Massively gifted Georgia Tech is down to its last chance

Remember this Tech victory? It was a long time ago. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Remember this Tech victory? It was a long time ago. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

You know the weird part? Even after this latest jaw-dropping loss, I wouldn’t be stunned if Georgia Tech reached the Sweet Sixteen. (Of the NCAA tournament, not the NIT.)

Yes, the Jackets just lost a home game in which they fell 17 points behind an opponent missing its second-leading scorer. I’m painfully aware the story of this season is of promise untapped. But I keep looking at this team and I see, same as I saw in December, massive potential.

Ordinarily I’d say this would be just another case of me being my moronic self, but here’s what Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg, who’s manifestly not a moron, said Saturday: “That team we played is young and talented. That team could quite honestly go deep into the NCAA tournament.”

And there’s the tangle: The team presumably capable of making a big run in the Big Dance might not get invited.

Georgia Tech just took the ACC’s deepest roster and finished seventh in a 12-team league. It went 7-9 in a defoliated league. It began the conference season with a home loss to Florida State and ended it with a home loss to Virginia Tech and won only one league road game. Its best victory came over Duke on Jan. 9. It hasn’t had a three-game winning streak in this calendar year.

Even by Paul Hewitt’s standards, this is underachievement of the first rank. That said, the season isn’t over. There’s still — still, I say — a chance for this team to rewrite what has become a sobering saga.

Two weeks ago Hewitt was telling us his team was on the verge of big things and how great it was on defense. Tech has since lost two of three and is playing its way out of the NCAA tournament. In those two losses, the Jackets have yielded an average of 89.5 points and allowed Clemson and Virginia Tech to make 53 percent of their shots.

“Believe what you see,” Hewitt famously Tweeted, but even disbelievers are having a tough time processing this. How can so many good players yield such tepid results?

Asked Saturday if Tech is an NCAA tournament team, Gani Lawal said, “Yes.” Asked if he believes it will receive an NCAA invitation, he said, “Yes.” Asked if he’d have imagined any way these Jackets would have finished under .500 in the ACC, Lawal said:

“No, sir. No, sir. With this amount of talent, I’d be lying to you if I said that.”

Will Tech make the NCAA tournament?

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A visitor then read aloud Greenberg’s quote about “young and talented” Georgia Tech having the potential to make a March surge. To his credit, Lawal swatted away the crutch. “We’ve got a veteran team. I don’t buy that [about being "young"]. Yes, we’ve got young guys, but we’re a veteran team.”

For 31 minutes Saturday, we saw the Jackets play to their weaknesses: Taking too many jump shots, failing to feed Lawal and Derrick Favors enough underneath, allowing the clever Hokies to spread the court so Malcolm Delaney could orchestrate. This enabled Georgia Tech to trail by 17 with nine minutes left. But then, fired by desperation, we saw the Jackets’ manpower take hold.

They would draw within three points before the great wave broke, but we saw in those 8 1/2 minutes the team Tech could be if it were to pull together, if its point guards could learn to feed the post and take three-pointers only after the ball has first gone inside. We saw skill and passion and shotmaking and defending.

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Maybe we’ll see more of it in Greensboro. Maybe the Jackets will win two or three times and leave the NCAA committee no cause to doubt. It’s always bad policy to expect a team to play in March in a way it hasn’t all season, but for the  March is all that remains. They either get it right or they go down as a flop of megaton dimensions.

I know, I know. There’s almost no reason to expect anything more at this date, no reason except this: Georgia Tech has really good players. At some point that talent has to be brought to bear. I mean, doesn’t it?

556 comments Add your comment

O'Brien

March 6th, 2010
8:16 pm

Mark,

If Tech loses their first round matchup in the ACC tournament, do you think they will still get in?

GTBL

March 6th, 2010
8:18 pm

Reality Tech

March 6th, 2010
8:18 pm

Tech will get in due to the weakness of the field, if they win 1 game in the ACC tourny. But, they will be 10-11 seed and go out in round 1.

Liebs

March 6th, 2010
8:18 pm

There once was a coach named Paul Hewitt,
Who’s team couldn’t win and he knew it.
Left fans revolted,
His tweets insulted,
But he just couldn’t say that he blew it.

goldwreck

March 6th, 2010
8:18 pm

Today’s loss really did not surprise me.TECH needs a coaching change regardless of what it cost.

Mark Bradley

March 6th, 2010
8:19 pm

I don’t know, O’Brien. Yesterday I thought the Jackets could lose the next two and still make it. But U of L beating Syracuse and Notre Dame whipping Marquette were bad tidings for Tech.

ramblingbuzz

March 6th, 2010
8:19 pm

Mark you gotta be kidding. Remember the ACC tournament is not played at AMC, and you know what happens to this team away from AMC, they self-destruct.

