GREENSBORO, NC – After four games in four days of a grueling run to the ACC tournament finals, Georgia Tech didn’t have to wait long to see the rewards from it Sunday evening.
Fifteen minutes into the NCAA selection show, a quiet and tired Tech team, not-so-fresh off an ACC tournament final loss to Duke, let out a collective roar as the Yellow Jackets were named a No. 10 seed in the Midwest bracket.
To that point the banquet room at their team hotel had been silent, but the Yellow Jackets didn’t have long to stew. They will play seventh-seeded Oklahoma State (22-10) in the first round on Friday in Milwaukee.
A week ago Tech (22-12) had lost to Clemson and Virginia Tech to fall to 7-9 in the ACC and sat squarely on the NCAA tournament bubble.
“A prayer has been answered,” said senior Zachery Peacock, who was a freshman the last time Tech made the NCAA tournament. “The loss earlier today erases itself out of the picture with this opportunity we have in front of us.”
Three wins in the ACC tournament got Tech into the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2007, when Javaris Crittenton and Thaddeus Young were freshmen and Tech lost to UNLV in the first round.
This will be the Yellow Jackets’ third trip to the NCAA tournament since their trip to the Final Four in 2004 and fifth under coach Paul Hewitt. They started that 2004 tournament run in Milwaukee as well.
“It’s a great accomplishment for these kids,” Hewitt said. “They played hard all year. They defended well, lost some really tough games. It’s a nice reward for them. And now let’s see what we can do with this opportunity we’ve been given.”
Oklahoma State finished tied for sixth in the Big 12 and got knocked out in the semifinals of the Big 12 tournament by Kansas State. But it was only two weeks ago that the Cowboys upset Kansas, the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament.
The Cowboys are led by Big 12 player of the year James Anderson, a 6-foot-6 junior guard, who averages 22.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. He scored 27 points that night against Kansas.
Gani Lawal played with Anderson in the high school McDonald’s All-American game.
”He’s a horse,” said Lawal, who was named to the ACC All-tournament second-team Sunday. “He’s primarily a wing guy, but he can post up. Quiet guy but he’s a killer on the court.”
As a No. 10 seed, Tech wasn’t going to get an easy draw but any draw was good by Tech.
“You just want to get in, once you’re not one of those top four seeds,” Hewitt said. “I thought we could be anywhere from a six to 11.”
The Yellow Jackets enter the tournament with some momentum from beating North Carolina, Maryland and N.C. State in the ACC tournament before Sunday’s loss to Duke, which earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
“Moe (Miller) and I were sitting there, talking about it,” Lawal said. “We’re clicking. We’re playing some good basketball.”