The ACC’s conference season will reach its halfway point Saturday, and the landscape looks quite different for Georgia Tech than it did three months ago.
In those days, the Yellow Jackets were seen as potential cellar-dwellers with some national experts predicting the Yellow Jackets wouldn’t win a single conference game. Now, as they prepare to host Notre Dame at noon on Saturday, Georgia Tech is seen in a completely different light.
Now that the Yellow Jackets have beaten two top-10 teams in Florida State and North Carolina and another top-25 club in Virginia Commonwealth, there’s a sense that this team could win a few more conference games and possibly even finish .500 or better.
Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner isn’t having any of that. He’ll remind anyone who asks that his team is a “possession-by-possession” team that has “zero margin for error.” And while that will continue to be true, he’s unquestionably proud of the progress that the team has made.
“We continue to get better,” Pastner said. “I don’t ever forget the first game, in the first exhibition game, we had to go to overtime to beat (Division II) Shorter. We’ve come a long way in year one of a major rebuild job, (the Florida State win) is another great win for us for people to see what we’re trying to do and the vision for what we are trying to accomplish here in the long term.”
The Yellow Jackets (12-8 overall) are 4-4 in the conference and have their best ACC record through eight games since the 2009-10 season, when they stood 5-3. That season they went 23-15 and made their last appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Georgia Tech is tied for seventh in the ACC entering Saturday’s game.
“It’s all about energy,” Pastner said. “You can’t play for me if you’re not an energy giver. If you’re an energy giver, you can make things happen. That’s what we need to be. For us to have any chance, we’re going to have to play with full energy.”
No. 14 Notre Dame (17-4, 6-2 ACC) is coming off a loss to Virginia, which focuses on a hard-nosed style similar to Georgia Tech’s. Georgia Tech leads the all-time series 8-6, but Notre Dame has won four of the past five meetings.
Georgia Tech beat Notre Dame 63-62 in the most recent game on Feb. 20, 2016. Since Notre Dame joined the ACC, the games have been close. The margin of victory in their six conference games has been 4.5 points and includes one double-overtime game.
Notre Dame has the balanced, intelligent team that can give Georgia Tech trouble. The Fighting Irish have three seniors in their starting lineup and each one averages 14 or more points, the first time that has happened since the 2001-02 season.
Notre Dame’s V.J. Beachem needs 10 points to reach the 1,000 mark and join teammate Steve Vasturia, who reached the milestone earlier this season. Bonzie Colson leads the team in scoring with 15.6 points and leads the ACC with 10.5 rebounds.