As Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner watched the exulted Ant Man play in a Las Vegas showcase his senior year in high school, he concluded that at that moment “he could step on the NBA court and score double digits.”
Meanwhile, much of what we’ve heard about Tech basketball has been litigious in nature, and nobody fills an arena because of that. Its appeal of NCAA sanctions lingers, and on that hinges a postseason ban and scholarship losses. It could use something good happening Wednesday night to change the mood.
Looking at this game from the Tech perspective, you see an early-season game of out-sized importance. For Tech, backing up a victory over North Carolina State with one against its great in-state antagonist would be a significant lift for anyone who might still care that they play basketball just off 10th Street.
“It’s going to be a huge game for us,” Tech guard Michael Devoe said.
One you circled early in the offseason, huh? “For sure. One of the top games on the ridiculous schedule that we’ve got,” Devoe said. Before the next month is out, the Yellow Jackets will play the likes of Georgia, Arkansas, Syracuse and Kentucky. And then on to the meat of the ACC docket when 2020 arrives.
“It would mean a lot,” echoed forward Kahlid Moore. “We wanted to get off to a good start, and not having a lot of success with them in the past, it would mean a lot to get this W.”
The Yellow Jackets have last won a football game against Georgia — November 2016 — since beating their rival in basketball — November 2014. Pastner has yet to beat the Bulldogs, losing three times by an average of 16 points.
Naturally, for his part, the coach is careful not to place too much emphasis on this third game of a long season.
When asked if there is any reason to believe the Jackets better positioned to play with Georgia now than his preceding three seasons, Pastner said, “I look at us more than just the Georgia game. I look at it: Are we in a better position this year to hopefully turn the corner? I don’t want to put a win-loss record on that but are we in better position to turn the corner?
“I’ve never been in a game I take for granted. You prepare the same way no matter who we play. I recognize the importance of the Georgia game for Georgia Tech, for the fans, for the alumni. We’re going to give our best preparation like we would with any other game we play.”
Still, for a program that may or may not be eligible for a postseason — and for a program that hasn't been to the NCAA dance since 2010 even when eligible — playing any kind of game with even a provincial profile should be kind of a big deal. No matter the time of year.
Banks, an Atlanta fellow who transferred back here from Texas, needed a reminder as to how to treat all things Bulldogs. Watching some football, last year’s SEC Championship Game between Georgia and Alabama to be precise, he was openly rooting for the Bulldogs. “Let’s beat Alabama — it’s a state thing,” he reasoned.
Those in earshot, mostly of Tech persuasion, of course, were not amused. “I can’t use all the words they said,” Banks recalled.
There can be no wavering. For this community, Georgia always matters greatly. Moreso now, with Tech basketball in such need of a lift.