A big week for Tech hoops: First the Hokies, then the Terps

Paul Hewitt ponders: Is there room near the top for Tech? (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Paul Hewitt ponders: Is there room near the top for Tech? (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Georgia Tech has two key games these next six days, neither against a ranked opponent. And that’s kind of the point: The ACC is thinner at the top than it has been since … well, since ever. The latest Associated Press poll includes only two representatives from the Tiffany League, and Florida State slipped in at No. 22. (And the Seminoles aren’t ranked in the ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll, leaving the ACC stuck on one.)

It has become a Tobacco Road Talking Point: Apart from Duke, is anybody any good? North Carolina was ranked in the Top 10 in preseason but has played its way downward. (The nadir for the Tar Heels was losing by 20 here.) N.C. State was thought to be promising but hasn’t done a thing. Maryland began ACC play by losing to Boston College and hasn’t quite recovered. Even Florida State, which beat Duke, suffered one of the season’s worst losses by losing to Auburn, which carries an RPI of 304 among 346 Division I teams.

Which brings us, however circuitously, to Georgia Tech. The Jackets suffered their first reversal Nov. 15, losing by 17 points to Kennesaw State, which has an RPI of 312. The Jackets entered league play at 7-6, which augured poorly. On cue, they dropped their first two ACC games, the second by 25 points at mediocre Clemson, and seemed poised to go 10-20. But then a funny thing happened.

Tech beat Carolina, which raised some eyebrows, and then demolished Wake. The Jackets were 2-2 in ACC play headed to Virginia, which is yet another tepid team, and had a chance to nose above .500. To the surprise of no one, Tech fell behind by 14 points after 20 minutes and lost 72-64. And now the Jackets arrive at these two massive-for-them conference tests needing both to get them to 4-3 in the league.

Tonight brings Virginia Tech to the building once known as the Thrillerdome, and the Hokies are probably the ACC’s third-best aggregation. On Sunday the Jackets meet Maryland, which is 2-3 in the league — the Terps play at Virginia on Wednesday — and in real RPI trouble. These will be difficult games for the Jackets, but if you can beat North Carolina you can certainly play with the other Tech and Maryland.

The Jackets are better than they were before Christmas. This might sound like faint praise, but there has been improvement. Daniel Miller has become a competent man in the middle, and Tech leads the world in guards. Iman Shumpert is a major talent. Moe Miller is a man you dismiss at your peril. This isn’t a championship team, but it should be competitive.

But here’s what happens when you lose to Kennesaw and Siena before Christmas: Your RPI takes a hike. The Jackets are 154th, which means they could improve 100 places and still not make the tournament as an at-large. And right about here you’re saying: Are we seriously talking about the Big Dance for a 9-9 team?

Well, yeah. Because the Big Dance is all that matters in college basketball. Because Paul Hewitt said before the season he believed this was an NCAA tournament team. And because, when you eyeball it, Tech’s schedule beyond Sunday is remarkably cushy.

The Jackets play Florida State only once, and that game is here. They play Duke only once. They don’t play North Carolina again. They don’t have to travel to Maryland. If the Jackets could win these next two, there’s a chance — a chance, I say — they could finish 9-7 in the ACC. And Tech under Hewitt has finished above .500 in the ACC only once, that in its Final Four season.

Understand: I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but I am saying it could. The ACC is hugely unsettled, and the Jackets are better than they’ve played. If Tech beats the Hokies and the Terps, we can talk more. If it loses these two, forget I mentioned it.

EARLIER: It’s a big week for Georgia basketball: First the Gators, then Kentucky

By Mark Bradley

61 comments Add your comment

Friendly arch-rival fan

January 25th, 2011
9:57 am

[...] ALSO: It’s a big week for Tech hoops: First the Hokies, then the Terps. [...]

Friendly arch-rival fan

January 25th, 2011
9:58 am

I didn’t have time to change my name back to Jackets 2010-11. I should be too old for the “first” contest or maybe I’ll claim I haven’t lost a step or typing peck.

Jackets2010-11

January 25th, 2011
10:00 am

I’ll check out Mark’s quips now.

Mark Bradley

January 25th, 2011
10:02 am

Kudos, Mr. Friendly.

Jackets2010-11

January 25th, 2011
10:07 am

Fair column Mark.
Good to have that caveat at the end.

Jackets2010-11

January 25th, 2011
10:10 am

I wasn’t up to arguing with a bunch of dawg fans this morning so I took a friendly handle than usual and tried to mimmick your quipping style.

Jackets2010-11

January 25th, 2011
10:12 am

Maybe all us fans should take up a sport and report on our last contest before weighing in with our criticisms. I have not run a 10k in 5 years but signed up for St Luke’s. First goal will be to finish.

