Posted: 12:45 pm Monday, March 3rd, 2014
By Jeff Schultz
Welcome to that time of year when we look at the state of college basketball in Georgia and the chance of the state getting a team in the NCAA basketball tournament (generally is commensurate with calling tails with a two-headed coin).
I went through the latest ESPN RPI rankings of 351 Division I basketball programs, and it was as depressing as one would expect. Below are the seven eligible state programs. (If I missed one, let me know.) I’m ranking them by RPI, which is a major factor used by the NCAA tournament selection committee. But because a team’s RPI doesn’t necessarily equate to its actual tournament chances, I’m also posting my odds (completely scientific, of course).
Here are the seven schools, with RPI ranking, RPI score, won-loss record and odds to reach the NCAA tournament.
86. GEORGIA (.5502) 16-12: I recapped the Bulldogs’ situation last week both here and here. Losing at Arkansas Saturday didn’t help. But I still believe the NCAA will take three teams from the SEC (Florida and Kentucky being two of them), and the Bulldogs’ tournament chances will come down to reaching at least the semifinals in the SEC tournament and upsetting Florida or Kentucky. At this point, it’s possible they would have to win the tournament, as they rank seventh among SEC schools in RPI. ODDS: 50-1.
90. GEORGIA STATE (.5467) 20-7: The Panthers have had a remarkable season under third-year coach Ron Hunter, going 22-7, including 15-1 in the Sun Belt Conference (regular season title already clinched). The low Q-rating of the Sun Belt, however, means the NCAA will take only one conference team, so the Panthers have to win the conference tournament. The final regular season game against Western Kentucky may be a preview to the tournament title game. ODDS: 2-3.
91. MERCER (.5454) 23-8: A similar situation to Georgia State. The Bears are tied for first in the Atlantic Sun with Florida Gulf Coast. It likely will come down to one of those two in the conference tournament. That wasn’t a good thing for Mercer last year. Florida Gulf Coast won the title game to earn the NCAA bid, then went on to upset Georgetown and reach the Sweet 16, as Andy Enfield became, “The Next Great Coach.” (Postscript: Now at USC, he’s 1-15 in the Pacific 12. Greatness on hold.) Mercer has had great regular season runs before, only to come up short in the conference tournament. ODDS: Even.
171. GEORGIA TECH (.4987) 13-16: When the season started, I actually thought the Yellow Jackets had a shot at being a tournament team. Then came some injuries. Then an unraveling. They’re 4-12 in the ACC. The bottom third of the conference is so weak that they could win a conference tournament game. But that’s it. ODDS: 350-1.
290. SAVANNAH STATE (.4296) 11-17: The answer to your question: Yes, this is the first time all season I’ve looked at the MEAC standings. The Tigers are 9-5 in the conference so they certainly have a shot in the conference tournament. But the favorite will be North Carolina Central, which beat Savannah State by 14 points in Savannah three weeks ago (they play again tonight). Note: Savannah State won the regular season title two years ago, going 14-2 but lost in the quarter-finals of the MEAC tournament. ODDS: 100-1.
313. GEORGIA SOUTHERN (.4115) 13-18: Not happening. The Eagles (6-10 in the Southern) have lost six of eight and nine of 13, not quite foreshadowing for a tournament upset. Davidson should cruise through the conference tournament. ODDS: 500-1.
325. KENNESAW STATE (.3972) 6-25: Coach Lewis Preston took a leave of absence for personal reasons two months ago and he never came back (though athletic director Vaughn Williams has announced Preston will return next season). There really was, and is, no reason to return this season. Kennesaw State will be one-and-done in the Atlantic Sun.
UPDATE: Kennesaw State did not qualify for the Atlantic Sun tournament. The conference invited only the top eight finishers. So that ends that.
ODDS: Off the board.
About the Author
Jeff Schultz has worked at newspapers in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Atlanta. He has been with the Atlanta-Journal-Constitution since 1989. He has been honored several times by the Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE), National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association (NSSA) and several other organizations. He also likes puppies, rock and roll and anything with cheese on it.