Josh Pastner

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Georgia Tech knocks off No. 15 Miami

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The start of ACC play appeared to be a manageable one for No. 15 Miami, as the Hurricanes opened with games at Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech. However, after handling the Panthers on Saturday the Hurricanes ran into trouble in Atlanta. The combination of Josh Okogie and the Yellow Jackets throwing out multiple looks defensively proved to be too much for Miami, which fell by the final score of 64-54.

Here are some thoughts on Georgia Tech’s surprising win over Miami, and what it potentially means for both teams moving forward.

1. Improved health makes big difference for Georgia Tech.

There’s no sugar-coating it: the Yellow Jackets did not play well for much of non-conference play. And while there’s no excuse for some of the losses Josh Pastner’s team took, this is a group that also had to navigate suspensions and injuries. Two of the team’s key players, Josh Okogie and Ben Lammers, struggled with injuries during non-conference play while Okogie also had to miss time due to an NCAA rules violation.

Both played pivotal roles in Wednesday’s win, with Okogie scoring a game-high 30 points while also grabbing nine rebounds and Lammers adding eight points, eight rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots. It wasn’t all smooth sailing, as Lammers was just 3-for-11 from the field and Okogie needed 23 shots to get his 30, but in a game that lacked rhythm (to Georgia Tech’s benefit) both were good enough.

Georgia Tech will have to “muddy” things up some to be successful in ACC play, especially given the fact that it’s operating with a six-man rotation right now. Wednesday night that approach worked.

2. Miami settled for jump shots far too often, struggling with Georgia Tech’s multiple defensive looks.

Despite the number of guards capable of making plays off the dribble on the roster, the Hurricanes haven’t been all too good at getting to the foul line this season. Miami entered Wednesday’s game with a free throw rate of 27.3, which ranked 304th nationally according to, and they were even worse in that regard against Georgia Tech. Miami posted a free throw rate of 19.6, attempting just 11 free throws on the night.

Far too often Miami settled for pull-up jumpers, being it from thee (4-for-19) or in the mid-range game. Bruce Brown finished the game 4-for-12, Chris Lykes 2-for-10, Ja’Quan Newton 3-for-7 and Lonnie Walker IV 3-for-8 as Miami struggled with Georgia Tech’s multiple defensive looks. The Yellow Jackets used man-to-man at some points, a 1-3-1 at others, which impacted the tempo at which the game was played.

3. Jose Alvarado will have better nights, but he did some good things as well.

For a point guard to have seven turnovers in a game, one would think that his team would wind up on the losing end. Luckily for Georgia Tech freshman Jose Alvarado, who turned the ball over seven times, he had help in the form of Okogie, Lammers and a team defensive effort that forced 18 Miami turnovers. The turnover count for the freshman wasn’t optimal, but he also accounted for 12 points, three steals and two blocked shots.

One of those blocks came on a Lykes three-point attempt with 1:46 remaining that could have trimmed the margin to five points. Instead, Alvarado’s subsequent layup extended the Georgia Tech lead to ten. Miami would get no closer than seven from that point forward. Alvarado, who continues to learn what it takes to play the point at a high level, has now reached double figures in scoring in four of the last five games. If he can keep the turnover count down (he had just one against Notre Dame) Alvarado should be able to have an even greater impact on a team that will need him to do so.

4. Miami now enters a difficult three-game stretch that will have a major impact on its ACC hopes.

Why was taking care of business against Pitt and Georgia Tech so important? Because Miami’s next three league games are against No. 24 Florida State, No. 25 Clemson and No. 2 Duke. The good news is that the Florida State and Duke games will be in Coral Gables, but none of those games will be gimmes by any stretch of the imagination. Florida State has the athleticism and balance to give Miami trouble on both ends of the floor, and thanks to its improvements across the board Clemson is more of a threat than anyone imagined them being before the season began. Lastly there’s Duke, one of the team on the shortlist of surefire national title contenders in the eyes of many.

Those games represent challenges for Miami, but they’re opportunities as well. And for the Hurricanes to take advantage, they’ll need to be far more efficient offensively than they were Wednesday night in Atlanta.

Georgia Tech loses after tipping missed shot into its own basket

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Just days after beating Northwestern on a Tadric Jackson layup as time expired, Georgia Tech lost a game in shocking fashion to Grambling State Friday night. After trailing for much of the game the Yellow Jackets mounted a furious rally and was one stop away from escaping with the win.

Josh Pastner’s team was unable to get that stop however, as Ivy Smith Jr.’s missed layup was mistakenly tapped into the basket by a Georgia Tech player. Both Curtis Haywood II and Ben Lammers attempted to grab the rebound, but the combination of hands wound up knocking the ball into the basket. Final score: Grambling State 64, Georgia Tech 63.

Entering Friday’s game, Grambling State was on a run of 63 consecutive losses to teams from high-major conferences. And in the five seasons prior to the 2016-17 campaign, a season in which the Tigers won 16 games, Grambling State won a total of 18 games.

