Jeff Schultz

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

Will Georgia (the state) get blanked in NCAA field again? Maybe not.


It’s that time of the college basketball season again when people in the state of Georgia turn their attention to ... anything else.

How unfortunate. The NCAA men’s basketball tournament remains one of the greatest events in sports, college or pro, but this has the potential to be the third straight year -- and fifth in the last seven -- that the 68 team will be devoid a team from Georgia.

The biggest bust this season has been the program in Athens, where coach Mark Fox, who not long ago strung together three straight 20 win seasons and improved recruiting, might be on the way out. Georgia has underachieved for the second straight season and was humiliated on its home court 78-61 by Auburn Saturday, despite the fact that Tigers were playing without their best player (Bryce Brown).

The Bulldogs aren’t officially dead in the tournament yet. Theoretically, they could make enough noise in the regular season’s final six games and the SEC tournament to convince the selection committee to put them in. But given the product we’ve been watched lately, that’s not likely.

Wondering what the state’s best hope is for an NCAA tournament team? It’s probably out on the coast, where Savannah State sits in first place in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC).

Below are Georgia’s seven Division I teams and where they stand. I’ve listed them in order of current RPI among 351 programs.

GEORGIA (13-11)

RPI: 83.

SOS: 51.

Quality wins: St Mary’s, Temple, Alabama.

Conference view: 4-8 in SEC: 4-8 (11th out of 14)

Last NCAA tournament: 2015.

Forecast: Not likely.

Summary: It looked pretty good in early January when the Dogs were 11-3 (2-1 in the SEC). But they’ve foundered in conference competition. They’re often sloppy and lack rhythm on offense and too often look lost on defense. For the first time, this isn’t about a lack of talent. Yes, Fox can do a better job recruiting outside shooters. But the individual talents of the players on the roster, starting with Yante Maten, far exceed the product on the court. Georgia has some quality wins and a strong strength of schedule rating but it probably would have to win at least four or five of its remaining six games, then have a strong SEC tournament run. Not likely.

GEORGIA TECH (11-14) 

RPI: 142

SOS: 35.

Quality wins: Miami, Syracuse.

Conference view: 4-8 in ACC (13th out of 15).

Last NCAA tournament: 2010.

Forecast: Forget it.

Summary:  Forget it. Coach Josh Pastner did a heck of a job getting the team to the NIT championship game last season but the Jackets have never really gotten going this season. Injuries and off-court distractions, including the suspensions of starters Josh Okogie and Tadric Jackson for accepting impermissible benefits, buried the team early, and point guard Jose Alvardo suffered a dislocated elbow Sunday against Duke. But it’s only year two for Pastner.  

GEORGIA STATE (19-7)

RPI: 148.

SOS: 306.

Quality wins: The Panthers have scored top-100 RPI wins over Louisiana and Montana, but that’s just window dressing because they’re not getting into the NCAA without winning the Sun Belt tournament.

Conference view: 10-3 in Sun Belt (2nd out of 12).

Last NCAA tournament: 2015.

Forecast: Solid.

Summary: Losing to Louisiana-Monroe Saturday was a bad look in mid-February. But the Panthers likely still will be a No. 2 seed going into Sun Belt Tournament behind Louisiana (21-4, 11-1). The Panthers had a magical tournament run under Ron Hunter three years ago. This year, they have the Sun Belt’s leading scorer, sophomore guard D’Marcus Simonds (21.6 points, 6 rebounds, 4.8 assists).

GEORGIA SOUTHERN (16-10)

RPI: 166.

SOS: 270.

Quality wins: None.

Conference view: 7-6 in Sun Belt (3rd  out of 12).

Last NCAA tournament: 1992.

Forecast: Gloomy.

Summary: The Eagles started 5-1 in conference but have dropped five of seven since. An upset of Georgia State Friday night would alter the forecast but as of now they’re not likely to make any noise in the Sun Belt tournament. 

SAVANNAH STATE (10-13)

RPI: 187.

SOS: 156.

Quality wins: None. But a non-conference schedule that has included losses to Cincinnati, Wichita State, Texas A&M, Baylor, Virginia and Michigan State is worth pointing out. And Savannah State is 9-1 since the Michigan State game.

Conference view: 9-1 in MEAC (1st out of 13).

Last NCAA tournament: Never.

Forecast: Good.

Summary: This might be your best bet for a state team in the tournament. The Tigers, maybe toughened by that pre-conference schedule (3-12), have won nine of 10 in conference. They lead the conference in scoring at 86 points per game, assists, steals and turnover margin. They’re coached by former Georgetown guard Horace Broadnax. He previously coached at Bethune-Cookman, resigned to resume his legal career (yes, he has a law degree), then oddly returned to coaching in 2005. The Tigers won the MEAC regular season title in 2012 but lost in the conference tournament and the NCAA bid with it.

MERCER (12-13)

RPI: 206.

SOS: 179.

Quality wins: None.

Conference view: 5-7 in Southern (6th out of 10).

Last NCAA tournament: 2014.

Forecast: Gloomy.

Summary: The Bears had consecutive seasons of 27, 24 and 27 wins, culminating with an Atlantic Sun Conference title and an NCAA tournament appearance in 2014. But the program moved to the Southern in 2014-15 and have not had the same level of success. East Tennessee State (13-0) or UNC-Greensboro (10-2) likely will get the conference bid.

KENNESAW STATE (9-17)

RPI: 308.

SOS: 259.

Quality wins: None.

Conference view: 5-6 in Atlantic Sun (6th out of 8)

Last NCAA tournament: None.

Forecast: Gloomy.

Summary: The Owls impressively finished 7-7 in the A-Sun (14-18 overall) in coach Al Skinner’s second season. They’ve won three straight but will have to win two of their last three to match that record, but Florida Gulf Coast (11-0) is the overwhelming favorite to win the conference tournament.

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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.