Jackets2010-11

January 25th, 2011
10:15 am

I am trying to figure out a way to get Brian Oliver going like last year.
I’m thinking of hiring a Cheetah babe to plant one on him during the warmups like Morgana did for Clete Boyer.
This thinking of mime is prbably one reason Tech folks won’t help me get rich.

Mark Bradley

January 25th, 2011
10:17 am

I wouldn’t emulate anything I do, Jackets2010-11. Just a friendly piece of advice. As you can tell from the tonnage of comments, I’m a loser from way back.

Jackets2010-11

January 25th, 2011
10:20 am

While I have the floor, correct me if I’m wrong Mark, but a quip is an attempt to succeed with cleverness while not worrying too much about factually correctness.
I think your quip about the Vol’s win captured that the refs decided to stay out of it unless something really flagrant happened.

Brent

January 25th, 2011
10:22 am

Mark, being a diehard Tech fan I appreciate the optimism, however I think we all know that GT will never win as long as Paul Hewitt is the coach. Oh sure, they’ll tease us every now and then like the win over UNC or last years ACC tourny run, but bottom line is there will never be any consistency under CPH.

Jackets2010-11

January 25th, 2011
10:23 am

Mark if we took the football predictions of every last Jacket and Dawg fan last year, not only would none of tem have gotten their team right, they both would have missed by a lot more than you did.

Jackets2010-11

January 25th, 2011
10:28 am

I haven’t joined the Hewitt haters and do have season tics. Part of it is I don’t wish to pay anyone 7 mil to do nothing. BTW, I don’t think any of Tech’s multimillionaires do either becaue every time a big gift is made, it is specified that all of the money goes to a certain project only. Mr McCamish deserves to have the new and improved Thriller dome named after him.

George Stein

January 25th, 2011
10:28 am

Wait! Mark Bradley said Tech is going to the Final Four?

In all seriousness, this feels like last fall when you said that Georgia could still play for the SEC Championship when they were like 2-5 or something. Our hoops team sucks and they aren’t getting better because they still can’t win on the road. If vaunted Kennesaw St is too much for you, then I don’t know what to say.

GTBob

January 25th, 2011
10:30 am

I have a hard time believing that this team could go 9-7 in the ACC regardless of how weak the conference is this year. When we play at NC St, Miami, VT, and Duke, those are almost sure losses with how bad we are on the road. That fives us 7 losses right there. To go 9-7 we will have to beat VT, Maryland, Clemson, Miami, and Virginia at home. I would love to be optimistic but I just don’t see this as possible, even if we win both games this week.

Jackets2010-11

January 25th, 2011
10:34 am

Seriously Mark you aren’t allowed to be right.
Had u picked both Tech and Georgia to have losing football seasons, the vitriol from both would have been unending.
Had u then replied, “can’t u take a joke?”, they probably would have been even more ticked off.

Paul in RDU

January 25th, 2011
10:34 am

Mark – You have made reasonable comments here about GT basketball. The schedule does set up for GT to have an OK record in the ACC, but this year 9-7 is not going to get GT into the NCAA. They need to go at least 10-6 in conference and to do that they are going to have to win the home games and beat 2 teams on the road. Wake is beyond awful this year but aside from them, who can GT beat away from AMC? For that matter, winning at home is no given. Better GT teams than this year’s have lost to VT.

RAMBLE ON!!!

January 25th, 2011
10:35 am

Here begins our Annual Run for the Bubble, as per GROUND HOG DAY.

I predict no time outs left with 4 minutes, <65% f/t shooting and about 22+/- turnovers. In spite of that, we may still win in front of about 2500 people.

One thing is for sure though:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKBTC5S5dMg

Jackets2010-11

January 25th, 2011
10:38 am

I agree it is unlikely the team will learn to win on the road. However I don’t think it is impossible for that to happen. What happened to the 2-3 zone we used against Uga. I’d like to see that tried on occasion, at least on the road.

collegeballfan

January 25th, 2011
10:43 am

Lets discuss the GT program. Not this team, but the program.

Attendance is way down. The Thrillerdome is now the “Yawndome”. Recruiting is OK, two nice additions to the team next year. But the Tech faithful have lost their faith. No faith in the coach or in the players.

As UGA is showing, with 4 straight sellouts at the Stege, winning solves a lot of problems.

This sentence by Bradley is telling: “And Tech under Hewitt has finished above .500 in the ACC only once, that in its Final Four season.”

Cremins had 6 plus .500 seasons.

Georgia Tech is a basketball program that has fallen to medeority.

But if that is what the institution accepts, so be it.

