenians being a relative tossup, and then be hit-or-miss in the ACC, this team isn’t like that. Much like the first Notre Dame game this year, Tech has now proven again that they have the fight needed to claw themselves back into games. With this ability, there will be no hard-to-explain write-off games. This is a heartening thing. I suppose I should talk about the actual game, though, and not just this somewhat stale Narrative.
It was certainly an interesting contest, that’s for sure. Both teams were offensively-challenged throughout the game, notably combining for just 24 points in the first quarter. The lead see-sawed back and forth, but, by the fourth quarter, the Jackets were staring at the wrong side of a ten point gap. Sure, having an offense that shares the ball a lot and has multiple effective shooters is helpful for imploding old narratives in general, but, in this game, Tech stepped up and, perhaps most critically, was extremely effective at converting their trips to the charity stripe into points. This is something that Tech teams have very critically struggled to do, particularly late in close games and against quality competition, in the past. Fletcher went 7 of 9 from the line, and, when Lahtinen was fouled with 2.6 seconds left in a game knotted at 52, she calmly sunk both to put Tech ahead for the final time. Despite all the change, though, Tech has kept productive hallmarks of its past formula, namely, being an effective, scrappy defensive team. I think this shows the strength of the program Coach Nell Fortner is building. Her teams have shown steady improvement in areas of glaring past weakness, while not sacrificing the things that have worked. Other than a game against one of the very best teams in the country, both other losses have been highly competitive, and the team has done a great job at sharing the ball and hustling out plays, despite an extremely short bench.
I don’t think we can ask for anything else from the week. The formula is working. Two wins are two wins. Hopefully the free throw shooting sticks. But I guess it would be nice validation to pick up some respect from the pollsters, too. We’ll check back in on those next week.
Tech gets Syracuse and Virginia this week.
Swimming and Diving
Polls - CSCAA M: #17 / W: NR
Nerd Stuff - CAP M: #11 / W: #29
I’d say we knew this meet would be a buzzsaw far in advance, but I’m not sure if that was as apparent as I made it seem. Auburn is a very, very good team, and both their men’s and women’s teams have extremely effective depth in almost every event. That the Tech men and women fell 145-117 and 178-81, respectively, was more surprisingly in the relative gaps between the squads than the overall result. As the world’s primary (and probably only) fueler of the Georgia Tech Swimming Could Be Pretty Good This Year hype train, allow me to tell you why This Isn’t Actually Too Bad ™:
- The men won both relays. This is critically important, since relays count for the most points, and showcase the team’s top-end talent, sure, but aren’t won on the backs of one swimmer alone. Tech has long had one, two, or three great young men on the team, but to see consistently good performances from the relays is very heartening, even as the “depth pieces” on them trade places. If anything, seeing Metamora, Illinois true freshman Justin Alderson as a crucial member of both relays is all the more evidence to say “hey, something they’re saying or doing is working with these kids.” In the end-of-season meets with only a swimmer or relay in each event for the most part, if Tech notches a ranked finish, it will be on the backs of changes like this. It is very possible for a team (to borrow an example from my own high school experience) to finish third in their conference meet, second in the section or zone (granted, a level that only exists in diving at the NCAA level), and take a podium spot at the overall championship. Would more depth be a good thing for the team? Yes. But handwringing about it won’t wish it into existence in the middle of the season. It’s up to better recruiting to do that.
- The stars are still aligned. Haters will say that swimmers, being non-revenue athletes, are not stars, but they are and will always be wrong. Christian Ferraro and Caio Pumputis are two of the best swimmers to ever come through Tech, and both will almost certainly make waves on their respective national teams when Olympic qualifying comes around again. The two of them combined for five first place finishes, in their usual events - the 200 IM and both breaststroke events for Pumputis and the butterfly events for Ferraro. However, true freshman Batur Unlu added two of his own in the 100 and 200 Freestyle and narrowly missed another in the 500, as well. He is perhaps the heir to the Next Big Thing in Tech swimming once Caio moves on, and to see him already establishing himself at the top of the pile is excellent.
- The youths are stepping up. This is particularly true of the ladies. Auburn’s women’s team is even better than their men’s. Quite frankly, the deck wasn’t even stacked against Tech, but rather, Tech barely even had a deck to be stacking in the first place. To have relative unknowns, even to this seasoned swimming beat writer, taking podium spots, and even notching a win? It’s not great, but it’s what we have right now, and to see a lot of relatively green contributors punching above expectations on the ladies’ side is at least a positive takeaway.
- There was no diving. Tech’s diving is pretty good of late, and a simple control+F of the score sheet reveals that they weren’t a scoring part of the meet. I’m sure those scores would have been at least somewhat closer were the divers included. How much? Who’s to say. I’m not exactly an expert on Auburn enough to know.
It’s not the end of the world. It’s not pretty, but there’s plenty of swimming left for Tech to do well in, and the regular season is all about getting in quality swims. The times will come.
The women and divers will be back in action next weekend.
Indoor Track and Field
Tech started the season with a meet against Clemson, Duke, and an assortment of unattached and other athletes. In the meet, they were able to notch several first place finishes, including Lydia Troupe’s first win at the NCAA level, which came in the 800m. Meanwhile, Attallah Smith won the long jump John Watkins finished first in the triple jump on the field side of things. Tech rounded out their wins with a great showing by the men and women in the 1000m, where Liz Galaraza and Zach Jaeger won the event, and each were joined by two other Tech athletes in the medal-winning positions. An interesting note came from Coach Alan Drosky, who added that the team hadn’t been able to even practice together since regular classes ended the week of Thanksgiving, so it is excellent to see the team running well, despite the longer than usual time off.
Tech heads back to Clemson for another invite this weekend.
Best of the Week
IlluminatiFTRS Picks Final Standings
- Pressley Harvin Wins the Ray Guy Award
- 2021 Football Expectations
This Week on the Flats
We have FIVE SPORTS in action this week. I’d say that’s...almost unbelievable, if I hadn’t compiled this all together myself. Of note, the Pittsburgh game is postponed, which would only come through if the game were in the “Last Week on the Flats” tab, so watch the North Carolina State game as your top priority. With WBB on a two win streak, they’d be the next up in terms of watchability, and a home game on Thursday is a great place to catch them, particularly if you’re a student and can snag a ticket.
Poll of the Week
Preferred Winter Weather
This poll is closed