Mark Bradley

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Not Josh-ing around: Pastner's Jackets work another wonder

This is getting ... well, can I use the word "amazing" and not be accused of committing journalistic overkill? Georgia Tech, picked to finish 14th in the 15-team ACC, has beaten two teams ranked in the Associated Press top 10 -- first No. 9 North Carolina on New Year's Eve , now No. 6 Florida State. Neither game, we must note, was a frog-strangler. Tech topped the Heels by 12 points. As for the Seminoles ...

Tech beat them by 22 after leading by 26 at the half. Holy mackerel.

Once again, I wish I'd been there to see it. I wasn't because Falcons duty in Flowery Branch called. But I walked in from that extended-by-traffic commute and started getting texts from my daughter, who happened to be at the game, one of which said, "You may want come down here."

I wish I could tell you how this is happening, but I really don't know. Josh Pastner tells people I told him he'd be lucky to win 10 games this year. He also tells people the guy who hired him -- Mike Bobinski, now the people's choice at Purdue -- asked: "How will you react to not winning an ACC game your first year?" His team has now won 12 overall, four in league play.

This with a team that -- and I don't mean to sound heavy-handed here -- appeared to have next to nothing. Tech lost its four best players from a team that so impressed Bobinski that he fired its coach. The only significant addition was Josh Okogie, a three-star recruit from Shiloh High who signed to play for Brian Gregory. Somehow Tech has not just beaten but handled UNC and FSU, both of which have big-time players. Which would seem to suggest that the Jackets, dare we say, aren't far from big-time themselves.

Full disclosure: Even after the Carolina win, I half-expected Pastner's crew to finish 3-15 in the ACC. That can't happen. But while I was watching tonight's tilt wind down, I started to wonder: Could Tech play its way onto the NCAA bubble? So I looked it up. The Jackets' RPI was 94 going into the game, meaning: Probably not. But still: Would anyone have thought we'd be sitting here within sight of February asking if Tech is a tournament team?

I admit I didn't, and I doubt you did, either. I'm not sure even Pastner dreamed this big. But give his players full credit: They've already made something from a season we all pegged as a wipeout. And say this for the guy in charge: His 1-3-1 zone -- an alignment used to great effect in the '70s before falling out of vogue -- has become the retro strategic smash of 2017.

Next up for Tech is Notre Dame, ranked No. 14 in the Associated Press poll. The Fighting Irish come to McCamish Pavilion on Saturday. I will, I promise, be there to watch.

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About the Author

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has been with the AJC since 1984.