Milwaukee – It’s eerie. In 2004 Georgia Tech entered as the No. 3 seed in the Midwest Regional, only to see second-seeded Gonzaga lose to Nevada (Mark Fox was a Wolfpack assistant coach) on Saturday of the first weekend and then No. 1 Kentucky lose to UAB a hour after Tech had dispatched Boston College on Sunday in the Bradley Center.
Here we are, six springs later, and seeds Nos. 1 and 3 in the Midwest are gone, and the Jackets can unhorse the second seed themselves. Should they get past Ohio State, they’d head to St. Louis with as good a chance to reach the Final Four as any opponent they’d find. Tennessee is nothing special. For all the stunning work it has done this season, Northern Iowa isn’t apt to win four times in this event. The final qualifier will be either Maryland or Michigan State, and Tech just beat one of those.
If you’re asking, “Are you having one of those Bradley Feelings?”, the answer is, “You bet.” Tech is playing well at the right time, and the bracket, which looked so daunting in theory, is breaking the Jackets’ way.
That’s provided the Jackets can upset the Buckeyes, which will be difficult. It will not be impossible. Tech is deeper and stronger. Tech has a defender it can run at Evan Turner, the Big Ten player of the year. (The Jackets have grown accustomed to the faces of POYs — Greivis Vasquez and Jon Scheyer, each of whom Tech saw in the ACC tournament in Greensboro, ran 1-2 in ACC voting, and James Anderson, whom Iman Shumpert defused Friday, was the Big 12’s player of the year.)
I didn’t pick Tech to win today, if that matters. (And it should not, seeing as how I’m the genius who picked Kansas to win the NCAA crown.) But I like the way the Jackets are defending, and I see in them a self-assurance that wasn’t there 15 days ago. Speaking of which …
Remember how galling those losses to Clemson and Virginia Tech in the last week of the regular season seemed? Well, Clemson was one-and-done in the Big Dance — when isn’t Clemson one-and-done in the Big Dance? — and Virginia Tech didn’t qualify. And that’s why, even after the Jackets flopped against V-Tech at home, I wasn’t ready to write them off even though every shred of empirical evidence suggested I should.
See, I’ve seen a few NCAA tournaments. (This is the 30th I’ve covered.) Weird things happen herein. Who saw Villanova coming in 1985? Who saw Kansas in 1988? Who saw N.C. State in 1983?
Speaking of which … Georgia Tech has lost 12 games. Should the Jackets win the NCAA championship, that would set a record for most defeats by a titlist. (Kansas had 11, N.C. State and Villanova 10.) File that away.
And with that, our latest live chat is up and running. Please join me. This could be a significant day for the Jackets.