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Q&A on Georgia Tech with From the Rumble Seat

Joined by Reed Bakich to talk about the Jackets

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 07 ACC Tournament - Georgia Tech v Pittsburgh Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

TN: This Georgia Tech squad averages 6’4” across the board (270th) and has only two players in the rotation checking in at 6’9” or above. What is the plan to attack a Florida State team that is the tallest team in the country? (Fun fact: FSU has ranked inside the top 15 every year since 2008.)

Reed: I think typically the plan for success against a long and athletic team like Florida State would be to bomb them to death from 3. Unfortunately for Georgia Tech, that’s not really their game although they will probably need Bubba Parham and Michael Devoe to have good games from behind the arc. Overall, I think we are going to have a tough time accomplishing much in the half court against the ‘Noles. Because of that, I think the Jackets need to get offense from their defense in the form of turnovers and resulting transition buckets.

TN: Moses Wright has been coming along in his senior campaign with 3 of 4 KPoY MVP performances thus far. I have a strong suspicion that all of what he has been doing is not sustainable. What do you expect is sustainable from him?

Reed: What is sustainable is that he’s going to get the minutes each and every night to stuff the stat sheet. Based on early returns, he’s the only guy coach Pastner really trusts to play center. Obviously his current stats are a little inflated thanks to a 30 point 20 board effort he put up in the 4 OT opener against Georgia State. You could probably cut that in half for an average of 15 and 10 a night and I think that’s achievable for him. He’s improved every season along the way during his time at Tech and has a chance to be an all conference player this season, which is pretty incredible for him.

TN: Senior PG Jose Alvorado has been a starter for almost every game he has played in a Tech uniform. The Yellow Jackets rely on him to generate offense from his passing, his ability to get in the lane and get to the line. His ability to pick-pockets does not hurt either and I must admit, I am a fan of his game. Yet, between Alvorado (6’0”) and Bubba Parham (5’10”), this is an undersized backcourt not especially adept from distance*. Beyond this Florida State matchup, how does that work for the rest of the ACC slate?

(*Bubba was letting it fly in 2019 at VMI, fact.)

Reed: Glad to hear you a big fan of Jose’s game because I am as well. The team feeds off his energy on both ends and with the early struggles of Mike Devoe he’s been the catalyst to success so far offensively. As you touched on, the team has been featuring Bubba Parham in its starting lineup this year and while it does hurt them from a size perspective I think it improves their spacing because he is actually a good long distance shooter when he gets the right look (it’s that shot selection thing we’re still working on). Tech can also opt to play a more traditional 2 guard lineup with rangy defender Khalid Moore on the wing but risk sacrificing offense for the benefit of size. I expect that lineup more against a team of giants like Florida State but either way they are giving up something.

TN: Please walk me through how a team that falls to two in-state schools then proceeds to blow out Kentucky and Nebraska. No shade, I am simply baffled and need to have this explained to me like I am 5.

Reed: Haha, on the outside I can see how it is, as you put it, baffling. But I think there’s actually a pretty clear explanation. Coach Pastner decided to hold non-contact practices before the season, which seemed to be a well-intentioned effort to avoid any possible COVID transmission but also felt like a bit of an arrogant slight to two teams he expected to beat. The team looked sloppy and unprepared for those first two games, and then promptly went out and looked like the team fans knew they were capable of being by beating two power 5 teams after a week of normal practices. To me there’s at least some correlation between those two things.

I also don’t think it helped that Tech played and lost a 4 overtime game on opening night (which could have gone either way obviously) and then had just one day off before the Mercer game with that off day being Thanksgiving. Finally, there’s always been a bit of “play to the level of the competition” factor to Pastner’s teams that just hasn’t ever gone away. Even the game against Nebraska, a team that Tech is unquestionably more talented than, was tight for 35 minutes before the Jackets pulled away late.

TN: It is Josh Pastner’s fifth year with the program and this year’s squad has a senior-laden starting lineup. Given all that has happened off the court, it would not be surprising to see a change in leadership. From the far outside looking in, it’s clear that defense is being played and coaching is happening. What are the expectations for the program this season?

Reed: The expectations are NCAA Tournament or bust for this season, simple as that. This is Pastner’s oldest and most talented team and after a 5th place ACC finish last year, he has to find a way to build on that and get them over the hump. However, given the state of Tech’s financials and the fact that COVID has greatly altered this season, I’m unsure if any result costs Josh his job. It is worth noting though that it was also year 5 for prior head coach Brian Gregory in which he entered the season with one of his best teams. The team made the NIT for the only time under his leadership but it wasn’t enough as he was canned after the season. Truthfully, I’ve never been sold on Pastner since the time he was hired but he deserves the opportunity to see what he can do with this roster despite the bumpy start. 00