The dust has settled and we’re nearly 24 hours removed from Georgia Tech men’s basketball season-ending loss to Loyola-Chicago in the opening round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament. With that, we have a handful of takeaways from the Jackets 71-60 loss.
1. The obvious….. the Jackets missed Moses Wright
When it came out on Wednesday night that the Jackets would be without ACC Player of the Year Moses Wright, we all knew that they were going to have quite the uphill battle. That being said, it became evident rather quickly how much the Jackets were going to miss Wright’s presence on both sides of the court. The duo of Kahlid Moore and Rodney Howard looking to fill in for Wright just didn’t have the size in Moore’s case and the offensive abilities in Howard’s case to make up for even part of Wright’s absence. While we knew they would miss him offensively as he averaged 17 points per game, the one spot that we did not consider all that much leads into our second takeaway.
2. Rebounding decided a good portion of the game
While it may not have seemed like it, for most of the season, rebounding was always a struggle for the Jackets, especially offensively. The Jackets averaged just 30.3 total rebounds per game which ranked 336th in the country this season. Their 7.9 offensive rebounds per game ranked 299th. On Friday, their rebounding struggles were put in the spotlight without Moses Wright in the lineup as the Jackets were outrebounded by the Ramblers 29-16 including 12-1 in offensive rebounds. It’s not unheard of to win games when you’re outrebounded but when you’re outrebounded with that large of a discrepancy, your chances of winning are going to extremely low. The Jackets shot really well in the game and actually shot better than Loyola but the Ramblers had six more shot opportunities than the Jackets and that was largely due to the Jackets rebounding struggles.
3. The Jackets bench depth needs to improve heading into the 2021-2022 season
One of the most amazing things about the Jackets season this year was how well did by riding for the most part just their starting five. The Jackets were among the lowest in the nation in terms of minutes off the bench and that was once again prevalent on Friday. The Jackets saw Kyle Sturdivant and Rodney Howard combine for just 19 minutes. Combined, they provided four points, one rebound, one, steal, and two blocks. For a team looking to make an NCAA Tournament run, that will simply not cut it. No matter how strong your starting five is, if you don’t have players on your bench that could come into the game and provided solid production in their time on the court, then you’re not going to go far at all. If the Jackets hope to return to the NCAA Tournament next season and make a deeper run, they’ll need to improve their depth coming off the bench.
4. Three-point struggles
For most of this season, the Yellow Jackets were a very good shooting team from beyond the arch. Friday, however, was not a strong shooting day for the Jackets from beyond the arc. They shot just 3-for-10 from deep for the game. While they shot well from the floor overall, at a 57.4 percent rate, it’s interesting that the Jackets didn’t make the deep ball a bigger part of their offensive gameplan as the game went on. Loyola, attempted 27 three-pointers in the game, over 50% of their shot selection, and made 11 of those 27 attempts, a 40.7% conversion rate. It was obvious from the minute that it was reported that Wright was going to be out for the game that the Jackets would need to have a presence beyond the arc and unfortunately for them, they were never able to establish that presence.
5. It was still one helluva a season for the Yellow Jackets
There’s one thing that Friday’s loss doesn’t do and that’s take away anything from this terrific season for the program. The Yellow Jacket started their season 0-2 with losses to Georgia State and Mercer, at that point, a lot thought that Josh Pastner’s time in Atlanta could be coming to an end. But to Pastner’s and the entire team’s credit, they dug down and from there had a terrific season. Their run over the last month of the season was even more amazing and one of the best in Georgia Tech history, in fact, their eight-game winning streak was their longest winning streak since the 2003-2004 season that saw the Yellow Jackets make a run to the National Championship game. Yes, it would’ve been great for the Jackets to pick up at least one tournament win but it was simply not in the cards for this season. That being said, I don’t think there is a single Georgia Tech fan that will complain about this season. A terrific season to say the least and one that will be remembered fondly by Tech fans for years to come.