How strange is this? For Georgia Tech, a home date against the defending NCAA champ has become one of two “should-win” games remaining. (The other involves Boston College.) Most seasons you’re happy — nay, ecstatic – with a split against North Carolina. These Jackets need to beat Carolina just to safeguard what seems to be an invitation to the Big Dance.
As noted yesterday, Tech is in decent shape for a team that has lost three of four and is 5-6 in its conference. But losing tonight could grease the chute toward the no-account NIT. The Jackets still have to go to Maryland and to Clemson, and they’ve got Virginia Tech, which is 20-4, here in the regular-season finale. With Tech’s RPI (29th) and strength of schedule (12th), a 7-9 ACC record would probably be enough. But 6-10 might not.
The good news: The Heels stink. They’ve lost seven of nine, and the victories were against North Carolina State, which is even worse than UNC-Chapel Hill. And Carolina will be missing its most talented man — forward Ed Davis broke his wrist in a loss against Duke last week and is probably done for the year. (And possibly for his undergraduate career. He was projected as a lottery pick not so long ago.)
Fun fact: If Carolina, which is 14-11, loses tonight, Roy Williams will have suffered a 12th loss for only the second time in 22 seasons as a head coach. His first Kansas team, inherited from the deserter Larry Brown, finished 19-12. These Heels will finish a lot worse than those Jayhawks, a realization that led Ol’ Roy, regrettably, to liken his team’s losing to the plight of Haitians. (Williams has since apologized.)
There’s so much about this game that feels bizarre. It’s the first time since March 1, 2003, that Tech has faced an unranked Carolina. (Williams was still at KU then, and Matt Doherty was about to be deposed.) The Jackets are unranked — they disappeared from the major polls yesterday — but are 6 1/2-point favorites. But I’m guessing there’ll be a goodly complement of folks wearing baby blue at the Thrillerdome nonetheless. Just wondering how many Tech fans show.
And with that, I’ll be happy to take your questions, your comments and your money. (Just kidding about the latter.) I’ll be here until the final horn, which stands to come a bit after 11 p.m. Join me, won’t you?
P.S. If you haven’t participated in today’s burning discussion — who’s having the better season, Tech or Georgia? – please avail yourself of the opportunity. We’ll hold your place in line.