Georgia Tech has a signature win in the 2016-2017 season and it was a biggie, against North Carolina, which is in the NCAA Final Four, but tonight’s game against Cal State University Bakersfield could be a win the Yellowjackets need to right themselves moving forward.
While the Yellowjackets hail from the elite Atlantic Coast Conference, Georgia Tech has had a rough go off it the last few years with near-bottom finishes in the conference and just two post-season appearances in the last six years — both in the NIT.
For CSUB a win against the Yellowjackets could set the heights even higher for the up and coming program and coach Rod Barnes.
“Our kids are really pumped up to be in this tournament,” Barnes said. “As I look at these programs this year, I started to say, once we made this trip , you know, what is Bakersfield doing here? Obviously being an eight seed, making history, it says something about our kids. A lot of times the coaches get credit but we have a bunch of kids that work extremely hard.”
The game tonight is at Madison Square Garden, but the exposure of a semifinal appearance in the National Invitational Tournament could go a long way for both programs that have their ultimate sights set on being back in the NCAA Tournament.
“Rod has done an incredible job of building that program,” said ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla, who was hosting Monday’s press conference.
The two teams are set to tip at 4 p.m. Pacific time, with the game being heard live on NEWSTALK 1180/96.1 KERN and seen live on ESPN.
Georgia Tech is led by first-year coach Josh Pastner, who previously led Memphis to four NCAA appearances, and is eager to get back to the program’s glory days, including a 2004 appearance in the NCAA championship, but they are not taking upstart CSUB lightly.
“To be here in New York, to play in Madison Square Garden, the Mecca of hoops, is special,” Pastner said. “Obviously to have the opportunity to play against coach Barnes and his team, as coach had said, his team may play the hardest of any team in the country. They are terrific and an elite defensive team.”
Defense has been CSUB’s strength, and they are going to need it against the Yellowjackets, who have beaten Indiana, Belmont and Ole Miss en route to the semifinals. The Yellowjackets lead the tournament in scoring margin, winning their games by an average of 11 points per game.
Like CSUB, the Yellowjackets are good defensively and have held their opponents to 62 points per game in the tournament. They also feature guard Josh Okogie, who is the tournament co-scoring leader with 21.7 points per