Turnover-plagued Tech missing out on all the college basketball fun

Virginia broke its three-game losing streak by taking advantage of the Yellow Jackets’ boatload of turnovers to leave McCamish Pavilion with a 63-58 win. (Video courtesy of ACC)

The disco ball of confusion that is college basketball continued its crazed spin Saturday. By this point, all logic and reason have been blinded by the colored lights.

More upsets here 72 days before the Final Four commences in Atlanta as two more top-five-ranked teams — No. 4 Auburn and No. 5 Butler — lost to an unranked opponent, both times by double digits. No. 3 Duke lost for the second time in a week.

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For those keeping score, top-fives have fallen to the unwashed and unranked 14 times this season. All last season that happened just six times. And there is so much of this season left for more such high jinx.

Perhaps by the time this sport without a North Star to guide it somehow finds Atlanta, the whole concept of an upset will be rendered moot. By then, the unexpected and the unusual will have become the norm. Rankings and seedings will be as meaningless as a wash-off tattoo. There is no other way to make sense of a world where Duke can lose to Stephen F. Austin and Kentucky can get overrun by Evansville in a two-week period.

Clearly, in such an environment, there is a lot of fun to be had out there for the ambitious program looking to make a name for itself.

Watching Georgia Tech Saturday was not a lot of fun. It's record by evening's end — 8-10, 3-5 in the ACC — was the poorest at this stage of any season since Josh Pastner arrived. Granted, his schedule has been muscled up, but at the same time so, presumably, has his roster.

Pastner is largely correct when he says, as he did Saturday, “I know our record is not good, but we’re better than our record. This is the best we’ve been in my four years, I can assure you.” Such knowledge is cold comfort.

The Yellow Jackets can play with anybody, especially at a time when dominance is in such short supply. They’ve hung with Kentucky and Duke this season. But beating anybody, that’s the rub.

The defending national champion Virginia was in town late Saturday. The Cavs are a shell of their former self — they entered McCamish on a three-game losing streak. Still, it might have been a nice win.

But you know how you don’t get a nice win?

You dribble the ball of your foot. You let a point-blank pass bounce off your chest and into the seats. You blindly drive baseline and in desperation throw the ball to a spot on the floor inhabited solely by Cavaliers.

You allow more than 40 percent of your first-half possessions to end in a turnover. Oh, the humanity.

That is this team’s fatal flaw, holding onto the ball long enough to at least propel it toward the basket. This is a particularly maddening flaw, and the frustration is obvious.

“I’ll tell you one thing, take out our turnovers Georgia Tech would be a championship team,” guard Jose Alvarado said Saturday. “We play so hard. I’m just so tired of just coming up short.”

You, of course, can’t take the turnovers out of the equation, any more than you can remove the zits from your high school yearbook photo. It’s you until you outgrow it.

“We’re going to step up our game up and try to get on a win streak,” Alvarado said. There certainly are winnable moments throughout the 12 games Tech has left in conference, seeing how just about everyone, including the bulk of the ACC, is vulnerable. Or, the frustration of making little of this season of opportunity deepens.

This is college basketball at the moment: “There is no longer the dominant team,” Pastner said.

The theme of the season has been one of parity bordering on parody. There is one big surprise party going on in college basketball.

And until Pastner can attach some Velcro to his guys’ hands and otherwise get them to play to their potential, the Yellow Jackets are not invited.

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