With Wednesday night's 62-56 loss to Virginia, the Yellow Jackets' path toward ACC relevancy took yet another hard hit. Now 11-16 overall, 3-10 in the conference, it will take a serious miracle at this point in order for Tech to advance into the NCAA tournament for a second consecutive year.
But remember Georgia 2007-08? The Bulldogs turned a losing season into a memorable one by streaking through the SEC tournament, claiming the conference title (at Alexander Memorial Coliseum, no less, thanks to Mother Nature) and heading to Washington, D.C. for the first round of the NCAA tournament.
So, it could happen.
But the odds of it happening are rather long at this point.
Assuming the season were to end today, and assuming the Jackets are to go all the way to the tournament championship, the following is what their path through the ACC tournament could look like:
No. 11 TECH vs. No. 6 MARYLAND, 9 p.m., March 10
The Jackets and Terrapins met once during the regular season in Atlanta. Maryland rolled to a 74-63 victory. Terrapins forward Jordan Williams notched his 15th double-double of the season, dominating Tech's smaller, less experienced post players. Also noticeably absent from that game was Tech guard Brian Oliver, a sharp-shooting 3-point threat who was out with the flu. He also has missed the last five games with a broken thumb, but the training staff expects him to be fully healthy by tournament time. His addition could prove invaluable against Maryland's 2-3 zone defense.
No. 11 TECH vs. No. 3 FLORIDA STATE, 9 p.m., March 11
It won't be easy for Tech to advance past Maryland, but assuming it does, next on the slate would be Florida State (assuming the season were to end right now). The Seminoles also won the teams' earlier meeting, snatching a 72-63 victory from the Jackets in Atlanta. Notably present in that game was Florida State forward Chris Singleton, an Atlanta-area native. He had a team-high 16 points and 10 rebounds. But the chances of him playing at full strength, much less playing at all in the tournament, remain uncertain. One game after leading the Seminoles to the win at Tech, Singleton fractured his foot and underwent immediate surgery to fix it. As rehab now enters its second week, his prognosis for a return still remains unclear. With him out of the lineup, Tech's faster guards could match up better with the Seminoles in a rematch.
(Again, going off a lot of assumptions now. Let's assume No. 2 North Carolina ends up in a semifinal with Tech...)
No. 11 TECH vs. No. 2 NORTH CAROLINA, 1:30 p.m., March 12
If the Jackets can get past Maryland and Florida State, all of a sudden, their path to the conference title game appears wide open. Not to discount North Carolina, but the Jackets have had the Tar Heels' number, winning the last four series meetings. In addition to a win earlier this season in Atlanta, Tech beat North Carolina during last season's conference tournament. So a win should not be out of the question for the Jackets at all. For whatever reason, the Heels just don't match up well with Tech. Add the Iman Shumpert factor -- the fact that he could go off any given night; he's scored 30 two of the last three times he's faced the Heels -- and there could very well be a title game rematch looming.
No. 11 TECH vs. No. 1 DUKE, 1 p.m., March 13 (ESPN)
Again, all of this is way too early conjecture, but one would have to imagine that regardless of what happens the next few weeks, Duke will retain a No. 1 seeding in the tournament. One would also have to imagine the Blue Devils would breeze through the tournament into the title game. The reigning conference and national champs have hit their stride in recent weeks and have proven the loss of Kyrie Irving to early-season injury has not been an impediment. Duke holds a win over the Jackets, beating Tech in Durham, N.C. 79-57 on Sunday. Tech led at the half, however, and came out the gates looking like a team with upset on its mind. The addition of Oliver could have helped defensively and offensively. With him on the floor during a potential rematch, his ability to score and rebound combined with a start like last Sunday's could lead the Jackets toward a win. Add to the fact that the Jackets will be playing for their basketball lives in this game. A win, and they're in the NCAA tournament and may have saved their head coach's job. A loss, and they will have to wait by the phone to see if the NIT extends a bid.