In a season of never-ending hope for a turnaround, Georgia Tech's basketball team got another shot at redemption Sunday night, when the Yellow Jackets (14-14) were chosen for the 40-team National Invitation Tournament.
Georgia Tech will open the tournament at home Wednesday against Ohio State (17-14). The Buckeyes made a surprising run in the Big Ten Tournament, winning three games before losing in the final to Illinois, 72-59.
"I'm grateful for the opportunity the NIT has given us," Yellow Jackets coach Paul Hewitt said late Sunday night. "We're going to play against a very good Ohio State team."
The Buckeyes' schemes will be familiar to Hewitt, an assistant at Villanova from 1992-97. During that time, Ohio State coach Jim O'Brien was the head coach at Boston College, Villanova's Big East rival.
"I have a pretty good idea of what their team is going to be like," Hewitt said. "I know that they're going to be very good defensively, very solid, very sound. They're not a team that's going to give you easy shots. You're going to have to move the ball and work the ball."
The Yellow Jackets are just happy for the chance to keep playing. Georgia Tech lost to N.C. State in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament, blowing a five-point lead in the final eight minutes.
Hewitt chastised his team after the loss for not doing what it takes to win. The Yellow Jackets have lost 10 games by fewer than eight points this season.
Georgia Tech practiced for two hours Sunday, their longest practice since early January, despite not knowing whether their season would continue. It was a spirited practice.
"My thing to them was, 'If we get this chance, let's make the most of it.' I know it wasn't a lack of effort that caused us to miss out on those opportunities, but there's some things that we need to work on, especially just running a game, going through a game and making good decisions down the stretch,"Hewitt said. "Hopefully we'll get a chance to improve in that area."
The Yellow Jackets are one of three Atlantic Coast Conference teams in the field, joining North Carolina (17-15) and Virginia (15-15). Georgia Tech, Virginia, Villanova (15-15) and Temple (15-15) made the field with a .500 record, the minimum for consideration.
Georgia Tech will make its seventh appearance in the NIT, and its first since 1999, when Bobby Cremins and the Yellow Jackets lost to Oregon 67-64 in the first round.