Tough loss at FSU, but Tech again shows its potential

Here we see four Jackets: All freshmen, all good. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Here we see four Jackets: All of them freshmen, all good. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

I caught a lot of grief for suggesting back in December — it was the day Georgia Tech first played Florida State — that the Jackets “should have a splendid chance of reaching the Final Four.” On cue, Tech lost to the Seminoles, prompting one and all to question my eyesight and sanity. (And by “all,” I include myself.)

You know by now Tech has again done what has become a Tech tradition — it lost another winnable game to Leonard Hamilton and his ‘Noles. It missed as many free throws (11) as it sank. It made 20 turnovers. It ended the game with a turnover when a 3-pointer would have won. By checking The Hive, I know what many observers are already saying, and I’m thinking you have some idea what this observer is about to say. But here I’m going to disappoint you.

I don’t think this FSU game was a failure. When one good team plays another good team, one of them’s going to lose. It helps if you’re the good team playing at home, and that’s one reason this game troubles me far less than the first Florida State loss.

The other reason, the bigger by far, is that we’ve learned much about Tech in the past five weeks. And we’ve learned (I say again) that this team should have a splendid chance to reach the Final Four.

In December, Tech hadn’t beaten anyone of consequence unless you count Siena. In January the Jackets have beaten Duke, North Carolina and Clemson. Had it beaten Florida State, we’d be crediting Tech with victories over the four ACC teams that figure to play deep into the NCAA tournament. (Sorry, but I still don’t trust Wake Forest.) Even in losing, Tech showed enough to make us believe it’s no less capable of a long postseason run.

Gani Lawal scored only five points and Derrick Favors 10 and even Zachery Peacock, who’s the best sub in the land, had a quiet day — and still the Jackets led inside the final 30 seconds on the road. Brian Oliver scored 20 points, and Brian Oliver is Tech’s seventh man. And there’s the reason I’m so high on these Jackets.

They won’t play a team with greater overall talent. They won’t be awed in any game anywhere. They’ve already beaten teams led by Coach K and Ol’ Roy, who have five national championships between them, and they’ve gone against the likes of Kyle Singler and Ed Davis and Trevor Booker and Solomon Alabi.

During the strange week that saw Tech lose to Georgia but beat Duke, Paul Hewitt said, “This team knows it has a high ceiling.” The Jackets know this because they look across the locker room and see talent everywhere, the deepest collection of talent in Tech annals.

And these guys are learning to coexist, which wasn’t readily apparent five weeks ago. They lost Sunday by two points, but they’ll handle Wake here Thursday and they’ll be better in Feburary than they are now, and they’ll be a load come the Ides of March.

Understand: I’m not ready to say, “Tech will reach the Final Four.” But at least now I don’t feel I was insane when I suggested this team has that potential. Because it does. And for those who say Hewitt can coach them there, I say this: He took a team to the national title game in 2004, and this team is far more gifted.

(Oh, and I’ve seen some Tech fans complaining about the shot Lawal took inside the final 10 seconds. I had no problem with it. Hewitt called a timeout — yes, Hewitt had a timeout in his pocket — and got the ball to his best player. The same happened out of a timeout against Duke, and Lawal hit the game-clinching turnaround. That was a tough shot, but he nailed it. This was a tough shot, and he missed. It happens.)

238 comments Add your comment

Dayman

January 24th, 2010
3:43 pm

Dayman

January 24th, 2010
3:45 pm

Haha my first first. UGA is still better until proven otherwise. Man the Jets just won’t go away.

HewiitIsAJoke

January 24th, 2010
3:49 pm

That’s absolutely right – Tech does have a high ceiling. The only problem is the ceiling’s name is “Paul Hewitt”.

Matt

January 24th, 2010
3:50 pm

GT basketball is a joke. For a team to beat Duke and NC and yet lose twice to FSU is unacceptable. Fire Hewitt.

lanier

January 24th, 2010
3:51 pm

tech will always be this way until Hewitt is gone

Tech Man

January 24th, 2010
3:56 pm

Tech needs a leader in it’s basketball program. Hewitt cannot lead effectively until he shoulders responsibility for the program’s failures. Why does he call early timeouts? He expends timeouts so that he will not shoulder a burden at the game’s end. It is a weak mentality that shows up in his teams in close games.

Mark Bradley

January 24th, 2010
3:59 pm

Kudos, Dayman. You da dayman!

Not Don Waddell

January 24th, 2010
4:01 pm

Million dollar talent with a $2 brain.

