Georgia Tech Basketball Gut Reaction: What the loss to Duke showed about the Jackets

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 07: Head coach Josh Pastner of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets coaches his team during a time out during the Yellow Jackets' game against the Louisville Cardinals at Hank McCamish Pavilion on January 7, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 07: Head coach Josh Pastner of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets coaches his team during a time out during the Yellow Jackets' game against the Louisville Cardinals at Hank McCamish Pavilion on January 7, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images) /

The Georgia Tech men’s basketball team gave Duke a run for their money but ultimately didn’t have enough in the tank but shows that the Jackets may just be one player away from being a true tournament contender.

For Georgia Tech fans, Saturday’s game and eventual loss to Duke probably felt like deja vu. The Yellow Jackets took on one of the nation’s best teams and played well for 20-25 minutes before falling apart and eventually losing the game, this time by a final score of 66-53.

Despite starting the game down in a deficit, at one-point an 8-4 game with under 15 minutes to go, the Yellow Jackets put together a first half effort that saw them lead at half time, 29-27. It was certainly an unexpected halftime result to say the least but the Yellow Jackets were going to need a big time second half effort and were going to have to come out on fire in order to put Duke away. Unfortunately that didn’t happen for the Jackets and quite the opposite happened instead. In the end ,Duke would ultimately end up putting up 39 points in the second half to Georgia Tech’s 24, giving the Blue Devils their 66-53 victory.

Unfortunately for the Yellow Jackets, Duke was just too talented for the Yellow Jackets to get by with what their offensive was providing them with. Offensively, the Jackets were up-and-down, shooting 41% overall but simply didn’t get enough out of their starting five outside of Abdoulaye Gueye and Michael Devoe. While those two provided 14 and 11 points respectively, the rest of the starting lineup provided just 16 points in total including just just 7 points out of Jose Alvarado.

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Beyond” being one player away”, what today showed for Georgia Tech is that their defense can give even the best teams fits. The Jackets kept the usually efficient and strong shooting Blue Devils to a 41.4% shooting percentage and just 2-for-21 from beyond the perimeter. The Jackets were just the second team this year to keep the Blue Devils to under 70 points joining a top-15 ranked Texas Tech team that held Duke to 69 points.

That is something that Josh Pastner and the Yellow Jackets should take pride in. While they obviously didn’t have the offensive effort to win the game, they were able to stay in the game for the first 32 minutes before fading with about eight minutes to go in the second half. A lot of that is simply the Blue Devils being the most talented team in the country and being able to take advantage of Tech mistakes, another part of that however was the Jackets inability to answer back on offense.

Which brings us to our major point of this article, the Yellow Jackets may be just one player away from being a legitimate NCAA tournament contender. Not a contender to win the tournament, but a contender to make the big dance. This isn’t any disrespect to Jose Alvarado, Michael Devoe, or any of the Yellow Jackets starting five but overall shows where the program compared to where the program wants to be. Obviously, it just won’t take one player but the point stands, Georgia Tech may be closer than many realize.

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While the Jackets have a core of players that are rather average to above-average ACC scorers, they’re missing that offensive game changer that can take over games. The last two seasons, that player was Josh Okogie. Of course, Okogie is now with the Minnesota Timberwolves, leaving the Jackets without that caliber of a  player.

If the Jackets had Okogie on the roster this season or a player like Okogie, you can argue the Jackets could be a 15-5 team overall this season. Such a player would have most likely propelled the Jackets to wins over Northwestern, St. John’s, and Gardner-Webb at the very least and would’ve given the Jackets better chances against Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia Tech, and Clemson. They wouldn’t win all of those games but there’s a chance they win at least four of them if not five with a true game changing offensive player, drastically improving their record at this point in the season and putting them right in the picture for the NCAA Tournament.

Even with a player of that caliber, Georgia Tech would still have plenty of holes this season and would be far from a perfect team. It shows that it would truly be more than just a “one player” effort but having such a player would certainly help.

Now, what does this all mean for the future of Georgia Tech basketball? That’s up for debate Head coach Josh Pastner with all things considered has done a solid job at Tech in his two and half seasons. Yes, some fans are upset with the team this season, feeling the program can’t get over the hump in tight games but at the same time, Pastner has been one of the most successful ACC coaches in ACC history through his first two and half seasons. The ACC is one of the toughest conferences in college basketball, if not the toughest and while the Jackets have been rebuilding, the ACC has only gotten tougher, making Pastner’s job all that more tough.

For those that say, that’s on Josh Pastner to make sure the program stays to par, I’d have to agree. Pastner has done a solid job in recruiting and has put Georgia Tech in strong position to land a few five stars and game-changing caliber prospects. Going forward, that should be and most likely is a major priority because if he ever does land such a recruit, it could be a turning point for a program that is desperate for a game changer on offense. However, even in the case they never do, Pastner still has the future looking bright at Tech and could develop a roster that has the Jackets competing to make the NCAA Tournament. They’ll never be a lock to make it but they’ll be in the better half of the ACC and have a good shot any given season.

Of course, at this point, this is a gut-reaction to what we’ve witnessed over the 20 games of the season. The Yellow Jackets have been in almost every game this season except one, and that game was against Louisville when the Jackets were missing three of their best players. Over the course of the rest of the season, the Jackets will need to show that they can play at a considerably high level for long stretches of time. But for fans who are getting fed up with the Jackets not being able to get over the hump, perhaps a step back to look at the big picture could be good because while the Jackets have only a few “signature” wins in the Josh Pastner era, Pastner has rarely had his Tech teams blown out by the opposition and has continued to show that he is just one player away from taking this program to the next level.