I’m not a former college player so I’ll leave the two minute speech about how “attitude” or “playing hard in opening minutes” or the 12th best player on the team that will likely only play 5 total minutes in the game because he’s so important for the team’s chemistry–or, something equally stupid–is the most important thing for some team to do to beat some team on some given day for a TV analyst that doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about*. I just want to discuss the implications of this game a bit.
*Seriously. Later today some analyst is probably going to tell you that whatever team comes out and plays more physical in the first five minutes will win the game. They might even say something as far fetched as a senior that never plays but was a member of the Yellow Jackets the last time they beat Duke (so, hey, he knows how to beat them, right? Never mind he barely even played in that game and was on teams that lost to Duke 6 times. I’m speaking hypothetically, here.) is the key to the game.
Obvious things are obvious for a reason. Some times, it will suffice to say the obvious. Analysts aren’t paid to state the obvious, though, so when there’s not much else to say (or they’re not talented enough to pick it up), they often spout bullshit like the examples I’ve mentioned. Don’t buy it. Anyone who tells you someone outside of the starting 5 is the most important player in a game is insulting your intelligence. Some times all you need to say is, “this team is more likely to win because they’re the better team, but variance and entropy exist, so the other team could win if a few things break their way”.
Some times it’s simply, Duke owns a 13-1 record playing an arguably tougher schedule than Georgia Tech–a team that has compiled an 11-3 record. Duke has produced an adjusted offensive efficiency score of 123.6, which ranks 1st in all of college basketball, Georgia Tech has produced a 106.0, which ranks 99th in NCAAMBB, in that same category. Duke’s adjusted defensive efficiency score is 84.1, which ranks 5th in the land, Georgia Tech slightly trails them there, too, at 86.6, which ranks 12th in the nation. Overall, Duke ranks 2nd, Georgia Tech ranks 33rd. There’s loads of empirical evidence that Duke is the better team than Georgia Tech and, therefore, Duke is the more likely winner. It’s that simple. Not some bogus about chemistry or attitude.
I don’t intend for this to turn into a basketball-themed Fire Joe Morgan, but I figured I’d need to get this rant out of the way at some point and I might as well while we’re still getting to know each other. (…By the way, does one of those exist? If so, I’ll want the link. Even if it’s now in archives…)
It’s a big game from Hewitt’s perspective. We’ve already witnessed some of the media hype in this space, specifically from Mark Bradley and Ken Davis. I think it’s even more important than that.
First of all, Duke-GT games are always well attended. Not by Duke fans, either. Yeah, there will be Duke fans there, but there will also be plenty of Georgia Tech fans. Play well today and two things may happen. One, they use the crowd to their advantage and it helps them today. Two, they retain some of the crowd, the attendance at other games starts to rise, and they use that to their advantage later. Nothing gets the Jacket fan base riled up and excited about the team like beating Duke in front of a packed house at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. As a GT fan, I can validate.
However, I don’t think a loss here does much to damage Hewitt’s chances of retaining his job, seeing as it’s Duke. You can’t point to that game. You can’t say, “you lost to Duke, you’re fired”. It’s Duke. Beating Duke all the time isn’t the standard, nor has it ever been, nor should it be. I don’t think winning here has much impact, either. Though the ill effects of losing could affect the team’s performance in future games, which could hurt Hewitt’s chances. And, conversely, the positive effects of winning could also improve the team’s chances of playing well later, for reasons previously covered.
Hopefully the Jackets don’t look like idiots. If they’re able to play well and a few things break their way, they’ve got a decent shot. Here’s to hoping some things break their way today. They’ll need it.