Season Preview: Georgia Tech
Last Season: 21-16, lost in NIT Championship
Key Losses: Quinton Stephens
Key Additions: Jose Alvarado, Curtis Haywood II
Head coach Josh Pastner’s first season at Georgia Tech went well above expectations, and that can be primarily contributed to freshman wing Josh Okogie and junior big man Ben Lammers, who had breakout seasons. Lammers averaged 14.2 points, 9.2 rebounds, and was third in the country with 3.4 blocks per game a year ago, while Okogie burst onto the scene as a true freshman, leading the Yellow Jackets with 16.1 ppg. Okogie became a household name in the ACC when he scored 26 points in a home win over then #9 UNC, and then put up 35 points in a blowout win against #6 Florida State. And behind Lammers and Okogie, Georgia Tech finished a surprising 8-10 in a gauntlet of an Atlantic Coast Conference. That was good enough for a 6 seed in the NIT, where the Yellow Jackets caught fire, and cruised all the way to the NIT Championship Game, before falling to TCU, another team on the rise led by a first-year coach as well in Jamie Dixon.
Now, expectations are high in Atlanta, and many are pegging this year’s Georgia Tech team as a tournament team. Lammers and Okogie are back and set for all-ACC type seasons, but if the Yellow Jackets are to live up to this season’s expectations, they’ll need help outside of that duo. Last year’s starting small forward, Quinton Stephens, has graduated, and Stephens was the team’s fourth leading scorer, and there wasn’t anyone who could consistently score the ball after him. Curtis Haywood II is the highest ranked incoming freshman in this year’s Georgia Tech class, so expect him to be the like-for-like replacement for Stephens.
That being said, it looks unlikely that Josh Pastner’s group will make the big dance, at least not this season. Lammers and Okogie are legitimate stars in college basketball, and Josh Pastner will do great things at Georgia Tech, but there doesn’t seem to be NCAA Tournament talent or depth on this roster. A more realistic expectation for the Yellow Jackets is another deep run in the NIT, and some marquee wins in the ACC.
It may not sound like it, but Josh Pastner is making strides at Georgia Tech, and eventually the Yellow Jackets will be in the NCAA Tournament, but there is so much turnover that has to occur before that can happen. After all, Georgia Tech was 12-19 just three years ago. Expect Okogie and Lammers to be a dynamic duo this coming season, but whether this team is part of the Last 4 In or the First 4 Out on Selection Sunday depends on the impact of the supporting cast.
Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Tadric Jackson
SG: Josh Okogie
SF: Curtis Haywood II
PF: Abdoulaye Gueye
C: Ben Lammers