After falling apart to close out the 2005-06 season, Georgia Tech is in position to achieve a pair of memorable accomplishments with just one win.
The Yellow Jackets go for their first NCAA tournament victory and a team record for wins in one season Saturday when they face DePaul in the first round at Minneapolis.
Georgia Tech (20-11) lost 14 of its final 17 games last season after starting 11-2. The collapse included a 2-12 ACC record, its worst conference mark since 1985-86.
The Yellow Jackets have bounced back in impressive fashion this season, claiming the No. 7 seed in the Dallas Regional while qualifying for the NCAA tournament for the third time in team history. The program lost in the first round to Virginia Tech in 2003 and to Northwestern in 1993.
A victory Saturday would give Georgia Tech the winningest season in school history. The team also won 20 games in 1991-92 and 2002-03.
This season, though, may already be considered the best ever for the program. The Yellow Jackets upset defending champion Maryland and North Carolina State while finishing sixth in the ACC at 9-5—the first winning conference record in school history.
“We felt like it was going to take five years to put together a team that could make it to the NCAA tournament,” said fourth-year Georgia Tech coach MaChelle Joseph. “We want to finish this season strong. We want to have the most wins in school history and we’re just one win away from that goal.
“We’re not going to the tournament to be one and done. We’re thrilled to death to get this opportunity to play with the best teams in the country.”
Joseph deserves plenty of credit for Georgia Tech’s transformation, but she could not have done it without star players Stephanie Higgs, Janie Mitchell and Chioma Nnamaka.
Higgs averages a team-leading 15.5 points, Mitchell adds 14.5 to go with a team-high 6.8 rebounds per game and Nnamaka has made a team-high 76 3-pointers while averaging 13.0 points.
Despite the successful season, Tech was eliminated from the ACC tournament in the quarterfinals with a 75-59 loss to sixth-ranked Maryland.
The Jackets will try to rebound from that game as they face DePaul for the first time.
The 10th-seeded Blue Demons (19-12) are in the tournament for the fifth consecutive year and 12th time overall. They hold a 7-11 record and are one of 14 programs to reach the second round in each of the last three seasons.
DePaul had the best tournament run in school history last year, losing to No. 1 seed LSU 66-56 in the regional semifinals.
The Blue Demons qualified this year on the strength of a 10-1 start to the season. A rash of injuries contributed to their 9-11 finish, including a 62-55 loss to 18th-ranked Rutgers in the Big East tournament quarterfinals on March 4.
DePaul is led by junior guard Allie Quigley, who led the team with 15.8 points per game. She is one of only three players to start every game for DePaul, with backcourt mate Jenna Rubino and forward Caprice Smith as the others.
Smith is averaging 15.6 points and 8.6 boards to provide a presence in the paint, while Rubino adds 12.5 points per game.
The winner will face either second-seeded Purdue or No. 15 Oral Roberts.