I was going to wait until after the NBA playoffs to reveal this year’s edition of the, “How They Really Stand” rankings, just on the chance that Hawks guard Jeff Teague (based on his Monday playoff debut) suddenly morphs into Oscar Robertson and Atlanta’s NBA franchise becomes the standard for area sports teams. But I’ll take a chance. Following are my completely unscientific rankings of the local pro and major college teams. (No Georgia State football yet; longer resume is needed). It’s impossible to do this without somebody reacting, “Schultz, you’re an idiot.” But I get that at breakfast every morning, so I’m OK with it. Rankings are based on current strength of team, franchise/program stability and direction. Last year’s rankings are in parenthesis.
♦ 1. Braves (2): They’ve tripped out of the starting gate. But this is too good of a roster to stay down for long. They have the pitching and hitting to win the National League East over Philadelphia, assuming Dan Uggla remembers that he’s supposed to be good. Success also hinges on limiting those TMZ-like moments.
♦ 2. Falcons (1): The league’s second-best record (13-3) last season isn’t meaningless, but the playoff loss to Green Bay exposed sinkholes. If wide receiver Julio Jones turns into the playmaker the Falcons expect, the draft day trade was a bold and great move. But defensive help is needed in free agency.
♦ 3. Hawks (3): Many aspects of the franchise are up in the air, ownership included. But the elimination of Orlando was bigger than previous first-round series wins over Miami and Milwaukee. Winning the opener against Chicago, minus Kirk Hinrich, certainly wasn’t on the radar. Larry Drew deserves some credit, folks.
♦ 4. Georgia basketball (8): Mark Fox went from 14-17 in his first season to 21-12 with an NCAA tournament bid in his second. Has he proven everything? No. With
Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie leaving for the pros, Fox is going to be more dependent on his recruits now. But there’s no reason to doubt a man who has coached his players up from forgetting to pack their shoes on a road trip to making the tournament. He has changed the culture of Georgia hoops.
♦ 5. This space for lease (6): TSFL moves up one spot. Needed some space before we dropped to the next tier.
♦ 6. Georgia football (5): Mark
Richt’s win totals in the last four seasons: 11, 10, 8, 6. Athletic director Greg McGarity is giving him another year to fix the problems, dividing the fan base. But to his credit, Richt has been making staff changes and just put together potentially one of the top recruiting classes in the country. He says he feels “rejuvenated.” We anxiously await to see how he feels after the Boise State and South Carolina games.
♦ 7. Georgia Tech football (4): After going 20-7 with an ACC championship in Paul Johnson’s first two seasons, the Jackets descended to 6-7 last season (Johnson’s worst record since going 2-10 in year one at Navy). Tech had lost its best players to the NFL, but there were too many games when players seemed to be mentally drift. So expect Johnson to be meaner and snarkier in practices. Wait. Is that possible?
♦ 8. Atlanta Dream (9): They’ve come a long way since having a playoff game bumped for Sesame Street Live, reaching the WNBA finals last year. Look at me, talking women’s basketball. Electroshock therapy appointment scheduled for later this week.
♦ 9. Thrashers (10): The Thrashers gave us a couple of good months. That’s something. But in the end, they missed the playoffs for the 10th time in 11 seasons. Not sure what the mathematical probability of that even is. The new general manager (Rick Dudley) and coach (Craig Ramsay) have been solid, but this franchise will go only as far as a thrift store budget will take it. The hope is the Thrashers don’t turn into something only after being unloaded from a moving van.
♦ 10. Georgia Tech basketball (7): Welcome to the bottom. Get comfortable. Paul Hewitt was paid $7 million to go away. He already has landed a job at George Mason. Tech is in a budget crunch and hired Hewitt’s replacement on the cheap. Now administrators are hoping new coach Brian Gregory can hold things together so recruiting doesn’t take a significant hit. Also, Iman Shumpert just went pro. For a rosier picture, see fund-raising pamphlets.
By Jeff Schultz
– Earlier Tuesday: Countdown: Smoltz’s splat, Gators’ buzz, Newton to UFL!
– Earlier Tuesday: Twitter meltdown: Mendenhall seems to defend Bin Laden