Ozzy

January 24th, 2010
4:04 pm

“The deepest collection of talent in Tech anals” isn’t worth a flip if it’s not coached up to reach it’s potential.

Everytime I think I’m wrong about wanting Hewitt gone, his teams let us down again, Not that FSU is a bad basketball team, but losing both meetings this year is pretty disappointing.

I don’t know, I just don’t think Hewitt can really get it done.

Coach Cool

January 24th, 2010
4:05 pm

Hewitt and timeouts… second to the last with 8 mins to go.

LAST timeout called when Oliver nailed a three with 10 seconds to go.

ARGH!!!

Road Scholar

January 24th, 2010
4:06 pm

Didn’t read your opinion besides the headline. Question: When in the hell is Hewitt going to teach free throws? Uncontested shot. same distance every time! Tech still can’t make them, esp when it matters…during the game!!!!

Mark Bradley

January 24th, 2010
4:07 pm

The first FSU loss was lousy. This was much easier to take.

Road Scholar

January 24th, 2010
4:09 pm

How Mark? They blew both!

ASHEVILLE DAWG

January 24th, 2010
4:12 pm

The talent may be there but the coaching isn’t. GT will have to depend on luck to get somewhere because Hewitt just is average, just like Cremins

Old School

January 24th, 2010
4:14 pm

Great effort for a young team. Unfortunately fundamentals are lacking with both Favors and Rice Jr. Right now Rice Jr is a huge liability in the ACC with his taking plays off on defense and untimely fouls.

BCWRECK

January 24th, 2010
4:16 pm

Enter your comments here

UGAissolastyear

January 24th, 2010
4:18 pm

Pls Mark – we stink. get a grip. 11 missed free throws. They don’t call them ‘FREE’ for nothing! The Legend Lives – Tech Still Sucks. Why Hewitt is still around baffles me. Such talent – and he can’t do anything with them.

mtraininjax

January 24th, 2010
4:18 pm

Mark – Too many turnovers, no run for points in the second half and Lawal was non-existent. This team is still very young and while they have talent, they have not shown they belong as a top 10 team. The guard play is very suspect.

Tom

January 24th, 2010
4:19 pm

Well, as a big Tech fan since the mid-1950s, I would be thrilled if your prediction is correct, but the team has too many glaring weaknesses.

Before today’s games, we were 219th out of 347 Division I teams in free throw percentage at 67.2 and today we shot 50% for the 2nd straight game. The team has more than one or two players with bad free throw numbers. We are tied at 58th (out of 347 teams) for most turnovers per game at 15.9. Both of these statistics will get worse after the inclusion of today’s game statistics.

Favors has a tendency to pick up fouls early in games and the team commits too many fouls — 18.1 per game which makes us only slightly better than average (196th out of the 347 teams in most fouls per game). We have some defensive problems when Sheehan has to play because of foul problems since he is not as strong as Favors, Lawal, and Peacock.

Yes, Oliver’s shooting was wonderful today, but as Mike Gminski pointed out in a TV game recently, Tech needs more than one shooter.

Yes, most posters on the The Hive are not thrilled with the coaching and I know that because I am one of the regular posters. The deficiencies that Tech has could cause them to lose to a physically inferior team in the NCAAT and it’s certainly possible that Tech won’t even make the tournament, although I think they probably will.

Trouble inbounding the ball, having a shortage of timeouts at the end of some games, etc., just add to the problems that I have cited. I am the developer of the composite field goal percentage that Wes gives at halftime, as he did today, when the statistic adds insight. Numbers are my business (literally), and I wish I could be as confident as you but I simply see too many problems when I look at the statistics and combine that with what I see on the court. Put Tech up against a team in the first or second round of the NCAAT that plays sound, fundamental basketball (low turnovers, low fouls, high free throw percentage, good coaching, etc.) and Tech could very easily have an early exit.

We’ll hope for the best but Tech simply has too many weaknesses.

Artie

January 24th, 2010
4:19 pm

Hewitt can recruit (sort of), but he DEFINITELY coaches “down” the talent he does get!!!!

Meadowlark Lemmon

January 24th, 2010
4:20 pm

Hewitt snatches another defeat from the jaws of victory! Tech’s coaching staff is underperforming and letting the team down. Hewitt needs to go!

Artie

January 24th, 2010
4:20 pm

If Tech doesn’t make a deep run in the NCAAs, GT HAS TO seriously think about replacing Hewitt. I think he’s pretty much topped out.

