ATLANTA, GEORGIA — My hands hurt, and I still have no voice. You’re welcome, Georgia Tech basketball.
Basketball has been in the news a lot this week, really. Between the outstanding drubbing of a very well-regarded Virginia Tech team (even if NET doesn’t agree cough cough) on the road midweek and the rally to defeat the always pestilent Syracuse, Josh Pastner and his motley crew of gas station pirates™ control their own destiny as we head into the final week of the regular season. I invented that line earlier this week, and I can’t stop laughing to myself. Maybe it’s just funny, and I am dumb, but I love watching the team play and I can’t sit still until Tuesday. This even drops the lede on getting the sanctions levied against the team dropped, so, in all, it was quite the week. And we haven’t broached the women’s team yet, but more on them in a bit.
It is quite a loaded week up and down the Flats, so be sure to tune into...anything, really. There’s options ranging from baseball and softball to basketball to the volleyball spring opener, on the road in Pittsburgh. Should be quite an overload of quality sports. Feels good, doesn’t it?
Last Week on the Flats
Polls - CSCAA Coaches: #22, SwimSwam: #16
Nerd Stuff - CAP: #18
ACC Championships Recap:
The men took their turn in Greensboro this week, after the women got ninth at ACCs last week. The divers set them up decently well, contributing just under 100 points to the Tech total before the swimming even started on Wednesday. Tech got off to a fantastic start, too, narrowly missing an ACC title in the 200 Medley Relay, which is likely Tech’s top relay heading into NCAAs. They also took second in the 400 Medley Relay. Tech saw two swimmers win events at ACCs, star senior Caio Pumputis, who added to his case for being Tech’s best swimmer ever with his title in the 200 Breaststroke, and Batur Ünlü, stud freshman, in the 200 Freestyle. The two of them, plus senior Christian Ferraro and junior Kyle Barone, led the way with excellent finals swims.
Other finals appearances include freshman Justin Alderson, sophomore Daniel Kertesz, junior Clark Wakeland, and senior Austin Daniel. However, the most notable story of the week, outside the obvious wins and records, was that of walk-on Jonathan Shaheen, who was unrecruited out of high school, managed an appearance in the C Final of the 400 IM, finishing 23rd in the conference, Tech’s top finisher in the event. Those two points were quite literally the difference between the seventh place finish Tech got and the eighth place finish they would have gotten otherwise. Of course, the same thing could be said about the respective great swims of Alderson, Kertesz, Wakeland, and Daniel, too, but that only reinforces the importance of growing the depth of the roster. Tech moved up two spots compared to last year, but, even despite the incredible athletic performances, finished far behind the likes of champion Lousiville and the dethroned six time winner NC State. But, hey, in a stacked conference, Tech will take what they can get. Right now, the arrow is pointed solidly upwards.
The question is begged, though - what comes next? Fortunately, I parsed through the results and have a full NCAA explainer ready to go. This, I firmly believe, is the most convoluted process in sports. So let’s dive in.
NCAA Swimming Time Standards Explanation and Entry Expectations:
The NCAA has a confusing double tier and athlete count cap that influence who actually gets to swim at the championships. The two tiers - A/automatic and B/provisional cuts - both factor into the athlete cap. The most straightforward way to explain this is to start with the most guaranteed swims, the A cuts in individual events. Tech has two athletes with those.
Ferraro and Pumputis got A cuts in the 200 fly and breast, respectively, at ACCs, so they both can swim 3 events they have A or B cuts in. In Pumputis’ case, he could choose between 100 breast, 200 IM, and 100 fly (not likely) to join his 200 breast. Ferraro has three cuts, so he can swim 100 fly and 50 free with his 200 fly.
With individuals qualified for the meet, the 200 and 400 medley relays qualify automatically “to the team,” so any four swimmers on the team can swim them (likely taking Kyle Barone, Batur Ünlü, Austin Daniel to round out the relays). This is because the Tech team has A-cuts in both relays, and, having one relay with an automatic A cut qualify after an invite of one of our individuals - which is guaranteed thanks to Pumputis and Ferraro securing A cuts - sends any other relay we have a B cut in to the meet. Conveniently, that means all the rest of the relays (the 200, 400, and 800 free relays) are eligible for NCAAs. Tech will probably take Justin Alderson and Clark Wakeland to round out those teams, based on the top times from the season.
Barone, Ünlu, Wakeland, Alderson, Austin Daniel, Daniel Jacobs, Caleb Blischke, and Daniel Kertesz all have B cuts, which means they might get invited to swim an event, which would qualify the rest of their swims, too. For those, we wait. This is where it gets really hairy.
The NCAA looks at all the events with A cuts and the B cuts of swimmers with A cuts, and adds athletes, along with their other B cut events, until all events have the same number of swimmers. Then, one swimmer at a time, a swimmer is added to each event until the athlete cap is reached. Confused yet? Me too. As far as Tech’s B cuts go, Ünlü’s 200 free time got invited in 2019, as did Barone’s 100 back, so presumably they will be invited to swim those events which would qualify those events plus two of the following each - the 100 free, 500 free for Ünlü and for Barone, the 50 free, 100 fly, 200 fly.
If all the athletes that we project to make it qualify, that would give us 5 relays, 12 individuals, and 7 athletes, plus potential other invites/qualified divers, which is not a bad lineup at all. Pumputis, Ferraro, Ünlü, and the medley relays have A final potential, and this has the potential to be Tech’s best finish in years. The SwimCloud ratings projects Tech to finish 17th in a championship setting, while FTRS’ CAP pegs them at 18th. Both would represent a nice step up from their top 24 in the nation finish in 2019, the last time NCAAs was held.
