ATLANTA, GEORGIA — It is a bit of a travesty that this year, of all year, I forgot to post my typical link to the “Basketball Ides of March.” For those who are unfamiliar, this poem from a mid-war era Illinois high school basketball state championship is the first recorded example of the phrase “March Madness.” Of all the years, with both the men’s team and the women’s team going dancing for the first time in many years, it seems like I should’ve done it. But alas. Such is life. It waits until next year.
And that’s the funny thing about next year - none of it is guaranteed. Sure, the most obvious example of that is the men’s basketball program, which Stands to lose a fair bit of experienced talent, but the same thing could be said about other sports too (and the obvious caveat that this lesson applies outside the world of sports, of course). Is this baseball season playing out the way we thought the “next” one would play out when the curtain called on the boys in 2019? I’d say probably not. Is there a reasonable expectation for he men’s swim team or women’s cross country team to be as good as they are this year, barring some COVID-eligibility related returns? I’d say no. So, really, we have to be somewhat at peace with what we have and enjoy this season for what it is. Even a sport with lots of returners next fall, like volleyball, can only have the party last so long. So enjoy them while they’re here - as would have been advice we’ll applied to the men’s basketball team - rather than fret about seedings, the validity of championships, and the like.
Because, when it’s all said and done, we will at least have the memories. So make them well, and make them count. I don’t think I can say enough times that this is a special time on the Flats.
Last Week on the Flats
Women’s Cross Country
Polls - USTFCCA Coaches: #13
So, it is likely a bit surprising to see a team ranked #13 only finish #20 in the country at NCAAs. However, it should be noted that Tech lost two key seniors, Ellen Flood and Hannah Petit, to graduation since their regular season ended. Thus, #20, and the best finish in women’s cross country history, makes a lot more sense. The star performer of the race, as usual, was Nicole Fegans, who finished 12th in one of the best individual showings of any runner in Tech history. Don’t be surprised to see her on the rolls of some future Tech Hall of Fame class - you heard it here first.
Anyways, that’s about all there is to it. It was one race, the freshmen that were the “next women up,” to borrow a phrase, did just fine, and this team will go down as Tech’s best. Really, can you reasonably ask for anything else? I’d say absolutely not.
Women’s Swimming and Diving
Polls - CSCAA Coaches: NR, SwimSwam: NR
Nerd Stuff - CAP: #45
It seems almost unfair to the women’s cross country team and women’s swimming and diving teams that they would both have their best finishes nationally ever in their entire existences within the same week. These are both extremely exciting developments for both teams. The ladies of the pool sent four athletes to Greensboro for NCAAs, and two of them wound up scoring points for the team. The swimmers, Mackenzie Campbell and Brooke Switzer, both had solid performances in their events, but did not score points. Their outstanding ACC meets a few weeks prior belies the fact that they most likely tapered for that and the NCAA meet was just gravy on top of that. Switzer, in particular, was a sophomore thrown straight into competing with the very best in the country in three events on back to back days. That’ll take the wind out of anyone’s sails. Really, though, it was a solid performance by both of them.
Tech earned its finish, though, on the diving boards. The familiar setting of the Greensboro Aquatic Center - they were there for ACCs and the NCAA Zone Diving Qualifiers in the past month, too - must have been friendly to Tech, as Camryn Hidalgo and Anna Bradescu both scored in the consolation final of the platform event, and Hidalgo took third in the country in the 3m. So, if anyone is to thank for the program’s best ever finish, it is these two divers and their work on the boards. An historic finish for the divers - two finishing with at least honorable mention All-American status - and for the program as a whole, the 28th best program in the nation, and the seventh highest finishing program in the ACC, up two spots from the conference meet. Virginia and NC State, meanwhile, went 1-2 in the meet. This should give you a sense for what Tech was up against in its postseason meets. And, if diving was all that mattered, they would have gotten ninth, behind only North Carolina and Miami in the conference. Not bad!
Overall: 16-8 / Last Week: 1-0
Polls - AP: RV (#32) / Coaches: RV (#32)
Nerd Stuff - NET: #30 / RPI: #32
This is a prime example of why one should never call a game over at halftime. At the break, the Lady Jacks of Stephen F Austin had held Tech to 17 points IN A HALF and had doubled up their score. ESPN figured their odds of winning to be 96.4% and this column was looking to be quite disgruntled. But, that’s why basketball has two halves. For their part, Tech nearly doubled their score in the first 150 seconds of the third quarter and limited the Lady Jacks to just 14 points in the second half, which was exactly what was needed to climb out of the deficit. Down the stretch, things tightened up and baskets weren’t falling quite so easy, and the game found its way to overtime. In it, Tech jumped out to a quick lead, and had the opportunity to make it bigger - make your free throws! - but SFA clawed back within two points. As the final horn blew, the Lady Jacks were making their third attempt at a bucket right under the basket - get your rebounds! - but all three missed and no fouls were called. Somehow, Tech had won it.
It’s worth noting that they almost certainly don’t win that game without the not one, but TWO buzzer-beating threes they made to end the first and third quarters, the first by Kierra Fletcher to keep SFA’s lead to single digits and the second by Loyal McQueen to make it a one possession ballgame with a quarter to play. I was shell-shocked to see no mention of either in the RamblinWreck.com recap, but, man, I can’t see us winning without the six point boost. However, what’s important in the end is that Tech made the right adjustments and figured it all out. Getting Lorela Cubaj clicking in the second half was vital to the quick erasure of the deficit, and, well, Tech hopefully learned their lessons for their next opponent, who will be a much more battle-hardened West Virginia team on Tuesday.
