By beating Ohio State, Tech can turn haters into bee-lievers

Gani Lawal is among the reasons Tech has an inside edge. (AP photo)

Gani Lawal is among the reasons Georgia Tech has an inside edge. (AP photo)

Milwaukee – For no apparent reason, a Georgia Tech fan stood in the Bradley Center on Friday and, during pregame warm-ups, exhorted the Jackets by yelling, “History!” Turns out the guy was just premature.

History wasn’t on the line in Round 1 — No. 10 seeds oust No. 7’s all the time — but it will be Sunday. And it’s not history of the NCAA tournament factoid sort; it’s history as in memory, in legacy. If the Jackets lose tomorrow, we’ll recall them as a team that flirted with its potential but didn’t quite deliver. If it wins, everything changes.

If the Jackets win, we won’t much care that they were 7-9 in the ACC and were swept by Florida State and finished the regular season with consecutive losses. We’ll see them as a team that took its time learning how to play but one that, at the last possible moment, aced the final exam. We’ll see this as the second-best team of Paul Hewitt’s tenure, the team that reminded us — at a time when we’d all but forgotten — that this coach is more than a man with a golden contract.

The Jackets who were 20 minutes from missing the Big Dance stand 40 minutes from the Midwest Regional semis in St. Louis. They won’t be favored against Ohio State — then again, they weren’t favored against Oklahoma State on Friday — but they’ll have much in their favor.

They’re bigger than this OSU. (Let’s face it: Tech’s bigger than just about anybody.) They’re deeper. They have a guard in Iman Shumpert who defused Big 12 player of the year James Anderson of Oklahoma State in Round 1, and as it happens the Buckeyes’ best player also is a tall guard. His name: Evan Turner.

More than matchups, there’s also this: The team that Hewitt has described as “snakebit” during its regular season has played five close games in nine days and won four. The Jackets beat Maryland on a night they generated more turnovers than hoops. They beat North Carolina after trailing by 10 at the half. They beat Oklahoma State without scoring a basket in the final eight minutes. They are, as the saying goes, finding a way.

Forget snakebit. There’s a growing sense that these Jackets are coalescing in a way Hewitt’s finest team did. Tech reached the 2004 Final Four by winning five games that could have been lost in the final minute. Back then it was Jarrett Jack and Will Bynum making outrageous shots and everyone defending. There’s no Jack or Bynum on this roster, but the defense has been similarly unyielding.

How will the Jackets fare Sunday?

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“This is no slap on Ohio State,” Gani Lawal said Saturday, “but the way our defense has been we feel like we can stop anybody, even the player of the year.”

To stop now would leave potential unmet. The Jackets didn’t convene in October hoping to slip into the NCAA tournament as a 10th seed and leave after the first weekend. “We did have expectations of how good we could be,” Zachery Peacock said. “And now we’re becoming a unit. We’re all working together.”

They are. But our lasting view of these Jackets will turn on what happens, or doesn’t happen, against the Buckeyes and Evan Turner. “If we win, and we do plan to win, we can get a lot of people riding behind us,” Peacock said. “I guess you could could them ‘haters’. We can win a lot of people over.”

At stake Sunday: A berth in the Sweet Sixteen and the biggest NCAA upset ever posted by a Tech team, but for these Jackets there’s something even more essential at play. They can validate themselves. They can turn haters into fans. They can rewrite their chapter of history.

269 comments Add your comment

SF Jacket

March 20th, 2010
5:05 pm

Mark, Couldn’t agree more. I hope they win for a number of reasons, but mostly because I love watching GT do well. Also, I’m a pretty big CPH supporter, I’ll be honest, with the reason being I think a great coach gets his players to play great D, get to the line, and create open looks, which this team does well. Now that they’re sinking shots, I couldn’t be happier.

john willson

March 20th, 2010
5:09 pm

Eman

March 20th, 2010
5:16 pm

GT will beat OSU !!

mowreck

March 20th, 2010
5:17 pm

mowreck

March 20th, 2010
5:18 pm

And also, we gonna beat Ohio St. like they stole something! .. (I hope).
GO JACKETS!!!

ACC Hoops #1

March 20th, 2010
5:20 pm

Henry

March 20th, 2010
5:23 pm

Mark, been a fan for a number of years and always enjoy your opinions. I was wondering what your thoughts are about Peacock and a possible pro career? He’s definitely not as flashy as Favors or Lawal, but it seems to me that his ability to step outside and shoot might be a good asset for a pro team. Do you think he might be a 2nd round guy or possibly make a team as an undrafted free agent (like Mario West did)? D League? Thanks.

Conyers Tech Fan

March 20th, 2010
5:27 pm

I am such a great GT fan that I cannot watch their games anymore. Takes everything out of this 73 year old. I just hope that when I get the nerve to look at the final score it will be good news. This team has already exceeded my personal expectations and I hope for at least one more win.

