At issue in Milwaukee: Does Tech have another run in it?

Here we see an example of defense not working so well. (AP photo)

Here we see an example of Georgia Tech's defense not working so well. (AP photo)

Milwaukee — There are two ways this can work: Georgia Tech can take its run to the ACC finals and let that stand as a season-saver, or it can fashion an even stronger run and make us remember this team not as the bunch that went 7-9 in ACC regular-season play but as one of the most memorable in Institute annals. Given your druthers, you’d obviously choose the latter. But it doesn’t always work that way.

In 2000 Arkansas won four games in four days to win the SEC tournament (Joe Johnson was among those Hogs); it lost its first NCAA tournament game. In 2006 Syracuse won four games in four days and won the Big East; it lost its first NCAA game. In 2008 the Georgia Bulldogs won four games in four days and won the SEC on Tech’s floor; it lost its first NCAA game.

Tech won three games in Greensboro and nearly a fourth. But sometimes the worst thing you can do when you’re playing well is to stop playing for a few days. Tech authored its best basketball of the season in Greensboro — granted, there were snippets of inelegance tossed in — and now the question becomes: Was that it? Was the good stuff left in North Carolina?

To the surprise of no one, the Jackets don’t think it was. “We’ve got a lot more to accomplish and a lot more in us,” D’Andre Bell said Thursday. “What we did [in the ACC tournament] was definitely a blessing, but we’ve got a lot more in the tank.”

The Jackets will face a team unlike themselves in their NCAA opener, which is the way of most 7-versus-10 games. Neither side enters off a dominating season, but each does something well enough to make it dangerous. The Jackets pound the ball inside. The Oklahoma State Cowboys rain treys from everywhere; they’ve taken 205 more three-pointers than has Tech.

And that’s why 7-10 games are the toughest to handicap. How do you know how you’ll do against a team unlike any you’ve seen?

In such a setting, a team usually banks on its defense. Here was Tech’s Gani Lawal: “Our effort [in Greensboro] was great and our defense was great. If we defend well, we’ll be in every game with a chance to win in the last five minutes. And that’s all you can ask.”

Tech’s defense was rather good all season, with one blip: Opponents made 37.9 percent of their shots against Tech, which ranked second-lowest in the ACC, but the Jackets’ three-point defense was only seventh-best in the league. And in the final two regular-season games (both losses), Clemson and Virginia Tech — teams not known for long-range artistry — made 21 of 44 treys.

But that was then. Georgia Tech is playing better now. It has a focus and a framework that went missing in January and February. It knows now that Derrick Favors is its best player and must be fed. It knows that its next loss will be its last.

The guess is that Tech’s strength will override the Cowboys’ forte. The guess is that the run that commenced in North Carolina will pick up again by the shores of  Lake Michigan. The guess is that size — and defense — will prevail, and then we’ll see on Sunday just how far this team has really come. The best team in the Big Ten figures to be waiting in a city amid Big Ten country.

Two weeks ago, we weren’t sure if these Jackets could beat a bad North Carolina team just to reach the Big Dance. But things changed in Greensboro, and what held true before isn’t necessarily so anymore. Get past Oklahoma State and Georgia Tech will have a shot to rebrand itself against Ohio State. Get past Oklahoma State and an even more stirring surge could be at hand.

140 comments Add your comment

Buzz

March 18th, 2010
7:21 pm

They will not beat Ohio State. Unfortunate they have to play a top-10 team so soon.

Hairy dawg

March 18th, 2010
7:31 pm

Who cares what the gnats do in any sport? We own them! 30-24 and whatever we beat you by in basketball! Go have fun with your tickle pile! Go dawgs!!!

Duke Blue

March 18th, 2010
7:35 pm

Steve

March 18th, 2010
7:39 pm

Mark,

Regarding your pool. When I sign in and try to pull up the leaders or rankings it just says “computing” and it never comes up. Am I the only one having that problem?

Thanks!

Opinion

March 18th, 2010
7:42 pm

got the talent…..yes

got the coaching…..no

will it happen……no

Thanks,

DRAD

Daniel

March 18th, 2010
7:43 pm

Apparently Hairy dawg cares what we do enough to read the posting, think of something witty to say, come up blank (shocker!), then post an idiotic comment anyway…

Daniel

March 18th, 2010
7:46 pm

Why is CBS still showing the UK game? It’s already a 20 point game. Can we see the UNI-UNLV game now please?

Sean

March 18th, 2010
7:57 pm

As a UMass alum and having followed Travis Ford after he jumped for greener/richer pastures, this Tech team is going to struggle mightily with the Ford run offense. It’s nothing like what Tech has faced all season. Hewitt will get out coached in this one. I just don’t see Hewitt getting his team to commit to defense for the entire forty minutes, and that’s what it takes to beat the pokes if you don’t have a staggering amount of talent to counter their offense. It was a nice run to the ACC championship and an exciting season at times…but it ends without really getting off the ground.

