DALLAS — Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner has a unique vantage point when discussing the Tennessee basketball game against Wright State in the NCAA Tournament.
The Yellow Jackets are the only common opponent shared by the No. 3-seeded Vols (25-8) and No. 14-seeded Raiders, who play Thursday. Both teams defeated Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
Wright State defeated Georgia Tech 85-81 on Dec. 22, about 2½ weeks after Tennessee’s 77-70 win against Tech.
The Raiders rallied from a 40-31 halftime deficit for the win.
“I think Wright State is a good, solid team, well coached and can shoot the ball,” Pastner told SEC Country. “The big kid in the middle, [Loudon] Love, was really good. I remember they guarded well.”
Love, a sturdy 6-foot-9 redshirt freshman, had 16 points and 12 rebounds against Tech.
The Raiders outrebounded the Yellow Jackets 32-31 — impressive considering Georgia Tech outrebounded Tennessee 36-35 when those teams met on Dec. 3.
Wright State coach Scott Nagy’s comments after the win against Georgia Tech should provide some insight into what the Vols will face in Dallas.
“We just don’t have that identity yet, and that is one of the things I would like to change about Wright State,” Nagy said after defeating the Yellow Jackets. “That people will know where Wright State is — in Dayton, Ohio.”
Tennessee opened as a 13-point favorite against the Raiders in the South Regional game at American Airlines Center at 12:40 p.m. ET on Thursday.
Pastner said he believes the Vols will survive and advance from Dallas and move into the Sweet 16 in Atlanta.
Future Hall of Fame coach?
“Coach [Rick] Barnes is a future first-ballot Hall of Famer,” Pastner said, referencing Tennessee’s third-year coach. “You just look at all the [NCAA] tournaments he has been a part of and all of the wins he has coached.”
Barnes is making his 23rd appearance in the NCAA Tournament as a coach. Tennessee is the fourth program he has led to the so-called Big Dance, joining Providence, Clemson and Texas.
“I said earlier when we played them earlier, Tennessee is a Sweet 16 team,” Pastner said, “and I think Tennessee will win two games and be in the Sweet 16.”
Pastner’s Georgia Tech team, which finished this season 13-19 and 6-12 in the ACC, also played the Vols’ potential second-round opponent, No. 6 seed Miami (22-9).
The Yellow Jackets defeated the then-No. 15-ranked Hurricanes 64-54 in Atlanta on Jan. 3.
The Hurricanes open the tournament at 3:10 p.m. ET Thursday in Dallas against No. 11 seed Loyola-Chicago (truTV).