It’s almost NCAA tournament time. This usually is when people in offices all over Georgia get ready to fill out their brackets that are filled with schools from up to 47 others states (generally excluding Georgia, Hawaii and Alaska).
But Georgia actually could get two teams in the NCAA tournament this season. This is usually when I give a rundown of all seven Division I basketball programs in the state. This isn’t quite as depressing of a rundown as usual, even if it’s still not quite the center of the hoops universe.
Following are the seven state D-I teams, in order of RPI ranking (out of 351 schools).
1. GEORGIA (20-10, 40 RPI): LIKELY IN. The Bulldogs are the No. 3 seed in the SEC tournament, which means they fast-forward to the quarterfinals and sit on the opposite side of the bracket from Kentucky. Barring an upset, they’ll face Mississippi in their first conference tournament game, then would meet Arkansas in the semifinals. The Dogs went 2-0 vs. Mississippi during the season. If Georgia doesn’t get into the NCAA tournament even with a loss, it would be an upset. But a win would make everybody in Athens feel a lot more comfortable and improve their NCAA seeding.
2. GEORGIA STATE (22-9, 68 RPI): POTENTIALLY IN. The Panthers won their second straight Sun Belt regular season championship Saturday over Georgia Southern and now try to avoid a repeat of last season, when they lost in the conference tournament (blowing a nine-point lead over Louisiana Lafayette with three minutes left in regulation, then losing in overtime). The two Georgia schools (State and Southern) are favored to meet again for the tournament title but two Louisiana schools (Monroe and Lafayette) are threats. Prediction: State gets in this time.
3. GEORGIA SOUTHERN (21-8, 123 RPI): POTENTIALLY IN. The Eagles never led in Saturday’s game against State but they won the first meeting between the teams in Statesboro. If the teams meet again, Southern will have to do better on the boards (Georgia State dominated Saturday 39-23), and do something defensively to force more State turnovers (the Panthers had only five).
4. GEORGIA TECH (12-18, 127 RPI): OUT VERY SOON. To make it to the NCAA tournament, the Yellow Jackets only have to win more games in the ACC tournament (five) than it won in the conference all season (record: 3-15). Yeah. No problem. Beating Boston College on Tuesday would just delay the inevitable. The only remaining question is whether coach Brian Gregory makes it to next year.
5. MERCER (18-14, 197 RPI): OUT. Duke can rest easy: The Bears are done after being upset by Furman in the Southern Conference semis.
6. KENNESAW STATE (10-22, 319 RPI): OUT. The Owls dropped their final game by 33 points (90-57) to South Carolina Upstate in the A-Sun tournament. Here’s all you need to know: They started the game shooting 3-for-26. But fear not, Kennesaw State is trending upward. Records in the Owls’ last four seasons: 3-28, 3-27, 6-25, 10-22.
7. SAVANNAH STATE (9-21, 330 RPI): OUT VERY SOON. The Tigers face Delaware State in the first round of the MEAC tournament tonight. They’ll likely be one and done. By the way, they’re trending downward in the last four years: 21-12, 19-15, 13-19, 8-21.
•Some recent ramblings from the digital jukebox
— MyAJC: Georgia State at center of state’s hoops’ rebirth — AJC: Jim Boeheim’s arrogance catches up to him — AJC: Erving says Hawks should do better job embracing their history — MyAJC: Hank Aaron knows exactly how Dominique Wilkins feels — MyAJC: Despite loss, Fox has Georgia pointed in right direction — AJC: Mark Fox deserved contract extension (which he finally signed) — AJC: Falcons, Ndamukong Suh and waiting on fake noise penalty — AJC: Falcons’ payroll slash continues — Blalock, Douglas released — AJC: Steven Jackson expected to be missing piece, but he wasn’t — MyAJC: Can Kevin Seitzer avoid being Braves’ next scapegoat — AJC: Freeman on ’14 roster: Heyward leading off not well-constructed lineup — MyAJC: By any name, Braves need a different Upton — AJC: How long should Braves give Upton to show improvement? — MyAJC: Braves have issues but McDowell not one of them — AJC: I still can’t talk to Roger McDowell without thinking of ‘The Second Spitter’ — AJC: Poll: Are expectations for Braves too low, high or about right? — MyAJC: Will Gonzalez be given some latitude during Braves’ rebuilding? — MyAJC: Falcons’ roster gutting could have big names — AJC: Data show Falcons got least (10-22) from most ($279.3 million) — MyAJC: Georgia shows why we still can’t assume success — AJC: Are Hawks getting Ray Allen? Odds site makes them favorite — MyAJC: Private agendas still at play in Hawks’ offices — AJC: Tiger Woods seems in danger of missing Masters (again) — AJC: Trade likely means Hawks are planning for something — MyAJC: Kyle Shanahan, the coach’s son, has absorbed a lot of jabs