ToeMeetsLeather

March 18th, 2010
7:57 pm

Nice column Mark. Hopefully the Jackets won’t get their phones back before Monday.

Mark Bradley

March 18th, 2010
7:58 pm

Steve, I’ll ask.

Mark Bradley

March 18th, 2010
7:59 pm

Thanks, Toe. And you should know that the New York Times and USA Today were working on the no-phone story this afternoon.

ToeMeetsLeather

March 18th, 2010
8:01 pm

Sean, the ONE thing the Jackets actually do really well for forty minutes is play tough defense.

GTFan1

March 18th, 2010
8:03 pm

Here’s my debate on why the Jackets are the sleeper team of the tournament. Mark, you should enjoy.

http://thesportsdebates.com/2010/03/18/the-2010-ncaab-tournament-sleeper-debate%E2%80%A6-watch-out-for-the-ramblin-wreck/

juvenal

March 18th, 2010
8:05 pm

a 10 reaching the final 4 would be historic-this is why this is SO much better than the B(c)S, 65 teams have a chance based on 30 games vs. 2 based on 12 + polls…the NCAA does not acknowledge any “champion” not based on a PLAY-OFF!(how did the 2 ‘poke FR big guys do in the season?)

Geo

March 18th, 2010
8:17 pm

Paul Hewitt’s coaching seemed questionable at best earlier in the year – prompting me to yell “I can coach big men better than that!!” – but his coaching in the ACC tournament was pretty decent. I think giving up their phones had something to do with their success – perhaps a lesson to learn for next year. They have the talent, but their success will come down to Mo having as excellent an NCAA tournament as he had in the ACC tournament, and Iman having consistent games from an assist standpoint. Of course, making 70% of our free throws wouldn’t hurt, nor keeping turnovers to a dozen or less….

Daniel

March 18th, 2010
8:18 pm

Except that the best 65 teams aren’t playing, juvenal. And there’s that other little issue about the regular season not meaning a damn thing.

Biff Pocoroba

March 18th, 2010
8:18 pm

The last time Hewitt won in Milwaukee, he had Cliff Warren coaching with him. He hasn’t done a thing with his current staff but is too arrorgant to admit that they are dragging him down. Of course Hewitt knows “the truth” and his contract has nothing to do with him keeping his job after he loses Friday. Warren’s Jacksonville team knocked off the top seed in the NIT so maybe we can get him back if Hewitt leaves for St Johns or Seton Hall.

Greg

March 18th, 2010
8:19 pm

Gtown is gonna lose. That would be one less team out of the way.

come on

March 18th, 2010
8:28 pm

anyone think the big east is all hype and no substance, cause it sure looks that way

Alabama Jack

March 18th, 2010
8:30 pm

hey irrelevant delusional dawgs, where’s y’alls team playing? Outdoors, I hope

“University officials have been targeting tailgaters and their trash since the Sept. 12 home game when fans dumped about 70 tons of garbage and left mounds of tents, grills, coolers and chairs across the beloved North Campus. Some even urinated on public buildings and defecated outside.”

I feel one coming on!

March 18th, 2010
8:56 pm

Do’nt know about the rest of the known universe but by brackets are shot already!..Something told me to pick ODU and Murray ST but logic told me not to…..I get burned every year……What it does tell me is that these small comference teams are just as competitive as many of the big boys…they prove it year after year…..yes, I’m one of those who said MSU and Va tech should have been there too…..at least let them play in the play-in game to see who’s seed #64, but after what I’ve seen today, Murray St and some of the smaller schools could at least have a record equivalent to Ga Tech’s showing in the ACC and maybe better……now I know they’ll probably be one or two games done and people will say the small schools of the world ca’nt compete, but hey, 99.9 percent of all the big schools in the tourney lose out as well….in the end the big guys end up losing too….I guess this is what makes the tourney so much fun

blah blah blah

March 18th, 2010
9:01 pm

Hey Abalama Jack!……the only trash I noticed was the junk heaps with your state tag on the car!

blah blah blah

March 18th, 2010
9:04 pm

Hey Abalama Jack off!….the only trash I noticed was the junk heaps with your state tag on the back!

big jake

March 18th, 2010
9:04 pm

I am just afraid GT’s bad habits will cost them against tournament ready teams. Hey Mark, you guys are always trying to get coaches fired or players traded but I’ve got a new agenda for you. We got to get something done about the ncaa letting one network try to cover the tournament when all these games are going on at the same time. Come on man, let another network cover some games also. Stop stringing us along NCAA!

Gordon

March 18th, 2010
9:05 pm

Snippets of inelegance?