GTBL

March 6th, 2010
8:20 pm

JD

March 6th, 2010
8:20 pm

Dude are you on crack. Teck needs to sit at home.

GTBL

March 6th, 2010
8:21 pm

Monticello Dawg

March 6th, 2010
8:22 pm

I am a Georgia fan, but as a basketball fan, I still get irritated watching Tech squander all that talent. I can imagine what the Tech faithful go through watching this regularly. Favors or Lawal should touch the ball every time down in the half court offense. Way too many threes being launched early in the shot clock. One stuck out to me- Favors was running down to set up in the post, upon reaching the foul line with his back to the shooter, unaware, someone threw up a brick from the top of the circle- no chance for an offensive rebound.

GTBL

March 6th, 2010
8:24 pm

I love GT, this really hurts!

Hayseed Dixie

March 6th, 2010
8:25 pm

It could be as simple as Hewitt knowing the pressures of this year and projecting that onto his kids.

When talented kids lose to inferiors, it’s because they’re overthinking it- they can’t relax. That points to a problem up top.

Hewitt twittering to “defend” his “kids” is pathetic. He knows that we know it’s not the kids, by a long shot.

Thanks for predicting he’ll stay, Mark- all but certainly assuring his ouster.

(FWIW, I don’t believe he’ll get fired, either. That’s another monumental job that will fall to CPJ, stoking the alumni for Tech athletics, via consecutive years of winning football, conference championships, and bowl games- that they’ll buy him out.)

NoCoach Blewitt

March 6th, 2010
8:25 pm

Mark …. does Blewitt even have a winning record against any of the other 11 ACC teams??

ramblingbuzz

March 6th, 2010
8:26 pm

There is absolutely no way GT gets in the NCAA tournament unless they win it all in Greensboro. And that will happen when pigs fly.

Bob Horner had a sweet compact swing

March 6th, 2010
8:26 pm

MB…tech is fragile….soft….you didn’t know that..????

Scott

March 6th, 2010
8:26 pm

Disgraceful Paul Hewitt. Whats the excuse this time….I hate you…..

Gordon

March 6th, 2010
8:29 pm

“At some point that talent has to be brought to bear. I mean, doesn’t it?”

You know the answer to that, Mark. And you know why.

The run VT made was more a tactical error Greenberg made by getting too conservative, than it was anything Tech did.

Dan Radakovich will determine when the next time I and many others will attend a Tech basketball game.

NoCoach Blewitt

March 6th, 2010
8:30 pm

Also I noticed after the last two games the write-ups did not contain any of Paul’s excuses. Is he acting like a little baby and refusing to talk to the AJC reporters now or have the writer’s there tired of the same 3 excuses he uses after every loss????

Biff Pocoroba

March 6th, 2010
8:31 pm

Mark, I heard someone around the media area yell “Resign Hewitt” during a time out. That wasnt you was it. I heard a lot of boos at the end of the game. DRad was down near the tunnel so he must have enjoyed hearing that two weeks before he has to sign on to give Hewitt another $1.5 million.

scott

March 6th, 2010
8:31 pm

FINAL FOUR BABY!!!!! Bradley, DID U MEAN NIT…BABY!!!!!?????????????
This teams stinks, good coach but the team stinks! So does the school!!! Glad you put ur name on the line all year for the NERDS, Funny Stuff!!

Big Al

March 6th, 2010
8:32 pm

Instead of an AJC poll asking if Tech should be in the NCAA tourny, why not a poll asking if Paul Hewitt should stay at Tech?

GT21

March 6th, 2010
8:34 pm

o’brein it doesn’t matter. every team in the ncaa tourney has good players when will you people realize coaching MATTERS!!! IE GT football!! Hewitt has a track record that mark b. has noted in this forum . TECH WILL LOSE AND IT WANT BE CLOSE. Because just as it was with gailey if it comes down to COACHING and QB play we would lose every time!!

BuzztheKiller

March 6th, 2010
8:34 pm

Maybe the best team ever to not maek the tourney…sad indeed. If they could only realize how good they could be…

BuzztheKiller

March 6th, 2010
8:35 pm

Scott- get lost little man.

O'Brien

March 6th, 2010
8:37 pm

I can’t help but wonder what this team would look like with a different coach. I feel like we get the same thing from Hewitt’s teams every year.

Missed FT, turnovers, inconsistent defense, bad timeouts, and an inability for the PG to get the ball inside.

At what point does our AD say enough is enough? Is it just about the money? If so, isnt that the wrong message to send to players that its all about the money?

Jaded Jacket

March 6th, 2010
8:39 pm

“You know the weird part? Even after this latest jaw-dropping loss, I wouldn’t be stunned if Georgia Tech reached the Sweet Sixteen. (Of the NCAA tournament, not the NIT.)”

You are on drugs, Mark.

