I keep hearing folks say Georgia Tech is in danger of missing of the NCAA tournament. It isn’t yet. Should the Jackets lose every game from here on, they won’t make it. But they won’t lose every game. (I feel very confident about this.)
Tech’s RPI is 29. If you’re a team from a major conference and you’re in the top 30, you’re a lock. (Yes, even if you go 7-9 in league play, which could happen. The Jackets are 5-6.) In his latest installment of Bracketology on ESPN.com, Joe Lunardi has Tech as a No. 9 seed, which isn’t bad for a team that has lost three of four.
Forget the Associated Press and coaches’ polls. They don’t register with the NCAA committee. (Good thing, since Tech just dropped out of both. In the former, it received only one 25th-place vote.) As esteemed former colleague Mark Schlabach notes in ESPN’s Bubble Watch :
“Tech seems to be in OK shape. The Jackets have five wins over RPI top-50 teams (Duke, Wake Forest, Siena, Clemson and Charlotte) and are 7-8 against RPI top-100 foes. But Tech can’t afford to lose the games it is supposed to win down the stretch, starting with Tuesday’s home game against defending national champion North Carolina. The Yellow Jackets play at Maryland on Saturday and play at Clemson on March 2. They could use another road victory before Selection Sunday.”
Tech could stand to win on the road, sure. It would also behoove the Jackets to win a game in the ACC tournament. But as long as they win their three home games — Carolina and Boston College are terrible, but Virginia Tech is playing well — they’ll make it. Since they don’t play anyone ranked ahead of them, their RPI doesn’t stand to rise or fall much from here.
But there is one major negative to all this. The lower your seed, the worse your chances. Back to Lunardi’s bracket: He has Tech meeting Illinois in Round 1, and Tech would beat the Illini on inside power alone. (Georgia upset both teams, as you probably know.) But look who would be waiting in Round 2.
Kansas. The best team in the country. In Oklahoma City.
It was six years ago that the Jackets beat KU in overtime in St. Louis to qualify for the Final Four. But that was then. (And the Jackets were a No. 3 seed to the Jayhawks’ No. 4.) If Tech plans to stay long in the Big Dance, it needs to work its way up to a No. 7 or even a No. 6 seed. Otherwise it’s looking at one win, max.