Grambling State wasn’t expected to be in the game at all, much less play as well as it did before Georgia Tech made its second-half rally. The Tigers got the win in the end, albeit in bizarre fashion.

Coaches on the Hot Seat

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As we get closer to the start of the 2015-16 college basketball season, let’s take a look at the head coaches who need to have a good season in order to feel safe. While the list of coaches on CBT’s “hot seat” have had poor seasons and lost their jobs before, keep in mind that the last two No. 1 selections for this list kept their jobs the following season, including Maryland coach Mark Turgeon, who is currently thriving in College Park. 

1. Tom Crean, Indiana: Indiana enters the 2015-16 season with top-25 talent and high expectations, but Crean finds himself atop the hot seat list for failing to meet expectations at Indiana. Crean’s now entering his eighth season as the Indiana head coach, and only once in the previous seven seasons — the 2012-13 season — have the Hoosiers been good enough to be considered a true title contender. That’s not enough, but not only is Crean struggling to find the success the Hoosier fan base craves on the floor, but the dismissal of three more players this offseason hasn’t made life any easier off the floor. Indiana’s president isn’t pleased with the off-the-court developments and many prominent Indiana alums have been vocal about the Hoosiers falling below expectations. A big season would go a long way towards quieting Crean’s doubters.

2. Josh Pastner, Memphis: Much like Crean at Indiana, Pastner has achieved success but faltered compared to a passionate fan base’s expectations. Memphis missed the postseason altogether for the first time in 15 years with last season’s 18-14 record and the team’s best returning player, Austin Nichols, transferred to Virginia, following Nick King and Pookie Powell out the door. Pastner is going to rely heavily on the freshman Lawson brothers to make a postseason appearance immediately, but in a city that became accustomed to the success of John Calipari’s Tigers, will they be satisfied if we’ve already seen Peak Pastner?

3. Brian Gregory, Georgia Tech: After a 12-19 season and 14th place finish, Gregory is back for his fifth season at Georgia Tech. He’s never finished above ninth in the ACC. Gregory has coached one team to the NCAA tournament in his last 11 seasons and that came at Dayton in 2010. The local recruiting momentum is also limited for Georgia Tech under Gregory. The Yellow Jackets went 0-for-7 recruiting prospects from Georgia in the Rivals150 in the Class of 2015. In the Class of 2016, that number is 1-for-11.

4. Kevin Willard, Seton Hall: Entering his sixth season at Seton Hall, Willard has finished above .500 twice and owns a 30-60 mark in the Big East. Having never made the NCAA tournament as a head coach, the pressure is on Willard to produce even though experienced guards Sterling Gibbs and Jaren Sina both transferred out of the program.

5. John Groce, Illinois: Illinois missed the NCAA tournament in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1992 and that isn’t sitting well with Illini fans. Groce has never finished above seventh in the Big Ten and he hasn’t been able to reel in a lot of big-named recruits that Illinois finds itself a finalist for. Transfers like Darius Paul and Aaron Cosby haven’t lasted and proved to be harmful as replacements for those missed recruits. Illinois fans expect results and Groce needs to make the NCAAs again.

MORE: 2015-16 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

Illinois head coach John Groce (Getty Images)
Illinois head coach John Groce (Getty Images)

6. Barry Hinson, Southern Illinois: The once proud Southern Illinois program has had to endure Hinson’s three-year tenure. He’s thrown his own players under the bus during a postgame press conference and publicly remarked about his job security this spring. The Salukis own a 40-57 record and 19-35 mark in conference play under Hinson and he lost five transfers this offseason, three of them freshmen.

7. Donnie Jones, UCF: UCF was successful in Conference USA, but its been a rough back-to-back stretch for the program. Jones has never made the NCAA tournament and his 2010-11 wins were vacated for using ineligible players. Jones was also suspended three CUSA games and the program put on probation. Now he’s 25-36 overall and 9-27 in the American the last two seasons.

8. Travis Ford, Oklahoma State: It’s never a good sign when the team’s athletic director and biggest public booster, T. Boone Pickens, publicly have to back Travis Ford, which is precisely what happened in Stillwater this offseason. It’s a far worse sign that Ford owns no NCAA tournament wins since 2009 despite recruiting McDonald’s All-Americans like LeBryan Nash and Marcus Smart, who both played for multiple seasons.

9. Dave Rice, UNLV: Rice has proven to be a formidable force on the recruiting trail, but that success has yet to translate on the Thomas and Mack Center court, as the Rebs have missed the last two NCAA tournaments. Rice was feeling the heat a little bit this offseason when rumors of Ben Howland looking at UNLV began swirling, but Howland is now at Mississippi State and Rice landed hometown McDonald’s All-American Stephen Zimmerman. Rice still doesn’t own any NCAA tournament wins, and with yet another talented recruiting class, he needs a strong season.

10. Kim Anderson, Missouri: Anderson’s first season at Mizzou was a disaster as the team went 9-23 and 3-15 in the SEC. It’s not looking much better in the future as the Tigers lost some key pieces — namely Jonathan Williams III and Teki Gill-Cesear — to transfer.