Steve

March 20th, 2010
5:33 pm

Go Buckeyes! Beat Tech

Bob in SF

March 20th, 2010
5:33 pm

The loveliest thing I saw yesterday was that they ran several different inbounds sets and plays after all the struggles in the ACC tourney. Hewitt might finally be coaching them up.

Bob Horner had a sweet compact swing

March 20th, 2010
5:41 pm

well written Mark….you are correct if they win tomorrow all is forgiven….I’m pulling for St. Mary’s what a great team…those guys are a “basketball team”….and Tennessee…when they play well they are awesome, they beat Kansas this year…

WA Tech Fan

March 20th, 2010
5:44 pm

OSU will have problems from the get go. I look for Tech to place emphasis on DEFENSE, shake up ad make OSU’s offense timid, and Tech will take the ball inside while on offense, to draw fouls on OSU. Tech’s strategy is to not wait for USO to show themselves; Tech will take the game to OSU.

todd grantham

March 20th, 2010
5:45 pm

Mark, is it snowing in lovely Milwaukee?

Ozzy

March 20th, 2010
5:46 pm

Just because people (including me) were frustrated as hell with the underperformance doesn’t make us “haters”. I would say the opposite. People who see your potential and want you to meet it are the definition of fans to me. That said, that was a heck of an effort yesterday. I wish it would have been there against Georgia, Florida State (twice), Dayton, and Virginia Tech. Not hating – just trying to deliver a wake up call to our scholarship athletes and millionaire coach, that’s all. Let’s call it “tough love”.

ASHEVILLE DAWG

March 20th, 2010
5:47 pm

Put me in the doubter category. I watched all year as they lost game after game they should win. Hewitt didn’t become a great coach when the ACC tourney started. I expect Ohio St. to blow the Jackets back to Georgia.

Waylon Jennings

March 20th, 2010
5:48 pm

let’s go to Luckenbach, Texas.

CJ

March 20th, 2010
5:52 pm

If the Jackets lose today, we’ll recall them as a team that flirted with its potential but didn’t quite deliver
Um tech plays tomorrow.

BCWRECK

March 20th, 2010
5:54 pm

I can see an OSU team flustered with the best defense that they have seen all year. Tech will play smothering D.
Tech’s Offense will be impressive from the 2 Bigs, and they will have some good guard play and outside shooting along with the turnovers.

Free Throws will not matter, just like they did not against OkSt.
Every possible analysis, play, matchups, free throws, talent, calls by the refs, momentum, contracts, and anything else, will not matter.

What will happen is a 3 point game with 1:00 left. It will be a classic “Hewitt Toss Up” outcome.

Brian

March 20th, 2010
5:55 pm

Ozzy

March 20th, 2010
5:58 pm

I’m not sure how you figure making 24 of 25 free throws was not important BCWRECK. If they would have shot anywhere close to that percentage from the line all year, they would have probably won five or six more games.

I’d call that crucial to winning anymore games in the tournament. It’s a must for good teams. Remember Memphis? Good team, lost because they couldn’t shoot free throws.

Rick

March 20th, 2010
5:59 pm

BC
Free throws didn’t matter? Are you insane? Tech got almost 40% of their points at the line. And think of it this way. If they shot 75%, which is pretty good, they would have been tied at the end. I would hardly say free throws don’t matter. They have mattered all season going back to the Dayton, Fsu and Uva losses.

Harry

March 20th, 2010
6:00 pm

BCWRECK….this is the most stupidest quote i’ve read on AJC comments today.

“Free Throws will not matter, just like they did not against OkSt.”

Satchmo

March 20th, 2010
6:03 pm

This team is still puzzling, but jelling at the right time, hard to believe you check the cell phone use age and presto a team finally playing together. Makes you wonder about our society and how disconnected we are to one another. Oh well hope it works big time tomorrow.

BravesFan79

March 20th, 2010
6:04 pm

Wouldnt that be something if N. Iowa knocked off Kansas! I see GT getting past OSU.

BCWRECK

March 20th, 2010
6:06 pm

If Tech made 15 or 25 free throws against OkSt, it still would have been a 3 point game with 1:00 left.

I would have bet a $1000 dollars on that as well.

Help me here Mark.

BrokeBackJacket

March 20th, 2010
6:07 pm

Man oh man…..CPH must one hellaciously sturdy bandwagon…all the jumping on and off and it is still standing!!!

Who cares…GT lost the only basketball game that mattered this year!
Go Dawgs!

Football…DITTO!!!

Ozzy

March 20th, 2010
6:07 pm

That would be cool BravesFan. If you guys haven’t watched St. Mary’s yet, try to catch their next game. St. Mary’s and Mizzou are two fun teams to watch.

