It's a good day on North Ave.
It's a good day not just because Georgia Tech's football team punctuated a 9-4 season with a strong finishing kick that included wins at Virginia Tech, at Georgia and over Kentucky in the Gator Bowl Saturday, but because there's a pulse in the basketball program.
Georgia Tech upset North Carolina. In basketball.
Josh Pastner, welcome to your second Bar Mitzvah.
Late December wins in college basketball don't necessarily foretell the future for the winner or the loser. So if your mental picture of the NCAA tournament bracket in your head just blew up, you may want to wait at least a month.
But it's a credit to Pastner's enthusiasm and coaching ability that he can take a significantly undermanned team, which was expected to be waxed its home court Saturday in the shadow of the college football playoffs, and stun the ninth ranked Tar Heels 75-63 at McCamish Pavilion.
Won't hurt his recruiting efforts, either.
North Carolina won 12 of its first 14 games, with the two losses coming to No. 13 Indiana and No. 6 Kentucky. When the Tar Heels opened their ACC schedule at Tech, it didn't figure they would lose to the No. 209 (via RPI) Jackets.
Pastner took over for Brian Gregory this season. When former athletic director Mike Bobinski hired him, he told the former Memphis coach that the Jackets might not win a game in the ACC this season. (And if they did, it certainly wouldn't come over North Carolina.)
In a recent interview on the "We Never Played The Game" podcast, I told Pastner that Tech was listed as 300-1 to win the national championship and jokingly asked him if it was worth a $10 bet.
"Because of the job I'm in, I will stay away from that," he said. "But I will say this: I was speaking before the started at a clinic and a guy started talking about the Georgia game and I stopped him in the middle of the conversation and took the mic and I said, "Look -- I just hope we beat Shorter."
The Jackets beat Shorter in an exhibition. And lost to Georgia. But they're now 9-4 overall and, even more impressive, 1-0 in the ACC. (First place!)
What does this mean? It means that even if Tech's program is in the very early stages of development under Pastner, it's capable of winning some games and scaring some teams. It's capable of getting people excited.
That's a big step forward for college basketball on campus and in a state that is craves a winner.
Subscribe to the, “We Never Played The Game” podcast with Jeff Schultz and WSB’s Zach Klein on iTunes. All episodes can be downloaded and heard on iTunes or via WSBRadio.com. New episodes every Monday and Thursday.
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