As disappointing as ending up in the NIT is, there is one thing more embarrassing. Not even being able to qualify for it. To make the NIT, a team has to finish with a record at .500 or better. Pitt is poised not to make it, if they can’t win at least 2 games. With only 2 regular season games left and the ACC Tourney, the odds are getting longer.
Pitt is still looking for that second ACC road win (Boston College still counts). Georgia Tech is trying to clinch a first round bye in the ACC Tournament and possibly get into the ACC Tourney.
Like Pitt, GT is changed coaches last year. Like Pitt, they plucked a coach who had his job status in question — but for contract issues that might have helped keep him in place. Unlike Pitt, Josh Pastner has proven that he learned something from leaving his old job. Recognizing something that has escaped Pitt all season.
The Yellow Jackets have not been as bad as Pastner envisioned. They are fourth in the ACC in scoring defense (66.6 points per game) and center Ben Lammers leads the conference with 100 blocks, nearly double the total of the player in second place, Louisville’s Anas Mahmoud.
“We hung our hat all season on defense,” Pastner said, “because for us, that doesn’t take a lot of skill. Offense is very skill-oriented, and that’s where we struggle.”
But is it fun?
GT was picked to be second-worst in the ACC — BC keeps the basement dry for everyone else. They’ve managed to overachieve. Some surprising upsets — UNC, ND and FSU — as they have been very strong at home. 6-2 at home, 1-7 on the road.
Josh Pastner still has the hyperbole of his mentor, John Calipari.
The fact his team is in the conversation for an NCAA tournament berth fewer than two weeks from Selection Sunday and in position to finish with a non-losing record in one of the deepest conferences in recent memory never ceases to amaze Josh Pastner.
Actually, if you ask him, the Georgia Tech coach will take the rhetoric a step further.
“I literally think it’s a modern miracle and the eighth wonder of the world,” he said Monday. “Because if you would have told me that back in April at our first workout and through the summer, you would have to be checked out because you’d be like ‘Wait, what is this guy talking about?’ ”
He does make it easy to be disliked, doesn’t he?
Ryan Luther probably won’t play, but really, he’s getting closer. It would be nice for Luther to finally get back on the court. But, really, he isn’t the reason Pitt has been such a struggle. And he won’t be much of a difference in his return.