As the men’s basketball season dwindles to an end, there is a lot to look back on this rollercoaster of a season. Despite a relatively strong first half of the season, including a hot 4-1 start, the team cooled down to a 4-11 second-half finish. Though strength of schedule certainly contributed to this stark difference in results, a lack of consistency in personnel may have been a bigger issue for the Jackets down the stretch.
Most teams typically develop team chemistry throughout the season as the players battle in more games together, allowing overall team efficiency to improve over time. On the other hand, Tech’s lineup was in constant flux the entire season as Coach Josh Pastner sought out the perfect complimentary starting five. Not a single player on the Jackets roster started in every game this year, which is telling of the experimental nature of the entire season. The disparity in roster consistency between many other teams and Tech hurt Tech’s ability to continually develop teamwork on the same level as their competitors, which may have been a contributing factor to the less successful latter half of the season.
Analyzing the season in a little more detail, some players clearly made strides as both individual athletes and teammates. One such player was sophomore standout Jose Alvarado. With prolific scorer Josh Okogie having graduated from the team last season to play for the Minnesota Timberwolves, someone on the team had to step up to fill that void. While Alvarado was not necessarily able to match Okogie’s 18.2 points per game average from the 2017-18 season, he was able to assume his bigger role on the team and become the leading scorer during just his second year on the team. In addition to scoring the most points, he also was the leader in assists and steals. Given his impressive sophomore campaign, Alvarado will likely remain a significant contributor to the team during the rest of his tenure at Tech.
Another standout was junior James Banks III. Like Alvarado, there was a specific player whose production Banks was tasked with replacing: standout center Ben Lammers. Banks stepped up to that task admirably, providing the sort of athletic, physical presence that the Jackets needed in many of their wins. On top of being the rebounds and blocks leader, the big man’s presence and impact on the court was apparent in his ability to score as well. Through the numerous roster variations the team cycled through this year, Banks was one of the constants who anchored the team with his play in the paint. Heading into his final season on the team, Banks should continue his role as a rock for the rest of the team to lean on.
Finishing off the season, the Jackets are currently ranked tenth in the ACC. The 5-12 conference record, though initially unappealing, does not paint the entire picture of the Jackets season. The ACC is absolutely stacked with talent; the conference is home to three of the top four and five of the top fifteen teams nationally. Tech at least still enjoyed a positive win-loss record over non-ACC teams. Even though this season may not have been a resounding success for the Jackets, there is still a silver lining. A vast majority of the team will be returning next year, as only Sylvester Ogbonda, Brandon Alston and Abdoulaye Gueye will be graduating this spring. To their credit, Ogbonda showed athletic flashes, Alston has been a useful backcourt contributor and Gueye has made massive strides year-over-year from raw talent to capable ACC starter. But the return of all other players means that the progress made this season in narrowing down a perfect starting roster and appropriate scheme that fits the players’ skills will translate to next year’s season. Especially considering the fact that a lack of continuity was a contributing factor to this season’s woes, hopefully the high retention of players going into next season will diminish the time it takes for the Jackets to put together a more competitive effort in 2020.