Ozzy

March 20th, 2010
6:08 pm

How’d the poodles do last night BrokeBack? When do they play next?

WNC Jacket

March 20th, 2010
6:10 pm

Free throws definitely do matter and will matter greatly against OSU. Without free throws we wouldn’t be playing Sunday! Go Tech- keep it going!!!

GT88

March 20th, 2010
6:12 pm

Why is it that we need to fire CPH if he loses to Maryland (and we end up in the NIT) but somehow we put together a nice 3 or 4 game run and everrything is great and he is a great coach? Which is it? We sound like Ga fans wanting to fire CMR. Crazy. It is maddening to see 8 turn overs in a row and no inbounds play but look at the big picture. Hewitt is a fine coach and a quality representative for the Institute. I do wish that he would kiss and make up with Bradley. The spat seems immature and I have not seen the slight from the AJC. If we can make 96% from the line again I like our chances.

Yellow Fuzz

March 20th, 2010
6:17 pm

Great to hear all the praises from the ex Tech hating, current Tech respecting, Dawg nation.

Yellow Fuzz

March 20th, 2010
6:22 pm

BrokeBackJacket
“Football…DITTO!!!”
You got that right AH! Just like in football, our team is playing long after your guys have cleaned out their lockers. Unless you guys were able to get some type of Shreveport pick up tournament
Hahahahahaha

[...] Source [...]

Wade_Marquette

March 20th, 2010
6:38 pm

YELLOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! JACKETS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Lets make a run to the final four. GO JACKETS.

Decatur Tech Fan

March 20th, 2010
6:40 pm

Win tomorrow for your job, then make Sweet 16 every year for four or five…if butler can do it, why cant you Peeeeuuuwitt?

Mark Bradley

March 20th, 2010
6:43 pm

Thanks, Henry. I don’t know if Zachery Peacock will get drafted — I doubt he will, truth be told — but he could find a place in the NBA. He’s a big man who can shoot.

indianman

March 20th, 2010
6:44 pm

all you people think tech can beat ohio state i know a brain doctor your can see

Technophobia

March 20th, 2010
6:44 pm

Tech is a tough team to scout. If you watch game film of anything but a very recent game, you just don’t get the picture.

Mark Bradley

March 20th, 2010
6:45 pm

Belated kudos to SF for being first, by the way.

bruce mac

March 20th, 2010
6:46 pm

Yes Mark, and if your Aunt had a mustache? All the haters will be back tomorrow after the Buckeyes take Yech to the wood pile. I do appreciate that they won one though, now all the yechsters will want to keep their coach for two more years or maybe longer. As if they could really afford to do anything else.

rainman

March 20th, 2010
6:49 pm

Make no mistake, Tech is the dog and should be — but, we do have a decent chance. We can’t expect 96% from the line and it would be nice if they could score a few more points, but as long as the defense keeps us in the game — anything can happen.
If we could knock-off OSU we would play Tennessee to get to the elite eight where we would have to play Kansas to get to the final four. If that miracle happened, we would have to play Kentucky to get to the championship game.

todd grantham

March 20th, 2010
6:49 pm

Mark, what’s on the agenda for tonight?

Mark Bradley

March 20th, 2010
6:49 pm

I agree, rainman. The Jackets have a shot.

Dave from GT

March 20th, 2010
6:51 pm

Kansas is goin down! Too bad the game has to compete with that idiot Pelosi and Healthcare!

Technophobia

March 20th, 2010
6:54 pm

I also think that we should differentiate between the haters and those who were frustrated at recent seasons and this season until the very end. Some frustration was justified but the vitriole was not and that’s pretty much what I’ve been saying all along.

Dave from GT

March 20th, 2010
6:56 pm

Techno,…. you are a dork! Just read what you wrote. What kind of nonsense?

Hewitt is a pretty good guy and a damn good coach.

The NBA needs to take a couple seasons off to let the team develop.

Technophobia

March 20th, 2010
6:57 pm

Kansas down 10 Mark, you should kept your promise to yourself.

Technophobia

March 20th, 2010
7:02 pm

Dave from GT, I never said anything bad about Hewitt personally and I agree he is a pretty good coach, sometimes damn good but does that mean that constructive criticism is out of bounds. You’re just the other side of the extremist coin.

Mark Bradley

March 20th, 2010
7:03 pm

Kansas has destroyed me at least 10 times. You’d think I’d learn. But nope.

Dave from GT

March 20th, 2010
7:05 pm

I never understood why we have “Cremins” arena. Whack Hyder arena…. OK. I say that we rename the arena to Paul Hewitt arena after he retires with 2 or 3 national titles at GT!

Besides, the man eats a mean plate of BBQ!

Come to think of it , Hewitt would have been a much better selection than Obama!.