Men’s basketball on tournament bubble

Tech’s starters — Moore, Alvarado, Devoe, Wright and Usher (left to right) — play significant minutes nearly every game, with Wright and Alvarado both averaging over 35 minutes per contest. // Photo courtesy of ACC Media

The Jackets continued the struggle to stay on the bubble and gain recognition from the NCAA Tournament Committee entering the final month of the regular season in games against Virginia, Clemson, Pittsburgh, and Miami. Tech finds themselves within the top 68 teams in the country by most rankings, but most predictions still have them missing March Madness. They continue to struggle with getting productivity on the floor from more than seven guys in one game. As they enter the final stretch it seems that making big noise in the ACC Tournament might be their last hope to get an invite to the big dance.

On February 10 inside the Thrillerdome against the then 9th ranked Virginia Cavaliers, the Jackets held their own against Jay Huff and Sam Hauser, but it would be Kihei Clark and Trey Murphy III with a combined 32 of UVA’s 57 points that led the Wahoos to victory. Kihei Clark was quiet deep into the game until a Tech classic “Air Ball” chant broke out. But instead of antagonizing him into further frustration, it motivated him to go on a rampage that gave UVA control over the game in the last five minutes and ultimately the victory.

Two days later on February 12 the Jackets visited Little John Coliseum to take on the Clemson Tigers. Unlike previous games of quick turnarounds, Tech held their own, maintaining the lead throughout most of the first half, playing a tight contest in the second. However fortune was not Tech’s side as senior Jose Alvarado went to the free throw line near the very end of the game and missed both shots. The second miss was rebounded by Clemson’s Jonathon Baehre who found Nick Honor up the court for a game winning three point shot to win 74-72.

Another two day turnaround had the Jackets back in Atlanta to host a makeup game against Pittsburgh. The Panthers took control early, but a three by junior Khalid Moore with 8:34 remaining in the first half tied the contest and two made free throws by senior Moses Wright almost three minutes later gave the Jackets a lead they would not surrender the rest of the night. Pitt would tie the game with 4:36 remaining, but junior Michael Devoe went on to score nine points and assist senior Bubba Parham on a three pointer to lock in the win. Four of Pitt’s five starters did muster double digit points, but Wright’s 24 points as well as 13, 12, and 11 from Devoe, Alvarado, and Parham alongside five fewer turnovers as a team combined to give Tech a 71-65 victory.

The Jackets were slated to play a makeup game on February 17 against Boston College, but the Eagles were forced in the ACC’s COVID-19 protocols once again and the game was postponed for a second time this season.

Tech rounded out this stretch of play with a trip to the Watsco Center on February 20 to take on the Miami Hurricanes. Tech dominated from the tip-off, scoring 12 unanswered before Miami got on the board. The Jackets had a lead as large as 36, which was early in the second half before Miami was able to go on some short runs and change the narrative from a blowout to a solid loss. Devoe was the star of the show with 29 points. Alvarado gave the Jackets 16 points and Moses Wright billed himself a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Senior Jordan Usher only had 8 points, but his 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals combined to round out the Jackets night, highlighted by his flexing dunk in the image of The Mailman Karl Malone.