They set an ACC tournament record for turnovers and after 3 days had the all time lowest tournament free throw percentage, while barely beatng the 10th and 11th seeds. Only playing their best half in 5 years saved them against Maryland.

They will lose in the first round.

Holy Smoke

March 18th, 2010
9:16 pm

Ugay ran to the toilet….and choked!!!!!!

Holy Smoke

March 18th, 2010
9:16 pm

UGAY…well they suck!!!!!!!!

Holy Smoke

March 18th, 2010
9:17 pm

A small package guarantees no women….only guys for the ugay men!!!!!!!

Technophobia

March 18th, 2010
9:18 pm

If we can win the first one the second one will at least be close and we might even pull the upset. The key is getting off to a strong start.

Holy Smoke

March 18th, 2010
9:18 pm

St Richt just got divorced to marry caleb!!!!!!!!

Holy Smoke

March 18th, 2010
9:18 pm

Caleb is preg with richts babay!!

oLD gOLD

March 18th, 2010
9:19 pm

Technophobia

March 18th, 2010
9:22 pm

Ohio’s gonna beat Georgetown. Not every day you see a 14 beat a 3 seed.

blah blah blah

March 18th, 2010
9:26 pm

word just in…….St Paul J was just spotted smoking poles to get out of a hold up on N. Ave!…..be back later for updates on this late breaking story

gtgoguy

March 18th, 2010
9:28 pm

Hey Hairy Dog: 6-5 Order is restored!!!!

Technophobia

March 18th, 2010
9:32 pm

gtgoguy, you forgot to add Tech’s overall record 16-1, UGa’s 8-9. Another mediocre offering from Athens whose only hope at dignity is to beat the Jackets.

big jake

March 18th, 2010
9:43 pm

Why do all these dumbass georgia fans monitor and get on tech blog, I checked out some georgia blogs just to see and there where no Tech fans on there. I think the georgia fans have a infeariority complex, they are envious and uneducated.

YellerJacket

March 18th, 2010
9:47 pm

Tech is the Cinderella of the tourney. They look pretty (have the talent). Have the step mom holding them back (Hewitt). Just like in the story the beauty(talent) will get them a ride to the ball. They might lose there slipper (have turnovers), but the prince will come calling (Final Four).

Adam

March 18th, 2010
9:58 pm

I really need Wash to win. I have them going to the sweet 16

Sluggo

March 18th, 2010
9:59 pm

Great first day! Old Dominion (Colonial), Murray State (Ohio Valley), Ohio Univ (MAC) Northern Iowa (Missouri Valley).Proves once again that if the majors would ever go on the road to the mid-majors home courts, the mids would win a lot more games than you think. Robert Morris should have won too. They’re proving that there’s a lot of good basketball being played. Public just doesn’t get to see it because we have to watch the over-rated ACC/SEC/Big East every night because TV runs college athletics.

FullMetalJacket

March 18th, 2010
10:00 pm

I am proud of these Jackets for winning three in Greensboro, but two of those teams (UNC & NCSU) were at the bottom of the league. It is no great mystery, if they’ll feed Lawal and Favors and they will cut down on turnovers, then they can play with most of the teams in the tournament. The problem is they can’t seem to stop the bleeding of turnovers and the guards can’t get the ball inside often enough. I think that OK State may be tougher than OH State given their prep time and match-ups.

uga_fan

March 18th, 2010
10:01 pm

Jackets have the talent as a team. The only weakness is the head coach. Would like to see them overcome PH and make a run, but the players will need to take it on their shoulders.

Sluggo

March 18th, 2010
10:01 pm

Enter your comments here

FullMetalJacket

March 18th, 2010
10:03 pm

At least with only two games in three days each week they shouldn’t lose their legs, as they seemed to do at the very end against Duke. That said, I am not confident that Hewitt can help them maintain the high level of play from the ACC and the NCAA is going to be a lot less forgiving.

Adam

March 18th, 2010
10:06 pm

Wow the big east sure is looking weak

FullMetalJacket

March 18th, 2010
10:06 pm

Damm, I had Marquette.

FullMetalJacket

March 18th, 2010
10:07 pm

Upsets a plenty today. At least I had No. Iowa and Old Dominion.

Sluggo

March 18th, 2010
10:08 pm

Great first round! Once again the mid-majors get it done and prove if the majors had the guts to play more road games the mids would win more than you might think. Old Dominion (CAA), Murray State (OVC), Northern Iowa (MVC) and Ohio Univ (MAC) proving it again in this years tournament.

uga_fan

March 18th, 2010
10:08 pm

good point FullMetalJacket. The 2 games in 3 weeks should help. They just need to take advantage and keep the conditioning up and stay hungry!

Matt M

March 18th, 2010
10:08 pm

It’s sad Gt’s biggest weakness is its coach.