The overtime win was the first for Tech in their last 12 tries, a streak that dates back to 2013, and the fourth largest comeback in NCAA history.
After that, go relax. You earned it. There’s another mountain to climb tomorrow.
Overall: 11-2 / Last Week: 2-0
Polls - AVCA Coaches: #23
Nerd Stuff - RPI: #34
Alright, before we talk about the results, I would just like to say to not freak out at the low RPI score you see up there, because it took me a second to figure that out, too. We are certainly better than that score, and there’s a lot of randoms above us. Not having conference play makes the numbers really inflated in an equation that’s 25% own record, 50% record of opponents, and 25% record of opponents’ opponents for the schools that didn’t get their usual shellacking by the power conferences. Got it? Good.
Anyways, the volleyball part of the weekend was extremely solid. Of course, the win over Syracuse would have looked much better in the fall when they appeared to be one of the best teams in the country after beating Pitt twice, but a win is a win. Both showings were quite convincing, and the Jackets took care of business. The offense was effective in both matches - it was the usual suspects of Bergmann, Brambilla, et al - and there were really no major qualms to take away from the weekend.
If anything, the biggest woe is coming up Friday, when Tech takes on Louisville, who is the team best positioned to usurp them for the conference title as of now. The Louisville and Notre Dame games in the last two weeks will essentially determine whether or not Tech wins the ACC crown, and wins in both matches would be vital. Tech gets the Cardinals on the road (but the Irish at home), so it’s time to go into another good team’s building and get the all-important road quality win. No, I’m not nervous, why do you ask?
Overall: 9-18 / Last Week: 1-3
Polls - NFCA Coaches: NR / D1 Softball: NR / ESPN USAS: NR
Nerd Stuff - RPI: ###
Still no RPI update for softball, which, combined with the general lack of non-conference play makes it a little hard to put their season thus far into context, but the general themes for this team have stayed the same week-to-week. A decent Notre Dame team rolled into town for a four game set with the Jackets, and Tech took one of those four games. Even in the one they win, the lead was rather precarious in the top of the seventh, as they let the Fighting Irish tack on two more before getting the third out.
In the other games, the bats just weren’t enough to make up for the amount of runs the Irish were scoring, and that’s about all there is to say about it. It’s tough, and there don’t seem to be a ton of clear answers.
Next week, Tech gets North Carolina on the road.
Overall: 12-8 / Last Week: 1-1
Polls - ITA/Oracle Coaches: #8
Honestly, this week could be described rather similarly to the blurb about men’s tennis last week or two weeks ago when they made the same trip. However, the women were favored in both matches, which takes a bit of the wind out of the sails as far as “UVA is just really good” goes. Against Polytech, Tech handled their hosts with ease, but they managed just two singles victories in Hooville. Such is life. Nothing was particularly egregiously bad, or anything, it was just a tough Sunday in ACC play. Really, that’s just par for the course. On to next week.
Track and Field
Nerd Stuff: USTFCCCA Index M: N/A / W: N/A
Alright, so, I have a dilemma. We had a bunch of finishes this week that were rather good. One can find Tech names scattered up and down the national top 25 rankings, and I don’t know enough to know if that’s that it was the first weekend and everyone else was rusty, the first weekend and everyone else wasn’t competing yet, or that we are off to a rip-roaring start. Because, well, the school in Athens is pretty good at track, and we had some good showings against them this weekend. It was a lot of the usual suspects - think Bria Matthews, Nicole Fegans, etc. - but great to see quite a few true freshmen on the list of podium performances this weekend. We’ll circle back to them as the season progresses.
In the Club House
So, I came across some interesting comment in a thread about Tech Lacrosse this weekend. It appeared some opposing fan was upset that Tech was cheering on its demolition of Tennessee in the season opener, since the squads were rotating a lot to get different players some game experience. I fail to see why this is a bad thing. If anyone has other insight, let me know.
As for the games themselves, Tech lacrosse seems to be picking up where they left off last year. The Jackets are 2-0, and the win against Tennessee was particularly compelling. They had contributions up and down the roster, including multi-goal games from freshmen. For a program that is utterly unfamiliar with losing, seeing the youth step up is key.
Hopefully, we’ll be able to catch them live this weekend against Auburn for their home opener, in order to have more details to report from seeing them in person.
Best of the Week
This Week on the Flats
While we do have some big baseball games this week against Duke and I’m never one to downplay the importance of volleyball, particularly this weekend’s leading opponent, Louisville, I think by necessity all eyes should turn to the women’s basketball and men’s swimming programs. The second round of the NCAA tournament in San Antonio will be Tuesday evening, so keep an eye out for that, and this week sees the men’s team take their turn in Greensboro Wednesday-Saturday on ESPN+, where they are expected to be pretty good. Why did they fall off of being on ESPNU? No idea.
Poll of the Week
March Madness Preference
This poll is closed
Loyola all the way
Syracuse, for the sake of the ACC
Oral Roberts, for the memes
Gonzaga, because I hate chaos
Something else, idk, leave a comment