The Iowa Hawkeyes (5-1) take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (4-2) tonight so when From the Rumble Seat’s Robert Pensa offered up a Q&A session, who was I to say no? I’ve already spilled plenty of words on Iowa basketball so far this season, I figured it was time to outsource some takes.
Without further ado, here’s what Robert had to say about his team and Iowa’s final Big Ten-ACC Challenge opponent: Georgia Tech.
BHGP: Josh Pastner has been head coach since 2016-17. What does he look to do season-to-season and how does this bunch measure up to that?
FTRS: There are a couple Josh Pastner mantras that come to mind immediately. The first one is “get old and stay old”. That has been his plan since the day he started at Tech. he wanted to bring in 4 year players that would lead strong teams as juniors and seniors and be backfilled by a new group once they graduated. So far, that plan has been hit or miss. Guys like Jose Alvarado really fit that mold, but Pastner has also relied a lot on the transfer portal to fill some gaps as well. And that goes for this team as well. Out of 8 players seeing significant minutes this season, 5 came to Atlanta via the transfer portal with two of those guys (Lance Terry & Ja’von Franklin) in their first year with the Jackets. The other three players seeing significant minutes are all true sophomores this season.
The other thing Pastner has preached throughout his entire tenure is hustle and high-motor plays. In fact, Pastner charts who wins the 50-50 balls every single game. While I don’t think it has been an area of weakness for this year’s team, I don’t think it’s necessarily been a huge strength either. However, I will say that they are pretty good at taking care of the ball offensively and do force quite a few turnovers on the other end.
One final note on Pastner is that his Georgia Tech teams have historically had very strong defenses, but struggled offensively. Outside of the 2021 team which won the ACC, all of Pastner’s offenses have ranked outside the top 170 in adjusted offensive efficiency. This year is really no different, with Tech ranking 76th on the defensive side of the ball and 189th offensively.
BHGP: The Yellow Jackets lost their top two scorers from last year in Michael Devoe & Jordan Usher. Who has stepped up with their departures?
FTRS: To be completely blunt with you, I would say no one really has at this point in time. Tech’s leading scorer is currently sophomore Deebo Coleman at 11.3 points per game, but he had just 6 pts and 11 pts in Tech’s two losses. Another sophomore Miles Kelly sits at second in scoring at 11.2 points per game, but again, he failed to score in double digits in both of Tech’s losses. Only one other player is scoring in double figures and that is Devion Smith. The Jackets desperately need one or two guys to step up and become go-to scoring options because the offense has looked completely lifeless at times so far in this young season.
BHGP: GT’s four wins have come against non-power conference teams with losses to Utah & Marquette. What did they do successfully in their wins they could not do in their losses?
FTRS: It was not so much a story of what Tech did or did not do differently in those games as it really was the level of the opponent. Utah & Marquette are both ranked inside the top 75 on Kenpom (https://kenpom.com) and could potentially contend for an NCAA tournament berth depending on how the season plays out. On the other hand, Tech’s four wins have all been to teams outside the top 200. Tech almost had a fantastic comeback versus Utah, leading the game late after being down 23-4 early on, but looked completely overmatched against Marquette.
BHGP: Georgia Tech has made just one NCAA Tournament (2021) in the last 12 seasons. How hot is Pastner’s seat and does he need to get back into the field of 68 to save his job?
FTRS: I would say it is definitely pretty warm, especially with the recent hiring of new Athletic Director J Batt who may want to switch things up.
BHGP: Lastly, who do you have to win this one?
FTRS: While I had pretty decent expectations coming into this season, the Jackets have yet to show me anything that would make me pick them to win this game. I thought they’d be much more competitive against Utah and Marquette, but they struggled to remain competitive. Now enter an even better opponent in Iowa in what should be a tough environment to play and there is no unbiased way for me to select the Jackets in this one. I hope I am wrong.
Thanks again to Robert! He’s smarter than I am by virtue of avoiding the Bird App but you can follow From the Rumble Seat @FTRSBlog.