Josh Pastner believes Tech can make NCAA tournament in 2020

Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner's resolute optimism and belief in his team has not waned in the face of nine losses in the past 10 games. The Yellow Jackets have fallen to 12-17, but even after their 81-51 loss to Virginia Wednesday night, Pastner was talking about an NCAA tournament berth in a year's time.

“Obviously, when I got the job, I was told five years (to make the NCAA tournament), but I don’t want to wait five years,” Pastner told the AJC. “I want to get there now. Obviously, this year is going to be tough, but the reality of it, our aim is for next season. Now, yes, was I told five? Yes, but I want to get there next year, and I believe we can do it. I truly believe we can do it.”

Pastner’s comments followed those he made on his Monday evening radio show, which followed an evidently productive practice.

“The team we practiced (Monday), I said that team can get to the NCAA tournament next year,” Pastner told Tech radio voice Andy Demetra.

Tech fans could be excused for not sharing Pastner’s optimism. The Jackets rank second-to-last in the ACC in offensive efficiency (KenPom), though they’re ninth in defensive efficiency. To this point, Tech has beaten only one team that is capable of earning an at-large berth into the NCAA tournament (Syracuse).

Pastner is banking on a team that will return its top three scorers and nine players who have accounted for 88 percent of the team’s starts this season, and also will add transfer guard Jordan Usher.

“We’ll be more experienced and a veteran, and that gives us our best chance,” Pastner said. “I’m fighting like crazy to get to the tournament next year. I am.”

With players such as center James Banks and forward Moses Wright developing, Pastner said, “it’s just we’ll be a better team next year.”

Pastner also expressed confidence that he’ll be able to recruit one or two scorers to supplement the roster, either out of high school or through the transfer market. Tech has one scholarship available, but Pastner has repeatedly indicated that he will sign multiple players. It’s possible that junior forward Sylvester Ogbonda, who is on track to graduate this spring, may not return for his senior season.

Making the tournament next year would be a remarkable turnaround.

“We’re going to fight like crazy,” Pastner said. “We’ve got a good core, we’ve got a really good core. We’ve got good pieces. We’re just going to have to get guys better and we’re going to have to sign a guy or two in the spring and let’s see where the ball shakes.”