Jeff Schultz

This AJC sports blogger takes things seriously when he has to, but he really would rather not

Pastner should be ACC coach of year (and a look at other state teams)


Georgia Tech may or may not make it to the NCAA tournament – more on that shortly – but if he doesn’t win ACC coach-of-the-year honors this season, something is wrong.

The conference is filled with Hall of Fame coaches, numbers five schools among the nation's current top 15 in RPI ranking -- Louisville (4), North Carolina (5), Duke (11), Florida State (13), Virginia (15) -- and could get nine schools in the NCAA tournament. But no coach has done more with less than Pastner. This makes no assurances for future seasons. But Pastner has been idea for Tech because his enthusiasm was needed in a down program -- and, for that matter, a moribund athletic department.

Early season podcast with Josh Pastner

The latest plus on Pastner's resume came Sunday night when Georgia Tech led Syracuse by as much as 13 points and won 71-65 at McCamish Pavilion. For more on that game, click here.

The Jackets (16-11, 7-7) still need a solid finish to make the NCAA tournament field. But they're in a position that no other Division I college basketball program in the state of Georgia can make: They can be selected for the 68/64-team tournament field without winning their conference tournament in two weeks.

UPDATE: ESPN's Joe Lunardi has Georgia Tech included in his "Last Four In" in his latest bracket projections (kinda, sorta). Lunardi has projected the Yellow Jackets as an 11th seed in the East Regional, tied with Marquette. Tech would go against his East No. 3 seed, Kentucky. Here's a link to his bracket.

Below is a recap of seven college teams in the state, ranked by RPI.

52. Georgia (15-12, 6-8 in SEC, ninth place): The Bulldogs have a strong strength-of-schedule rating, and they have lost a number of close games that could have easily swung the season in the other direction. But, notwithstanding Kentucky coach John Calipari's passionate defense of coach Mark Fox the other night, this team has underachieved. Georgia's most significant win might be beating Tech early this season, and who figured that would be the case? Sweeping the final four regular-season games -- at Alabama, LSU, Auburn, at Arkansas -- would get some attention going into the SEC tournament. But anything short of that likely means the Dogs would have to win the conference tournament to get selected. ESPN's Joe Lunardi has only four SEC teams making the field in his latest projection (Kentucky, Florida, South Carolina, Arkansas).

73. Georgia Tech (16-11, 7-7 in ACC, ninth place): The Jackets are hurt by their non-conference strength of schedule, which is ranked 244th.  But they have beaten four teams in the RPI's top 50 (North Carolina, Florida State, Notre Dame, VCU), as well as two others in the top 100 (Clemson, Syracuse). They could get in with 19 wins -- certainly 20. Their last four regular-season games: North Carolina State, at Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, at Syracuse. The fact Tech is in this conversation in late February is in itself remarkable.

118. Georgia Southern (17-10, 10-4 in Sun Belt, third place): The Eagles haven't beaten any teams in the RPI top 50. They host conference leader Texas-Arlington tonight. Georgia Southern last made it to the NCAA tournament in 1992 (losing to Oklahoma State in the first round).

137. Georgia State (16-10, 9-5 in Sun Belt, fourth place): The Panthers looked to be in a strong position going into the Sun Belt tournament until dropping three consecutive games to Appalachian State (one of the conference's worst teams), Coastal Carolina and Texas-Arlington. In the big picture, it may not make much difference because the NCAA only going to take only the conference tournament winner. But losses impact seeding and have dropped the expectation level. The Panthers have one win over an RPI top 50: Middle Tennessee State.

200. Mercer (13-15, 7-8 in Southern, seventh place): No worries, Bears fans. The afterglow of that upset over third-seeded Duke in the 2014 NCAA tournament still lingers. This team likely won't get there. Furman or East Tennessee State likely will win the Southern Conference tournament for the NCAA bid.

272. Kennesaw State (13-16, 7-6 in the Atlantic Sun, fourth place): Al Skinner has improved on last season's 11-20 record and done a nice job with a program that was at the bottom for so long. (Win totals from 2010-11 to 2014-15: 8-3-3-6-10.) With support and a couple of players, he can build this thing, although at 64 there's no certainty how long he wants to coach.

312. Savannah State (10-15, 7-5 in MEAC, fifth place): The Tigers were in the running for a top Mid-East Conference tournament seed until losing three consecutive. They stunned Oregon State in overtime early this season, but that's not going to count for much with the tournament selection committee.

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About the Author

Jeff Schultz is a general sports columnist and blogger who isn't afraid to share his opinion, which may not necessarily jibe with yours.