Why Tech couldn't keep up its magic at season's end

On the afternoon of January 28, the world opened up with possibility for Georgia Tech. After upsetting then-No. 14 Notre Dame at McCamish Pavilion on Josh Okogie's stunning buzzer-beating layup, Irish coach Mike Brey declared the Yellow Jackets an NCAA tournament team, a statement that would have been ridiculous only a month earlier.

Tech was 13-8 overall and 5-4 in the ACC. The second half of the ACC schedule appeared considerably lighter than the first. It was no stretch to believe Brey’s assessment had merit.

“If the tournament is (Jan. 28), we’re in and there’s no question about it,” Tech coach Josh Pastner said. “There’s still a lot of games left.”

A month and a half later, Pastner appears prescient. The Jackets lost their grip on a possible NCAA bid by losing five of their last seven. Overall, the season hardly rates as a disappointment. Pastner was named ACC coach of the year, center Ben Lammers was named second-team All-ACC and defensive player of the year and guard Josh Okogie was selected to the all-freshman team. After Pastner himself was hopeful that Tech would win one ACC game, the Jackets are 17-15 and 8-10 in the ACC. They will learn Sunday if the season will continue with an NIT bid.

What caused the slight slip for the Jackets? Here are five reasons.

Rematches were tough

Tech coaches designed their offensive and defensive schemes to be unconventional, looking for an edge anywhere they could find one. It has worked. Multiple coaches in the conference have noted that the Jackets are difficult to prepare for, particularly Tech’s mix of defenses.

That being the case, it would stand to reason that opponents would be better able to handle Tech’s tactics the second time around, and the results would indicate as much. Against the five teams that Tech played twice – Clemson, N.C. State, Notre Dame, Syracuse and Pittsburgh – the Jackets were 5-0 in the first meetings and 0-5 in the second.

Undoubtedly, part of the reason for the flip-flop is that four of the five first meetings were at McCamish and the rematches were either on the road or at the ACC tournament (Pittsburgh), where the Jackets didn’t play as well.

However, in all five games, Tech’s effective field-goal percentage (which weights 3-point baskets proportionately) went down from the first game to the second, and its opponents’ rate went up.

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