1. The two stars are missing
Clearly, the Jackets are missing ACC Player of the Year Moses Wright and ACC Defensive Player of the Year Jose Alvarado for a number of reasons. The two were both jacks of all trades for the Jackets, after all.
But, beyond the obvious skills the two called upon in Tech’s run to its first ACC title since 1993, Alvarado’s courage is particularly missed. The Jackets have frequently lost games this season with extended scoring breaks, often three minutes or more, allowing runs that have reduced Tech’s chances of victory.
In Wednesday’s loss to Wake Forest, the Jackets scored two baskets in eight minutes in the second half, which allowed the Demon Deacons to take the game with a 20-5 run. After the game, Pastner admitted the string of empty possessions had a demoralizing effect on his side’s efforts to get back on defense, giving Wake Forest an even bigger boost.
“It was like a double whammy,” Pastner said.
Moments like these call for a player to stem the tide with a field goal or free throws, or force his teammates to generate a defensive stop, which is the kind of leadership provided by Alvarado and Wright. Their rebounds and steals aside, their example and vocals were also missed.
2. Missed on Transfer Portal
Beyond the on-court loss, Pastner was quick to mention how the circumstances of Alvarado and Wright’s departures also had an impact. Both had stay-or-go decisions to make, and Wright took until the end of May to decide he was going to stay in the draft, and Alvarado made his decision on July 7 deadline day.
Before their decisions were final, Pastner said he was upfront with the players he recruited on the transfer portal that he wasn’t sure if Alvarado or Wright would return and further, that if either either did, it would start and command heavy minutes.
Pastner had no problem with the deliberation of the two players, but said it had an impact on his ability to recruit outside the transfer portal, although guard Deivon Smith has agreed to transfer from the state. of Mississippi before Alvarado made up his mind. By the time Wright and Alvarado formalized their decisions, many prospects who might have been interested — especially given Tech was coming out of their ACC title season — had signed on elsewhere.
Perhaps the most notable possibility is Miami point guard Charlie Moore, who led the Hurricanes’ turnaround season. (When Moore was in high school, he signed with Memphis in November 2015, when Pastner was a coach there, before being allowed to withdraw his letter of intent when Pastner left for Tech.) After entering the portal at the mid-April from DePaul, Moore got engaged in Miami a few days later.
Tech still had options. For example, Pastner and his team pursued Texas-El Paso forward Bryson Williams when he entered the portal, and he didn’t commit until June, after Wright made his final decision. Williams even thanked Tech in his announcement that he was committing to Texas Tech, for whom he was averaging 12.6 points and 4.8 rebounds heading into his Saturday game. Still, Pastner’s options have been significantly eliminated.
3. Deficit in the 2019 signing class
Tech’s shortage of contributors, however, goes back further than last spring. Pastner’s recruiting efforts for the 2018 signing class produced two starters — guard Michael Devoe and forward Khalid Moore. In 2019, however, recruiting was not so productive. While forward Jordan Usher and guard Bubba Parham came to Tech during this same transfer cycle, Tech’s other two signers – guard Asanti Price and forward David Didenko, who came out of high school and college respectively. college – both transferred.
The Jackets came close and missed several high school prospects who would be juniors right now and potentially successful examples of Pastner’s “get old and stay old” plan.
Tech’s near misses include Syracuse’s Jesse Edwards, a 6-foot-11 center who averaged 12.2 points and 6.7 rebounds heading into Saturday’s Orange game against Duke, and Fresno State’s Orlando Robinson, a 7-0 forward who on Saturday morning ranked in the top five of the Mountain West Conference in points and rebounds.
The Jackets’ lack of production off the post, both on offense and defense, was a big factor. The big tech men – Rodney Howard, Saba Gigiberia and Jordan Meka – show promise, but still need more time to develop. Having a player like Edwards or Robinson in front of them would probably make the difference.
4. Michael Devoe in crisis
Devoe is probably the best scorer Pastner had at Tech, a player with long 3-point range and a knack for shooting fouls and blasting his way to the basket for scores. His talent was on display at the start of this season, but it has been falling apart lately. It’s not hard to imagine that a few well-timed 3-point bombs could have shaken the Jackets off of one or more of their signature funks that sparked multiple losses. Devoe averaged 22.4 points per game in the Jackets’ first nine games, but 15.6 points in the last seven, and his 3-point shooting percentage has dropped more dramatically — 52.8% in the last seven. first nine games, 22.7% in last seven.
“He looks great,” Pastner said. “They’re not going down right now, but Michael is such a good shooter that he’s going to get hot, and they’re going to go down.”
5. Lack of experience
Tech has two All-ACC candidates in Devoe and Usher and another senior starter in Moore. The eight teammates who played the most minutes next to them include two freshmen (guards Deebo Coleman and Miles Kelly), three sophomores who played a combined 49 minutes last season (guard Tristan Maxwell and Gigiberia and Meka), two juniors who played minor roles last season (guard Kyle Sturdivant and Howard) and a second who traded (Smith).
KenPom ranks Tech’s experience 166th in Division I (eighth in the ACC) after finishing second last season. Not having Parham, who Pastner said on Friday was out for the season with knee problems following pre-season surgery to repair a torn meniscus, was significant.
That said, particularly in the cases of Howard and Sturdivant, the inexperience is partly the result of Pastner’s strategy of giving his starters heavy minutes and keeping the rotation short. Last season, Alvarado, Wright and Devoe were all in the ACC’s top nine in minutes played per game.
It’s hard to argue with last season’s results, but Pastner’s tactics still have repercussions down the line that this season’s team are feeling.