Overall: 14-7 / Last Week: 1-1
Polls - AP: RV (32) / Coaches: RV (34)
Nerd Stuff - NET: #28 / RPI: #33
I don’t know what the deal is this week, but the end of the season and a week to recoup is honestly a blessing for the Jackets. They’ve put in a ton of hard work throughout the year, and it shows by them securing the no. 3 seed in the ACC tournament, their highest ever. However, they continued their struggles with a thorough drubbing at the hands of North Carolina midweek, and barely dispatching a mediocre Pittsburgh team today. The rest, it seems, is coming at just the right time. However, we will see Tech play at least two more games, and they sit just three games from an ACC title, too. The week hopefully gives time to rest - a nice change from the 2-3 games a week for the team, which is shorthanded even before injuries and the like - and recuperate. And since the games this week were meh, and I want to leave it on a positive note, that’s where I’ll end.
Catch Tech against either Clemson or Notre Dame on Friday evening.
Overall: 5-10 / Last Week: 0-4
Polls - NFCA Coaches: NR / D1 Softball: NR / ESPN USAS: NR
Nerd Stuff - RPI: N/A
Did I say something that angered the Softball gods? Because it seems that a lot of the momentum from the excellent 5-0 start has dissipated. Of course, nothing has fundamentally changed from that weekend, either, though, which is both challenging and confusing. The bats are cold and the pitching a bit more inconsistent. However, in terms of sheer web gems and quality play, Tech has gone viral for its excellent defense far more than their fair share of times the past week an a half, with a lot of them coming from freshman infielder Jin Sileo. I think this is a classic case of a relatively green team just not being all that consistent, and I think we’ve noted that in past columns. There’s a lot of season and plenty of time to get their footing, which Tech could and should be able to do by the time the year is said and done.
As for the exact specifications of the games this weekends, it was an 0-4 skid that saw fairly sizable losses in the full seven frames to a 4-5 Miami team on Friday, followed by a tighter loss to Kennesaw State on Saturday and a run-rule loss to the school in Athens on Sunday.
On to next week, and North Carolina State.
Overall: 9-5 / Last Week: 1-0
Polls - ITA/Oracle Coaches: #14
The women only had one match this weekend, which is probably good for them, given that they’ve had quite a busy spring season so far. They spent that one match well, too, taking a win from Clemson. There was plenty of good news to go around, though, as Tech bounced back in the doubles arena, a place they had struggled a bit in the past few weeks. The weekend was also buoyed by the return of Ava Hrastar, which is “a rising tide lifts all ships moment,” sliding in nicely on court three. She didn’t win, though, but it was still good to have her back in the lineup, and Tech will look to continue the upswing with a trip to Wake Forest and North Carolina State. Tech is 34-1 in their last 35 tries against NC State.
Overall: 6-5 / Last Week: 0-2
Polls - ITA/Oracle Coaches: NR
Well, it’s hard to win any matches against the top team in the country, which Tech had to tackle on Sunday at Ken Byers. However, the Racquet Jackets looked more competitive than the 4-1 final score implied. The man of the match had to be Andres Martin, who won his singles match, as well as snagging a doubles court for the Tech against the Tar Heels. The rest of the singles matches were either unfinished or two set losses. Against Duke, Tech lost three of the four full sets that went to tiebreakers, which is a tough draw, as well as both of the courts that went three full sets. That’s more competitive than the 6-1 final would imply.
The Jackets are next in action next week against Clemson and Georgia Southern, both of which should be competitive contests.
Track and Field
Nerd Stuff: USTFCCCA Index M: #70 / W: #66
Tech finished 11th on both sides of the equation this weekend in Clemson. Notably for the conference, this represents the Tigers’ final indoor competition for their men’s team, despite their nice facility that hosts many meets in the indoor season. Notably for the Jackets, though, are more of the usual suspects. Olivia Moore saw immense success in the pole vault, setting the conference standard, while Andrew Kent finished second and fourth in the 5000m and 3000m. Nicole Fegans took fourth on the women’s side of the 3000m. Anna Witherspoon and Taylor Grimes finished back to back in seventh and eighth in the 60m hurdles, an event Tech has historically seen much success in. Meanwhile, Cameron O’Neals rounded out Tech’s medalist finishers, as the freshman finished third in the long jump. Similar to swimming, very good finishes from the top, but seems like Tech’s overall score sunk a little from their depth.
Best of the Week
This Week on the Flats
Duke men’s basketball at home, Tuesday night. I think that one is pretty darn obvious. Probably the biggest game for the program in the last decade. And I thought I was nervous for Saturday, here I am getting angsty just sitting here. Also, baseball hosts a fantastic Louisville team for their ACC home opener this weekend, so there’s that, too. Not to be left out, Women’s Basketball is in their ACC tournament, too, so there’s that.
Poll of the Week
So what does it take to make the tournament?
This poll is closed
WF L, Duke L, ACC L
WF L, Duke L, at least 1 ACC W
WF W, Duke L, ACC L
WF W, Duke L, at least 1 ACC W
WF L, Duke W, ACC L
WF L, Duke W, at least 1 ACC W
WF W, Duke W, ACC L
WF W, Duke W, at least 1 ACC W
Inevitable (do not pick this please)