StingerSplash

January 24th, 2010
4:22 pm

Mark,

I disagree. This loss today was just as bad. Again, Hewitt showed how little grasp of late game situations he has. That they managed to hang on to the one timeout they had left for as long as they did was a miracle in itself.
This team will in in spite of, not because of, its coaching. It has talent and you can always play hard and give an effort. But Peacock’s proclivity – he never met a shot on the first pass he didn’t like – is a huge detriment. Granted, he made a senior play at the other end, drawing the charge from Reid. But he makes so many other non-senior moves on the other end that only show how little offensive discipline (ahem …) this team has.

Artie

January 24th, 2010
4:23 pm

Favors went from a sure-fire 1st round pick to most likely having to spend another year (or two) on the Flats.

Technophobia

January 24th, 2010
4:31 pm

I’m with Bradley on this one. It was a tough loss, maybe a costly loss but not a bad loss. They didn’t play bad, in fact they played pretty well most of the game. Still making some youthful mistakes but there’s no way around that with a very young team. Lots of turnovers, on both sides but most of them weren’t unforced. They were the result of a tough physical defense. We weren’t boxing out early but got much better as the game wore on. They were packing it in down low and we took advantage of the open 3’s rather than forcing it low which wouldn’t have worked. This game didn’t worry me except for the fact that our next two are Wake at home and Duke on the road. We’ll need one of those.

C and C Automotive

January 24th, 2010
4:32 pm

Potential = Lack of Accomplishment

Hewitt is a joke. No fundamentals, no structure, no discipline. Bad spacing, and consistently out of position. Tech has all the characteristics of a poorly coached team. Street ball will occasionally win, but not consistently.

Technophobia

January 24th, 2010
4:35 pm

I should have known we’d lose when I heard Dickie V say last night that Tech was the ACC team he really likes. lol

Rob

January 24th, 2010
4:36 pm

NIT here we come.

messin with sasquatch

January 24th, 2010
4:38 pm

amazing what a loss creates in the negativity towards hewitt. can we say the team has progressed but not past fsu. fsu plays well and this was a road loss. call me the fool but i don’t get it.

JacketLady

January 24th, 2010
4:42 pm

Great timeout at the end of the game Paul! Defense is on the run and your man nails a 3 but wait you call a timeout! Way to blow another one. Wish I had Dan’s email! Close games have to be coached and we don’t have one!!!

Technophobia

January 24th, 2010
4:43 pm

Sasquatch, the Hewitt flamers had their minds (so to speak) made up before the season started. Anything good that happens is in spite of him, anything bad is because of him. There’s really no attempt at objectivity or fairness. Oh well, kharma’s a bitsh, they’ll get theirs.

ramblingbuzz

January 24th, 2010
4:50 pm

There are no moral victories at this point. This team has been together all thru preseason and thru 3 months of the season. While the talent is there, the up and down nature of this team reflects their coaching or lack thereof. Hewitt’s inability to beat teams like UGA and FSU is mystyfing but predictable.

Big Chief

January 24th, 2010
4:53 pm

I love it when GT takes us so lightly. After the first loss in your house it was a lousy loss, should have won, blah, blah, blah. Now another loss and we show potential. LOL

Night and Day

January 24th, 2010
4:54 pm

What are you smoking dayman? This ain’t football son. Tech has the series lead. That’s proven.

D labarie

January 24th, 2010
4:57 pm

turnovers! turnovers! turnovers! Lousy free throws! Lousy free throws! Lousy free throws! WE S_X!

Artie

January 24th, 2010
4:58 pm

You’ve gotta win the ones you’re SUPPOSED TO…NOT just the ones you’re not!!!!

Technophobia

January 24th, 2010
4:58 pm

I should have known we’d lose today when I heard Vitale say last night that Tech was the ACC team he really liked right now. lol

D labarie

January 24th, 2010
4:58 pm

John Swofford! Please take FSU off our schedule in hoops!