Dan

March 6th, 2010
8:39 pm

Waiting for Tech to play to its potential is like waiting for a NFL player who had a good 40 time and vertical leap at the combine to justify being drafted too high – at some point it is unreasonable to keep expecting for the results on the scoreboard to catch up with the alleged potential

BuzztheKiller

March 6th, 2010
8:41 pm

I am serious- I would not be surprised to see this team lose to anyone in the country (ie UGA, FSU, VT, etc, etc…) to beat anyone in the country.

Dubious

March 6th, 2010
8:41 pm

Sorry…this team doesn’t deserve to be in the NCAA tournament…they just don’t….I was at the game today….Favors was 6 for 7 from the field….why didn’t he get the ball more? Tech does a very poor job of getting the ball inside to him…. Gani got called for one intentional foul and should have gotten a flagrant foul earlier and been tossed….Shumpert took innumerable wild shots….the “rotation” made no sense….

MB you are dreaming if you think this team can go to the Sweet 16….I don’t see them surviving if they get in, and they don’t deserve it….

MB–Question: If Tech loses in the first round of the ACC, do they get in to the NCAA?

ToldUso

March 6th, 2010
8:42 pm

Calm down guys. Tech is playing its best basketball of the season right now.

GT21

March 6th, 2010
8:43 pm

Enter your comments here

GT in CT

March 6th, 2010
8:43 pm

I’d like to see the AJC interview former Tech players in the NBA and get their take (anonymous if they want) on Hewitt’s coaching. Mark, make it so … please.

Tokyo jacket

March 6th, 2010
8:43 pm

Time zones make watching Tech b-ball tough some times, but I saw parts of the game today. I’m not that convinced we have all the talent that everyone says we have. I think we’ve got the measurables but not the intangibles (in the players or the coach). Hopefully D-Rad can properly influence Hewitt to make the right changes in the off season.

The Dogfighter Returns

March 6th, 2010
8:44 pm

When is APD going to finally cuff this dude for stealing money? I can do better.

How much money is he being paid again?

Jim

March 6th, 2010
8:50 pm

Hewitt sucks

BartBuzz

March 6th, 2010
8:51 pm

Stick a fork in Hewitt….he’s done!

John

March 6th, 2010
8:51 pm

Put Mark Fox in place of Paul. Hmmm…..

Eddie

March 6th, 2010
8:51 pm

The most talented team ever not to make the Big Dance? They are who we thought they were – inconsistent, poor freethrows, no big shot guts, badly coached. Yeh, they will play better in March, when pigs fly and Tiger Woods becomes a nice person.

bruce mac

March 6th, 2010
8:52 pm

They don’t play defense with any intensity. How can they possibly be in sweet sixteen unless they start playing “D”?

misterwax

March 6th, 2010
8:52 pm

When the final ACC season stats come out on Monday look where GT is at FT % (last) and also in turnovers….(next to last, maybe. Get a clue Hewitt, resign.

Scott

March 6th, 2010
8:53 pm

BuzztheKiller – why?

Dubious

March 6th, 2010
8:55 pm

What a juxtaposition….I was there early enough for the Senior Day presentation at AMC…it took place about 10 minutes before tip………there weren’t 2000 people in the stands…..Zack and DAndre deserved better…just saw the Duke Senior Night presentation….and Cameron was packed to the gills….and the Duke seniors were bathed in adoration…..

Wayne Guskind

March 6th, 2010
8:58 pm

GT has finished more than 2 games over .500 in the ACC regular season once in 24 years (1995-96).

If anyone needs any further explanation of how irrelevant GT is in hoops – then that person is seriously devoid of common sense.

Why are we talking about this?

Brent

March 6th, 2010
8:59 pm

I hate to say it, but GT doesn’t even deserve to be in the ACC tourny, let alone the NCAA

scott

March 6th, 2010
9:00 pm

BUZZKILLER,
Don’t be SURPRISED, THEY DID LOSE to most teams …. Little boy!

scott

March 6th, 2010
9:00 pm

Well maybe not most teams, but most of the teams they PLAYED! HAHA!

Buzztime

March 6th, 2010
9:01 pm

This ship is sinking and goind down quick. After GT’s first round exit in the ACC Tournament they will be headed to the NIT where they will lose to a decent Mid – Major. Heck maybe they will catch Dayton again and lose to them. Bye Bye Paul!!!

jojo sunshine

March 6th, 2010
9:01 pm

PLEASE let Tech miss the ncaa and not get invited to the nit. Maybe then somenone would listen to me and FIRE Hewitt and HIRE Mr. Brad Stevens from Butler before someone else gets smart and hires this brilliant young coach.

lfp6

March 6th, 2010
9:01 pm

The only way GT gets to the Big Dance is that they win the ACC Tourney; otherwise, better gear up for NIT.