How ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi rates Georgia Tech’s chances



Georgia Tech has a chance to make it into the NCAA tournament, ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi believes. But it’s a must for the Yellow Jackets to pick up at least one significant win (or more, ideally) over the final four weeks of the regular season.

Tech has about a 20% chance of earning an at-large bid, Lunardi said, which would be its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2010.

“I think they do have a shot,” Lunardi told the AJC on Thursday. “I don’t know that it’s a great shot.”

Going into their Saturday home game against Notre Dame, the Jackets are 8-6 overall and 4-4 in ACC play. Their NET ranking was No. 61 after Thursday’s games. In the tournament updates that he compiles twice weekly for ESPN, Lunardi publishes his projected 68-team field, his “first four out” and then his “next four out.” Lunardi said that Tech is in the next foursome, which isn’t posted, at No. 79.

The strength of the Jackets’ résumé, according to Lunardi, is their three wins over teams that are in his projected field – Clemson, Florida State and North Carolina.

“They’ve probably been damaged by the fact that this is an impostor standing in for Kentucky,” he said, referring to Tech’s November win over the Wildcats. “That would be another big-time win.”

However, there is still time for Tech to make a push. The Jackets have 10 games remaining, with two postponed games against N.C. State and Notre Dame that have yet to be made up. The three most significant games remaining are against Virginia on Wednesday, at Clemson on Feb. 12 and at Virginia Tech on Feb. 23 – the only three teams on the remaining schedule that are in Lunardi’s projected field.

All three are also “Quad-1” games – the highest of the four tiers of games that the tournament selection committee uses to judge teams, based on NET ranking and where the game was played.

Now at 4-4 in the ACC, Tech has to do better than finish .500 in league play at 9-9 and 13-11 overall (assuming no more make-up games), according to Lunardi.

If they can win six or seven of the final 10, including at least win over Virginia, Clemson or Virginia Tech, “they’ll be in the conversation,” Lunardi said.

A significant challenge, though, is that starting Saturday, the Jackets will play five games in 11 days, including a stretch of four games in seven days.

Lunardi doesn’t believe that Tech’s season-opening losses to Georgia State and Mercer are a significant blemish on its résumé. For one thing, he pointed out that the teams’ NET rankings – 120th and 127th, respectively, as of Friday morning – aren’t that high.

“If they beat Virginia at home or Virginia Tech on the road and win their share of 50/50 games, that’s not what’s going to keep them out,” he said.