Coach Johnsons Paul

January 24th, 2010
5:00 pm

Coach Hugh Durham’s definition of “Potential”…it means you haven’t done $hit!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Biff Pocoroba

January 24th, 2010
5:00 pm

Mark, have you seen UNC play lately? They aren’t very good and they were missing one of their top players against Tech. Shumpert had the only good game of his career that day. Other than that, Hewitt has coached him down just like every other guard he has had. If Shump doesn’t improve, Hewitt may run him off to South Carolina. The Duke win was nice but that was Duke’s third game in 6 days. They will kill Tech in Durham if Hewitt coaches. Hewitt can’t teach his team to bring the ball in which costs him 3 time outs a game. He wastes the other time outs at the 12 and 8 minute marks right before a tv time out and then we run a dumb play and turn it over. Peacock had one good game shooting and now thinks he is a shooting guard and cost us the game with a bad 3 point shot at the end today. No other player has improved over time with Hewitt’s “coaching” staff which isn’t surprising if you saw Willie Reece and Darryl Labarrie play while at Tech. He likes to give his former players and buddies jobs just like Danny Hall. Hewitt is the king of excuses but just can’t get the job done. Like Cremins, he needs good assistants but refuses to hire them. Of course it doesn’t matter, since he still gets a bonus just for making the NIT and then can’t be fired so their is no reason to try.

C and C Automotive

January 24th, 2010
5:00 pm

Its not one loss. It is the system, the pattern and the attitude of mediocrity. Sounds like the same things that got Gailey fired, which was obviously the correct decision. Tech won 2 Acc games last year and he stated that the team played well. What’s next? Is Paul gonna show up in a press conference and say “Its just a game, dog.” He’s had 9 years. That is being objective and fair.

Supersize that order, mutt

January 24th, 2010
5:01 pm

And that’s why we call him “Blewitt”

Technophobia

January 24th, 2010
5:04 pm

How many coaches have taken a team to the championship game in the last 6 years? (It was 2004 for all who’ve forgotten) I’d agree about last year and to some extent some of the other years but they are playing better this year. THAT, is objective and fair.

Coach Johnsons Paul

January 24th, 2010
5:07 pm

Mark, To reach the Final Four one should be a well coached team. On paper Tech definitely COULD reach the Final Four. In reality I don’t think lightning can strike twice to overcome Hewitt’s lack of coaching ability.

UGAissolastyear

January 24th, 2010
5:09 pm

Pls Mark – we stink. 11 missed free throws! They don’t call them free for nothing. It baffles me that Hewitt is still around. Such talen – yet he can not do anything with it. The Legend Lives – Tech Still Sucks!

Technophobia

January 24th, 2010
5:13 pm

I know everybody says if a player is a lottery pick they probably go early but does anybody think Tim Duncan didn’t profit from staying in school and developing his game to the point that he dominated the league before he moved on?

Artie

January 24th, 2010
5:14 pm

The question is what has Hewitt done (of note) since 2004???? Not jack!!!!!!

Bigstack O' Pancakes. It is an Irish name.

January 24th, 2010
5:14 pm

Talent can’t overcome pitiful coaching. Tech will be knocked out in the first round of NCAA’S. Mark my words.

BS Patrol

January 24th, 2010
5:16 pm

These terms “potential” & “talent” are beginning to make me nauseous. It reminds me of a certain FB team in Athens. Hewitt is the absolute PITS!

Tom

January 24th, 2010
5:17 pm

Well, as a big Tech fan since the mid-1950s, I would be thrilled if your prediction is correct, but the team has too many glaring weaknesses. Before today’s games, we were 219th out of 347 Division I teams in free throw percentage at 67.2 and today we shot 50% for the 2nd straight game. We are tied at 58th (out of 347 teams) for most turnovers per game at 15.9. Both of these statistics will get worse after the inclusion of today’s game statistics.

Favors has a tendency to pick up fouls early in the game and the team commits too many fouls — 18.1 per game which makes us only slightly better than average (196th out of the 347 teams in most fouls per game). We have some defensive problems when Sheehan has to play because of foul problems since he is not as strong as Favors, Lawal, and Peacock.

Yes, Oliver’s shooting was wonderful today, but as Mike Gminski pointed out a few games ago, Tech needs more than one shooter.

Yes, most posters on the The Hive are not thrilled with the coaching and I know that because I am one of the regular posters. The deficiencies that Tech has could cause them to lose to a physically inferior team in the NCAAT and it’s certainly possible that Tech won’t even make the tournament, although I think they probably will.

Trouble inbounding the ball, having a shortage of timeouts at the end of some games, etc., just add to the problems that I have cited. I am the developer of the composite field goal percentage that Wes gives at halftime, as he did today, when the statistic adds insight. Numbers are my business (literally), and I wish I could be as confident as you but I simply see too many problems when I look at the statistics and combine that with what I see on the court. Put Tech up against a team in the first or second round of the NCAAT that plays sound, fundamental basketball (low turnovers, low fouls, high free throw percentage, good coaching, etc) and Tech could very easily have an early exit.

We’ll hope for the best but Tech simply has too many weaknesses.