I was at the Atlanta Sports Awards last night, where Falcons great Tommy Nobis was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Atlanta Sports Council. (I covered the Falcons and the NFL for five years and got to know Mr. Nobis a little bit. A fearsome player, I’m told, and a humble gentleman. Very deserving.) As I was leaving, I was asked about Georgia Tech’s NIT chances. I don’t think they’ve got much chance, but I figured it’d be worth laying out.
I think to even merit consideration from the NIT, Tech would have to beat Virginia Tech Saturday and reach the finals of the ACC tournament, and then I still don’t think the Jackets would deserve a berth. As the ACC standings are going into Saturday’s games, that would mean beating Wake Forest in the first round Wednesday in a 12-13 game, Pittsburgh in the second Thursday, Duke in the quarterfinals on Friday and probably Virginia on Saturday. I don’t know what the odds are of that happening, but I’d say it’s fairly unlikely. (I guess while we’re drawing up this scenario, we might as well go ahead and point out that, if the Jackets reached the ACC finals, they would go to the NCAA tournament by winning it and be the lowest seed by far to win it. The lowest seed to win the tournament is a No. 6, done five times, including Tech in 1993.)
Regardless, that would give Tech a 19-17 record. But I’m still not sure the Jackets would deserve NIT consideration at that point. Their RPI, No. 151 now, might get to around 100 or 110. At that point, there would still be four ACC teams that, according to the latest ESPN bracket projection for the NCAA tournament, would likely be ahead of Tech for NIT consideration – Clemson, Florida State, N.C. State and Maryland. You could also include Wake Forest, which has beaten Duke, North Carolina and N.C. State.
So that’s five teams from just one conference in a 32-team field that, after automatic bids to regular-season conference champions who don’t get into the NCAA tournament, might have room for 22 at-large team. It’s hard to see it happening. (As I’ve said before, every winnable game that Tech lost this season – including St. John’s, Vanderbilt, N.C. State, the first Clemson game, the second Notre Dame game – has proven to be costly from a postseason perspective.)
The other, more likely possibility is the College Basketball Invitational. If you’re not familiar, it’s a 32-team tournament that began in 2008. It’s largely the province of mid-majors snubbed by the NIT.
It is a pay-for-play tournament – the school has to guarantee a certain amount in ticket sales – and no ACC team has played in it since the first CBI in 2008. Last year, then-acting athletic director Paul Griffin said school policy was that the Yellow Jackets would only play in the NCAA or NIT tournaments. It’s possible that could change with a new athletic director (Mike Bobinski) in charge.
“We’d at least take a look at what our options are,” senior associate athletic director Ryan Bamford said Wednesday.
I would think that Tech would be taken if it were interested. Last year, two BCS conference teams played in it, both with sub-.500 records – Purdue (15-17) and Texas (16-17).
I can see where the CBI could be seen as being beneath Tech, kind of like going to a low-grade bowl, or that the team hadn’t achieved enough to continue play, but I think if the team wanted to play – which I imagine players would – I don’t see the harm. More experience in any sort of win-or-go-home environment is valuable, and it’d be a nice parting gift for the team’s seniors, if in fact they wanted it.
The potential risk, I’d think, would be losing to a school nobody knows anything about, which I’d say is not an unreasonable possibility. Texas lost in the first round last year, albeit at Houston, and Purdue lost in the second round. It would leave a bad taste, in the same way that the back-to-back losses to Boston College did last year following the win over Miami.
What do you think?