Jackets2010-11

January 25th, 2011
10:44 am

Free throw shooting is much better this year. One of the Plumlees at Duke is around .400 from the line in spite of having the best college coach. The other Plumlee is at .600. It’s rare for big men to be good from the line.

Jackets2010-11

January 25th, 2011
10:45 am

If Cremins was so great, why was he fired?
All the people who remember him fondly should have stepped up to defend him but you didn’t, did u?

Jackets2010-11

January 25th, 2011
10:47 am

Cremins’ big mistake was not dumping us for South Carolina.
I heard his wife kept him here though the same sentiment is ridiculed in Hewitt.

One Eyed Jack

January 25th, 2011
10:54 am

This is a painful team to watch. It hurts so bad. Take another little piece of my heart…

Go Yellow Jackets!

blazer

January 25th, 2011
11:00 am

i would like to win them both but what did Bradley have for breadkfast?

Paul in RDU

January 25th, 2011
11:06 am

Jackets2010-11 Bobby Cremins was burnt out by the time he resigned from GT. He knew he needed to move on and everyone associated with the program knew it. Prior to that he had a great run – he took a team that went 1-27 in the ACC prior to his arrival to 3 ACC championships, a Final Four and 6 winning seasons in a conference that was much better than it has been since expansion.

Jackets2010-11

January 25th, 2011
11:18 am

I disagree.
I think Cremin got burnt out dealing with the fans that turned on him.
I think he was hurt by it and felt Tech fans were ungrateful.
You sugarcoat it, my friend.
Tech near NC provided the opportunity to patch things up with him.
I think Cremins was forced out and there was some ugliness to it.

Paul in RDU

January 25th, 2011
11:34 am

Jackets2010-11
Don’t believe me? Here is what Cremins said to John Feinstein.

“I knew it was time to go,” Cremins said. “I remember we got killed at Maryland right around this time of year and I went for a run near the hotel the next morning. Something just kind of kicked in. I called Carolyn and said, ‘I’m done, I’m writing my letter of resignation today.’ ”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/20/AR2010022003435.html

Ted M

January 25th, 2011
11:42 am

I’m pretty sure we can forget you mentioned it.

Brad

January 25th, 2011
11:48 am

Bring back Bobby Cremins!

Coach Cool

January 25th, 2011
11:49 am

Positive vibe… Trying to get back into the building???

Good points though. In three years, I’ve never seen Shumpert take control of a game like he did against UNC.

He’s continued to be that way, although he tries to do a little bit too much at times with some ill-advised shots from downtown.

PTC DAWG

January 25th, 2011
12:00 pm

Keep winning GT…it helps UGA’s RPI.

Jackets2010-11

January 25th, 2011
12:08 pm

Coach Cool we need Brian Oliver’s to develop Shumpert’s shooter’s conscience. Maybe it’s far fetched but if Oliver would start hiting his shot, he, Shumpert and Rice Jr. could be Lethal Weapon Three (second version). Moe is trying to get the three going.
We have a decent bench and the addition of true forwards will help a lot next year. Oliver’s slump may be due to his playing out of position. He showed some guts in UNC win.

Jackets2010-11

January 25th, 2011
12:15 pm

Concerning Cremins, we agree to disagree. I observed some of the ugliness and I hardly went to a game in those days. There was a knock on Cremins that he was a much better recruiter than game day coach.
That he had as many NBA players as Carolina and Duke but a lot less to show for it in March. I think some fans had started to be mean to him well before he resigned. He should have dumped us earlier instead of being loyal. Dumped us like Ross and Curry did.

Jackets2010-11

January 25th, 2011
12:18 pm

I’m wondering what anyone thinks of Wake’s problems. I’m remembeing a lot of good teams they had over the years to wind up now in the basement.

Mark Bradley`s Booster

January 25th, 2011
12:31 pm

Mark: As usual, a good synopsis of what could or could not happen with GT. Something to give us hope. I always
liked Bobby Cremins as a coach and a person. Got to meet
him one time on a Delta flight. He was very friendly
to all of us sitting around him.

RAMBLE ON!!!

January 25th, 2011
12:35 pm

Jackets2010-11, put down the pipe. It’s ruined your cognitive process. You didn’t go to the games with Cremins, because YOU COULDN’T GET A TICKET!!!

Now, you can scalp one for 5 bucks and sit anywhere…I wouldn’t pay that for watching play ground basketball though.

collegeballfan “Georgia Tech is a basketball program that has fallen to medeority.”

You’re giving Phewitt too much credit. We are last in the ACC since expansion. We are bad, real bad. Have you forgotten already about Kennesaw State.

