Men’s basketball playing strong into March

Photo courtesy of Blake Israel

Tech secured the fourth seed in the ACC tournament after ending the season with a six-game win streak. This season, which got off to a tumultuous start after losses to Mercer and Georgia State prompted calls for coach Josh Pastner’s resignation, has been by far the most successful season of his tenure. Tech will begin the ACC tournament with a double-bye, playing either Clemson, Pittsburgh or Miami in the quarterfinals.

Pastner, who came to Tech with high expectations for recruiting, has found success relying on a pair of stars who were not highly recruited coming out of high school. Moses Wright, who won ACC player of the year, came out of high school a zero-star recruit. Wright is the second player ever from Tech to win the honor and the first in 30 years. Wright averaged 18 points, 2.3 assists and 8.1 rebounds per game. The standout was also named first-team all-ACC. Joining Wright in the award ceremony was Alvarado, the second player from Tech to win ACC defensive player of the year. Alvarado had a defensive rating of 99.5 throughout the year, averaging 2.9 steals per game, his second consecutive year leading the conference in steals.

Alvarado and Wright will lead Tech into the ACC tournament with an almost guaranteed bid to March Madness. Winning the ACC tournament would yield a large boost to Tech’s possible seed, making it easier to make it further into March Madness.

Tech’s season started to take form in a game against Kentucky. Tech came into the game struggling on both sides of the ball but found rhythm and momentum to win by 17 points. The beginning of the season also featured challenges with COVID-19, as Tech only stopped holding distanced practices after the surprise losses to Mercer and Georgia State.

After the Kentucky game, Tech found its momentum, snapping a 14-game losing streak to Duke in addition to beating Clemson and Virginia Tech later in the year. The Duke game came after a particularly gritty overtime period, with a 29 point, 14 rebound double-double by Wright helping to seal the game. Virginia Tech, another Jacket win, also has a free trip to the quarterfinals and could very well face Tech if both teams win their first two games.

The end of the season saw Tech winning six straight games, their first such streak since 1995-1996, when Tech also closed out the season with six straight wins. March Madness could look very different this year, with usual title contenders having weak seasons. In particular, Duke and Kentucky have both been struggling, likely leaving the blue bloods out of the picture.

Looking forward, this season might be the last of low-level recruits playing at Tech, as the team has secured the number 17 class overall for next season. With new talent on the horizon, coach Pastner could have an even more dangerous team as Tech enters next season, though whether it will be off of a triumphant NCAA showing or a disappointing finish is yet to be seen. This could be Tech’s best opportunity yet under Pastner to make a splash.