When the NCAA Tournament field was announced Sunday, there was not a Georgia team included. That’s simply not good enough.
There is too much talent in high school basketball in this state for the state’s Division I programs to be in this situation.
But that’s exactly where we are. For the second straight year, the NCAA Tournament will be played with zero representation from the Peach State’s seven Division I programs: Georgia, Georgia Tech, Mercer, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Kennesaw State and Savannah State. This year’s futility, however, is really nothing new.
Georgia last made the tournament in 2015 and was supposed to have a tournament team this year. But the Bulldogs missed many chances to win close games and make their case as Mark Fox’s team came up short time and time again. Fox has taken the Bulldogs to the tournament twice (2011 and 2015), but Georgia didn’t get it done this year and had to settle for an NIT bid, hosting Belmont.
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Georgia has never been a power, but the Bulldogs have made 12 trips to the NCAA Tournament. They are 7-12 all time, with three of those wins coming during the 1983 Final Four run. Georgia’s last NCAA Tournament win came in 2002, and it has lost in the first round in five of its past six trips.
Georgia Tech made a surprising bid for an NCAA Tournament berth this year in Josh Pastner’s first season as the Yellow Jackets’ head coach. Taking over a team expected to be among the worst in the ACC (and maybe the country), Pastner coached the Yellow Jackets through their limitations and made it close. It just wasn’t enough, although the Yellow Jackets are headed to the NIT and will travel to Indiana.
Georgia Tech hasn’t been to the tournament since 2010, which was its 16th appearance, when it lost in the second round. The Yellow Jackets are 23-16 in their NCAA Tournament history, but most of that success came under Bobby Cremins many years ago.
That has to change, and Pastner appears to be the coach to make it change. He did a terrific job this season and deserved the ACC Coach of the Year honor he won as he made Georgia Tech basketball relevant again, and it looks like there are big things to come in the future for the Yellow Jackets.
Georgia State reached the tournament in 2015, which was its third trip, and the Panthers have won a game in two of those appearances. Mercer made its long-awaited return to the tournament worth it in 2014 with a win over Duke before losing to Tennessee. That was the Bears’ third trip to the tournament and their first win.
Georgia Southern is 0-3 all time in the tournament and hasn’t been in the field since 1992, while Kennesaw State and Savannah State have never heard their names called on Selection Sunday, although Kennesaw State did win the Division II title in 2004.
Again, the lack of NCAA representation should be unacceptable, but for many reasons (and exhausting excuses by the fans), it’s not. We all know the excuses. Georgia is a football school. The ACC is too tough. Our facilities aren’t good enough. We have too many new faces (or too many freshmen). We’ve never been a basketball school, so we can’t compete with Kentucky, Duke or North Carolina. When is spring football practice?
If fans and administrations accept mediocrity, they will make excuses. If they don’t, they will expect more out of their teams. And we should expect more — at least something — on Selection Sunday.