Richard

January 25th, 2011
12:56 pm

Honestly, barring Tech winning the ACC tourney, if they make it as an at-large then every single one of the selection committee members should be fired on the spot.

a

January 25th, 2011
12:57 pm

techs schedule all year is cushy. play unc duke and fsu just once. the ooc was weak. the only chance they have to make the tourney is to win the acc tourney. and this team has the worst coach in the acc coaching it. in other words, they have no chance. don’t be surprised if they lose both games this week by an aggregate of 28.

GT Alum

January 25th, 2011
1:01 pm

MB, the only problem with this article is your premise that “if you can beat North Carolina you can certainly play with the other Tech and Maryland.” The problem is UNC played like a steaming pile in that game. I know because I watched it. Roy Williams said as much too. And Wake is beyond awful.

The only way Tech can beat a halfway decent team is if that team plays down to Tech’s level, which is possible in this year’s ACC. The problem is, if that happens enough for us to make the NCAA’s, we’ll probably get embarrassed in the first round, but then Hewitt and DRad will be able to justify keeping Hewitt around even longer because we made it to the tourney with a team that didn’t have a great talent level.

I hope this team makes real strides and gets better, but I don’t want them to win ugly games just because their opponents play worse than they do. It will end up hurting the program a lot more in the long run than the wins will help it.

[...] ALSO: It’s a large week for Tech hoops: First a Hokies, afterwards a Terps. [...]

Jackets2010-11

January 25th, 2011
2:03 pm

I don’t use drugs.
If you felt so strongly, why didn’t you fight to keep him?
Maybe you ignored the ugliness because you didn’t want to take those on who wanted him fired.
That quote given by Ramble On is a cop out.
All the folks who claim to love him now didn’t step up.
He was burned out by the Tech people who turned on him.
That’s a fact you’d like to forget.

Old Tech & Mountaineer fan in NC

January 25th, 2011
2:13 pm

If a coach is like a light house that provides guidance, perhaps ph light is getting dimmer each day. Someone mentioned recently that ph acts like he would not mind getting that big $7+…I believe that.

re Coach Bobby that has his name painted on the hardwood, I was exited when he was named coach (being both a Tech fan and App State fan) but it really was a good decision on his part to leave when he did. That trip to Columbia should have been one way.

Starring Bill Curry in Liar Liar

January 25th, 2011
2:14 pm

If there is one coach who ought to be glad the internet did not exist, it is Bill.
1-9-1 Hey I’m learning my trade.
1-10 Hey I’m still learning my trade.
6-5 I’m improving.
3-8 Opps.
6-4-1 Yea I finally beat Duke on my fifth attempt. I’m a great coach.
9-2-1 Only took 6 years but I’m there.
5-5-1 Yikes. Better take the Bama job. Even Tech folks may get fed up.
With the internet, would he have lasted 3 years?

wdm

January 25th, 2011
2:18 pm

How bout them Dawgs and Mark Richt? Even with all the whining, crybaby hate you spew against Coach Richt he is still bringing in the big dawgs. This is a victory for us (those who like the man) and a loss for you (those who are jealous of the man.) As if the past 10 years have given us enough examples, this is just another example of Mark Richt continuing to succeed in the face of your hatemongering against him. With all your ink and hate against him, Mark Richt still wins. Print this headline in your brain, “Mark Bradley, the never has been nor never will be, keeps on losing.

Road Scholar

January 25th, 2011
2:32 pm

Didn’t read the commentary above because this is a worthless sports page. Tech’s womens BBall team beat BC on Sunday and not only is there no story, but the story posted is about the loss to Duke over a week ago!. But , by god, we have a story on who the coolest Bulldog is!

Get someone off their ass and do some maintenance on the Tech page AND post some articles before AND after each mens and womens games! I mean, even if you can’t attend and write an article (even off the radio broadcast), at least link to other ACC area papers (hint- Washington post and Baltimore Sun) to get the summary and box scores.

Oh and by the way Tech women are ranked 25th in the nation!

Fed Up With Wren (Again)

January 25th, 2011
2:34 pm

Although I normally don’t post on non-Braves topics, I am wondering how 9-7 ACC, 7-6 on a weak OOC schedule, and 16-13 overall get this Tech team into the tourney in what is widely acknowledged as a down year for the ACC?

Trailort

January 25th, 2011
2:46 pm

There will never be a really big week for Tech basketball as long as Blewitt is associated with our program. Unless, of course, you count the week wherein his ridiculous contract finally does not get renewed. I hope that DRad can see all the empty seats.

ACC Hoops Down?

January 25th, 2011
2:56 pm

The SEC was down in football this year too (at least the East), but still won the National title. When you have won 5 of the last 10 National championships dominating College Basketball and lost one other in the Finals (GT), I think any team with ACC winning record has earned the right to get in the NCAA tournament