With its win Saturday over Georgia Southern, Georgia State men’s basketball recorded its 100th victory since the start of the 2013-14 season.
We know this because the Panthers publicity wing is keen on keeping count, and updates this figure like the Dow Jones does its industrial average. The school keeps such a strict accounting because it bears out that none of the other six Division 1 programs in the state have won as much over the last four-plus seasons.
Win totals for those programs since 2013-14, per the GSU chart, a Panthers game-note staple: Georgia State 100, Georgia 92, Mercer 89, Georgia Southern 82, Georgia Tech 80, Savannah State 58, Kennesaw State 45.
Of course, Georgia State cherry-picked the period that cast the most favorable light on its urban campus. But the Panthers are rightfully proud of what they have done in their little walk-up gym that is too often under-populated (coach Ron Hunter made another impassioned plea for someone, anyone, to pay attention after a rare big turnout Saturday).
That chart also reminds us that certain larger programs, the ones with all the resources, the ones that should have all the access to this state’s athletic wealth, have failed to take any kind of lead in the sport. They have done painfully nothing to give college basketball a fighting chance to compete for affections against the state’s official, 11-on-11 sport. No, the occasional quaint NIT tournament run doesn’t count in the long run.
The only NCAA tournament wins by a state team since 2010 – the last time Tech was in the Big Dance – have belonged to Mercer and Georgia State. They were dramatic, Mercer upsetting Duke in 2014 and Georgia State beating Baylor on a shot from another galaxy by the coach’s kid the following year. These are the embers that must keep us warm through another season of faint prospect.
On the same weekend that Georgia State added to his recent victory stash, Georgia imploded at Auburn. Tech continued to have trouble digesting the meat of its ACC schedule, losing at North Carolina. The Bulldogs were thought to have a postseason look to them, but they are 3-4 in the SEC now and are putting together a porous tournament resume, made mostly of cheesecloth.
If not the ‘Dogs, Georgia State, winners of their last five, may yet turn out to be the best hope to crack the field of 68. And what a tenuous proposition that is, built upon the idea that the current third-place team in the Sun Belt can survive the conference tournament.
There’s a South Regional coming to Atlanta this year. And another Final Four headed this way in couple years. There’s this big party going on, and the hosts somehow always seem to be only financially connected to it, seldom emotionally.
This season is particularly inviting to all comers. There are no unbeatens among the top 25, no clearly dominant team. But not so wide open that a single bunch from Georgia can be considered a bona fide tournament contender at this moment.
For local lovers of this sport – and it is a great one, despite the federal investigations and the one-and-done hypocrisies – this is about the time of year when they start to accept that March is going to be someone else’s fun. The realization has become almost a reflex by now.
I had already begun the acceptance process. Then, I saw that darn Georgia State chart, and it set me on edge all over again.
Beyond frustrating, it’s maddening to be so routinely excluded from the madness. To, beyond any reasonable explanation, be so irrelevant to big, rollicking world of college basketball.
I have come today to offer no solutions, just a heavy sigh.