As the final minutes of their 2017-18 season ticked away, Georgia Tech as always, fought until the end. The Jackets fell 87-77 to Boston College in the first round of the ACC tournament Tuesday to end their season. Unlike a year ago, Georgia Tech had its fair share of bad breaks. It seemed like this team was just snake bitten all season. When things seemed to be going right, the Jackets would suffer a setback. Both on and off the court, the Jackets had several obstacles to overcome throughout their difficult season.
Before the season even started, the Jackets bad luck had already begun. A few days before the UCLA game in China, a report came out that Georgia Tech head coach, Josh Pastner, had been paying his players dating back to his Memphis days. Ron Bell was the one who made the accusation. He was an ex close friend to Pastner. Bell also claimed to have provided Tadric Jackson and Josh Okogie many benefits when they stayed at his house for a week during the summer prior to the season.
Once Pastner found out about the impermissible benefits received by Jackson and Okogie, he reported the violations immediately to the NCAA. Jackson was suspended three games and Okogie six. In a separate NCAA violation, three games into the season, Sophomore PG Justin Moore was suspended for two games.
The off-court distractions kept piling up. Assistant coach and former Georgia Tech player, Darryl LaBarrie, was suspended indefinitely for an issue that occurred during a recruit’s visit. LaBarrie later resigned due to length of the investigation even though no wrong doings have been found up to this point. However, his presence was missed on the Jacket’s bench and his recruiting efforts will be missed dearly.
In the beginning of February, Pastner was accused of sexual harassment by Ron Bell’s girlfriend. Pastner strongly denied the story and I do not see how anybody would believe such a story. This accusation came after Pastner had filed a law suit against Ron Bell for blackmail amongst other things. This is the last we have heard from this saga and hopefully we hear nothing else from it.
The Inconsistency and Bad Luck
Again, before the season even started, Georgia Tech this time had on court issues. In an exhibition game against Georgia State, Josh Okogie dislocated a finger on his left hand that ultimately kept him out until mid-December.
Georgia Tech opened the season with a 3-point loss against UCLA. However, in this game, Ben Lammers suffered an ankle injury that would affect him for the rest of the season. The Jackets rattled off four wins in a row after that capped by a Tadric Jackson buzzer beating layup against Northwestern. This run was followed by a three-game losing streak, the first of Pastner’s coaching career, that included Grambling State and Wofford. The Grambling State game was decided by an own goal by the Jackets in the final seconds. Sitting at 4-4, Georgia Tech’s four loses had been by a combined 14 points.
Georgia Tech entered ACC play with a mere 6-6 record. After dropping their ACC opener to Notre Dame, Georgia Tech won their next four games which included a win against Yale to jump out to a 3-1 start in the ACC. The Jacket’s knocked off Notre Dame and #15 Miami and many began wondering if Georgia Tech was poised for a surprise run in the ACC again.
Those dreams were all but lost during the next twelve games. Georgia Tech lost 11 of its next 12 games. During that stretch Georgia Tech lost Jose Alvarado, and Curtis Haywood, two promising true Freshmen and electric three-point shooters, for the season. Alvarado went down with six games left and he truly was the heart and soul of this team. His energy and New York “swagger” was contagious.
Glimpse at the Future
Jose Alvardo went down in the Duke game. A game in which Georgia Tech trailed by as many as 30 in the second half. However, true Freshmen, who were going to red shirt, were forced into action. Evan Cole and Moses Wright, two unsung heroes sparked a furious rally against Duke that brought the game within 9 points at one point. Whether it was electrifying put-back dunks, or hustling and fighting for loose balls and rebounds, the pair of youngsters did it all.
The last two games of the rough 12 game stretch really stood out to me. Yes, the Jackets lost, but they lost to @ #1 UVA and @ #18 Clemson. The latter game was one in which the refs took over down the stretch and gave the Jackets almost no chance to win a game in which they led for the whole second half. The UVA game was one that the Jackets gave the #1 team in the country everything they had and all they could handle. These two games were the first time Moses Wright and Evan Cole were both in the starting lineup and their energy was contagious.
The Jackets ended the season with impressive wins against Wake Forest and NC State and seemed to have some life entering the ACC tournament. It was a first round date with Boston college that ended in an 87-77 defeat. A disappointing season for sure, but this team kept fighting until the end. Still, there seems to be a bright future at Georgia Tech.
A Look at Next Season
Georgia Tech’s recruiting class ranks 33rd in the country according to 247 Sports. It consists of 4 star sharpshooting PG Michael Devoe, 3 star stretch big Kristian Sjolund, and a 3 star freak athlete in Khalid Moore who is from New York. All three should have an opportunity at early playing time. With Ben Lammers and Tadric Jackson graduating, there are plenty of minutes available.
The expected growth of players like Jose Alvarado, All-ACC player Josh Okogie, and AD Gueye, who has nasty hook shot, make it exciting to think about next season. Adding a quality transfer big would be huge for the Jackets to take pressure off Gueye as well as the youngsters that still need time to develop.
If Georgia Tech can avoid the distractions and bad luck that they had this season along with their returning roster, then the Jackets could be dancing next March for the first time since 2010.